Harmartiology – A Study of the Doctrine of Sin and Evil



Harmartiology – the study of the origins of ‘sin’ and ‘evil’ as they exist in our present world.


I. Definitions.

  1. ‘Sin’ is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in action, attitude, or nature (1 Jn. 3:4). In these ways we fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23) and break relationship with Him.
  2. ‘Evil’ can be defined as wicked intentions born out of selfishness and moral depravity (Gen. 6:5; Rom. 1:28).


II. Old and New Testament words for ‘sin’.

  1. Old Testament Words:
  • Chata – “to hit the wrong mark”
  • Ra – “inferior, wicked, injurious”
  • Pasha – “to revolt, rebellion”
  • Awon – “crooked, iniquity, guilt”
  • Shagag – “to err, go astray, sin inadvertently”
  • Rasha – “wickedness, guilty”
  • Taah – “to wander, go astray”
  1. New Testament Words
  • Harmatia – “sin, missing the mark”
  • Kakas – “bad, moral wrong”
  • Poneros – “evil, moral evil”
  • Asebea – “godless, apostate”
  • Enochos – “guilt, worthy of death”
  • Adakia – “unrighteousness”
  • Anomos – “lawlessness, iniquity”
  • Parabates – “transgressor, sinner”
  • Planao – “to go astray, wander”
  • Paraptoma – “step over the line”


III. The origin of sin.

  1. According to the Biblical record, sin did not originate with Man, but with angels prior to Mankind’s creation.

A) Lucifer (a Latin rendering of the Hebrew ‘Heylel’, meaning ‘Shining one’ or, ‘Light bearer’) was God’s highest angel (a ‘cherub’) who stood in His presence. Out of envy, Lucifer rebelled against his Creator, together with 1/3 of the angels (See, Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-15; Revelation 12:3-4). They were cast out of heaven by Michael (Rev. 12:7-9; 12b). “…having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” Lucifer is now known as ‘Satan’, which means “Adversary” in Aramaic. The other ‘fallen’ angels are now called ‘demons’ and ‘evil spirits’.

B) When God created Mankind in His own image, Satan possessed the serpent in the garden and tempted the woman (whom Scripture describes as the “weaker vessel” – 1 Peter 3:7) to disobey God. Adam followed her example and their natures became morally depraved.

C) Because of their sin, the whole Creation over which they had been given stewardship came under a curse (Gen. 3:17b; Romans 8:21-22).

D) Adam’s sinful nature was genetically passed on to all his offspring (Rom. 5:12-21).


IV. Imputation of sin – Guilt through Adam.

  1. ‘Imputation’ defined – “A Latin term used to reflect the meaning of the greek word ‘logizomai’, meaning “to reckon”, or “charge to one’s account”.
  2. Three Biblical Imputations:
  • Adam’s sin imputed to all (Rom. 5:12-21).
  • Man’s sin imputed to Christ (2 Cor. 5:19).
  • Christ’s righteousness imputed to believers (Rom. 5:12-21; 2 Cor. 5:21).
  1. Four Views of Imputation:
  • Governmental view – There is no imputation from Adam; each man is free and only guilty because of his own sin.
  • Holiness/Perfectionist view – The tendency to sin is inherited from Adam, but each person is guilty because of their own sin.
  • Federal head view – Every person was genetically present in Adam when he sinned and are thus guilty.
  • Scriptural view – Adam is God’s chosen representative of the human race and we are all guilty because Adam’s sin is imputed to us (Rom. 5:12-21). Jesus is God’s chosen representative of the ‘elect’ and we are justified by faith because Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers (Rom. 3:21-4:5; 5:19).
  1. Imputation is rational:
  • The doctrine of imputation does not deny personal freedom.
  • Without imputation we would still be guilty because of our own personal sin(s).
  • Without the pattern of imputation of sin from Adam established the imputation of Christ’s righteousness would be unfair.
  • The doctrine of imputation demonstrates both the wisdom and grace of God.


V. Inheritance of the sin-nature through our parents.

  1. Scriptural support for this doctrine:

“among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” – Ephesians 2:3

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” – Psalm 51:5

“The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies.” – Psalm 58:3

  1. Extent of our corruption:

A) Every part of our being is affected by sin. Our intellect, emotions, desires and will are corrupt. Our heart – the center of desire and decision – is desperately corrupt – Jer. 17:9.

B) There is nothing good in us that merits God’s favor – Rom. 7:18.

  • Intellect Blinded (2 Cor. 4:4).
  • Mind depraved (Rom. 1:21, 28).
  • Understanding inhibited (Eph. 4:18).
  • Conscience corrupted (Titus 1:15).
  • Will enslaved (Rom. 6:20).
  • Total Being Sinful (Rom. 1:18-3:20).
  1. The total depravity of the human race:

A) Sinfulness extends to each and every person (Rom. 3:23) and effects every aspect of his being (Rom. 7:18) so that nothing he does – either good or bad – merits the favor of God or meets God’s standard of holiness.


VI. The results and consequences of sin.

  1. Before salvation:
  • Immediately – sin brings pain, alienation from God and conflict (Gen. 3:8-24).
  • Imputation – we are guilty and separated from God from birth (Rom. 5:12-21).
  • Inheritance – we sin because we are sinners (Psa. 51:5).
  • Death, both physical and spiritual, is a central consequence of sin (Gen. 2:15; Rom. 5:12-13; Eph. 2:1-3).
  • In Scripture, especially the New Testament, the consequence of sin is spiritual death and eternal separation from God, which is depicted as being in a state or place of eternal conscious torment and regret (Mark 9:48; Luke 16:19-31; Revelation 19:20; 20:10; 20:14-15; 21:8). Conservative theologians interpret these passages literally, while other scholars interpret them figuratively. (We will study more on this subject under ‘Eschatology – A study of the Doctrine of Last Things’.)
  1. As a Christian, after salvation:
  • When a Christians sins his legal standing before God does not change (Rom 8:1) but fellowship is broken (1 Jn. 3:21) and discipline is a response of a loving God (Heb. 12:6-10).
  • A believer living in persistent sin is in danger of physical death. One particular sin is not defined here (1 Jn. 5:16-17).


VII. God’s remedy for sin.

  1. The remedy for the guilt of imputed sin is receiving the righteousness of Christ through faith (Eph. 2:4-10; Rom. 5:12-21).
  2. The remedy for personal sin is confession and repentance (1 Jn. 1:9).


VIII. What is the “unpardonable sin”?

  1. Some theologians understand the “unpardonable sin” to be a specific case of malicious and willful rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit through Christ, attributing it to Satan (Mt. 12:31-32), and that it may have only been possible during Christ’s earthly ministry.
  2. Others, like the author of this article, believe the “unpardonable sin” is rejecting Christ as Savior. This is only logical if Jesus is the only way to salvation.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” – John 14:6 (NKJV)



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