G265 ἁμάρτημα ham-ar-tee’-ah
From G264; sin (properly abstract): – offence, sin (-ful)
G264 ἁμαρτάνω ham-ar-tan’-o
Perhaps from G1 (as a negative particle) and the base of G3313; properly to miss the mark (and so not share in the prize), that is, (figuratively) to err, especially (morally) to sin: – for your faults, offend, sin, trespass.
Hamartia (missing the mark) is often misinterpreted to mean “breaking the 10 Commandments”. But if this were really the case, what about those people who lived before the law was given to Israel? Because the Bible clearly says that sin was in the world before the law was given:
…for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is the type of Him who was to come. (Rom 5:13-14 MKJV)
This scripture says that death even reigned over those who hadn’t sinned like Adam did. This means that they missed the mark too, even though they hadn’t broken any laws, because remember that the law hadn’t even been given yet.
Mankind was dubbed into a condition of sin through Adam’s disobedience, and was made aware of this sinful condition through the giving of the Old Testament Law:
1) We were made guilty through the condition of sinfulness, inherited from Adam:
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. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Rom 5:18-19 KJVA)
2) Each and every person who tries to justify themselves before God through trying to obey the law, are made guilty by the law as well:
Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (Rom 3:19-20 MKJV, emphasis added)
Missing the Mark?
It’s easy for some to say that we sin when we “miss the mark”. But let’s think about this for a moment: What is the mark? How big is the mark? And how do we miss it?
If “hitting the mark” means that we perfectly obey the requirements of the law, then it gets very interesting, because remember the law didn’t just consist of the 10 Commandments. No, a total of 613 laws and stipulations were given to Israel (from Exodus to Deuteronomy) which they had to obey down to the last letter for as long as they lived. The law was given as a covenant, which means it was a life-long contract. Suddenly the mark becomes a 1mm little pin prick set against a wall about 9,000km away.
Paul the apostle talked about a different kind of righteousness; a way of being able to stand perfectly justified before God apart from trying to obey the Old Testament laws:
But now a righteousness of God has been revealed apart from Law, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets; even the righteousness of God through the faith of Jesus Christ, toward all and upon all those who believe. (Rom 3:21-22 MKJV, emphasis added)
The entire New Covenant (after the cross) proclaims a redeeming message of being made perfect through faith in Christ. Through faith we enter into unity with God, receive eternal life, we have all our sins forgiven and we are made completely, 100% righteous… forever. As a mark of our salvation we receive the promise of the Father, the indwelling Holy Spirit.
But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. (Rom 8:9 MKJV)
The Sin of Unbelief
Although God has already forgiven the sins of the entire world and extended His Grace towards all men, not everybody chooses to receive this offer of peace. If it were somebody’s birthday and their friend arrived at their door with a gift, the birthday person still has to make a choice to open the door and take the gift. The gift becomes useless if the gift bearer is left standing outside the door.
The only choice that can nullify the redemption of the cross in a person’s life, is choosing not to believe in Jesus. The Bible is clear that it’s only through faith that a person becomes born again:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. (1 John 5:1a MKJV, emphasis added)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 MKJV, emphasis added)
Because if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. (Rom 10:9 MKJV, emphasis added)
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:1 MKJV, emphasis added)
The Sin of Trying to Live According to the Law
The Law isn’t based on faith. It promises life only to people who obey its commands. (Gal 3:12 CEV)
For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. (Rom 14:23b ESV)
The Old Testament Law is not based on faith, because it didn’t take any faith for a person to know that they were wrong when they transgressed one of the commands. But it does take faith for us to still believe we are the righteousness of God, even when we just messed up!
When we combine Gal 3:12a with Rom 14:23b it says this:
“Living according to the Old Testament Law is sin.”