Bible Question:

I have two questions. First, what are the differences in meaning for sin, transgression, and iniquity? Second, what does Gal. 3:19 mean when it says, “Wherefore then [serveth] the law? . . . and it [was] ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator? ” Thanks again.

Bible Answer:

Your two questions are related. The first question deals with the reason the angels were involved with the law.

Meanings

All three words: sin, transgression, and iniquity seem to mean almost the same thing. But they do have slight differences in meaning. Here are the differences.

English Word Greek Word Meaning
SinHAMARTIA” to miss the mark” or “to offend moral laws of men or God”
IniquityHAMARTIA” to be unjust in a legal sense” or “to be a criminal”
TransgressionHAMARTIA” to violate the written law of man or God”

“Sin” is a general word for evil while “iniquity” is more specific. Transgression is even more specific showing us exactly which moral standard we violated. The consciences of most people tell them when they have “sinned.” God has given it to us to warn us. “Iniquity” implies that we are guilty. This is not a psychological defect or the absence of self-worth. It is a gift from God which He uses to bring us to Jesus Christ; but many do not respond. God has also provided a written moral code for those who demand it. It is in the Bible.

Ordained By Angels

God never tells us exactly how the angels were involved in the giving of the Law to Moses. We only know that they helped in some way, since there are several passages in the New Testament which say this.

. . . you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it. (NASB) Acts 7:53

Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed should come to whom the promise had been made. (NASB) Gal. 3:19

For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense . . . (NASB) Heb. 2:2

Apparently, the angels were with God when the Mosaic Law was given. Apparently, they helped communicate it in some way. We do not know exactly how.

Conclusion:

Sin is ugly stuff. We do not really understand how horrible it is to God. Just a simple lie is sin. Did you notice how I phrased this – “simple lie”? God is so holy that a “lie” is morally horrible. We fall short of His holiness. We are moral criminals. I am glad Jesus forgave my sins. Thank you God!