Hamartiology – The Doctrine of Sin

Bible Doctrines – Beliefs That Matter
by Mark G. Cambron, D.D.



I. The Origin of Sin.
A. The Entrance of Sin into the Universe.
B. The Introduction of Sin into the Human Race.

II. The Reality of Sin.
A. Scripture Declares the Fact of Sin.
B. Nature Proclaims the Fact of Sin.
C. Law Discovers the Fact of Sin.
D. Experience Proves the Fact of Sin.
E. Man Confesses the Fact of Sin.

III. The Nature of Sin.
A. The Modern View of Sin.
B. The Biblical View of Sin.
C. The Scriptural Statement of Sin.
D. The Theological Definitions of Sin.
E. The Summary of Scripture Concerning Sin.

IV. The Extent of Sin.
A. As to the Heavens.
B. As to the Earth.

V. The Realm of Sin.
A. As an Act.
B. As a State.
C. As a Nature.

VI. The Penalty of Sin.
A. The Natural Penalty.
B. The Positive Penalty.

Chapter V


Hamartiology is derived from the Greek word, hamartia, meaning “sin.” Thus, hamartiology is the doctrine of sin.


A. The Entrance of Sin into the Universe.

Turning to Ezekiel 28:11-19 we see that it was Lucifer who brought sin into the universe: “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee” (v. 17). There was no sin before Lucifer sinned and became the Devil — Satan. His sin, the first in the universe, was when he chose his will over God’s will, desiring to be equal with God. Why did God allow sin to enter into the universe? This is one question God has not answered as yet.

B. The Introduction of Sin into the Human Race.

As there is sin in the human race, there must have been a beginning of sin. If there is no beginning of sin, man was created in sin. Thus, God is the creator of sin; but He is not. Sin came into the human race through deception and disobedience, motivated by unbelief. “Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (I Tim. 2:14). Why did God allow man to sin? The only possible answer we can give is Ephesians 2:7: “That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.”


A. Scripture Declares the Fact of Sin.

“All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “The Scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe” (Gal. 3:22).

B. Nature Proclaims the Fact of Sin.

“We know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together unto now” (Rom. 8:22).

C. Law Discovers the Fact of Sin.

“By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). The Apostle Paul thought that he was free from sin until he looked into the mirror of God’s law: “Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet” (Rom. 7:7b).

D. Experience Proves the Fact of Sin.

The experiences of Moses, David, Peter and John reveal the facts of sin. Even your own experience substantiates it.

E. Man Confesses the Fact of Sin.

1. Saints Have Owned Up to It. It was Job who said, “I am vile, and I abhor myself.” Isaiah declared, “Woe is me, for I am undone.” Daniel, of whom no breath of sin is mentioned, said, “My comeliness was turned into corruption.” Jeremiah confessed, “I am black.” Peter cried, “Depart from me, I am a sinful man.” Paul stated, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” Luther revealed, “I am afraid more of my heart than the Pope and all the Cardinals.” Moody said, “The man I have the most trouble with is the man who walks under my hat.”

2. Sinners have Owned Up to It. The Scriptures abound with the confession of the sinner and his sin: Pharaoh declared, “I have sinned this time” (Ex. 9:27b). Achan answered, “Indeed I have sinned” (Josh. 7:20b). Balaam admitted, “I have sinned,” (Num. 22:34b). Even Judas, who betrayed the Lord, said, “I have sinned” (Matt. 27:4).


A. The Modern View of Sin.

1. Society Calls It Indiscretion.

2. Scholars Label It Ignorance.

3. Evolutionists Say it is the Trait of the Beast.

4. Christian Scientists Teach It Is the Absence From Good.

5. The Fleshly Man Excuses It As Amiable Weakness.

6. The New Theologians Declare It Is Merely Selfishness.

B. The Biblical View of Sin.

1. Sin Is Missing the Mark. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God(Rom. 3:23).See also Romans 5:12. Sin means “to miss the divine aim of God.”

2. Sin Is Transgression. “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (I John 3:4). Transgression of the law may be deliberate or unintentional. Either is sin. There was sin before the law, but there was no transgression. See Numbers 4:15; Joshua 7:11, 15; Isaiah 24:5; Daniel 9:11; Hosea 6:7; 8:1.

3. Sin Is Bending of That Which Is Right. “Righteous” means straight. Sin is the bending of that which was once straight. “David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done? let thine hand, I pray thee, be against me, and against my father’s house” (II Sam. 24:17). See also Romans 1:18; 6:13; II Thessalonians 2:12; II Peter 2:15; I John 5:17.

4. Sin Is Rebellion Against God. “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children and they have rebelled against me” (Is. 1:2). See also II Thessalonians 2:4, 8.

5. Sin Is a Debt. “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). See also Luke 11:4. The words “duty” (Luke 17:10), “ought” (John 13:14) and “bound” (II Thess. 2:13) are all from the same Greek word denoting debt.

6. Sin Is Disobedience. Sin is a lack of response to God. “In time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” (Eph. 2:2). See also Ephesians 5:6; John 3:36, R. V.

7. Sin Is a Deviation From God’s Requirement. This means a fall; every offense against God is a fall. Sin is always a fall that hurts. “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matt. 6:14). See also Galatians 6:1; Romans 5:15-20.

8. Sin Is Unbelief. “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son” (I John 5:10).

9. Sin Is Impiety, or Ungodliness. “To him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieththe ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). “When we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). See also I Timothy 1:9; I Peter 4:18; II Peter 2:5, 7; Jude 4, 15.

10. Sin Is Iniquity. By this we mean a wrong doing to the moral order of the universe. “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they that do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). See also Colossians 3:5-9; Mark 7:19, 20.

C. The Scriptural Statement of Sin.

“All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death” (I John 5:17). See also I John 3:4;Proverbs 14:21; 21:4; 24:9; Romans 3:23; 6:23; I Samuel 15:23; Jeremiah 3:25; 14:7; James 2:9; 4:17; Romans 14:23.

D. The Theological Definitions of Sin.

1. Sin is the transgression of, or lack of conforming to the law of God.

2. Sin is deficiency of love to God and man.

3. Sin is preference of self to God.

4. Sin is insubordination.

5. Sin is lack of conformity with God or His moral law in act, disposition, or state.

6. Sin is that which ought not to be.

E. The Summary of Scripture Concerning Sin.

1. Toward God.
a. Rebellion. “Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (I Sam. 15:23a).
b. Failure to Love God Supremely. “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deut. 6:5).

2. Toward the Divine Law.
a. Willful Transgression. “The soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people” (Num. 15:30).
b. Violation Through Ignorance. “If any soul sin through ignorance, then he shall bring a she goat of the first year for a sin offering” (Num. 15:27). See also Hebrews 9:7.

3. Toward Man.
a. Injustice. “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbor, neither rob: the wages of him that is hired shall not abide with thee all night until the morning” (Lev. 19:13).
b. Failure to Love Him as One’s Self. “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD” (Lev. 19:18).

4. Toward Self.
a. Selfishness. “What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? orwhat shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26).
b. Corruption. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).


A. As to the Heavens.

The Scriptures reveal the fact that both sin and salvation began in heaven and came to earth. Sin began in heaven with the fall of Satan (Ezek. 28). Salvation is completed in heaven with themediatorial work of Christ (Heb. 9:24).

B. As to the Earth.

1. The Vegetable Kingdom. “Unto Adam he said, because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying. Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field” (Gen. 3:17, 18). Isaiah 55:13 reveals the blessed fact that the curse shall be taken off of the vegetable kingdom when Christ comes: “Instead of the thorn, shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

2. The Animal Kingdom. Before the fall of man there were no man-eating animals. Isaiah 11:6-9tells us that this curse also shall be removed at Christ’s second coming: “The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.”

3. The Race of Mankind.
a. The Universality of Sin. All men are sinners: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
b. The Totality of Sin. All of man is sinful — his body, soul and spirit. “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable: there is none that doeth good, no, not one. . . .there is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:12, 18, 19.)


A. As An Act.

Man commits sins by his conduct.

B. A State.

Man is void of righteousness.

C. As a Nature.

Man is conceived in sin, born in sin, and is, therefore, a sinner by nature.


A. The Natural Penalty.

This can best be illustrated by the example of a child who was forbidden to eat of a certain food. He disobeyed and ate too much, with the result that he became sick. The natural consequence of his disobedience was his illness. The natural penalty of sin is disease, disappointment and physical death.

B. The Positive Penalty.

To continue with the above example, we find that the natural penalty was the child’s becoming sick. The positive penalty is the spanking he received from his father. The positive penalty of sin is described by the following:

1. Death. “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). Death, in Scripture, never means “annihilation” or “complete destruction.” There is no place in the Word where the word “annihilation” can be substituted for “death.”
a. Spiritual Death. “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (I Tim. 5:6).
b. Eternal Death. “Death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death” (Rev. 20:14). “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed . . . in the flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (II Thess. 1:7, 8, 9). See also Revelation 20:12; 21:8. There was no death before sin came into man’s life. Man was created to dwell with God forever. Death is said to have “passed upon all men” (Rom. 5:12). The word “passed” is translated “pierced through” in Luke 2:35; “go through” in Matthew 19:24; and “passed through” in I Corinthians 10:1.

2. Lost. “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). The word “lost” is the same as the words “perish” (John 3:16) and “destroy” (Matt. 10:28).

3. Condemned. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already; because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). The word “condemnation” is a legal term, and indicates judicial decision. This same word, “condemnation,” is “damnation” in John 5:29, and “judgment” in Matthew 11:22, 24; II Peter 2:4, 9; 3:7; I John 4:17; Jude 6.

4. Guilt. “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Rom. 3:19).

5. Perdition. “Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that . . . I may hear . . . that ye stand fast in one spirit. . . in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God” (Phil. 1:27, 28). See also John 17:12; II Thessalonians 2:3; Hebrews 10:39; II Peter 3:7; Revelation 17:8, 11. This same word “perdition” is translated “destruction” in Matthew 7:13: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.” See also Romans 9:22; Philippians 3:19; II Peter 3:16. (In the New Testament the word “destruction” means “ruin”.) In Matthew 26:8 it is translated “waste”: “When his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste?” The word “perish” in Matthew 9:17 is the same word as “perdition”: “Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.”

6. Punishment. “These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46). There is a difference between the above Scripture and Hebrews 12:6: “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” Punishment is for the sinner; chastisement for the saint.

7. Eternal Everlasting. “These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt. 25:46). See also Jude 6; II Thessalonians 1:9; Revelation 20:10; 14:11.

Some say that the words “everlasting” and “eternal” mean “a long life, an age, age lasting.” In other words, they say that guilty sinners will endure the fires of hell only for an age; after being purified, they shall enjoy eternal bliss with the rest of the saints of God. But this we add, “If hell and punishment are not forever, then there is no such thing as eternal life, nor eternal salvation.” The same word “eternal,” or “everlasting,” is used of God, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Heb. 9:14). “The revelation of the mystery… now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of theeverlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Rom. 16:26). If the punishment in hell for the damned is not eternal, then salvation is not eternal, and God is not eternal! But He is! So is salvation eternal; so is punishment.