Unrighteousness Is Sin

Richard Thetford

The apostle John writes: “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). From this verse we can learn that all unrighteousness is sin as far as God is concerned. It doesn’t matter how we might want to classify sin such as sins of ignorance, weakness, or even rebellion. If we are doing something contrary to Bible teaching then it is sin. When we sin, we do so out of our own desire. The Bible says: “Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jam 1:13-15).

God Cannot Be Tempted With Sin

God cannot be tempted with sin because God has no evil desires. If man could rid his heart of all evil desires, he would not be tempted to sin. God is pure and we also are encouraged to be pure. John writes: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2-3). When we strive to be pure and righteous in our daily life then we are perfecting ourselves (Matt 5:48). When we hope for heaven, then we will be obedient to Christ. Christ was pure and we must strive to ensure that we are pure.

Abhor Evil

The apostle Paul wrote: “...Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Rom 12:9). Webster’s New World Dictionary defines Abhor as: “to shrink from in fear, disgust, or hatred”. There is no excuse for doing that which one abhors (hates), so if we learn to abhor everything that is evil, we will have no reason or excuse for doing evil. We do the things that we do because we like to do those things. If we like to do only the things which are good and hate only the things which are evil, we will have the problem of right living solved in no time!

Solomon wrote: “ Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov 4:23). The heart is the home and source of all desires. It does not matter whether these desires are good or evil, holy or unholy, they proceed from the heart. An evil heart cannot send forth a holy disposition or life. Continual evil and wicked deeds in life are proof of impurity in the heart. Jesus said: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-23).

Are We Excused on the Grounds of Ignorance?

When the Word of God demands certain things of us and we do not do them because we have no knowledge of the teaching, we have committed a sin of ignorance. When God’s Word forbids certain things and we do these things not knowing that the Word of God forbids them, we have committed a sin of ignorance. The question is raised “are we excused on the grounds of this ignorance?” Think about this. If ignorance will excuse us, it naturally follows that the more ignorant we are the surer we are to go to heaven! Therefore, it can safely be said that ignorance will not excuse our actions. We are either living righteously before God or we are sinning before God. The Jews crucified Jesus in ignorance (Acts 3:17), and the apostle Paul persecuted the church in ignorance (1 Tim 1:13). But were they not still responsible for their sins simply because they were ignorant? Even the law of Moses did not excuse people on the ground of ignorance (Lev 5:17-19). Man has a responsibility to learn and understand what it is that is required of him to be saved. Only those that obey the Lord will enter heaven (Heb 5:9; Matt 7:21), all others, whether they claim to be ignorant or not, will be sent to their eternal damnation (2 Thes 1:7-9).


Let’s all be determined to practice only those things that are righteous before God, realizing that when we don’t, we sin. God knows our heart and He knows if our heart is set on practicing what is right or what is evil. The fact is, if it is not right before God, it is sin!