There are three words that are often erroneously used interchangeably. These words are sin, iniquity, and transgression. These words do not mean the same thing, however. The word sin means to miss a mark or not meet the required grade. The word transgression (from the root transgress) means to trespass (e.g. on another person’s property, rights or privileges). It means going beyond your boundaries.
Iniquity means to bend or to pervert. When one distorts their heart or their thinking, they can be said to have committed inquiry. If you lean or bend towards a certain sin or if you have a tendency to a certain weakness, then you have an iniquity. Also, having perverted thinking toward the things of God can be termed as iniquity.
The origin of iniquity
Adam and Eve are the first humans to commit iniquity. When the devil tempted them, they went with the lies of Satan which were a perversion of God’s institutions. But the devil was the real origin of iniquity. Long before he tempted Adam and Eve, he was an angel of light by the name Lucifer. Like the other angels that God created, Lucifer was blameless and perfect. However, he allowed iniquity to enter his heart as explained in the scripture below:
You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. Ezekiel 28:14-15
Isaiah 14 paints a more vivid picture of what transpired. Lucifer had tried to ascend to God’s throne. As a consequence, he was thrown away from heaven together with the angles that supported his revolt. From then on, the devil has been actively recruiting followers who will also rebel against God. We see this clearly in the book of Peter.
Be alert and of a sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Pet. 5:8
INquity may have originated from the devil but it was destroyed by Jesus. The atoning work of the cross takes care of iniquity. The blood of Jesus doesn’t just do a superficial cleaning on the outside of the cup. On the contrary, it cleanses the inner reins of the heart which is what is needed for the removal of iniquity. There is no iniquity that is too deep for the work of the cross. As the scripture records, he was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities (Isaiah 53:5)
Iniquity Vs Sin Vs Transgression
Both transgression and iniquity can be blamed on sinful nature. As such, sin, iniquity, and transgression are all interconnected. However, they have different definitions. The following is a comparison of the three.
Sin means missing the mark. It also means offending especially when done purposefully and habitually. Every person has a sinful nature as a result of the fall of Adam and Eve. However, this sinful nature is removed when we accept Jesus Christ as lord because the new birth makes us into a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17).
Here are some examples of the scriptures that show what sin is:
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. Genesis 4:7
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Romans 3:23
Transgression is the process of transgressing (infringing on or violating) a command, law, or duty. Transgression can happen knowingly (e.g. in the case of adultery) or unknowingly (e.g. when David moved the Ark of the covenant the wrong way). Either way, the repercussions of the transgression will still be felt. Here are some examples of scriptures on transgression;
Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. Exodus 23:21
The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD, (save us not this day,) Joshua 22:22
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
Iniquity refers to perversion or moral evil. Synonyms of iniquity include crook, bow down, do a miss, etc. A classical example of iniquity is when David killed Uriah so as to cover up his adultery and take his wife. God can forgive iniquity just as he does any other sin. However, unrepented iniquity may result in willful sin and a lack of fear of God. A buildup of unrepented sin is sometimes referred to as a cup of iniquity to illustrate the wilful and unrepented sin (Revelation 17:4; Genesis 15:16).
Here are some examples of scriptures that reference iniquity
Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; Exodus 20:5
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes, we are healed. Isaiah 53:5
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. Psalm 51:5
Iniquity is often used interchangeably with sin and transgression but the three mean different things. For starters, iniquity is more deep-seated and it is often premeditated. Transgressing is going beyond a boundary and that can easily happen unknowingly. However, both transgressions and iniquities happen due to the sinful nature that we all have. Thankfully, this sinful nature can be defeated through the power of the Holy Spirit which is at work in the lives of saints.