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Are All Sins Equal?

The Bible simply does not align with the notion that all sins are equally abhorrent to God.

Numerous Christians hold a misconception that all sins carry equal weight in the eyes of God. This belief is supported by various rationales, such as a flawed theological calculation that assumes every sin warrants eternal judgment, or an apologetic approach that asserts one's sins are no worse than those of others.

Additionally, some individuals genuinely embrace the idea of every sin being equal out of a humble perspective, acknowledging that they shouldn't consider their own sins as less repugnant than those of others. While these reasons are understandable and somewhat commendable, the evidence from Scripture and the church's confessions presents a different perspective.

First, before God, sin is sin before God. We are sinning against a holy, righteous, perfect, infinite God, who demands from us all of our love and loyalty and trust and service (Romans 3!). That's what the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:36-40) clearly reveals to us—that God has the right and he is worthy of our worship. He has the right to demand these things. So, sin before him—any sin, any violation of his moral demands, his moral character, etc.—as reflected in the revealed word of God brings about death. The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

Throughout the course of redemptive history, there are implicit assumptions that clearly indicate certain sins are more severe than others. Let's consider a few examples:

1.    In the Mosaic law, different penalties were prescribed for various transgressions, along with distinct requirements for sacrifices and restitution payments.

2.    The Mosaic law also made a distinction between unintentional sins and deliberate, high-handed sins (Num. 15:29-30).

3.     Sins of idolatry and willful rebellion were considered more serious offenses for the kings of Israel and Judah compared to the sin of failing to remove the "high places" in the land.

4.    God's anger was often directed specifically at the leaders of the people, implying that the sins of kings, priests, and elders carried greater consequences than the sins of the common people.

5.    Jesus warned that cities in which He performed miracles would face more severe judgment than the notoriously wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:15).

6.    Jesus regarded Judas's betrayal as a more egregious sin than others (Matt. 26:24).

7.    God's anger is particularly aroused when sins are committed against children, the weak, or the helpless (Jer. 32:35; Matt. 18:6; Luke 20:47).

8.    Excommunication / church discipline appears to have been reserved for the most flagrant sins (1 Cor. 5:1-13).

9.    Cornelius, a devout man who feared God (Acts 10:2), serves as an example that even among non-Christians, there is a distinction between being a decent person and a morally corrupt individual, although salvation is not obtained through good works alone.

10. James teaches that sin follows a progression: from tempting desires to internal nurturing of those desires, culminating in external actions and eventual spiritual death (James 1:14-15).

11. According to John, there is a sin that leads to death, but not all sins result in death (1 John 5:16).

What about sin at a human level? We don't want to just make all sin equal in the sense of how it shows up in our families, our relationships, and society. We, in our courts, for example, distinguish various consequences of sin. So, high officials in government who commit treason—they're lying, they're breaking trust, etc.—can do that at a private or in a family relationship with consequences. Yet, we consider that high official's consequences very serious because his breach of trust may involve, then, a loss of military action, for instance. They may involve the loss of many lives. We hold people more accountable for those actions even though before God sin is sin.

The Bible simply does not align with the notion that all sins are equally abhorrent to God. This perspective is incompatible with the Mosaic law, the concept of exile, church discipline, and the frequent warnings of judgment for specific transgressions.

What’s more, this idea fails to make sense in everyday life. Parents, for example, do not discipline their children uniformly for every act of disobedience, employers do not impose identical punitive measures for every violation of company policy, law enforcement officers do not treat all offenses equally, and our judicial system does not administer the same punishments for every infraction. Instinctively, we recognize that some transgressions are more severe than others.

It is essential to carry over what we understand to be true in our everyday lives into our spiritual lives. While it may display commendable humility or a genuine desire to defend our faith, we should not behave or convey the idea that every sin holds equal weight in God's perspective.

Bottom-line: Although every sin merits God's wrath and curse, it is crucial to recognize that not all sins are viewed equally by God.

The Westminster Larger Catechism is also helpful here. Questions 150-151:

Q. 150. Are all transgressions of the law of God equally heinous in themselves, and in the sight of God?

A. All transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous; but some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others (John 19:11; Ezek. 8:6, 13, 15; 1 John 5:16; Ps. 78:17, 32, 56.)

Q. 151. What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?

A. Sins receive their aggravations,

1. From the persons offending: if they be of riper age, greater experience or grace, eminent for profession, gifts, place, office, guides to others, and whose example is likely to be followed by others.


2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God, his attributes, and worship; against Christ, and his grace; the Holy Spirit, his witness, and workings; against superiors, men of eminency, and such as we stand especially related and engaged unto; against any of the saints, particularly weak brethren, the souls of them or any other, and the common good of all or many.


3. From the nature and quality of the offence: if it be against the express letter of the law, break many commandments, contain in it many sins: if not only conceived in the heart, but break forth in words and actions, scandalize others, and admit of no reparation: if against means, mercies, judgments, light of nature, conviction of conscience, public or private admonition, censures of the church, civil punishments; and our prayers, purposes, promises, vows, covenants, and engagements to God or men: if done deliberately, wilfully, presumptuously, impudently, boastingly, maliciously, frequently, obstinately, with delight, continuance, or relapsing after repentance.


4. From circumstances of time and place: if on the Lord’s day, or other times of divine worship; or immediately before or after these, or other helps to prevent or remedy such miscarriages: if in public, or in the presence of others, who are thereby likely to be provoked or defiled.


References: (Jer. 2:8Job 32:79Ecc. 4:131 Kings 11:492 Sam. 12:141 Cor. 5:1Jas. 4:17Luke 12:47-48Jer. 5:4-52 Sam. 12:7-9Ezek. 8:11-12Rom. 2:17-24Gal. 2:11-14Matt. 21:38-391 Sam. 2:25Acts 5:4Ps. 51:4Rom. 2:4Mal. 1:814Heb. 2:2-3Heb. 12:25Heb. 10:29Matt. 12:31-32Eph. 4:30Heb. 6:4-6Jude 1:8Num. 12:8-9Isa. 3:5Prov. 30:172 Cor. 12:15Ps. 55:12-15Zeph. 2:810-11Matt. 18:61 Cor. 6:8Rev. 17:61 Cor. 8:11-12Rom. 14:131521Ezek. 13:191 Cor. 8:12Rev. 18:12-13Matt. 23:151 Thess. 2:15-16Josh. 22:20Prov. 6:30-33Ezra 9:10-121 Kings 11:9-10Col. 3:51 Tim. 6:10Prov. 5:8-12Prov. 6:32-33Josh. 7:21Jas. 1:14-15Matt. 5:22Mic. 2:1Matt. 18:7Rom. 2:23-24Deut. 22:2228-29Prov. 6:32-35Matt. 11:21-24John 15:22Isa. 1:3Deut. 32:6Amos 4:8-11Jer. 5:3Rom. 1:26-27Rom. 1:32Dan. 5:22Titus 3:10-11Prov. 29:1Titus 3:10Matt. 18:17Prov. 27:22Prov. 23:35Ps. 78:34-37Jer. 2:20Jer. 42:5-62021Ecc. 5:4-6Prov. 20:25Lev. 26:25Prov. 2:17Ezek. 17:18-19Ps. 36:4Jer. 6:16Num. 15:30Ex. 21:14Jer. 3:3Prov. 7:13Ps. 52:13 John 1:10Num. 14:22Zech. 7:11-12Prov. 2:14Isa. 57:17Jer. 34:8-112 Pet. 2:20-222 Kings 5:26Jer. 7:10Isa. 26:10Ezek. 23:37-39Isa. 58:3-5Num. 25:6-71 Cor. 11:20-21Jer. 7:8-10Prov. 7:14-15John 13:2730Ezra 9:13-142 Sam. 16:221 Sam. 2:22-24.)