Iniquity, Sin, and Transgressions: Breaking Free from Bondage and Addiction

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels

Around the 2010 time frame, I danced around the topic of iniquity in some other blogs without really understanding its relationship to sin, transgressions, and bondage (or captivity and addiction).  But recently I’ve been encouraged to study the concept further. As a result, I’m challenging the defacto teaching around iniquity, sin, and transgression that suggests they are just different levels or severities of offense.  For example, one might suggest that abortion and murder is iniquity, stealing much money is a sin, but exceeding the speed limit by 5 MPH is just a transgression.

Let’s not create standards for sin

I’d like to suggest that such a concept of parceling sins into escalating offenses is corruption that enables us to create standards for behavior contrary to our personal belief systems by which we dispense judgments against humanity.  Just such a thing is what many Christians do best: create sorting systems for sins resulting in varying degrees of judgments, penance, and punishments – Dante’s Inferno, for example.

Consider then, Psalm 32:5

I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Notice the precise construction of “the iniquity of my sin.”  The question is this: what is this thing, the “foo of my bar”?  Is Psalmist suggesting that God is addressing the silver used to create the jewelry, or He is addressing the jewelry created from the silver?

In Strong’s Concordance of the Bible, ‘iniquity’ is indexed as H5771.  It is derived from H5753, and it means “perversity.”  Sin, on the other hand, comes from H2403, and it means “an offense.”  So then, does the offense create perversity, or does perversity give rise to the offense?

Adam as an Example

Let’s look at the problem from something a bit more concrete: Adam and Eve.  Adam made a choice, Eve was deceived.  Both sinned.  We call it original sin, the lynchpin from which humanity is bound in unrighteousness.  So, did the sin cause the perversion, or did perversion cause the sin?  Many people will suggest that the reason Adam and Eve sinned is that satan corrupted God’s word; he created a lie or a perversion of the truth.  From this perversion then, sin and transgression arose.

In the New Testament Paul enumerated a number of sins he called the “deeds of the flesh.”

You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth … For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh … walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please … Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these (Gal. 5:7-21)

What is the flesh?

The question then becomes, what exactly is the flesh?  Well, for starters, it’s not your body.  Although it appears that Paul generally speaks of it in this way, the flesh is instead used to describe a contrary-to-God state from which sin flows, the human nature, or principle of evil, the law of sin that we carry with us.

But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.  I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:20-25)

What we find then in scripture, is the concept of two natures: the sin nature, and the Holy Spirit nature.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. (Galatians 5:16-18)

So, where does this leave us?  Is there a difference, does God forgive both?  Yes, He forgives both; yes there is a difference.  Therefore, Paul describes the law of sin as the controlling force responsible for sin.  The law of sin, then, is iniquity: and thou forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Just as walking in the Spirit is sourced from the spirit, waking in sin is sourced from the flesh or iniquity.  And just as there is a relationship with the Spirit, we must put to death our previous relationship with iniquity and give rise to the Holy Spirit within us:

Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry … in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside … since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him— a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.

Colossians 3:5-11

Two ways to live

The lesson we take from this is that there are two ways to live: from the point of unrighteousness and from the point of righteousness.  While we must deal with sins and transgressions, we also must eliminate the source from which they are birthed: the iniquity itself.  

One way this is done is through the Armor of God (Ephesians 6).  Another way we do this is by rejecting the lies we believe and knowing the truth (John 8:32).  And yet another way we do this is by turning towards God with our heart, so that our minds may be unveiled (2 Corinthians 3:16).  Consider also that we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh (Col. 5:3) and working to put on a heart of compassion (Col. 3:12).

But most importantly, we must realize that dealing with sin and iniquity is different.  Sin is the “what.”  Iniquity is the “why.”  We can confess our sins of lust without dealing with the why of the lust.  And that’s where your journey to true freedom will begin: by rooting out the whys of your sins.

Experiencing Freedom

But the crux of the matter is that we must learn to live from a point of experience, rather than a point of declaration.  While it’s wonderful that God has declared us righteous, it is another thing entirely to live and walk from that perspective.

If you’re like me, it helps to see things.  This isn’t a perfect model, but it does help us visualize how we live in both the new and the old:

Addressing a Root Cause

In my experience, a lot of times the root causes of our walking in flesh, is sourced from emotional wounds. We’re compensating for things that have happened to us in the past.

Therefore, if we can address the hurts and wounds we carry with us, we can also address the propensity we have of walking in the flesh.

Please see my blog on Healing Emotional Wounds. I have learned that being healed of our hurts and wounds also frees us to better walk in freedom and righteousness.

Obedience out of Love or Duty? Neither.

I was recently reminded of a John MacArthur article entitled, \”Obedience: Love or Legalism?\” wherein Mr. MacArthur makes the argument that while it\’s better be obedient due to our love of Jesus, it\’s certainly our duty to be obedient to Jesus.  He goes on to say that that \”it is not quite right to say \’we obey out of love for Christ . . . and not out of duty.\’\”  He further underscores this sentiment by suggesting the Christian relationship to Jesus should be viewed as one of an \”abject slave,\” and that Jesus underscored this sentiment in Luke 17:7-10:

“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’?  But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’?  He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he?  So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

That’s a nice underpinning to his argument, but that’s all it is: scripture out of context to validate his doctrine.

The actual context of the instruction is that of relationship between one and another, as demonstrated via the parables of the Shrewd Steward, the Rich man and Lazarus, and finally a summation that “stumbling blocks come,” and we should “be on our guard: if your brother sins,” then we are to “rebuke him,” for the purpose of prompting him to repentance. 

The apostles, upon hearing all of these stories apparently believed they were ill equipped to behave properly, thereby unable to produce the fruits necessary for these particular outcomes.   I would presume that Mr. MacArthur would have suggested to Jesus that He perhaps remind them of their duty to God – problem solved. 

Nevertheless, having spent a lot of time with Jesus and having learned a thing or two, they surmised that their faith needed help: \”increase our faith,\” they said.  Jesus simply replied, “if you had faith like a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘be uprooted and planted in the sea’; and it would obey you.”

Contrary to popular teaching, Jesus was not suggesting that they had no faith and needed just a smidgen in order to get things done.  He never said, “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed,” rather “if you had faith likea mustard seed.”  The question then is this: what is faith like a mustard seed?  If a mustard seed has faith, what kind of faith is it?  It is faith that affirms it’s nature and that which it is designed to be. 

Which is why we have the parable of the slave following close behind the instruction to forgive.  The slave knows who he is and his purpose in life, particularly in relationship to his master.  In other words, the slave functions in relationship to his master and others from a state of being.  Just as the rich man should have functioned from his state of wealth and helped Lazarus; just as the apostles could have commanded the mulberry tree to be uprooted, and just as a Spirit filled believer will forgive.
Jesus later defined our relationship with the Father not as “abject slaves,” as suggested by Mr. MacArthur, but as friends, saints, kings, and priests:

No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.  You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.  This I command you, that you love one another.  (John 15:15-17)

to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called assaints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 1:7)

And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth (Revelation 5:10)

But just as a slave is obedient to his master because of who he is, and the mustard seed has an established nature, then we, who have His Spirit, bear the fruit of faithfulness and self-control because of what we are, not because of how we feel towards Jesus, or due to a sense of duty.

The point then is that we shouldn\’t have to be obedient from a point of love or duty.  To do so is not to walk in the Spirit, but to walk in carnality – to be doers of the scriptures – as any person can pick up a theology or philosophy and be doer of its writs.

The thing that should be driving the life of the believer should never be the need or duty to perform for God or others, rather the need to commune with Him.

In summary, the best way to serve others in the kingdom of God, as Kings and Priests, is from a position of intimate knowledge of who you are.  It\’s not something that happens overnight – it\’s a sanctification process of \”receiving the implanted Logos, which is able to save your souls.\” (James 1:21).  It\’s learning how to accept forgiveness of your sins while at the same time, understanding that the iniquity (unrighteousness) that gives life to those sins, is blotted out.  Follow the Spirit, and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit, which is love:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-25)