SIN — NOT PLEASING GOD
T. Pierce Brown
There are at least 10 words in the Bible, all related to sin, but all meaning slightly different things. Thus it would be well for us to consider them as we think on the subject of how we may be displeasing to God.
1. EVIL — translated from the Greek words, “kakos” and “poneros,” has reference to three kinds of things: a. Generally that which ought not to be. b. Specifically, that which is morally or legally wrong. c. That which is “troublesome, injurious, pernicious, destructive, baneful” (Thayer, p. 320). In Jonah 3:10, when “God repented him of the evil he said he would do toNinevehand did it not,” the third meaning is evident. (See No. 9 — WICKEDNESS — below).
2. INIQUITY — translated from the Greek words, “adikia” and “anomia” which means the condition of one who is without law, either because he is ignorant of it, or because he is violating it. Thayer gives several meanings of “adikia,” but the primary idea seems to be “unjust toward, or to wrong someone”. This coincides very well with the Old Testament usage, literally meaning “crooked.” If we are able to make this fine distinction, we may note that whereas the word “sin” refers to the action itself, the word “iniquity” refers to the character or description of the action, as in Psalm 32:5 where David says, “And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.” Broadly translated, it would be, “Thou forgavest the crookedness of my sin.”
3. OFFENSE — translated in the New Testament most frequently from “skandalon” which had reference to the trigger of a trap against which the animal strikes, springing the trap. It is therefore a snare, or stumbling block, or an occasion which leads to sin.
4. SIN — translated most often from “hamartia” which literally means, “missing the mark.” When one’s AIM is not to center himself upon God, but on himself, or on some desire, he is led to sin. He may actually miss the mark in any of the other 9 ways mentioned in this article.
5. TRANSGRESSION — translated from the Greek word, “parabasis” which literally means “a going over.” When one goes beyond God’s will by doing what is not authorized, or doing that which is forbidden, he sins — misses the mark by so doing. It is interesting to note that the word translated “transgression” in the Old Testament most often means “rebellion.” Although it is hard to be dogmatic about this, it seems to me from observing every time the word is used, that in the New Testament the word “transgression” suggests the outward act of rebellion, sin, or disobedience, whereas “sin” may be done in the heart. When John says, “sin is a transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4), another word “anomia” — lawlessness — is used. As I understand it, not every sin is a “parabasis” — transgression, or going beyond — but every sin is “anomia” — disregard of law. To say it another way, sin (hamartia) is acting without law, whether a man is ignorant of it or not, whereas “parabasis” (transgression) is going beyond a definite law.
6. TRESPASS — translated from “paraptoma,” which literally means “a fall beside.” It seems to differ from “transgress” not in the nature of the thing done, but only in the figure of speech employed to describe it. Whereas, in the Greek, one would suggest going beyond or over, the other would suggest falling beside. If one is aiming at a target, he misses it whether his arrow goes beyond, or falls to one side. In English, the words “trespass” and “transgress” are approximately synonymous.
7. UNRIGHTEOUSNESS — most often translated from “adikia” which means “injustice.” It is said of one who does not do his duty toward another. In almost, if not all references, there is a connection between the term “unrighteousness” and the wrong relationship toward MEN. I do not find the term referring to man’s relationship to GOD except in such cases where other men are also involved. “Justice” and “injustice” are primarily used in reference to right dealing with others. It seems to me that Paul is suggesting something similar to this when he says in Romans 5:7, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; for peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.” A man may merely do that which is “right” without having a Christlike spirit about him — without being “good.”
8. UNGODLINESS — translated from the Greek word, “asebeia” has reference to a want of reverence toward God.
9. WICKEDNESS — most often translated from “poneros” is practically synonymous with “evil.” The distinction between the meanings can be seen fairly well from Jonah 3:10, “And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil (poneros) ways; and God repented of the evil (kakia) that he said he would do to them; and he did it not.” Nowhere in the Bible is God said to repent of his wickedness, for that word always carries the idea of malicious wrongdoing.
10. WRONG — translated from about 10 different Hebrew and Greek terms, but for all practical purposes always synonymous with “unrighteousness”. In English, a man may do the “wrong” thing without committing sin. As far as I can determine, the word is not so used in the Bible, but is always an act of unrighteousness.
This has not been intended as a scholarly review of the words mentioned, but as a sort of pointer to those who are interested in “rightly dividing the word of Truth.”