“Who gave himself for us,
that he might redeem us from all lawlessness”
“You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness.
Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the
oil of gladness beyond your companions.”
When I began to work on my New Testament translation, a particular Greek word, anomia, caught my attention. That word, anomia, is usually translated “iniquity” in the King James Version even though it actually means “lawlessness”, or more literally, “without law”. In the beginning, I followed the example of the King James and other translators by translating anomia as “iniquity”, but something about doing that did not settle with my spirit. The more I worked on the translation, the more I began to think that “iniquity” did not adequately express what the writers of the New Testament intended with the word anomia. In the end, I decided that “lawlessness” is the only word that communicates what they intended to say.
John defined what sin itself is in 1John 3:4, using anomia. He wrote, “Everyone who does sin also does lawlessness, for sin is lawlessness [anomia].” By using the word anomia, John was teaching the children of God what sin really is; that is, sin is whatever is not according to God’s law. If in 1John 3:4, one were to translate anomia as “iniquity”, it would read, “sin is iniquity”. But what good would that statement be? Everybody knows that sin is iniquity. But not everybody knows that sin is living contrary to God’s law! Not everybody understands that sin is lawlessness! One can say “sin is iniquity” or “iniquity is sin”, and nothing is explained because both mean the same thing. But when John said, “sin is lawlessness”, he was educating us in the things of God. Iniquity is defined for us when we accurately translate John’s words.
Law Provides Social Boundaries
All of us need boundaries. We need to live with an awareness of what is appropriate behavior and speech. That is why God gave His law to man. Before God gave His law to Israel, rulers of other nations had devised laws of their own. I have studied several of these law codes, such as the famous Code of Hammurabi, and I am sure that they seemed very good to the people who crafted them. But those laws fell far short of teaching men what is truly right and wrong. God’s law, however, was perfect. It revealed a righteousness that no other law code had shown to mankind. God’s law taught men what kind of conduct was truly appropriate. People could please God and benefit their neighbors by walking in His law.
In our debased culture, we see lawless behavior everywhere we look. It is common now to hear foul language on street corners or in cafeterias, from the mouths of the old as well as the young and foolish, and to see people, young and old, dressed inappropriately in public places. Many people now seem to lack a sense of decency and order. That is lawlessness. That is what sin is. It is behavior that is not governed by the wisdom of God; it is life without an awareness of God’s presence. Lawlessness is to live without being guided by the law of God, without being aware of the boundaries of right conduct. In short, lawlessness is to walk in the flesh rather than in the Spirit because the flesh is lawless.
In this covenant, to be lawless is to be Spiritless. When we receive the Spirit, we receive the law of God into our hearts; God’s feelings, God’s thoughts, God’s will becomes a part of us. This is what Peter meant when he said that the children of God “have been made partakers of the divine nature.” Because God knows what is right, those with His Spirit can feel that knowledge guiding them. Because God loves people, those with His Spirit can sense what is appropriate behavior around people. Because God is wise, those with His Spirit within discern it when an unclean spirit of this age draws near. That being guided by the Spirit, that inner sensing of what is good, that discernment, is living, as Paul said, “under law to God,” and every other way of living is sin because every other way is lawlessness.