© Original content written by James R. Carlson
Everyone loves a mystery. The ‘who done it’ theme captures the imagination of us all. But what if the ‘who’ in this question is not a person but something we cannot point to directly. What if the ‘who’ is actually ‘sin’? This is the mystery of iniquity.
Traditionally, iniquity is the willfulness we have in life to live apart from God. God’s Will for us represents the Law of God and our disobedience to His Will represents sin in our lives. Iniquity is different from sin when we live our lives without any respect for God’s Will for our lives; we’re doing our own thing! This is iniquity.
From a website definition, the Latin root for iniquity is iniquitas, meaning “unjust,” or “harmful” is: in (not) + aequus (equal). But the Greek μυστήριον τῆς ἀνομίας (mysterion tes anomias) is probably best rendered, “Mystery of lawlessness.” It is not only a mystery of iniquity, but one of direct disobedience to the Law of God. Here, the mystery of iniquity is sin.
Paul writes about this mystery of lawlessness.
2 Thessalonians 2:7 New King James Version (NKJV)
7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
This mystery is the work of sin in the lives of every individual ever born on the earth. We are all found guilty before God for our sins and iniquity. Jesus, the sovereign Son of God, paid for the penalty of sin when he shed his blood and died on the Cross. Yes, He died for sin! Your sin and my sin. The Gospel first tells us that there is sin in our lives and we can be redeemed from sin by the work of Jesus on the Cross. The Gospel of Jesus has power over sin and the mystery of iniquity.
Paul also tells us of another mystery – the law of sin.
Romans 7 New King James Version (NKJV)
21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.
This law of sin keeps us from doing good even when we desire to do good. It pushes us to do bad even when we don’t want to do what is wrong. The law of sin is sinister, dastardly, evil, and vicious. It is not obvious to those of us who are subject to it. We can only recognize it by the revelation of the God. But we who used to be subject to this law of sin are freed, not by the law of good works, but by the law of faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot do enough good to make God happy but Jesus on the Cross made God happy when he paid for our sin.
Sin is not a toy as some imagine it to be. It destroys lives, families, and even nations. We have a nation today that seeks to remove godly laws that prohibit such sins as sodomy (homosexuality), abortion, and recreational drug use (pharmakeia; often translated as sorcery). We find in the United States today a drive to outlaw righteousness and legalize sin.
Paul spoke of the last days in which we would experience such things.
2 Timothy 3 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!
We see this in our society today. Increasingly we see people who are turning away from God and serve their own appetites (lust). But where does the drive to practice such levels of depravity come from? Paul tells us about the root of where this begins.
Romans 1 New King James Version (NKJV)
20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.
24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.
From the beginning, those who reject God in their lives are driven from the righteousness that comes from God to a life of sin. Evolution (denying the Creator and elevating the Creature) turns people’s hearts away from God to serve their own lusts. Sin becomes their master and their iniquity takes them away from the instruction God offers them.
In the first century of the Church, Paul told us about the work of sin that was already at work in society; and in the last century of the Church, John tells us that the work of sin continues to work in society.
Revelations 9:21 New King James Version (NKJV)
21 And they did not repent of their murders or their sorceries or their sexual immorality or their thefts.
The Book of Revelations reveals, among other things, the judgement of God on the earth during the last days of the great tribulation period. John shows us that people will continue to practice sin without repentance. Unremitting sin will characterize the generation who is without Christ Jesus; this is the same generation that follow the antichrist – the man of sin – the lawless one.
The mystery of iniquity or lawlessness characterizes the work of sin in our lives. Religion is not capable of saving us from sin; it only judges sin in us. God gave us His Son to redeem us from the law and sin. By faith in Jesus we can be forgiven of sin and live a new life apart from sin.
Do you realize the peril that sin offers you?! Do you know that you can be forgiven of sin? You can be free of the penalty of sin and more. You can have power over sin in your daily life. We are without ability to do good in God’s eyes apart from the ability that God will give us. God gave us His Son Jesus to pay for sin’s penalty and to give us a new life in Him.
Pray this prayer and receive God’s forgiveness of sin.
God of heaven, I believe in Jesus Christ who died on the Cross for me. I believe that he paid for the penalty of my sin, which I admit I have done. I ask for your forgiveness of my sin and thank you for your love. Please bring me closer to you so that I may know you. By your Holy Spirit, please make in me a clean heart, a renewed spirit, and a right mind that I may do those things that are pleasing to you. Thank you, God, Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and now my Father in Heaven. Amen!