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Bible verses about Hamartia
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Numbers 15:31

This verse defines guilt as breaking God's commandments. Guilt is a condition, a state, or a relationship. It is the result of two forces drawing different ways. At one point stands righteousness, and at the other, sin. In the Old Testament, the ideas of sin, guilt, and punishment are so interwoven that it is impossible to describe one without mentioning the other two. Sometimes one word is used interchangeably for the others.

The apostle John writes, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (I John 3:4). The Greek word for “sin” is hamartia, an archery term for “missing the mark.” We could say that sin is not just making an error in judgment in a particular case, but missing the whole point of human life; not just the violation of a law, but an insult to a relationship with the One to whom we owe everything; not just a servant's failure to carry out a master's orders, but the ingratitude of a child to its parent.

The state of sin is a surrender of freedom; it is like being enslaved to a drug. Like a chemical addiction, sin can become an unshakable habit, so that every next time makes it easier to absolve ourselves of guilt. Even petty sins, if numerous enough, can immobilize us until they completely harden our hearts.

A couple of examples of guilt will help clarify its effects. One is Cain's despondent complaint to God after he had slain Abel. “Cain said to the LORD, 'My punishment is greater than I can bear!'” (Genesis 4:13). The word “punishment” includes both the sin committed and the guilt attached to it. Guilt assures us of eventual misery.

Another example is that of Joseph's brothers, who were late to recognize their guilt in selling Joseph into slavery. They probably felt their guilt in varying degrees all along, but it was not until they felt threatened by receiving the consequences that they admitted it. “Then they said to one another, 'We are truly guilty concerning our brother, for we saw the anguish of his soul when he pleaded with us, and we would not hear; therefore this distress has come upon us'” (Genesis 42:21). Their guilt had separated them from God, their brother Joseph, and even from their father, Jacob.

In the Psalms, it is apparent that willful and persistent sin can never be separated from guilt or from consequent punishment. Notice Psalm 69:27-28: “Add iniquity to their iniquity, and let them not come into Your righteousness. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living, and not be written with the righteous.” David writes of the wicked in Psalm 109:7, “When he is judged, let him be found guilty.”

Ignoring guilt does not make it go away. A penalty of sin must be paid. Unless we submit to God and accept Christ's sacrifice for our sins, we will pay the ultimate price—our lives!

Martin G. Collins
Should We Ignore Our Feelings of Guilt?


 

John 8:34

The basic concept of sin is failure—failure to live up to a standard, failure to hit the bull's eye, failure to stay on the path. The slavery Jesus speaks of is bondage to a pattern of thinking that produces failure. This is what God wants to deliver and convert us from. All who come out of the world have been addicted, held in bondage, to ways of thinking that produce failure, mental illness, physical disease, and death. God desires to give us freedom through applying truth in faith and love for the Father, His Son, and the brethren.

He has revealed Himself, His way, and His truth. Do we believe it? Will we discipline ourselves to use the truth? This is the responsibility that faces us. It has been done, and we can do it. Will you?

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Five)


 

Romans 3:23

"The glory of God" in this context is the way He lives. Hamartia, sin, is to fall short of the ideal, to miss the mark in the way we live. Combined with sin's definition in I John 3:4, hamartia ties what we might think of as rather minor, unimportant, and secondary issues directly to the law of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

Ephesians 2:1-3

Sin is generated through the inspiration and persuasion of the living and malignant "prince of the power of the air." Because sin's source lies in a living being, the Bible considers it dynamic rather than static. Verse 1—"[we] were dead in trespasses and sin"—is especially enlightening. God calls things exactly what they appear from His point of view. Up to the time of our calling, we thought we were alive, but that is how wrong our thinking is. God considered sin to have already killed us, but in His mercy He made us alive so we could overcome it.

Of course, we were alive as far as animal life is concerned but dead to the kind of life God desires for us. We were dead to holiness and spiritual life. A corpse is insensible; it cannot see, hear, smell, touch, or taste. So were we in regard to the beauty of holiness and godly spiritual life.

Sin is not something the ministry invented to hold people in its thrall. The first sentence of Ephesians 2:1 includes the terms "trespasses" and "sins," both of which illustrate simply and clearly why sin is such a universal problem. "Trespasses," the Greek word paraptoma, means "to go off a path," "fall," or "slip aside." When applied to moral and ethical issues, it means "to deviate from the right way," "to wander from a standard."

"Sins" is translated from hamartia, a military shooting term that means "to miss the mark," "to fail to achieve a bull's-eye." In terms of morality and ethics, it means "to fail of one's purpose," "to go wrong," "to fail to reach a standard or ideal." The New Testament always uses hamartia in a moral and ethical sense, whether in commission, omission, thought, feeling, word, or deed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment


 

Ephesians 4:11-15

Jesus Christ is the standard and example, the pinnacle of all things a human should be. Not only was He legally sinless, He was also humble, meek, merciful, sacrificial, kind, encouraging, positive, and patient. When considering what He was in His total personality for the purpose of comparing ourselves to Him, we need to recall Romans 3:23: "All . . . fall short of the glory of God." None of us measure up to His standard in any area of personality, and this is what hamartia ("sins") and paraptoma ("trespasses") describe: falling short of the ideal. Together, hamartia and paraptoma directly tie what we might think of as minor, unimportant, and secondary issues of conduct and attitude into the Ten Commandments.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment


 

James 4:17

Sin is missing the mark of what God wants us to do. II Timothy 3:7 speaks of "always learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth." This verse is the negative way of phrasing the same concept. We have all the knowledge about what to do and how to live righteously, but if we fail to do it, to put it into practice, it is sin to us. It becomes a selfish pursuit of knowledge, and we are missing the reason that God gave it to us. The word sin is hamartia: missing the point, missing the mark. James 1:27 says, "Pure and undefiled religion . . . is . . . to visit orphans and widows in their troubles, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." Notice what he puts first: Pure religion is helping those who are in need, showing your love to them, and then it is keeping oneself pure. Remember, the knowledge God gives us is predominantly and ultimately practical, useful, helpful, outgoing.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church


 

1 John 3:4

In this seemingly straightforward verse, God defines sin (hamartia) as anomia, rendered "lawlessness" (NKJV, RSV, NIV, REB, NAS) or "the transgression of the law" (KJV). Other translations use the words "evil" (Peshitta), "a breaking of God's law" (Phillips) and "iniquity" (Diaglott). The Greek word anomia literally means "being without law." To get a sense of what John writes, we can express it as, "Whoever does hamartian also does anomian, and hamartia is anomia."

The King James and Phillips versions imply that sin is strictly the breaking of God's law, whereas the other translations consider it more generally. However we may understand it, John certainly implies God's involvement as both Lawgiver and Judge. God will judge each person according to the standards expressed in His law.

In I John 3:4, John argues against the Gnostic idea that the things done in the body are inconsequential because only the spirit counts. Gnostics following this school of thought often fell into licentiousness. Some in John's area of ministry seem to have believed that they could not sin in their flesh. Since their flesh, matter, was ultimately evil anyway, it could not be redeemed and was worthless. Thus, they concluded, anything done in the flesh had no bearing on one's salvation.

They played a semantic game with the words hamartia (sin) and anomia (lawlessness). They considered hamartia to identify the transgressions of moral law, particularly sins of the flesh, such as sexual immorality, gluttony, drunkenness, and stealing. Anomia, however, categorized sins of the spirit, like rebellion, pride, vanity, and greed—the sins that Satan committed. They believed God, the eternal Spirit, would look the other way if one committed hamartia, but committing anomia put one under judgment.

They also made no connection between them; they did not recognize that one could affect the other. Gnostics would not admit that sins of the flesh had their origins in the mind (James 1:14-15) or that such sins could in turn cause their character, their spirit, to degenerate (Jeremiah 7:24). They saw a total and irreconcilable separation between flesh and spirit.

Thus, John tells them hamartia and anomia are the same; they are both sin! It does not matter to God whether the sin is committed in the flesh or in the spirit—to Him it is sin! If God says not to do something, and we do it, it is sin. He has said not to eat pork and shellfish; if we do, it is sin. He has said not to commit sexual immorality; if we do, it is sin. He has said not to hate our brother; if we do, it is sin. He has said to keep the Sabbath; if we do not, it is sin!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

1 John 3:4

It is easy for us to think of sin only in terms of I John 3:4. It is, however, a good place to begin. Sin is directly connected to breaking laws. "Law," especially in the Old Testament, frequently means the broader term "instruction." Thus, we have more to consider as sin than just the breaking of a specific law. However, sin is not a complicated concept.

Numerous terms in both Old and New Testaments describe sin, but collectively they all give the same sense: to deviate from a way, path, or law; to fail to live up to a standard. We find two of these words, translated as "trespasses" and "sins," in Ephesians 2:1: "And you He has made alive who were dead in trespasses and sins."

Trespasses, from the Greek paraptoma, means "to go off a path, fall or slip aside." When it is applied to moral and ethical issues it means to deviate from the right way, to wander. Sins, the Greek hamartia, is generally associated with military usage and means to "miss the mark." It indicates failing to make a bull's-eye. In moral and ethical contexts, it means to fail of one's purpose, to go wrong, or to fail to live according to an accepted standard or ideal. Sin is the failure to be what we ought to be and could be.

The Hebrew equivalents of hamartia and paraptoma are chata and asham, respectively. In Hebrew, asham comes closest to meaning the actual breaking of a law; in Greek, it is anomos. Both of these will sometimes be translated "iniquity" or "lawlessness." (See E. W. Bullinger, The Companion Bible, appendices 44 and 128.)

When we understand the terms God inspired to describe sin, we can easily see why sin is so universal. Because the robber, murderer, drunkard, rapist, and child-abuser are so obviously evil, we readily agree that they are sinners. In our hearts we consider ourselves to be respectable citizens since we do none of these things. These terms, though, bring us face to face with the reality of sin—that it is not always obvious. Sin is not confined to external conduct. Sometimes it is buried within one's heart and very cleverly concealed from all but the most discerning.

The ministry has not invented sin; it is part of the territory Christianity covers. Christianity is a way of life from God that reaches into every facet of life. The central idea of sin is failure. We sin when we fail to live up to the standards of this way of life that God established and revealed through His prophets, apostles and Jesus Christ, the Chief Revelator.

As such, sin reaches into marital relationships, childrearing, cleanliness, clothing, hospitality, health, employment—even how we drive our automobiles. It involves itself in the entire gamut of human attitudes such as pride, envy, anger, hatred, greed, jealousy, resentment, depression, and bitterness. In the New Testament, the biblical writers always use hamartia in a moral and ethical sense, whether describing commission, omission, thought, feeling, word, or deed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Sin Is & What Sin Does


 

1 John 3:4

We all know this verse says, "Sin is the transgression of the law," (KJV) a broad definition. However, there is an unfortunate tendency to apply it very narrowly, defining sin strictly in terms of law. Modern translations render it, "Sin is lawlessness," a stronger interpretation suggesting that sin simply ignores the rules as if they do not exist. That, though, just scratches the surface. The Bible's overall approach to sin is much more specific.

Ephesians 2:1-3 provides insight into why sin can be viewed as a living and malignant power:

And He made you alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

Sin is generated through inspiration and persuasion of the living and malignant "prince of the power of the air." Because sin's source lies in a living being, the Bible considers it dynamic rather than static. Verse 1—"[we] were dead in trespasses and sin"—is especially enlightening. God calls things exactly what they appear from His point of view. Up to the time of our calling, we thought we were alive, but that is how wrong our thinking is. God considered sin to have already killed us, but in His mercy He made us alive so we could overcome it.

Of course, we were alive as far as animal life is concerned but dead to the kind of life God desires for us. We were dead to holiness and spiritual life. A corpse is insensible; it cannot see, hear, smell, touch, or taste. So were we in regard to the beauty of holiness and godly spiritual life.

Sin is not something the ministry invented to hold people in its thrall. The first sentence of Ephesians 2:1 includes the terms "trespasses" and "sins," both of which illustrate simply and clearly why sin is such a universal problem. "Trespasses," the Greek word paraptoma, means "to go off a path," "fall," or "slip aside." When applied to moral and ethical issues, it means "to deviate from the right way," "to wander from a standard."

"Sins" is translated from hamartia, a military shooting term that means "to miss the mark," "to fail to achieve a bull's-eye." In terms of morality and ethics, it means "to fail of one's purpose," "to go wrong," "to fail to reach a standard or ideal." The New Testament always uses hamartia in a moral and ethical sense, whether in commission, omission, thought, feeling, word, or deed.

Defining sin as lawlessness, while certainly true, tends to make one think of it only in legal terms. We can readily agree that the robber, murderer, drunkard, child-abuser, and rapist are sinners, but in our hearts we think of ourselves as respectable citizens. However, these two Greek terms for trespasses and sins—paraptoma and hamartia—bring us face to face with sin's breadth. The Ten Commandments alone cover broad areas within which many specific sins lie.

Commentator William Barclay cogently catches the essence of sin: "Sin is the failure to be what we ought to be and could be." The Bible contains numerous specific standards, and Christianity is a way of life that touches upon every aspect of life. The central notion contained within these two Greek terms is failure—failure to live up to the standards of this way of life as established by God and revealed by His Son, Jesus Christ. As such, sin reaches into marriage relationships, childrearing, cleanliness, clothing, entertainment, hospitality, health, and work. Ephesians 2:3, speaking of sin swaying us to "[fulfill] the desires of the flesh and of the mind," exposes it as reaching into our very heart, involving itself in vanity, pride, envy, hatred, and greed.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Seven): Fear of Judgment


 

1 John 3:5

The Word came as a man to die for the forgiveness of our sins (hamartia) without regard to classification! Hamartia is the general word used throughout the New Testament to describe sins of all kinds; it means "to miss the mark" or "to fail to reach a standard." Thus, John is saying that Christ's sacrifice covers all transgressions of law, whether or not we consider them to be physical or spiritual in nature.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Sin Is Spiritual!


 

1 John 5:16-17

The concept in these two verses provides a foundation for showing that the Bible clearly categorizes sin in a number of different ways.

First, we must define a few terms. Psalm 119:172 says, "All Your commandments are righteousness." What does the word righteousness mean? It is an Old English word that we still use today, especially in religion. It is slowly being replaced by the word rectitude. Righteousness is a combination of two words, right, meaning "correct," and wise, although it is not spelled anything like our modern word wise. Wisdom is "right application," that is, "right doing." Righteousness, then is "right doing." "All Your commandments are right doing." All unrighteousness—all wrongdoing—is sin.

I John 3:4 reads, "Sin is the transgression of the law." We need to define transgression. Transgress means "to go beyond the limit," "to violate," giving us a broad foundation for understanding this. Sin, then, can be defined as "going beyond the limit of what the law allows." Righteousness is applying the law's letter and/or its intent!

Quite a number of words—Hebrew and Greek—are translated into this single English word sin. A general element that is present in all sin, regardless of which word is used, is failure. Sin equals failure. It is failure to apply or to live up to the standard of what is right. This is why John says that all wrongdoing is failure, but some failure is much more serious than others.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 16)


 

 




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