Presbyterians believe the Bible when it says that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Unlike crime, which involves the breaking of human law, sin is a condition of the heart or an expression of that condition where we are estranged from God and fail to trust in God. Sin expresses itself in particular acts. The “Brief Statement of Faith” of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) says:
But we rebel against God; we hide from our Creator.
Ignoring God’s commandments,
we violate the image of God in others and ourselves,
accept lies as truth,
exploit neighbor and nature,
and threaten death to the planet entrusted to our care.
We deserve God’s condemnation.
Yet God acts with justice and mercy to redeem creation.
Loving us still,
God makes us heirs with Christ of the covenant.
Like a mother who will not forsake her nursing child,
like a father who runs to welcome the prodigal home,
God is faithful still.
—lines 40, 47-51
God has always been faithful to the people of Israel and to the church. Presbyterians believe God has offered us salvation because of God’s loving nature. It is not a right or a privilege to be earned by being “good enough.” No one of us is good enough on our own — we are all dependent upon God’s goodness and mercy. From the kindest, most devoted churchgoer to the most blatant sinner, we are all saved solely by the grace of God.
Out of the greatest possible love and compassion God reached out to us and redeemed us through Jesus Christ, the only one who was ever without sin. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection God triumphed over sin.
Presbyterians believe it is through the action of God working in us that we become aware of our sinfulness and our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Just as a parent is quick to welcome a wayward child who has repented of rebellion, God is willing to forgive our sins if we but confess them and ask for forgiveness in the name of Christ.
God further sent the Holy Spirit to be our companion, counselor and guide in living a life of service to God.
The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,
sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor,
and binds us together with all believers
in the one body of Christ, the Church.
—“Brief Statement of Faith,” lines 54-57