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Are all sins equal?

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It’s commonly stated: “A sin is a sin. All sins are the same in God’s eyes.” 

But is that true? Is that Biblical?

Succinctly: The eternal consequence of all sins is the same (death, separation from God), but all sins are not equal in nature or degree.

 

In the time of the flood

Things grew so bad, worse in volume and degree, that God decided to destroy the earth and begin again (Noah & family excepted, Gen. 6:5-7, 11-13). God grew more angry with growing and worsening sin.

In the Old Testament Law

There were varying punishments for varying sins. Some sins were considered “heavy- handed” and treated more severely. Others were “lighter” offenses, and therefore the repercussions were less (Ex. 21:20-25; see also Num. 9:9-13, 2 Sam. 6:5-7).

In the teaching of Jesus

Jesus chided the hypocrisy of the religious leaders: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others” (Matt. 23:23). According to Jesus, there are “weightier matters” and “lighter matters” even as all commands are to be obeyed.

Other passages

Other places in the NT also seem to make some distinction among the severity or heinousness of varying sins.

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Paul is aghast that the church is proudly tolerating such sin. He tells them to expel the immoral brother from the church! He also makes the point that we have a greater responsibility to correct our brothers and sisters in Christ than to judge the unbelieving world.

1 Corinthians 6:18
Paul distinguishes sexual sin from other sins.

1 John 5:16-17
In this difficult passage, John notes that all wrongdoing is sin but there is a sin (which one I’m not sure) that leads to death. I take this to mean that this sinning person’s wrongdoing brings the instant judgment of God resulting in his/her immediate death. This is a result of their continuing in sin. In other words, it’s worse in severity.

See also Acts 5:1-11.

In our everyday life

If my son, Braxton, tells his sister to shut up, it's a problem. If he tells his mom to shut up, it's a Big Problem. If he tells his teacher at school to shut up, it's a very BIG PROBLEM! There are degrees of wrongdoing. We know this innately, and even our civil laws reflect this distinction.

A preschooler that steals a pack of gum is not equivalent to a teenager who breaks into a home and steals jewelry, etc. To hate your neighbor is sin. But to kill him is a worse sin.

Caveat

God, as the all-good sovereign and supreme Ruler, decides what is bad and what is an “abomination”. It's not our personal view or our contemporary ethics that ultimately matter, but God’s will.

Biblically, God seems to be most offended by human pride (see Gen 11; Is 14; Ezek 28; 1 Pet 5:5), therefore anyone who claims "My sin is not as bad as his!” may actually be more guilty and grievous to God because he or she is not humbled by his own sin and God's grace, but is instead proud! Such a person repeats the blindness of the Pharisee that Jesus condemned by believing, "I'm not like those other sinners” (Luke 18:9-14).

To summarize:

“Are all sins equal to God? Yes and no. In severity? No. In penalty? Yes. In forgivability? Yes.” Dr. Charles Ryrie

Thanks be to God in Christ who forgives ALL sin!

More resources related to our study of Romans

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