Sins, Transgressions and Iniquities

Psalm 32 captures my attention because I see three words used that require my full understanding:

1.  Sins

2.  Transgressions

3.  Iniquities

I originally thought they were interchangeable terms, but what I discovered otherwise, answered a lot of questions concerning many of my life struggles.

In this didactic (teaching) Psalm, David writes about the Lord’s forgiveness.  “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven.  Whose sin is covered!  How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity; and in whose spirit there is no deceit.   

“I acknowledged my SIN to You, and my INIQUITY I did not hide.  I said, ‘I will confess my TRANSGRESSIONS to the Lord.’  And you forgave the guilt of my sin” (32:1-5).  For the purposes of this blog, I first need to define each of these words. 

SIN – The word “sin” and its cognates are used 786 times in the New International Version of the Bible.  Sin means, “to miss the mark.”  It can refer to doing something against God or against a person, doing the opposite of what is right, doing something that will have negative results, and failing to do something you know is right.  Our sin nature causes us to gravitate naturally toward selfishness, envy and pride, even when we are trying to do good. 

The Apostle Paul alluded to his propensity to sin when he wrote, “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out” (Romans 7:18). 

The sin nature leads to trespassing.  A trespasser is someone who crosses a line or climbs a fence that he should not cross or climb.  To “trespass” can also mean “to fall away after being close beside.” Peter trespassed when he denied Jesus.  We all “cross the line” in thought, word or attitude many times a day and should be quick to forgive others who do the same.

TRANSGRESSIONS – refer to presumptuous sins. To transgress is to choose to intentionally disobey; transgressing is willful trespassing.  Sadly, we all leave a trail of broken relationships behind us as we navigate through our lives.  This is because we trespass or go beyond godly boundaries.  David referred to this kind of sin when he wrote, “Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Psalm 32:1).  When we knowingly run a stop sign, tell a lie, or blatantly disregard an authority, we are transgressing.

INIQUITY – is more deeply rooted.  Iniquity refers to a premeditated choice. To commit iniquity is to continue without repentance.  David’s sin with Bathsheba that led to the killing of her husband, Uriah, was iniquity.  Micah 2:1 says, “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds!  At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.” 

An iniquity, then, is our predisposition to be subdued by certain sins.  That’s why former alcoholics stay away from bars!  That’s why men who formerly struggled with porn monitor closely what they watch.  Our flesh remains weak and is no match against the pull of sin. Sins of iniquity are fierce contenders and through the power of the Holy Spirit are defeated when we subdue our flesh. It entails the “renewing of our mind” (Romans 12:2a), thus learning to “take captive every thought to the obedience of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). 

In David’s psalm of repentance, he cries out to God, saying, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (51:2).  God forgives iniquity, as He does any type of sin when we repent.  However, iniquity left unchecked, leads to a state of willful sin with no fear of God.  As a matter of fact, the build-up of unrepentant sin is sometimes pictured as a “cup of iniquity” being filled to the brim. 

Giving allowance in our lives to continued iniquity automatically strengthens “the strongman” in our lives.  Whoever we feed – spirit or flesh – gets stronger.  I understand why participants in Alcoholics Anonymous are required to introduce themselves and then say, “I’m an alcoholic.”  I get it. But according to the Apostle Paul, sins that piggy-back off our iniquities can be completely annihilated from our lives through the power of God. 

I love what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the coveteous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.

“SUCH WERE SOME OF YOU; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in the Spirit of our God.”  If we continue to sew into sins that readily ensnare us (iniquities) and refuse to subdue them in the power of God’s Spirit and by accountability to others, iniquity issues will continue to defeat us.

I know I’ve only touched the surface when talking about sins, transgressions and iniquities.  I preached a lengthy sermon series on these three several years ago and still did not exhaust this wonderful subject.    

In conclusion, Jesus forgives all sin when we repent, and the indwelling Holy Spirit empowers us to do what is right in God’s eyes.  Oh, what a Savior!



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