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Private vs. Public Sins

1.     What are the differences in a private sin vs. public sin?

2.     When does a private sin become a public one?

What is Sin?

Various Greek terms translated “sin”

Anyone who seeks to do the will of God ought to know what sin is and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). This death is spiritual separation from God, the source of life (Isaiah 59:1,2). There are various words used in the Greek NT to describe sin. They appear in our NT translated as:

·      sin ( "a missing of the mark" Romans 6:23; James 4:17; 1 John 3:4; 5:16.

·      sin ( "an act of disobedience to Divine law" Mark 3:28,29; Romans 3:25; 2 Peter 1:9

·      error ( "a wandering, a forsaking of the right path" James 5:20; 2 Peter 3:17; 1 John 4:6; Romans 1:27; 2 Peter 2:18; Jude 11

·      iniquity ( "lawlessness or wickedness, crookedness" Matthew 7:23; 13:41; Titus 2:14; 1 John 3:4; Romans 4:7; Hebrews 10:17

·      iniquity ( "law-breaking" 2 Peter 2:16

·      iniquity or unrighteousness ( "unrighteousness; a condition of not being right" Luke 16:8; 18:6; 2 Timothy 2:19; James 3:6

·      iniquity ( "a wrong, an injury, misdeed" Acts 18:14; 24:20; Revelation 18:5

·      evil ( "bad, evil, worthless, wickedness" Matthew 22:18; Mark 7:22; Luke 11:39; Romans 1:29; 1 Corinthians 5:8; Ephesians 6:12

·      trespass ( "a false step, a blunder, a deviation from uprightness or the truth, to fall" Matthew 6:14,15; 18:35; Mark. 11:25,26; Galatians 6:1; James 5:16: Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 1:7; 2:1,5

·      transgression ( "a going beyond the prescribed limits" Romans 4:15; 5:13,14,20; 7:7,13; Galatians 3:19

The Scriptures teach us that sin is the breaking or transgression of the law (1 John 3:4); sin is lawlessness because the one who sins sets aside the law to do as he wishes. Sin is the breaking of God's law and is an offense against God Himself (Genesis 39:9; Psalm 51:4). Sin is not only doing what God forbids; it is also the failure to do what God demands of us. "Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" (James 4:17). Many people will be lost at judgment for failure to obey the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). All wrongdoing or unrighteousness is sin (1 John 5:17).


Sins of the Heart – Private sins

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (Proverbs 4:23).

"For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him" (Matthew 12:34, 35).

"For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander" (Matthew 15:16-20).

The Biblical “heart” = 1) the will (What I want to do), 2) intellect (What I know and understand), 3) reason (What I think and analyze) and 4) passion (What I feel in my emotions)

1.   Anger. Jesus taught that anger with a brother is sinful (Matthew 5:21, 22). Christians who have sinned against a brother are to reconcile quickly (Matthew 5:23-26). Christians who have been forgiven by God are expecting to be forgiving with others (Matthew 6:14,15; 18:21-35; Ephesians 4:32). Jesus gives us instructions as to how to deal with a brother who has sinned against us (Matthew 18:15-17).

2.   Partiality. Christians are to love and treat everyone with respect (James 2:1-10). God does not show favoritism (Acts 10:34; Romans 2:6, 11).

3.   Envy or Jealousy. Love is not jealous (1 Corinthians 13:4). Envy is the feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing the advantage or prosperity of others (Matthew 27:18; Romans 1:29; Galatians 5:21; Philippians 1:15; 1 Timothy 6:4; Titus 3:3; 1 Peter 2:1. Envy desires to deprive another of what he possesses; jealousy desires to have the same or the same sort of thing for itself (Romans 13:13; 1 Corinthians 3:3; James 3:14, 16; Galatians 5:20; James 4:2).

4.   Prejudice. Judging according to appearances is wrong; Christians are to judge righteously (John 7:24; cf. Luke 9:36-51). Since we do not know the motives of other people's hearts, we must be careful not to judge. The Lord warns us against judging others (Matthew 7:1-5). This, however, does not mean that we should not take note of other people's actions and deal with them accordingly (cf. Matthew 7:6, 15-20; 1 Corinthians 5; 1 Timothy 1:19,20; 3 John 9,10).

5.   Thanklessness. An unthankful heart leads to many sins (Romans 1:21-32). One who is not thankful to God for kindnesses may turn his life to cynicism, grumbling, complaining and bitterness (See 1 Corinthians 10:10; Phil. 2:14; James 5:9; Jude 16).

6.   Pride or Arrogance. Arrogance is the attitude of exalting oneself so that one is better than others. The "holier-than-you" attitude is greatly offensive to God (Isaiah 65:5). God hates haughty eyes (Proverbs 6:16, 17) and expects us to despise it as evil (8:13). Pride leads to disgrace (11:2; 29:23), breeds quarrels (13:10), and goes before destruction (16:18). God will humble the proud (Luke 1:51; Romans 1:30; 2 Timothy 3:2; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). The Pharisee was not justified, even though he compared himself with a sinner (Luke 18:9-14). The pride of Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4) led to his downfall.

7.   Selfish Ambition. A contentious struggle for personal profit or power, with no redeeming hint of service to others. Selfish ambition battles others for immediate gains and empty honors, which have no eternal value (Luke 12:13-21; Romans 2:8; Galatians 5:20; Philippians 1:17; 2:3, 4; James 3:14-16).

8.   Bitterness and Revenge. Bitterness describes the twisted way individuals respond to the pain events of life. (Acts 8:23; Ephesians 4:31, 32; Hebrews 12:15). Revenge is the paying back of evil for evil (Matthew 5:38-48). The Christian is to depend upon God to take vengeance on evildoers (Romans 12:11-21; Hebrews 10:30). The Christian is expected to forgive others (Matthew 6:14, 15; 18:21-35). The Christian is instructed about what to do when a brother sins against him (Matthew 18:15-17).

9.   Greed or the Love of Money. "The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs" (1 Timothy 6:10). One cannot serve God and money at the same time (Matthew 6:19-24). Greed or covetousness is idolatry (Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 3:5).

10.           Hatred. Hatred is the result of anger at a person, rather than their actions. When that anger becomes deep seated – it becomes hatred. 1 John 3:15

11.           Lust. Jesus taught that if we lust in our heart, we sin. Lust is an unlawful desire. Lust is the desire for that which is forbidden. Matthew 5:27-28


When does a “private sin” become public?

1.     When we act on the impulse of our hearts – when we put our inner sin into action.

2.     When others – family, co-workers, church members – become aware of our thoughts


How should we seek forgiveness for private sins?

1.     Public sins

a.     Repent

b.     Confess your recognition of sin and intent to change

c.     NOTE: I can not forgive your sins (God can) but I must know of your intent to make the changes in your life and be willing to help with those changes

d.     NOTE 2: Do not turn the front row into a confessional.

e.     Ask for others to pray for your to overcome

2.     Private sins

a.     Repent

b.     Pray that the thought of our heart be forgiven

c.     Determine to avoid those thoughts in the future

d.     No public confession of a private sin is required or necessary


Other Issues for a future study

1.     To whom should confession be made?

2.     How specific should the confession be?

3.     How should members treat the one who confesses sin? (Probation?)


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