Absolute sins are easily identified. We are not normally deceived by them. For example, a warning against lying, stealing or committing murder, all of those are absolute infractions of law; laws against some specific ordinance. When absolute sin is done, it is an isolated act. We are through with it at that moment. Further, absolute infractions of the law could also have to do with things related to the heart. Absolute sins are not only external sins. For example, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5: 28). Here is something done with the mind at a point in time; an act of the mind. It is just like the act that is external, though of the mind. However, it may be more difficult for us to see directional sin. There is a distinction between absolute and directional sin.
Directional sin has to do, not with a particular isolated act, but it has a direction. Directional sin is wrong because of where it is going. For example, in Acts 8 there is a charge of sin against Simon the sorcerer. Here is something particularly wrong, but even more grievous than the charge made against Simon is; “Your heart is not right in the sight of God.” Simon had renounced his old practice of sorcery to become a Christian. When he sees the things done by Peter and John, of laying hands on men to do miraculous things, he approaches them to attempt to buy the gift of God with money. It is not only that he stumbles, which direction is he going? He is going away. He is drifting from things that are right.
Look carefully, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For every one who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principle of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptism, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (Hebrews 5:12-6:3.) Do you see some particular thing that might be charged against them? What kind of sin would you charge against the people? We do not find murder or lying. The Hebrews had a directional problem; a failure in growth.
It is not uncommon for people to read through Corinthians and hear someone say, “I do not understand why Paul would write a letter and address these people and call them the church of God in Corinth. They had all their problems.” Read the second letter to the Corinthians. While absolute sins are answered in the first letter, in the second letter you find out something different about their direction. They were pagans who were converted out of gross evils of idolatry. But, when Paul sends his instruction he finds these are people who accept the truth. That was his concern. These are people who comply with the truth. They began to zealously pursue their problems. They have serious problems but which direction are they going? The direction makes all the difference in the world. While there are terrible, absolute sins, Paul does not charge them with directional sins. If Paul had addressed all of the absolute charges and then said, “These are people who wax worse and worse, resist the truth,” they would not have long been called the church of God at Corinth.
We do not find that situation in Hebrews. Hebrews looks at directional sin. They are about to be lost. When you have a threat against Corinth and the Hebrews there is a difference. The church at Corinth is threatened by specific things that are practiced in the church. In Hebrews, all the way through, there are people who have begun but are threatened to turn. It is their direction that is under consideration. They are in grave danger of being lost.
So when we talk about sin we recognize there are things that are absolute. Sin in this case will invade our lives. Absolute things will pop up in our weakness, ignorance and lack of wisdom in our lives; we seek forgiveness. But we want to be sure that the things that belong to the directional sin are not there. We want to make sure we are headed in the right direction as well.