In Psalm 32:5, the psalmist says, ‘I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.
In this verse, ‘sin’, ‘iniquity’, and ‘transgressions’ are all mentioned. These three words communicate the same idea of evil and lawlessness, as defined by God (see 1 John 3:4). However, each word also carries a slightly different meaning. Our salvation however is not complete after ‘giving our lives to Christ’. We also need the infilling of the Holy Spirit in order to bear the fruit of the Spirit to glorify our Heavenly Father.
This is part one of a 2-part series providing short summaries of these sometimes complicated terms! (Read part two: In this first article the focus is on sin, iniquity and transgressions.
Father, teach us more accurately concerning our Christian faith, so that we may bear more fruit in Your Kingdom and lead others in the ways of our heavenly Father.
What is sin?
Sin may refer to doing something against God or against a person. (Exodus 10:16). It is doing the opposite of what is right. (Galatians 5:17). It is doing something that will have negative consequences. (Proverbs 24:33–34). Sin is failing to do something you know is right. (James 4:17). In the Old Testament, God even instituted sacrifices for unintentional sins. (Numbers 15:27). Sin is the general term for anything that ‘falls short of the glory of God’. (Romans 3:23).
Father, I confess before You my tendency to do the opposite of what is right, which always negatively impacts those around me. I confess to You the hidden sins in my life, even unintentional sins. Wash and cleanse me from all sin by the blood of Jesus Christ.
What is the sinful nature?
Sin leads to the downward progression that we all would tend towards without the restoring power of the Holy Spirit. The sinful nature is present in every human being born since the fall of Adam. (Genesis 3:6–7; Romans 5:12). If left unchecked, continual sin leads to a ‘reprobate mind’, as described in Romans 1:24. Our sin nature causes us to gravitate naturally toward selfishness, envy, and pride, even when we are trying to do good. The apostle Paul spoke of his personal propensity to sin when he wrote, “For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present in me, but how to perform what is good, I do not find.” (Romans 7:18).
Father in heaven, I admit to a natural tendency to sin. I have no strength or power within myself not to sin. I need Your Holy Spirit to set me free. I pray for the blood of Jesus to deliver me from my sinful nature, day by day.
The sinful nature leads to trespassing.
What is meant by trespassing?
A trespasser crosses a line or climbs a fence that he should not. Trespassing may be intentional or unintentional. It may mean ‘to fall away after being close beside’. Peter trespassed when he denied Jesus. (Luke 22:34, 56–62). We all ‘cross the line’ in thought, word, or attitude many times a day, and we should be quick to forgive others who do the same. (Matthew 6:15).
Heavenly Father, I confess to You as sin my many trespasses – in word, deed and thought, both intentionally and unintentionally. Please have mercy upon my soul. Wash away the sin of my trespasses by the blood of Jesus.
What is meant by transgression?
Transgressions refer to presumptuous sins. To ‘trespass’ means ‘to choose to disobey intentionally’. It is wilful sinning. Samson intentionally sinned when he trespassed by allowing his hair to be cut off, as he broke his vow as a Nazarite. (Judges 16:17). David referred to this kind of sin when he wrote, “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” (Psalm 32:1). When we deliberately drive through stop streets or red robots, tell a lie, or blatantly disregard authority, we are transgressing.
Father, I admit to transgressing due to unbelief, ill temper, or impatience. I am guilty of many transgressions every day! Please make me sensitive through Your Holy Spirit to quickly confess my transgressions before You.
What is iniquity?
Iniquity is more deeply rooted than sin. Iniquity means ‘pre-meditated choices that continue without repentance’. David’s sin with Bathsheba that led to the killing of her husband, Uriah, was iniquity. (2 Samuel 11:3–4; 2 Samuel 12:9). Micah 2:1 says “Woe to those who devise iniquity and work out evil on their beds! At morning light, they practice it, because it is in the power of their hand.” In David’s psalm of repentance, he cries out to God, saying, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:2).
Father, I confess that there are things I know are not right, yet I allow myself fleshly luxuries and freedoms that only separate me from You! Today, I admit to the iniquities I adhere to. Please forgive the iniquity of my sin. (Psalm 32:5).
Don’t let unrepentant sin build up.
What is wilful or intentional sin?
God forgives iniquity, as He does any type of sin, if we repent. (Jeremiah 33:8; Hebrews 8:12). However, iniquity left unchecked, leads to a state of wilful sin with no fear of God. The build-up of unrepentant sin is sometimes pictured as a ‘cup of iniquity’, being filled to the brim. (Revelation 17:4; Genesis 15:16). This often applies to nations who have forsaken God completely. Continued iniquity leads to unnatural affections, which leads to a reprobate mind. Romans 1:28–32 outlines this regression in vivid detail. The sons of Eli are biblical examples of reprobates whom God judged for their iniquities. (1 Samuel 3:13–14). Rather than repent, Eli’s sons continued in their abominations until repentance was no longer possible.
Father, today I pray for the conviction of the Holy Spirit in my heart of any form of wilful sin, of any form of unrepentant sin or continued iniquity. Help me see it, acknowledge it, and turn away from it through the grace I find by the blood of Jesus.
What is meant by unrighteousness?
Synonyms for unrighteousness are: abomination, baseness, crime, evil-doing, immorality, injustice, misdeeds, sinfulness, unfairness, wickedness and wrongdoing. (See Romans 1:29). Scripture touches on unrighteousness by explaining it as follows: …but the unjust knows no shame. (Zephaniah 3:5). The remnant of Israel shall do no unrighteousness and speak no lies, nor shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth… (Zephaniah 3:13). For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness… (Romans 1:18).
Father of mercy, I confess before You of speaking lies, especially little ones; sometimes not telling the whole truth; having a divided tongue, which speaks both good and evil. Please deliver me from an unrighteous tongue in every aspect of my life.
(In part two of this 2-part series we will focus on justification, sanctification and the fruit of the Spirit.)