Is there a difference between sin and sin?

(Tim Ramey) #1

In a discussion with another member on Connect, under the topic “Saints & Sinners”, obviously, the topic of sin was addressed. I made the following remark regarding sin. I want to put it out there as I do not want to mislead her or anyone else, including myself, if I am off. Do you have any thoughts on what I’ve expressed below?

"In 1John 1&2 it mentions that if we don’t admit to sin, we are liars and yet, the book is written so that we may not sin. In fact, if we know Him, we will obey Him and because of that, we ought to walk in the same way as He walked. It appears that it is saying that you better admit to your sin and yet, you won’t sin if you really know Him.

Here is where I think the rub is. I believe that there is sin and then there is sin. It’s the same word but one connotes an attitude and one conveys an action. Let me explain.

We use the example of David all of the time and how he committed some atrocious sins and yet he was a man after God’s own heart. I feel that he sinned and then repented of it. He was in deep contrition. He did not have an attitude of sin but he did have actions that were sinful. That’s why the Bible speaks of kings of Israel as evil and others righteous. Why? Because the evil kings had a heart for themselves and their kingdom whereas the righteous kings sinned, such as Hezekiah, but they hated their sin and turned from it. So the evil kings did some “good” things but their hearts were evil whereas the righteous kings sinned but their hearts desired the Lord.

So it is with us. Are we living for ourselves or for Jesus? If we live for the Lord, not only has He empowered us that we don’t have to sin but we don’t want to."

(SeanO) #2

I think a really important question is, “Who is John’s audience in this letter?” John was both attempting to comfort believers with assurance of salvation and to rebuke false teachers.

@Tim_Ramey I think this difficult question of sin and sin centers on one particular belief of the false teachers - namely, that after they had received Jesus they could continue sinning without suffering the consequences of sin.

We see this well using the translation of the following verses from

1 John 1:6 - If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth.

I John 1:8 - If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.

I John 2:4 - The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar

When John says we are liars if we say we do not have sin - he is rebuking false teachers who say we can sin without bearing the guilt of sin. However, he then comforts believers who may fear for their salvation at this point by reassuring them that God forgives those who admit their sin and confess. So John has two audiences in mind at the same time - the false teachers and the true believers (aka little children).

I John 1:9 - But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.

So here we have a picture that is much easier to understand - false teachers saying that they can follow Jesus and still live in sin and true believers trying to find assurance that their sins are forgiven.

Getting back go your question of “Is there a difference between sin and sin?” I think the most difficult verse in I John is I John 5:16.

I John 5:16 - If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that.

What on earth is the “sin that leads unto death” vs “sin that does not lead to death”?

In the commentaries and articles I read briefly, there seems to be agreement on the following facts:

  1. The sin that “leads to death” involves walking away from God and into captivity to sin, satan and the world - in other words, unbelief

  2. The sin that “does not lead to death” is sin committed by a believer who may be disciplined by God for their sin, but is still under His loving care as the Good Shepherd

I think there is good evidence in I John for this claim because the verses right after 5:16 draw a sharp distinction between believers, who God protects, and those under the power of the evil one.

I John 5:18-20 - We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the One who was born of God keeps them safe, and the evil one cannot harm them. We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.

I think verses 18-20 and verses 16-17 are parallel verses. The “sin that does not lead to death” is committed by those “kept safe by God”. The “sin that leads unto death” is committed by those “under the control of the evil one”.

The following article may prove helpful to you:

So, what is my opinion? Is there a difference between sin and sin?

No. All sin is sin. But sin committed by those under God’s care is repented and forgiven. Sin committed by those sold under the dominion of the evil one is never repented and therefore never forgiven.

As an example - King David committed “sin that does not lead to death” and King Saul committed “sin that leads unto death”. They both sinned. But David remained under God’s care, though God did discipline him for his sin. He admitted his sin was sin and repented.

That is similar to the example you gave of Hezekiah, who repented and turned.

(Tim Ramey) #3

@Sean_Oesch My goodness, God is omnipresent but you are not far behind! I never saw someone so on top of the posts in Connect. You should get a trophy.

Anyway, back to the subject of sin. In essence, aren’t you saying the same thing that I did about attitude and action. I agree that sin is sin. But I do feel that when we are dealing with sin - as an act that you & I commit often, it is certainly not condoned but different from attitude of indifference. One is sinning and repenting - truly sorry for offending our Lord. Others sin but only care about it if it makes them look bad. Saul, after disobeying the Lord and sacrificing without Samuel didn’t repent of his sin but asked that Samuel please join him so he’d look good.He didn’t seem to have any regard for his sin. In this case, I sense that Scripture is pointing out a sin nature and that would be like those who become Christians but feel that since they are saved, they can go on sinning.

I so appreciate how you gave the background to 1John. That is critical. Yet, I feel that someone should be able to read the Word and see its application to their lives without knowing anything about the culture.

Again, a sin nature has no regard for God, just what is best for me; I’m saved so I’m free to sin. Isn’t that what was addressed in Romans 6? At the same time, if and when we do fall and truly repent, we are not meant then to question our salvation.

Yes, sin used in both situations is the same Greek word. As a believer that loves Jesus, I feel that Jesus died for that sin nature - the old nature. But having raised me with Him, I do sin but deal with it. A Proverb that Carson posted, Proverbs 28:13 says that the one who conceals his transgressions will not prosper but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.

(SeanO) #4

@Tim_Ramey I assure you I am not even mildly omnipresent in any context - but I do no enjoy talking about Jesus :slight_smile:

I agree that what we are describing is a similar concept in different words regarding sin. But I do think the distinction matters.

However, sin vs sin in I John is definitely a difficult concept that I am always revisiting. Would love to sit down with the apostle John one day and find out exactly what is going on there…

@Tim_Ramey In all love brother, the following is a dangerous statement:

“I so appreciate how you gave the background to 1 John. That is critical. Yet, I feel that someone should be able to read the Word and see its application to their lives without knowing anything about the culture.”

Understanding the culture and context of each Bible book is one of the first steps all Bible study materials suggest you start with for a very good reason. I would challenge you to find one that does not start with that advice from a reputable source. It is necessary to understand culture and context to rightly divide the Word of Truth. And I think the idea that it is not necessary could mislead someone, which I know is not your intention.

I highly commend to you Gordon D. Fee’s book “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth”.

(Tim Ramey) #5

@Sean_Oesch I appreciate your reply to my view of how I interpreted 1John 1-2. It was insightful and gave me much to ponder but I did lay it down before I could give my response.

One reason I let it go was to see if anyone else had any input regarding it.

The second explanation as to why I didn’t immediately reply was because I needed to take a deep breath before responding to your statement to one of my remarks in the post prior to yours. You were most gracious but you felt that I had made a dangerous remark, which was:

“I so appreciate how you gave the background to 1 John. That is critical. Yet, I feel that someone should be able to read the Word and see its application to their lives without knowing anything about the culture.

Your response was, “Understanding the culture and context of each Bible book is one of the first steps all Bible study materials suggest you start with for a very good reason. I would challenge you to find one that does not start with that advice from a reputable source. It is necessary to understand culture and context to rightly divide the Word of Truth. And I think the idea that it is not necessary could mislead someone, which I know is not your intention.”

What stunned me about this reply was, first of all, how you got the notion that I did not feel that studying Scripture was important. I had prefaced the sentence with the importance of studying the Word, But I believe that the Lord can use it in our lives even though we don’t know about the history or culture of each book. This is not to say, “Just read the Bible and you don’t need to read any books regarding it.” Studying it is so important. Yet, when I became a Christian, I was young and didn’t know any historical background and yet God mightily used it in my life. In fact, I memorized the 5 chapters of 1John before I understood anything about its background and it was and is such a source of light to me. Even the speaker at Nabeel’s service said that the way to reach people for Jesus was to have them read the New testament through twice. He didn’t emphasize that they need to make sure they studied it before reading it. I think of a child that learns Scripture and it sticks with them and guides them though they don’t know any background.

After reading Scripture, one is then more intent on understanding it on a greater scale. If I wasn’t interested in studying, I wouldn’t be with Connect. In fact, I posted a plea for suggested resources to help me become deeper in my understanding in everything regarding Christianity so that I could love Jesus more deeply.

So I’m not sure if you needed the assurance that I saw the necessity of studying or whether you still think I’m walking on thin ice when I believe that someone can appreciate the application of the Bible to their lives before they understand its background.

Responding to another issue in this thread that I would like to speak to is regarding your post to my initial topic of the difference between sin and sin. I very much respect but lovingly do not agree with your interpretation that throughout the chapters 1 & 2 of 1John points one moment at false teachers and then at true believers. I believe the book was written to believers and he gave them aids how they could determine if they were true believers. He tells them of some who used to be among them but left because they were not “of us.” He writes about the deceivers and the anti-Christs but he doesn’t address them as the readers.

I know that you are more knowledgeable in most every area dealing with the Scriptures but a topic that I think is not emphasized enough is the fact that as Christians, we are new but still play with the old stuff. The intent of Paul was so often to help us see that we have a new life - the old has passed away, the new has come. Thus, he pleads with us to stay away from what used to charm us. That is a bottom line truth. I don’t say that because I think of myself higher than I ought to think but to express the truth that Scripture implores all of us to see.

(SeanO) #6

@Tim_Ramey I never doubted that you value studying the Scriptures and I agree 100% that God can use His Word without any cultural background to bless people in their walk and open their eyes.

But I do disagree that someone without a good understanding of the cultural context and background can accurately apply all Scripture to their lives in non-obvious cases.

The basics of Scripture, I agree, are obvious to any reader. Love God. Lover your neighbor. Honor others before yourself. Take care of the orphan and widow in their distress and remain unstained by the world.

But even the apostle Peter admitted that some things Paul wrote were hard to understand and they were both alive at the same time in history:

Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. 2 Peter 3

(angelina Edmonston) #7

Hi Tim, From reading about sin from the beginning I see sin is the description as 1) the name from what an evil being manifests is sin We are not wrestling or battling Flesh and Blood…or people… but sinful evil beings… It takes a thinking being to think. One would have to look at the source of thoughts. GOD has thoughts, people have thoughts, and the Enemy and his kingdom have thoughts.

When we agree with sinful thoughts and temptations from the enemy and his sinful horde… then we sin agreeing with his fallen nature… And then sin becomes an action of sin.

When we are trained long term in that sinful nature (by evil beings of sin) it becomes a pattern of transgression. Over a life time, family members sinning through the ages it is an iniquity a repented pattern. We develop mindset and it even becomes part of peoples biology.

I was thinking of how long it took from Adam and Eve before man was reduced to 70 to 80 years old. I see it was the mercy of GOD due to cut life short…a person 999 years old would have a long time to do evil. GOD shortened the days due to the proliferation of sin.

In every bible I see repent all the way to the back of the book in Rev. The standard is IF you will obey… Then you will be blessed… but if you fall Jesus HE said repent, we all have sin…

All liars are sinners. And all believers who love GOD still sin, the difference is we repent.

Just my thoughts.


(Tim Ramey) #8

@angelina_Edmonston Thanks for your comments, Angelina. You’re right, sin & repentance are constantly in the Bible. Yes, we still sin even though we love God and we repent of it. But what is so critical, so as to not be deceived by our enemy is that, as Christians, we never HAVE to commit the same sins over and over again. And as we keep His commands, our love for God is perfected. So rather than the cycle of sin-confess, sin-confess, in Jesus that cycle is broken. Then He is able to show us areas that He also wants to deliver us from and so we sin- confess and move on. I’m NEVER insinuating a sinless life. Rather, the Lord is able to take us deeper in Him and free us from areas that we were often not even aware of. We are so blessed that we know Him. He loves us in spite of ourselves. But He does want us to be ever more in His image. We need Him to even make us aware of sin in our lives. The evil one condemns but Jesus frees.

(angelina Edmonston) #9

Thank you Tim for this reply. I agree. This is so well put.

I have seen this in my life where I have dealt with issues that have gotten better.

Your right sometimes the enemy makes us feel condemned especially on a “bad day.”

It is hard to articulate how difficult the understanding of grace was for me - especially past being saved. Because I was the prodigal. GOD was so gracious to make me free and deliver me, And yes many things just stopped many issues I struggled with were gone or diminished so much. Yet I had other new issues a rises.

I see what you mean that new things arise we repent and move on. Yes. Sometimes though I have had times where I feel I need others to come along side of me and help speak into my life through loving discipleship (truth in that area ie. sound doctrine, eschatology etc). I live in a area that is a national forest. This is why Connect is very important to me. And I appreciate your kind understanding. And those who have let me ask questions who are leaders. I know this does not apply to others as much. And I am very thankful.

Tim, I was involved in a ministry and they really dug into the Bible. I loved it there I learned a lot… Then I began to look for a local body closer to me. I went to many churches. Some were far one way and some another. I ended up meeting a group within a church who loved the Word but got off track. It was sad because relationship became broken, promising leaders were cut short, division and it left my hubby and I very sad, and as new believers we were well shocked…this was our first real church.

We withdrew from that church not knowing who to trust. we prayed many things to GOD. Many questions. I laid my Bible down and said IF you want me to do this. OR If you want me to do that will do what you want but please speak to me.

A Pastor sent me a text that day saying he was starting a non denomination church called Grace Fellowship, Then I received a book in the mail un-addressed called By Grace Alone by Derek Prince. I read this book and began attending the Church. We have been going through the entire BIBLE.

I have seen that many former teaching I learned did not even match scripture. I have also learened that it took a while to really understand for my self “WHY GRACE”.this is where I am … grace goes against the religious mind set. It is free and undeserved. GOD loves you as his favorite and everyone is HIS favorite. His gift is available a for all.Because GOD is LOVE. He gave us grace freely to rescue us from the enemy and our selves. while we were yet sinners… And Grace is not only for the born again experience. His grace extends into every aspect of our lives to help us, not out of works, but LOVE in action by faith … It is not about us at the center but HIM.

The on going daily struggles is the sanctification issue this is where the grace issue I do not understand. Except his grace is sufficient to get through stuff. ugh I hope this makes sense.

Thanks Tim,


(Dave Kenny) #10

@Tim_Ramey, thanks for this thread. I wanted to offer a couple of nuances in the discussion, just to keep things nice and ambiguous :slight_smile:

There is another 1st century Palestinian understanding of sin that can be considered here. That is, capital ‘S’ sin… almost like an entity that is released and his special power is Death. The idea here is that there are really only two kingdoms available from which you and I are able to offer our allegiance. The two kingdoms are:

  1. The Kingdom of God
  2. The Kingdom of Sin

In this sense, your allegiance to the Kingdom of God puts you under the power of God, which is life. Your allegiance to the Kingdom of Sin puts you under the power of Sin, which is death. (Hebrews 2:14-16 is a powerful accent to this thinking)

This imagery is dominant in Paul’s language of Baptism in Christ, Baptism in death in Romans (chapters 5 and 6 especially… but truly throughout). In fact, the language used is that of slavery. We are slaves of one Kingdom or the Other.

So… the phenomenon of believers continuing to sin even after they have declared their allegiance to the Kingdom of God points to the process of transformation that the NT writers expect us all to go through. Also included in this fine letter, 1 John, is the very concept that we are not yet what we are going to become (3:2). 2 Cor. 4:16 has a beautiful word to say in support of this also

For me, the differentiation in the use of the word sin in 1 John (clearly it can’t mean the same thing in chapters 1/2 as it does in chapter 3) is the difference between the idea of ‘small case’ sin and ‘captial case’ Sin… that is, those of us that continue to practice sin (repeat, premeditated sin, with no compunction to change) clearly are still under the slavery of Sin, and consequently belong to the Kingdom of Sin (chapter 3)

Regarding the discussion between @Tim_Ramey and @Sean_Oesch regarding culture and proper biblical interpretation… @Tim_Ramey, I think it needs to be stated that your commitment to memorizing scripture in the volume and amounts that you have will do more to condition and grow your soul/heart from the inside-out than any amount of culture context reading will ever give you. You are to be commended for your practice of this timeless spiritual discipline and I think that you honour the true purpose and meaning of The Word of God when you ‘swallow’ it the way that you do. @Sean_Oesch is definitely correct however that cultural context, Sitz em Leben (present life circumstances) and the study of ancient language is agreed upon by nearly all theologians as the primary step to correct interpretation of the text as the author would have intended it. However… given that there is an author behind the author (Holy Spirit), then and now… the doctrine of the perspicuity of scripture would seem to apply (although I am reserved in how much I embrace that doctrine myself…)

@angelina_Edmonston… thank you for your comments on Grace and thank you for your comments about the fact that you have received strong biblical teaching in more than one tradition, and have found that very different conclusions and interpretations can be drawn from both of them! This nicely illustrates the challenge ahead of all of us to interpret scripture, and just how firmly we are going to grasp to our particular interpretation, especially against another brother/sister in Christ. I wonder if you did a little study into “The Problem of Evil” from a philosophical standpoint if you might see an application of God’s grace and the “on going daily struggles” that you describe… there might be a nugget there for you

Great topic, great post


(angelina Edmonston) #11

Dave you know me!! This is my struggle. Not that I am premeditating or trying to continue in sinfulness but GOD and Sin is ever with us.

Yes my understanding is the S sin. This is how I read the word… This is how I was taught. The Kingdom of GOD and the Kingdom of Sin! This is the struggle.We are overcoming. Yes “our allegiance to the Kingdom of God puts you under the power of God, which is life. Your allegiance to the Kingdom of Sin puts you under the power of Sin, which is death. (Hebrews 2:14-16 is a powerful accent to this thinking)”

"So… the phenomenon of believers continuing to sin even after they have declared their allegiance to the Kingdom of God points to the process of transformation that the NT writers expect us all to go through. "

Yes ! This is my understanding “we are being saved” NOT that we are re-born again but our old man the flesh the carnal nature is walking out and overcoming in sanctification,… and we are caught between two kingdoms… and we must choose daily to obey.

Dave this walk is a challenge because while I want to just know I am “ok”. I see clear teaching to watch and be alert and remain in the faith. This to me implies we can swerve to the wrong master.

This is why I see a easy believe-ism in the church. It is hard to warp my mind around NOT continuing to diligently hearken and obey all the way though the Scripture.


(David Cieszynski) #12

Hi everyone,

I haven’t anything to add but have enjoyed reading this thread, for me sin is sin some sins are harder to resist and I just need to keep on with God.