•  4 min. read  •  grade level: 10
There are many different words both in the Old Testament and New Testament signifying “sin,” “iniquity,” “wickedness,” with various shades of meaning.
1. It is important to notice the scripture definition of sin. It is “lawlessness” (1 John 3:44Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4)). Hence the distinction made between “sin” and “transgression,” the latter being the infraction of a known command. From Adam to Moses man “had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression,” yet men had sinned and died (Rom. 5:1414Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come. (Romans 5:14)). A positive law was given to Adam, which he disobeyed; but from Adam to Moses no definite law was proclaimed, consequently there was no transgression, yet there was sin in the sense of lawlessness, and such sin as called for the deluge. The same distinction is plainly involved in Romans 4:1515Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression. (Romans 4:15): “Where no law is, there is no transgression,” yet there may be sin, and it is averred that “as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law” (Rom. 2:1212For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (Romans 2:12)).
The rendering of 1 John 3:44Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4), in the AV, “sin is the transgression of the law,” is a mistranslation. The Greek word is ἁνομία, from , negative, and νόμος, law. This word occurs fourteen times, and in this verse only is it translated in the AV “transgression of the law.” In 2 Corinthians 6:1414Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14) it is “unrighteousness,” and in eleven places it is rendered “iniquity,” signifying any wickedness. Further, ἂνομος, from the same root, is translated “without law” in 1 Corinthians 9:2121To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. (1 Corinthians 9:21); “unlawful” in 2 Peter 2:88(For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;) (2 Peter 2:8); and “lawless” in 1 Timothy 1:99Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, (1 Timothy 1:9). These passages clearly indicate that the meaning, of 1 John 3:44Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. (1 John 3:4) is “Every one that practices sin, practices also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness,” that is, doing one’s own will, regardless of all restraint of God and man. This applies whether there is a definite law or not, but when there is a definite law sin is also transgression.
The principal words used for “sin” in the New Testament are ἁμαρτία, τημα, τάνω, to deviate from a right course: and for transgression, “transgressor,” παράβασιςβαίνωβαἰνω, to pass by or over a boundary.
3. An important point is to distinguish between “sin” and “sins,” a distinction which must exist after the first entrance of the principle. The “sins” of a man are what he actually commits, and are the ground of judgment, while also proving the man to be the servant of sin. A Christian is one whose conscience has been perfected forever by the one sacrifice for sins; the Spirit of God has brought him into the value of that one offering, hence his sins, having been borne by Christ on the cross, will never be brought to his charge as guilt upon him by God, but if he sins there is a holy gracious dealing with him on the ground of Christ’s propitiation, so that he is led to confess the sin or sins, and has the joy of forgiveness. “Sin” as to the principle, involving the alienation of all things from God since the fall of man, and especially seen in man’s evil nature, has been judicially removed from before God in the cross of Christ. God has “condemned sin in the flesh” in the sacrifice of Christ (Rom. 8:33For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (Romans 8:3)), and consequently the Spirit is given to the believer. The Lord Jesus is proclaimed as “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (“not sins,” as it is often quoted). He will purge heaven and earth from sin, and in result there will be new heavens and a new earth, wherein will dwell righteousness. Though Christ tasted death for everyone, or everything, He is not represented as bearing the “sins” of all; His death as regards “sins” being qualified by the words “of many,” “our sins,” and so forth.