Sin and Sins

By L. J. Fowler

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine, February, 1926


HERE is another Illustration of the Right Division Principle lift of Divine Revelation. An understanding of the distinctions of Divine Revelation. An understanding of the distinctions in Scripture between "sin" and "sins" means everything to your joy and victory in Christian living. As you study, let it be with a "willing mind."


THE SIN question is never adequately dealt with apart from a study of both "sin" and "sins." It is therefore our purpose in this discussion to enter into an investigation of the following:

1. The Scripture distinction between "sin" and "sins";

2. The victory of the Gross over "sin" and "sins";


3. The appropriation of the victory over "sin" and "sins."

ALTHOUGH God in revealing Himself and His will to man is compelled to employ faulty human language, He always uses that language with greatest care. Inaccuracies in the use of words are common with men, but when the Spirit of God stoops to speak to human-kind through the medium of words it is ever with the most careful distinctions. In the use of the terms "sin" and "sins" God is exceedingly careful, revealing that He is a God of infinitely accurate distinctions.

What do we mean by the words "sin" and "sins," and what is the distinction which God makes between these two in His Word? The distinctive meaning given to both is very clear and definite. The term "sin" in the Scripture either means an individual transgression or the old Adamic nature of man. In this study we are interested in that use of the word which designates the Adamic nature. This use is very common in the Pauline Epistles. The expression "sins" is almost invariably employed to mean the deeds of man. A few propositions based on the Word will show that there is a clear line of demarcation between the meanings of these two words in the Scriptures.


1. "Sin" is the disobedient nature which is inherent in the soul of man.   1. "Sins" are the individual deeds of disobedience committed by the depraved soul of man.


In the 5th chapter of Romans the Apostle Paul discusses very carefully the subject of "sin":

"Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (marg., in whom all have sinned)" (Rom. 5:12).

Of course the "man" is none other than Adam. The declaration is clear, "Wherefore, as by one man (Adam) sin entered into the world . . . in whom all have sinned." The entire race is corrupted because of the original transgression. There are no exceptions — "in whom all have sinned." The fact of the universality of death is God's constant reminder that man is evil by nature. The same truth is given a further unfolding in the 17th and 18th verses of this chapter:

"For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.

"Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation ; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life" (Rom. 5:17-18).

One offended and now all are condemned; one disobeyed and now the many are made sinners. God cannot be so unjust as to count all to have committed sin because one sinned, hence the Holy Spirit must be using the term "sin" here to mean that man received through Adam a nature which is itself disobedient.

On the other hand the word "sins" is used in the Scripture to refer not to the nature itself hut to individual acts of disobedience. In this same book Paul speaks of the "sins which are past" (3:25). The old nature was not something which was past in Paul's experience for shortly after this declaration he yielded to that nature, but the "sins" of the old dispensation were past. Therefore, in the use of this term he must be referring to the disobedient deeds which man has committed. In the Book of James the same use is made of the word "sins":

"And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him" (James 5:15).

"Sins" are the transgressions of man; they are his deeds, not nature. Many other passages set forth this phase of the distinction between "sin" and "sins" but these will suffice to show that God employs the word "sin" to refer to the "old nature," "the old man," or the "carnal mind," as it is variously termed, while He makes the word "sins" to refer to the deeds which man has committed.


2. "Sin" may have dominion over the soul.   2. "Sins" will be the fruit of the soul while it is under the dominion of "sin."


This second point in the contrast adds to the clarity of the proposition that God makes a distinction in His Word between "sin" and "sins."

That the word "sin" is many times used to mean the evil nature which brings the soul into bondage is seen in such passages as the following:

"That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 5:21).

"Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof" (Rom. 6:12).

"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him (Christ), that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Rom. 6 :6).

"For sin shall not have dominion over you : for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14).

"Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness" (Rom. 6:16).

Thus "sin" is a power which may reign over the soul, which the soul may serve, which may have dominion over the soul, and to which the soul may yield. The expressions used surely indicate that "sin" is something more than the individual acts of wrong-doing which a man may commit. Jesus said:

"Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man" (Matt. 15:11).

That it is a corrupt nature in man that makes him tc be a defiled creature is the truth declared by the Saviour There is that in man which brings him into servitude: he is no longer a "free moral agent," for a nature which is of the devil makes him to do the things which he would not do.

The fact that man has "sin" within him gives the certainty of "sins" in the life. Paul states this fact ir Romans 7:5:

"For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death."

From the context it is clear that the Apostle is not using the word "sins" as he usually does to refer to many acts of transgression or to the fruits of the flesh, but tg a number of old natures. The "we" makes necessary the pluralization of the word "sin." Now he is simply saying that when we are in the flesh, or under the dominion of our old natures, the motions or passions of our old natures worked through our members, or the faculties of our souls, to bring forth fruit. Hence, in must be true that "sin," or the old Adamic nature, is the cause of which "fruit" is the effect. "Sins" inevitably follow when "sin" is given the dominion over the soul. One thing which stands as such a blot upon the history of Israel and such an offence to God is given the name, "The sins of Jeroboam." Jeroboam so fully yielded to the "sin" within him that the things of his history which are best known are his "sins." He became "carnally minded" and simply granted "sin" permission to have dominion over the soul. Following this condition came spiritual death and in its wake sinful deeds of the vilest character.


3. "Sin" employs the law to bring the soul under legalism.   3. "Sins" are the deeds of the soul committed while seeking to keep the law in self-effort.


"Sin," the old nature, is of its father the devil (John 8:44). Since the devil is the master-liar and arch-deceiver, we may expect that his progeny will be similar in character. A study of the subject will reveal that the old saying, "Like father like son," is eminently true in this case. One of the deceptions which "sin" works and which many Christians are utterly blinded to, is the deception of legalism. Like Romanism, the old nature would keep man either ignorant or deceived. As long as possible he keeps the soul ignorant of the righteous law of God. The devil knows that if the soul does not find out how exceedingly vile "sin" is, there will be little effort toward seeking salvation apart from itself. But as soon as the soul learns the will of God as revealed in His righteous law then the old nature, or "sin," seeks to lead the soul into believing that God's purpose in giving the law was that man might through his own efforts keep it. This is one of the most adroit deceptions which Satan has ever perpetrated upon the more enlightened peoples today. God leaves us in no doubt concerning His purpose in giving the law. We read:

"Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound" (Rom. 5 :20).

"Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good: that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful" (Rom. 7:13).

The law entered that the "offence," or the character of "sin," might abound. The eyes of the race were blinded to the exceeding corrupt nature of "sin." So the law was given that "sin (old nature) by the commandment might become exceeding sinful." The law was given that men might see their complete inability to keep it and thus drive them to the Saviour. But "sin" succeeds in perverting this truth so that even Christians who have been saved by the blood of Jesus put them- selves back under the law. Paul himself did this very thing. He says:

"For I was alive without the law once; but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died" (Rom. 7:9).

Paul was alive in Christian living at one moment; but the next he was dead in backsliding. He got back under self-effort in law-keeping and "sin" came to life and produced spiritual death. He tells us how he was led into this form of backsliding:

"For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me" (Rom. 7:11).

Paul was deceived by "sin," and so is any soul which seeks in his own strength to keep God's perfect law. Thus "sin" is that nature in man which employs some- thing good — God's perfect law — to bring a soul under legalism.

As a result of "sin" bringing the soul under legalism, there are some very definite "sins" which follow. They are the "sins" which have always stood connected with Israel especially. In the days when our Lord walked in Judah His most scathing denunciations were against the "sins" of hypocrisy, Phariseeism, self-righteousness, and the like. Israel has rested in her own efforts at keeping the law but God says that the deeds which come from such efforts are "filthy rags." So it is with every soul which tries to do the will of God in his own strength. The soul has been deceived by "sin" and the "sins" of flesh-efforts must follow.

Here, then, is a mighty distinction in the Word. "Sin," unless it be an individual act of transgression, stands for the old Adamic nature in man which may rule over the soul, employing the law to produce self- effort in law-keeping. "Sins" are the deeds of the soul perpetrated while under the dominion of "sin" even though those acts may be done in an attempt to keep the law.

IT WAS to a world of human beings with this two-fold need that Christ came "to seek and to save that which was lost." Man is inseparably linked to "sin," and thus is condemned; and his record of "sins" before high heaven is darker than the darkest midnight, and because of this fact he is separated from the God Who is too holy to behold iniquity. If Jesus is to be the Saviour of the world, then He must lift the condemned one out of his woe; and He must remove all trace of "sins" from his record. This and this only can fully meet man's need.

The victory of the Cross over "sin" is so wonderful that every heart should beat with joy in contemplation of it. It was at the Cross that Christ once and forever defeated the old nature. Let us see how this victory was accomplished.

In the garden of Eden when Eve seemed a bit dubious about turning from God's specific command, Satan tempted her by the following offer:

"And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil" (Gen. 3:4, 5).

Here we see Satan offering two things to the parents of the race. The first is life. In the sentence, "Ye shall not surely die," is the implication that if only they will eat of the forbidden fruit they will then really begin to live. The second offer is the offer of wisdom. Their eyes are to be opened, and they are to be as gods, "knowing good and evil." According to the promise of Satan, a deeper experience of life is to come and a new wisdom. They repudiated God's testimony and received the testimony of the devil, and through it the old nature. Satan's lies have always been clothed in half truths, and this was not an exception. Through their sin that day they did enter into a new life, but the end was death; and they did enter into new wisdom, but the end thereof was foolishness. With the old nature, then, man received a new life which was death, and a new wisdom which was foolishness.

When Christ died on the Cross, we are told that He destroyed two things. It was God's purpose that "by death He might destroy him that had power over death, that is the devil": and also that He might fulfil the promise, "I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent." Therefore, the Cross was the place of the defeat of the old nature's power of death and the old nature's wisdom.

But the knowledge that the Cross was a place of victory over sin does not only rest on inference drawn from the general teaching of the Scripture on this point, but also upon the plain declaration of the Holy Writ. The testimony of the Word on this point is radiantly clear. In Romans 6:6 we read:

"Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin" (Rom. 6:6).

In this passage three terms are used synonymously. They are, as will be observed by a careful reading, — "old nature," "body of sin," and "sin." They are all Divine appellations applied to the old Adamic nature. The fact that "sin," as used in this connection, is the old nature, has already been demonstrated. Hence, the glorious declaration is that "sin" was crucified with Him (Christ), and was destroyed. Marvelous boon this, to one who has known the agony of soul through being brought into bondage to the old nature! Refreshing truth here for the child of God who has been deceived by the carnal mind and led into self-efforts in law-keeping! In the standing of the believer the old nature is dead, his power is broken, his wisdom destroyed. Praise God for the triumph of the Cross!

But what has God done with the fruit of "sin"? Has He made any provision in the Cross for "sins"? The answer of the Word is not difficult to find. Such passages as the following leave no room for doubt as to God's provision:

"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (I Cor. 15:3).

"Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Gal. 1 :4).

"Who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness : by Whose stripes ye were healed" (I Pet. 2:24).

By a miracle God took our "sins" and placed them on Jesus! Wonder of wonders! Our iniquities, which were like scarlet and red like crimson, were transferred to the Substitute and He bore them in His own body! The result of that work at Calvary is beyond the ken of human mind. Only faith can grasp the fact. "Sins" have stained my record and this calls for cleansing, and remission,.

The appropriation of the victory for the soul's eternal salvation is by a simple act of faith. The words of Paul to the Philippian jailor, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," set forth God's one and only method of claiming the victory of the Cross. Since the salvation which Jesus Christ provided by His death and resurrection was both over the power and deception of "sin" and the elimination of the record of "sins," then to be saved is to have these two blessings. To the believers at Colosse the same apostle writes, "And ye are complete in Him." There is nothing lacking in the one who has trusted in the work of Calvary's Cross. The old nature has been destroyed, and "sins" have been blotted out. Instead of "sin," the "old man," God has provided a "new man which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" (Col. 3:10). And instead of "sins," God has imputed righteousness. But notice that our completeness is not in ourselves but "In Him." By a wondrous work of grace the believer is identified with the Saviour so that the Spirit of God declares that he is "buried with Him" and "risen with Him." This is not a future prospect but a present possession. It is simply the truth that God gives to every one who puts faith in Christ a standing in Him which is complete. Hence the appropriation of the victory of the Cross for the standing is by an act of faith.

The claiming of the victory of the Cross for the daily walk of the believer is not one whit more difficult than the act whereby the sinner receives a new standing in Christ Jesus. Both are by faith. The first is by an act of faith, The second—the taking of the victory for the experience in the state on earth—is by a continuous attitude of faith. In Romans, the sixth chapter, Paul declares the annihilation of "sin" in the standing of the believer in Christ Jesus, and then he says, "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." God says that the old nature's power and his deceptiveness have been broken. All, therefore, that remains for the soul to do is to accept what God says as true. We are simply to "reckon' that it is so. Christ died to destroy "sin" once, and came forth from the grave victorious over the one who  has the power of death. Since He arose victorious over "sin" and we are identified with Him, therefore we are the victors through Him over the old nature's power and deception.

Many a child of God hesitates to take of this victory for the day by day walk because it seems so contrary to fact. The fact that the old nature is so much alive in the state and so frequently manifests itself in the experience of the soul, bringing drifting from God and coldness and indifference in spiritual things, seems to preclude the possibility of the thing which God says  is true. But this is just the place for faith. When a  man trusts Christ to save his soul and to give him eternal  life he is doing a thing without any evidence that the  promise will be fulfilled, other than the evidence of  God's Word. Indeed, he may be at the time of accepting Christ in the direst circumstances, with no surrounding  conditions whatever which would lead him to feel  that God has made him "accepted in the beloved." But though his experience is entirely inharmonious with the  fact, still the fact is true because faith accepts it as such,  Wonderful are the results of such a faith. And it is  such a faith that God wants as a continuous attitude  in order that He might make real in our state the victory of the Cross over "sin." As we "reckon" the fact to be true, God makes real the promise, "Sin shall not have dominion over you" (Rom. 6:14).

But does the victory of the Cross over “sin” have any definite relationship to our daily walk? Can this, too, be appropriated for the state on earth? Praise God, it can be! When Jesus died on the Cross, all our sins were placed upon Him. They were all future, it is true, but if God means what He says then every one was placed on the adorable Son. God called His name Jesus because He was to “save His people from their sins.” Several results flow from this great fact.

There is the result of a life of separation from “sins.” God never promises to remove the old nature during this life, but He does promise that we may live free from its fruits if we will obey the command, “Yield yourselves unto God.” Since Jesus bore our “Sins” there is no necessity of our bearing them. Whenever, therefore, believers go back and struggle under sins which they know God put on Jesus, “they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame” (Heb. 6:6). They are simply saying that the Cross did not fully do away with the “sins.” The victorious cry of the Saviour, “It is finished,” becomes a mockery. But how encouraging it is to know that all our sins were borne by Him! There is nothing left for us to do but to enter into that victory and this is done by a moment by moment faith.

Another result is that blessed privilege which is ours through the advocacy of Christ. Because He has borne our “sins,” God is now able to give to the believer who has sinned the right of claiming forgiveness. The statement is:

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

Because of the finished work of Christ in bearing our “sins” God is now able to forgive us and to cleanse us from the defilements of “sins” in our daily walk and to restore fellowship with Himself.

There is also the result of peace which Comes to the soul through the knowledge of “sins” forgiven. What struggling believer, who, having fallen into some sin, has not known the bitter agony of self-condemnation even after turning to God and confessing the thing which broke fellowship with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ? Thank God! He does forgive and, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Godly sorrow for sin is a fruit of the Spirit, but the suggestion that because one has been snared into the committing of a sin God will not again receive into fellowship is of the devil. What peace there is for the soul who by simple faith accepts the forgiveness and cleansing of God for his daily walk and remembers that judgment for sin was borne by Another.

In the face of such a victory over both "sin" and "sins" and the great possibilities which it brings for transformation in our daily lives, we can only exclaim in the words of a favorite hymn of Spurgeon's, written by Horatius Bonar:

"The cross it standeth fast,

     Hallelujah! hallelujah!

Defying ev'ry blast,

     Hallelujah! hallelujah!

The winds of hell have blown,

The world its hate hath shown,

Yet it is not overthrown,

     Hallelujah for the cross!

It is the old cross still,

     Hallelujah! hallelujah!

Its triumph let us tell,

     Hallelujah! hallelujah!

The grace of God here shone

Thro' Christ the blessed Son,

Who did for sin atone,

     Hallelujah for the cross!

'Twas here the debt was paid,

     Hallelujah ! hallelujah !

Our sins on Jesus laid,

     Hallelujah ! hallelujah !

So round the cross we sing,

Of Christ our Offering,

Of Christ our living King,

     Hallelujah for the cross!"