Monday, August 15, 2022

Anonymous Asks (210)

“Are all sins equal to God?”

The word “equal” is meaningless without a context of some sort. For equality to signify anything, we have to ask the question “Equal in what sense?”

Let’s start with “equally deadly”.

A Holy God

God is perfectly holy. All sins of every kind are offensive to him. He is “of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong”, as Habakkuk puts it. So telling lies is “equal” to murder, if only in the sense that either will cut us off from fellowship with a holy God and condemn us to an eternity apart from him. In this sense, all sins may be considered equally deadly. One is more than enough to seal our fate. It does not matter whether it is secret greed or public blasphemy against God himself.

This is perhaps the only sense in which all sins are equal.

Millstones and Sodom

The Lord Jesus made it quite clear some sins have worse consequences than others. Stumbling a believing child, for example, puts you in a place where you would be better off with a millstone around your neck, drowned in the ocean. Rejecting the gospel when it has received the public witness of the Holy Spirit in miraculous power puts one in a position worse than the evildoers of Sodom and Gomorrah. Jesus also referred to a “greater sin” when speaking to Pilate. He also taught that some commandments are greater than others, from which we may reasonably infer that violating one of the greater commandments causes one to incur greater judgment. Then, in the parable of the servants, he speaks of servants who will receive a light beating, a more severe beating and even those who will be “cut in pieces and put with the unfaithful”. These servants will be punished based on (1) their level of knowledge, and (2) the responsibility with which they were entrusted.

Familiarity with such scriptures undoubtedly inspired Dante to write about nine circles of hell, in which some offenses were judged more harshly than others.

So with regard to their offensiveness to God and with regard to punishment, all sins are not equal at all.

Compound Sins and Sins That Lead to Death

It should also be obvious that while some sins of the heart may be as offensive to God as sins acted out in the real world, other human beings are not hurt by them. For example, lust and adultery are both sins and both subject to judgment, but the man who lusts and commits adultery has committed two sins, not one. He must now account not merely for the condition of his own heart, but for the damage he inflicts on the lives of others. So then, the sin acted upon is in one sense worse than the sin that is merely contemplated.

The apostle John speaks of sins that lead to death and sins that do not. There are many ideas about what this means, but we certainly have biblical examples of sins that resulted in immediate judgment in this life. God did not wait to judge them in eternity. Ananias and Sapphira serve as one example. Another example is the Christians who ate and drank at the Lord’s table in Corinth in an unworthy manner, without regard for their fellow members of the body of Christ or for that body which the Lord’s Supper was designed to bring to remembrance. Some were weak and ill. Some had died. Varying degrees of discipline were involved.

In short, no, all sins are not equal. There is plenty of evidence of that in scripture.

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