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What is Sin? The Unholy Trinity…

June 24, 2011

Sin, Transgression, and Iniquity In Psalm 51.

What is sin, really? 

From the very first verses in this psalm, David is upfront and honest about his actions and the punishment he deserves.  He has not only missed the mark, and failed to follow the law, he has actively engaged in criminal activity, adultery, murder, lying, theft, all of which leads up to a virtual rebellion against the God he now implores for forgiveness.  This is a pattern of evil easy to criticize, but also all too easy to mimic in our own lives.  Thankfully we serve a God or mercy, and compassion.  There is no reason that we should be accepted by a Holy God.  All of us from ‘small’ sins to great transgressions display hearts in rebellion to our maker.  Our only choice is to throw ourselves at His mercy and plead for grace.  David models both the confession and the call for mercy, for his sins, his life of iniquity and pattern of transgression.

 a.     Sin: The word used twice in this Psalm for ‘sin’ is the word חַטָּאָת or chatta’ath.  This word is rooted in the idea of mis-step, to stumble or falter.  To miss the mark, induce sin, or bring guilt and or condemnation.  It is from these sins that the Israelites sought absolution through sacrifice.  David rightly seeks to be ‘cleansed’ from this act and will feel confronted with his sin continually until he is forgiven.

 b.     Iniquity- The word here is עָוֹן or ‘av-own’. It occurs some 237 times in the Old Testament and describes a pattern or display of criminal activity.  This is not merely sin, or missing the mark but engaging in a crime, for which one would be prosecuted, tried and judged.  Sometimes it is the penalty for sin, in that sin brings about iniquity, a pattern or ‘life of crime’.  It is rooted in the idea, and comes from the word to bend or pervert, to twist or distort.  So one could see the natural transition here, from twisted and perverted to iniquity and crime.  To bend and twist the law to fit your own way is to commit a crime.  Certainly David is guilty of this, and rightly seeks to be absolved of his crime, ‘wash me thoroughly from my iniquity.’ Vs. 2.

 c.   Transgression- The word here is פֶּשַׁע or ‘pesha’.  It occurs some 99 times in the Old Testament.  It is rooted in the idea or rebellion or revolt.  Its root word means as much, to turn away from.  Israel was in rebellion against David’s kingdom (1 King 12:19) This is to commit sin against someone else, Joseph’s brothers transgressed against him by selling him into slavery.  Israel.  One can and does transgress against God, every time one sins.  God promises to punish those who transgress Ps. 89:32 but to those who he forgives, He not only forgives but places their transgressions far from them. Ps. 103:12.  But Christ was numbered among the transgressors bearing the sins of many and interceded for them. (Isa. 53:12)

John MacArthur writes:

“If I were to sum up what David was feeling, I might say it like this, “Sin had made him dirty and he wanted to be clean. Guilt had made him sick and he wanted to be well. Disobedience had made him lonely and he wanted to be reconciled. Rebellion had made him fearful and he wanted to be pardoned.”  That’s what comes out of Psalm 51, a man who feels dirty, sick, isolated and afraid…all consequence of his sin. And out of that, he pours forth this confession and it has all the right perspectives of a true confession would be threefold…see your sin for what it is, see God for who He is, and see yourself for who you are. Any true confession is going to have to interact with those components.”[1]


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