Samuel M. Powell writes in his book “Discovering Our Christian Faith, An Introduction to Theology” that;
“The Bible is a voluminous compendium of the variety of ways in which human beings can and have broken God’s law. However, sin is more than breaking God’s law through outward behavior. This is because of the importance of inwardness in obeying God, who is interested not only in observation of the commandments but also in heartfelt obedience.” (Powell, S. Page 116)
The doctrine of sin, in a broad sense and not restricted to “original sin”, helps us understand our human existence and our need for God by showing us that we are not perfect, as perfect is Christ, and that we can, and do, make mistakes. As Powell states; “sin is more than breaking God’s law…” We need to be obedient to Him as He not only wishes for us to be obedient, He commands it. We need God because we cannot exist on our own. This is how sin helps us to understand our existence.
John Wesley’s definition of sin is “a willful transgression of a known law.” This is described in detail in “Profiles in Wesleyan Theology” by Leslie D. Wilcox. The ideas discussed by Wilcox that hinge on Wesley’s definition are those that show sin as an act of rebellion with “a requirement that one understands that they are doing wrong.” (Wilcox, L.) This in itself, that sin is an “act of rebellion”, is the meaning of voluntary transgression. David A. Case states in his book “What We Believe” that;
“Sin is first of all acts of disobedience. Sin is the deliberate placing of my will against God’s will and doing my own thing. Sin is a willful transgression of a known law of God.” (Case. D. Page 33)
When we put our own will in front of what God wants from us, what He requires from us; we sin.
God knows there is sin in the world and knows how we suffer from it. Again, this gives us a better understanding of our human existence and why we cannot exist without God. First off, we are created and He is the creator. Therefore, without Him we do not exist. God saw sin in the world and did not like it, therefore He sent His only begotten Son Jesus Christ as the Ultimate Sacrifice for all sin – past, present, and future. Isaiah 53:5 (NET) states;
“He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; He endured punishment that made us well; because of His wounds we have been healed.”
Through Jesus Christ, all sin is forgiven. The only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life is Jesus Christ (John 14:6) and the only way to get through all sin and to the Father is through Him. This helps us understand our need for God. We have sinned, and through sin we understand better our human existence as imperfect created beings, and we understand through the doctrine of sin that we need Jesus to break free from sin. This helps us to better understand grace. We are saved by grace and His grace alone. Therefore we can’t “work off” sin. He saves us by grace.
As Powell states; “John Wesley is well known for asserting that sin “properly so called” is a “voluntary transgression” of a law of God.” (Powell, S. Page 116) This gives us a “broadly understood” definition of sin. Wesleyan theology shows us that sin is being disobedient to God. Therefore, this is more than breaking the laws of God. This is willfully going against God. Sin is a never ending trap. We will continue to sin as long as we walk this earth. However, what matters is our belief and faith in Jesus Christ. We are saved by His sacrifice, His grace. Therefore, we can’t “work off” sin, but we can live as Christ-like as we can. We need to live to please God.