The Work of Sin, Transgression, and Iniquity as it Relates to Our Body, Soul and Spirit

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In this article I want to establish a practical explanation of sin, transgressions, and iniquity as it relates to the body, the soul and the spirit. Before we go any further, let me establish that James 2:10 teaches us that “…whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.” (ESV)

It does not matter how big or how small a sin is; without Jesus, all sin separates us from God. God is holy and He demands holiness; that is the reason why Jesus is “…the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” First John 2:2 (ESV). However, there are levels: All transgression and all iniquities are sin, but not all sins are transgressions and iniquities. 

First John 1:10 tells us, “If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (ESV) The word Sinned is the Greek word hamartánō: “To miss a mark on the way, not to hit the mark.”[1] Sin is essentially missing the mark. Missing the mark or sinning flows out of the flesh. The Apostle Paul explains this struggle in Romans 7 when he states that he did the evil that he did not want to do. When you sin, you are not sold-out to sin necessarily; you are trying to do the right thing, but, as with all of us, we are dealing with a flesh that refuses to cooperate with God (Romans 8:7).  

Transgressions are a deeper matter; they flow out of the soul; it involves two things 1) our knowledge that what we are doing is wrong and 2) our will to keep doing it despite knowing that is wrong. With sin and transgression, you are not necessarily in the business of hurting other people or promoting evil, but you are hurting yourself and your relationship with your Heavenly Father. First John 3:4 tells us,

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. First John 3:4 (ESV)

The word Sinning here is the Greek word hamartia: “Missing the true end and scope of our lives, which is God. An offense in relation to God with emphasis on guilt. Aberration from the truth, error (John 8:46 where it stands as the opposite of alḗtheia [225], truth. See also John 16:8, 9). Aberration from a prescribed law or rule of duty, whether in general or of particular sins.”[2] As you ca see, this is more than missing the mark. The word Lawlessness is the Greek word, anomia: “In most cases in the NT it means not the absence of the Law, but the violation of Law, i.e., transgression.”[3] So, a lifestyle of sin is hamartia and hamartia is anomia or transgression. First John 3:7-10 continues by stating, 

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. (ESV)

Verse 7 and 8 are key “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil…” 

The word Sinning here is also the Greek the word hamartia. “As you can see, this is very different from hamartánō: “To miss a mark.”[4] A true believer can miss the mark, but a true believer will not develop a lifestyle opposite to God’s truth. Again, a believer can and will sin; but will never embrace an agenda of evil. First Corinthians 6:9-11describes to us how an unrighteous person looks like,

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Notice that the first one on the list is idolater; this requires attention. This is a person who replaces God with another god. Idolatry flows out of our spirit as worship flows out of our spirit (John 4:24). It was idolatry that destroyed the nations of the world prior to Israel and eventually, it was idolatry that destroyed Israel. A believer will not embrace a lifestyle of iniquity and purposely hurt other folks; the sons of the devil do that. 

As we complete the list on First Corinthians 6:9-11 we clearly see that everything else is designed to hurt people. In the church we will have our issues with one another, but the moment we are purposely attempting to hurt each other; that is not missing the mark, that is iniquity, that is not of God, that is of the devil.

Even as sin and transgressions are evil, to engage in iniquity is to be sold-out to evil. As stated before, with sin you are missing the mark that you don’t want to miss. With transgression you are purposely doing something that you know is against God; but the believer will experience a great deal of conviction because of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost (John 16:8). Iniquity, on the other hand, is embracing a lifestyle of unrighteousness. People involved in iniquity are in the business of hurting others and spreading evil. Think about the 7 things God hates and this will help you understand iniquity. Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us,

There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
    and one who sows discord among brothers. (ESV)

At least 6 out of these 7 abominations before the Lord directly involves hurting others. Pride also flows straight from our spirit as it places us above God; it is the main sin of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-17). 

This take me to this though: Beloved, we can go to church, we can memorize Scripture and be involved in ministry, if our souls are not changing, either we are not allowing God to change us or simply, God is not there. God is in the business of changing the way we think, our decision-making and our emotions, all these flows out of the soul. 

Whatever gets our attention more will have a greater impact in our soul. It can be our parents, our family, our church, our culture, schools, the neighborhood we grew up in, our friends, the folks we admire the most, etc. If the believing parents and/or the church are not on that list who strongly influence our children, the possibility of the soul being influence with Godliness are little to none. We should then ask ourselves: do we see our children sinning (Flesh) or, embracing transgressions (Soul) or, are they sold out to iniquity (spirit)? 

Let me make a last point here. James 5:16 tells us, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed…” (ESV) The word Sins here is the Greek word hamartia, not the word hamartánō. So, James is not telling us to confess every time we miss the mark; if we do that, that is all we will do when we get together. What James is saying here is to confess the deep issues of the soul, our constant decision-making towards sins; not a struggle, but the willingness to sin; perhaps a yoke or an area that needs deliverance. An addiction to coffee does not count as a sin worth confessing.

In conclusion, a true believer will sin because the born-again experience does not take away the sinful tendencies of the flesh; that is what we saw in Romans 7 as the Apostle Paul described his struggle. A true believer can also engage in transgressions, but for the most part those transgressions will hurt himself; the believer is still ashamed of those transgressions and attempts to keep them secret. God will deal with the believer in secret also. However, in his mercy, eventually God will expose and deal with those transgressions accordingly if the believer refuses to confess. When dealing with transgressions we must always remember that we can’t have victory over those things alone; the confessing our sins to one another, is the Body of Christ coming together and helping one another. Remember that God discipline those he loves (Hebrews 12:6) and remember that one of the key works of the Holy Ghost is to convince us of sin (John 16:8).

What a true believer can’t do is be sold out to iniquity; a believer cannot be sold out and be in the business of purposely hurting others. First John 3:7-8 seal this point by stating, “Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil…” 

Some practice their iniquities in secret, but they are still hurting others; it always involves hurting others… those who practice hurting others are of the devil, no matter how beautiful they speak, how many books they have written, how smart they present themselves or the size of their ministry; they will split wide open. 

Recently the Christian community was shook to the core with the news of Ravi Zachariah. How can this man do such a thing? Many rightfully question his salvation. Some compare him with King David and his sexual sins forgetting that David repented and paid a heavy price for his iniquities. There is no comparison; there is no evidence that this man ever repented; to the contrary, he covered his iniquities well while he was alive.   There is no doubt in my mind that this man was not a true believer. The apostle Paul put it this way, 

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. First Corinthians 9:27 (ESV)

Help us Holy Ghost! 


[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[4] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

2 comments on “The Work of Sin, Transgression, and Iniquity as it Relates to Our Body, Soul and Spirit”

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