December 2, 2021 | Iniquity

I was recently presented with the question asking to define the difference between sin and iniquity. To most people they mean the same, something done against the will of God. But in Scripture, there is a difference.


To start we go to Psalm 32:5, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” Here we see them mentioned separately (along with transgressions). This gives us reason to pause and wonder what the differences might be.


Sin, by definition, means to “miss the mark.” In other words, anything that goes contrary to the will of God. Verses like Galatians 5:17, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” and James 4:17, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” explain it further. Sin is performed both intentionally as in James 4:17 above and unintentionally, “If one person sins unintentionally, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering” (Numbers 15:27).


Sin leads to our downfall and can progress rapidly. Only the work of the Holy Spirit can direct us out of its destruction. It is in our very nature to “miss the mark” because of the fall of man. Every day is a challenge to avoid it because it so easily finds its home with us.


Iniquity, though sin, is more deeply ingrained into the human soul. Iniquity involves a choice. To commit iniquity is to willingly sin without repentance. An example might include David’s affair with Bathsheba that led to the murder of her husband Uriah. Micah 2:1-2 says, ​“Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil on their beds! When the morning dawns, they perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields and seize them, and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance.” This is iniquity, premeditated sin done without remorse.


Upon reading these definitions, one might think that one is worse than the other. In the end, however, they are both things that separate us from God and hold equal guilt. Both signify a break in our relationship with our Creator.


Its important to know also, that God forgives every kind of sin upon repentance, “For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more” (Hebrews 8:12). However, iniquity that is left to its own without repentance, leads to sin that corrupts through its willful execution. The unrepentant sin then builds upon itself and can sometimes last generation upon generation.


We see this in families, in organizations, even in nations that have forsaken God for sinful gain. This prolonged separation from God often leads to unholy unions and depraved minds explained in Romans 1:28-32, “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” Here we see described the very worst of sinful man.


But even the person who seems the most lost in their iniquities has hope. There is no sin that God cannot overcome, no iniquity that He cannot conquer. We might see someone so lost that we think they cannot be saved, but God never has that attitude. He never loses hope for His children and miracles like these happen every day. Our God is an awesome God!


If you know of someone who seems to be lost in their iniquity, don’t give up on them, because God never will. If you feel you are among the lost in some way, know that God still has plans for you that include overcoming your willful entrance into iniquity. No problem is too big and no situation is too difficult for God. Trust in Him to lead you and those you love from iniquity to redemption. Please pray with me:


Heavenly Father, thank you for taking our sins upon Yourself and for forgiving us from even our most grievous iniquity. Help us to be Your instruments of change in the lives of the lost and give us courage in the fight. Amen.