Q. Which of these two words should we use—“sin” or “sins”? Is there any difference between the two?

A. A fine passage to observe is 1 John 1:8 and 9: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (emphasis added). Here we see that the first word, “sin,” is a general word denoting a cause, and that the second word, “sins,” is a specific word having to do with the many and varied results of the first. Someone has noted that we were born in sin, and we therefore commit sins. How true!

Think of a tree that bears fruit. The root, which is sin in this illustration, brings about fruit—sins. The source is mankind’s sinful nature, sometimes called the “old sin nature” or the “old man” (Romans 6:6). We humans acquire the old sin nature by Adam’s fall into sin (1 Corinthians 15:22). Since every person thus possesses the old nature throughout life, sins are the result. First John 1:8 and 9 make it clear that even the believer sins. If we deny this fact, we deceive ourselves. Thankfully we can have victory over the power of the old sin nature by reckoning with and appropriating the fact of our being crucified with Christ (Galatians 2:20).

Apart from recognizing sins that we all commit, we are beckoned to see a whole-picture scenario (Romans 5:12). Sin has entered and permeated the world. Closely related to the word “sin” is the word “evil,” which generally indicates a degenerate state of people; however, the word “evils” is generally more like the word “sins,” relating to specific thoughts, words, deeds, or omissions.

Another interesting aspect of this discussion is the sinlessness of Christ. The issue here is not just that Christ did not commit sins. He did not do so because He was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). In other words, He, being God, did not possess the old sin nature.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.