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The Difference Between Sin, Iniquity & Transgression

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“I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,’” ( Psalm 32:5)

In this one verse, “sin,” “iniquity,” and “transgression” are all mentioned. Basically, the three words communicate the same idea: evil and lawlessness, as defined by God (1 John 3:4). However, each word also carries a slightly different meaning upon closer examination.

Sin

The English word sin comes from the Hebrew word “Chattah,” which is most often translated as sin, meaning to miss the mark. God even instituted sacrifices for unintentional sins in Old Testament (Numbers 15:27). Sin leads to a downward progression that we all tend toward without the restoring power of the Holy Spirit. Our sinful nature causes us to gravitate naturally toward selfishness, envy, and pride, even when trying to do good. The Apostle Paul alluded to his propensity to sin when he wrote (Romans 7:18).

  • Sin is born by conceiving a desire (James 1:15).
  • Sin grows and gives birth to death (James 1:15).
  • Sin has wages which is death (Romans 6:23).
  • Sin refers to doing something against God or someone (Exodus 10:16).
  • Sin is doing the opposite of what is right (Galatians 5:17).
  • Sin is doing something that will have negative results (Proverbs 24:33–34).
  • Sin is failing to do something you know is right (James 4:17).
  • Sin is the general term for anything that “falls short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
  • Not doing what you know you are supposed to do is sin (James 4:17).
  • Sin nature has been present in every human being born since the fall of Adam (Genesis 3:6–7; Romans 5:12).
  • Sin, if left continually unchecked, can lead to a “reprobate mind” (Romans 1:24).
  • Sin is a hunter and a snare ( Genesis 4:7).
  • Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).
  • Sin is any faithless action undertaken (Romans 14:17).
  • Sin is all unrighteousness (1 John 5:17).
  • Sin is the sting of death (1 Corinthians 15:56).
  • Confess your sin, be cleansed from all unrighteousness,( 1 John 1:9).
  • Repent your sin and be forgiven (Acts 2:38).
  • Sin can be forgiven (Hebrews 8:12, Isaiah 43:25).

The sinful nature leads to trespassing. A trespasser is someone who crosses a line or climbs a fence that he should not cross or climb. A trespass may be intentional or unintentional. Trespass can also mean “to fall away after being close beside.”

You all “cross the line” in thought, word, or attitude many times a day and should be quick to forgive others who do the same (Matthew 6:15).

  • Peter trespassed when he denied Jesus (Luke 22:34, 56–62).

Iniquity

“Awon” is the Hebrew word that is often translated as iniquity, relates more to the inner character and points to an intentional twisting of a given standard. Iniquity is more deeply rooted. Iniquity refers to a premeditated choice; to commit iniquity is to continue without repentance. However, iniquity left unchecked leads to a state of willful sin with no fear of God. The build-up of unrepentant sin is sometimes pictured as a “cup of iniquity” being filled to the brim (Revelation 17:4; Genesis 15:16). Continued iniquity leads to unnatural affections, which leads to a reprobate mind (Romans 1:28–32). The sons of Eli are biblical examples of reprobates whom God judged for their iniquities (1 Samuel 3:13–14). Rather than repent, Eli’s sons continued in their abominations until repentance was no longer possible. In mercy and truth, atonement is provided for iniquity ( Proverbs 16:6).

  • God commits no iniquity (Job 34:10).
  • There is no iniquity with God (2 Chronicles 19:7).
  • Iniquity is reaped by sowing wickedness (Hosea 10:13).
  • Iniquity has wages ( Acts 1:18).
  • The heart can be set on iniquity (Hosea 4:8).
  • Thoughts can dwell on iniquity ( Isaiah 59:7).
  • Iniquity bounds (Acts 8:23).
  • Iniquity leads to captivity (Ezekiel 39:23).
  • Iniquity is devised by man (Ezekiel 11:2).
  • Sow iniquity reaps sorrow ( Proverbs 22:8).
  • Iniquity is sin (Hosea 13:12).
  • Iniquity defiled fingers, (Isaiah 59:3).
  • Iniquity brings you down,(Psalm 106:43).
  • The tongue is the world of iniquity (James 3:6).
  • Dealing foolishly is iniquity (2 Samuel 24:10; 1 Chronicle 21:8).
  • God pardons iniquity (Micah 7:18).

Transgression

“Pesha” is a Hebrew word often translated as transgression, which is more of a willful rebellion against the given standard. Transgression refers to presumptuous sin (Psalm 19:13). To transgress is to choose to disobey intentionally; transgression is willful trespassing.

  • Acknowledge your transgression (Psalm 51:3).
  • Adam transgressed (Romans 5:14).
  • Samson intentionally broke his Nazirite vow by touching a dead lion (Numbers 6:1–5; Judges 14:8–9).
  • Transgression causes a fall ( Acts 1:25).
  • Samson committed transgression by allowing his hair to be cut (Judges 16:17).
  • David was referring to transgression when he wrote (Psalm 32:1).
  • You are transgressing when you knowingly run a stop sign, tell a lie, or blatantly disregard an authority (1 John 5:17).
  • Transgression traps an evil man (Proverbs 29:6).
  • Transgression is punished with a rod (Psalm 89:32).
  • Transgression of the land multiplies princes in the land (Proverbs 28:2).
  • Transgression has a yoke (Lamentations 1:14).
  • Transgression opens the door to afflictions (Psalm 107:17).
  • Transgression is heavy (Isaiah 24:20).
  • Many transgression causes backsliding to increase (Jeremiah 5:6).
  • A multitude of Transgression causes captivity (Lamentations 1:5).
  • The law revives transgression (Romans 4:15).
  • Jesus was wounded for our transgression (Isaiah 53:5,8).
  • Repent and turn from transgression (Ezekiel 18:20).
  • Confess your transgression (Psalm 32:5 ).
  • God provides atonement for transgression (Psalm 65:3).
  • God forgives transgression (Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18).

There is forgiveness with God. God forgives iniquity, as He does any sin when you repent (Jeremiah 33:8; Hebrews 8:12). Regardless of how depraved a human heart may become, Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to cover all sin (John 1:29; Romans 5:18). Psalm 32:5, quoted at the beginning of this article, ends with, “And you forgave the guilt of my sin.” The only sin that God cannot forgive is the final rejection of the Holy Spirit’s drawing to repentance — the ultimate fruit of a reprobate mind (Matthew 12:32; Luke 12:10; Hebrews 6:4–6 and Hebrews 10:26–31). Repent your sins; for in Acts.2.38, Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Receive Jesus; Be born-again. Be saved. How? Romans 10.9–10, 13 says; that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth, confession is made unto salvation. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” Confess your sins; for 1 John 1:9 says, If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

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By Gilbert Magomere Ayieko
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