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The Hebrew word for sin is khawtaw. It literally means “to miss the mark,” that is, to fail to reach one’s target or goal. The word is used in this way in Judges 20:16,
16 Out of all these people 700 were left-handed; each one could sling a stone at a hair and not miss [khawtaw].
Paul, too, uses this definition in Romans 3:23,
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
Here “the glory of God” is the target. It refers to the fact that Adam lost the glory of God (his spiritual garment) and that our goal is to receive our heavenly garments (2 Corinthians 5:1). We get back our garments through the fulfillment of the feast of Tabernacles.
John’s Definition of Sin
John defines sin in 1 John 3:4,
4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness [anomia]; and sin is lawlessness [anomia].
The Greek word anomia is from the negative of nomos, “law.” The KJV renders it “transgression of the law.” In this case, the target or goal is to be obedient to the law, and if we fail, it is anomia.
Paul’s Definition of Sin
Paul, too, talked about anomia in Romans 6:19,
19 … For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness [anomia], resulting in further lawlessness [anomia], so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification.
Paul’s goal was righteousness and sanctification, which are the opposite of lawlessness. Of course, he also tells us that faith is counted as righteousness (Romans 3:22). This is because “faith comes from hearing… the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). To hear is to obey, for there is no hearing without a positive response. Hence the Hebrew word shema has a dual meaning: to hear and to obey.
Christ (in His pre-existent form) spoke the law to the people in Exodus 20:1-17. At that time, they were too afraid to hear, and so they remained lawless in their hearts. Moses reminded the Israelites of this failure by repeating their words in Deuteronomy 5:25, 26,
25 Now then why should we die? For this great fire will consume us. If we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, then we will die. 26 For who is there of all flesh who has heard the voice of the living God speaking from the midst of the fire, as we have, and lived?
The fire is His glorious nature, and the law is the expression of His nature. It is the standard of righteousness that all must attain in order for creation to be reconciled to God.
Of course, the Ten Commandments were but a summary of the entire law, and even these are summarized in two verses. The first is Deuteronomy 6:5,
5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
The second is in Leviticus 19:18,
18 … you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus commented on these two laws, saying in Matthew 22:40,
40 On these two commandments depend the whole law and the prophets.
It is clear, then, that the law came from the mouth of the God of Love and that the law gives us a practical guide to godly Love. This is the nature of God, and it includes the judgments of the law. His judgments are measured to fit each crime, and there are built-in mercy factors as well. Not only does the victim of injustice have the right to forgive, but God Himself limits judgment by the law of Jubilee. This is due to His Love nature.
Our inability to become righteous by trying to follow the law does not negate the fact that the law is God’s standard of righteousness. Our failure only means that we must follow a different path in order to attain the righteousness that is demanded by the law. That path is the New Covenant, which depends upon God’s promise. The Old Covenant path fails because it requires men to do righteousness apart from a change of nature.
The New Covenant succeeds because it puts the responsibility upon God to work in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. He has promised to make us righteous by leading us through the experiences of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles. Our only requirement is to have faith that He is truly able to do what He has promised (Romans 4:21, 22).
The result is that by following the leading of the Spirit, the law is written on our hearts little by little, so that in the end we may become the word of God, even as Jesus is the Word. It is not wrong to alter our behavior to conform to the law; but the will of man can only take us part of the way. The scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day did not understand this, because they did not understand the nature of the New Covenant. Their faith was based on the Old Covenant, where God required men’s flesh to refrain from sin.
So also, Paul tells us in Romans 14:23, “whatsoever is not from faith is sin.” He was speaking of faith in God, not faith in men—nor even faith in oneself to fulfill an Old Covenant vow to God. In other words, those who have faith in their own ability to keep their vow to God are on the path to failure. Failure is sin.
Many Christians today have upgraded their faith to a level that is somewhat higher than that of the Pharisees. They pray that the Holy Spirit will help their flesh fulfill their Old Covenant vow. But the Israelites did this from the beginning. Prayer was not unknown to them, even though they may have had a limited understanding of the Holy Spirit. Prayer is certainly helpful, but the most earnest of believers know by experience that they still fall short of the glory of God. In the end, the Old Covenant path places faith in both God and man, believing that God is man’s assistant.
The New Covenant path, on the other hand, has faith in the promise of God alone. Children of the promise are fully assured that God is able to do what He has promised. Essentially, we are imputed righteous through our Passover experience, giving us a legal righteousness up front. Then (as with the Israelites) we are led into the wilderness for training through the feast of Pentecost. Finally, we enter the Promised Land through the feast of Tabernacles. Only then do we become fully righteous with the law fully written on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10).
Jesus’ Definition of Sin
Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 to the lawyer who had asked Him, “which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36). Neither of them questioned that the law was authoritative, and sin was presumed to be lawlessness. Jesus warned us of lawlessness in Matthew 7:21-23,
21 Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” 23 And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” [anomia].
Here Jesus uses the same definition of sin that John uses in 1 John 3:4. Respecting the law seems to take precedence over prophecy, exorcism, and performing miracles. This is because the law is the expression of the nature of Christ and the God of Love. Putting on His nature is more important than prophecy and miracles.
The goal of Pentecost is to be perfectly obedient. When we reach that goal, we will be more than obedient; we will also be in agreement with God. That is the final goal of the feast of Tabernacles. At that point, there will be no more wrestling with the flesh. We will be changed into the image of God, and our nature itself will be changed. We will no longer have the desire to go against the nature of God. We will no longer fall short of the glory of God.