Exploring the Boundaries of God’s Law
The Westminster Catechism defines sin as “any want of conformity to or transgression of the law of God.” We notice here that sin is defined both in negative and positive terms. The negative aspect is indicated by the words “want of conformity.” It points to a lack or failure in moral performance. In popular terms it is called a sin of omission. A sin of omission occurs when we fail to do what God commands us to do.
The positive aspect of the catechetical definition of sin refers to overt, actual stepping over the boundaries of God’s law. It is a sin of commission.
Sometimes God expresses His laws in negative terms (do not …) and sometimes in positive terms (do …). The Ten Commandments contain both forms (do not steal; honor your father and mother).
Both sins of omission and sins of commission are real sins. They incur real guilt. When we do what God forbids, we are guilty of a sin of commission; when we fail to do what God commands, we are guilty of a sin of omission. In both cases the law of God is violated.
Coram Deo: Prayerfully examine your life for sins of omission or commission.
James 4:17: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”
Psalm 51:1-3: “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.”