Hi FP family.
What is the difference between sin, iniquity, and transgressions?
Hello! Thank you for asking this excellent question. This is a question that can be kinda confusing and, even if they’re not all the same thing, they are all related. Each one of these three things (iniquity, transgression, and sin) could easily be the subject of its own full-fledged article, but that’s maybe an opportunity for another time.
It can be very easy to read all three of these as the same thing but there’s a verse we could look at which will point out to us that we should see these as three different things. When we look at Ex 34:6-7 we read an account where YHWH is showing Himself to Moses and is exclaiming His own attributes when we read,
“And Yahweh passed over before him, and he proclaimed, “Yahweh, Yahweh, God, who is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding with loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love to the thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and he does not leave utterly unpunished, punishing the guilt of fathers on sons and on sons of sons on third and fourth generations,” (LEB) (emphasis added).
We see here that the three subjects of our investigation are all listed separately as things which the Father forgives. But, if they’re different, what are the differences?
I’m glad you asked…
When I think of a verse with the word ‘iniquity’ in it, the first one that comes to my mind (and I’m not sure what this says about me) is Eze 28:15 where we are told of the King of Tyre, but he is described as a cherub who covers, who was on the holy mountain of God, and walked in the midst of the stones of fire. It goes on to say of him, “You were blameless in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you,” (NRSV). There’s more that can be read there but for the purpose of this topic it’s important to see that iniquity is something that is found in a person.
For transgression and sin we can kill two birds with one stone and read 1 John 3:4, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law,” (KJV). Transgression, it appears, is an action, and sin is something that comes from that action. Mirriam-Webster defines ‘transgression’ as violating a law. Moreover, in this same verse we can see what exactly, sin is, as well. Sin, it turns out, is violating God’s law.
So, to bring this all together, sin is what happens when you violate God’s law; transgression is the actual act of violating the law, and iniquity is the dirtiness that lives in you when you’ve engaged in sin by transgressing God’s law.
I pray that this has been helpful for you and that you have a blessed day!
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