The Bible uses words such as iniquity, transgression, and trespass to indicate levels of disobedience to God. They are all categorized as “sin.” Micah 2:1 says, “Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it.”
The Hebrew word used most often for “iniquity” means “guilt worthy of punishment.” Iniquity is sin at its worst. Iniquity is premeditated, continuing, and escalating. When we flirt with sin, we fall for the lie that we can control it. But like a cute baby monkey can grow to be a wild, out-of-control primate, sin that seems small and harmless at first can take control before we know it. When we give ourselves over to a sinful lifestyle, we are committing iniquity. Sin has become our god rather than the Lord (Romans 6:14).
When we realize we have sinned, we have a choice. We can see it for the evil it is and repent. When we do, we find the forgiveness and cleansing of God (Jeremiah 33:8; 1 John 1:9). Or we can harden our hearts and go deeper into that sin until it defines us. Partial lists of iniquities are given in Galatians 5:19–21 and in 1 Corinthians 6:9–10. These are sins that become so consuming that a person can be identified by that lifestyle. The psalmists distinguish between sin and iniquity when they ask God to forgive both (Psalm 32:5; 38:18; 51:2; 85:2).
If we continue to choose sin, our hearts harden toward God. One sin leads to another, and iniquity begins to define our lives, as it did when David sinned with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3–4). His initial sin of lust resulted in a hardening of his heart, and his sin deepened. He committed adultery, then had Bathsheba’s husband killed (verses 14–15). Iniquity had taken over David’s life. It was only when confronted by the prophet Nathan that he repented with great sorrow. His heartfelt cry for forgiveness is detailed in Psalm 51. Verse 2 says, “Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.” David is a picture of someone who clearly understood the progression of iniquity and who experienced the mercy and forgiveness of God (Psalm 103:1–5).
The second half of Romans 1 outlines the progression of sin (verses 10–32). The end result for those with such hardened hearts is that God turns them over to a “reprobate mind” (verse 28, KJV), and they no longer have the desire or ability to repent. Reprobate means “thoroughly depraved, given over to evil until the conscience is seared.” The Scripture is clear that God forgives even iniquity (Micah 7:18), but if we persist in it, we will reap the wages of sin, which is eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).