Since all evil acts come down to disobedience against god, are all evil acts equivalent? Is no sin worse than any other sin? If one sin is worse than another sin does that imply that one act can be more disobedient than another act? Is sin and/or disobedience absolute or does it have degree?
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There are two primary views of this.
- There are different levels of sin
- All sin is equal in God's eyes.
Unfortunately, they're both pretty sound beliefs.
All sins are not equal
There are many verses to back up this belief that all sins are not equal. Here are some of them:
31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
All sins are equal
The idea that "all sins are equal in God's eyes" comes from the idea that any one sin will lead to death. If we commit a single sin, we are as guilty (in God's eyes) as if we had committed the worst sin--regardless of which sin we committed.
It's based on the idea that God's holiness is so extreme, that even one transgression is greater than he can accept. This idea is supported with two key verses
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
The argument goes, therefore, that if even the smallest sin prevents us from attaining the perfection that God calls us to seek, then that one single sin is as great as the worst sin.
We can reconcile these two seemingly opposing viewpoints: we can clearly see that some sins are greater than others, but that any sin will prevent us from going to heaven without the saving grace and sacrifice of Jesus.
Essentially, any one sin is sufficient to keep us from God, but all sins are not the same.
There are two major Bible passages that I can think of, which some use to suggest not all sins are equally bad.
1 John 5:16-18 (ESV)
16If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.
18We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
The way I see it, verse 18 makes the distinction between sin and keeping on sinning, also known as living in sin. Which is not a difference between sins, but other circumstances.
Mark 3:28-29 (ESV)
28 "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"—
Blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is a matter of another question. I tend to interpret it as ultimately refusing salvation, which would quite obviously make a person unsalvageable. Using that interpretation, I wouldn't say there's a difference between graveness of sins here, either.
So from these passages, I wouldn't draw any big conclusions. Generally, the Bible shows sin as just sin, not in different levels of wickedness.
Of course, for purposes of human relationships, there certainly are different severities of sins. What I say above focuses on the relationship between us and God: we deserve to be damned for our sins, everybody. It doesn't matter which sins we commit. Only Christ matters.
No, all sins are not equal.
You as a human being understand that killing somebody is more of a sin then stealing $5 from their wallet. So could you ever assume that God sees all sin as being equal?
God clearly states in more then one instance, that He will repay the people according to what they have done.
Jeremiah 25:14 NIV
They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”
God is perfect, God is just, therefore God is a perfect judge that will repay all people exactly according to what they have done.
Yes all sin is equal in our relationship with God, because not a single sin that you have done has ever affected God.
Job 35:6-8 (NIV)
6 If you sin, how does that affect him? If your sins are many, what does that do to him? 7 If you are righteous, what do you give to him, or what does he receive from your hand?
8 Your wickedness only affects humans like yourself, and your righteousness only other people.
As @dancek pointed out, there are also references in the bible that suggest that not all sin is equal.
1 John 5:16-18 (ESV)
16If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 18We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him.
No, not all sin is equal in God's eyes
This is a cop-out. This premise suggests that God is not perfect and that you don't have to worry about your sin because it's all the same to God. Instead, God clearly states again and again that He will judge you accordingly.
“Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall.
1 Kings 8:39
then hear from heaven, your dwelling place. Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart),
The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what they had done.
If all sin was equal in God's eyes, then God would surely pass down the same judgement to all people, regardless of their iniquity. But as it is said, God will judge the people according to what they had done.
@Richard, Yes a single sin makes you unrighteous and a single sin will submit you to the subjection of God's judgement, but that does not mean that all sin is equal.
I see positions supporting both yes and no but there is a third option to all situations: it doesn't matter. The Bible does not specifically say sin is by degrees nor does it say sin is not by degrees. You cannot build a doctrine on what may be isolated texts taken out of context in either direction. I do see in the scripture where there is an unforgivable sin but that is not all that important to this discussion.
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Joh 1:29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.
The vast majority of sin has the same outcome for the believer death. It doesn't really matter if certain sins cause you to die faster because regardless of how little or how much it still displeases God. Even the smallest sin would have sent Christ to the cross.
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
2Co 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.
In Christ all sins are forgiven and to maximize, minimize or equalize sin is to distract from the Saviour of sin who washes us clean by his precious Blood when we accept the salvation He offers in faith. To give into any sin regardless of whether you think it is equal or not is treason and will result in your eventual death when you will promptly go to heaven and be rewarded and corrected.
Many scriptures were quoted, but the levels of sin has not been explained. I will not add scriptures, just name the levels. As you go up in levels it gets more difficult to break with it and the small ones lead you into the trap of the bigger ones.
I will start at small
Sin- Missing the mark, whether it is not doing what God wanted you to do or will full sinning, you missed what was God's plan for you. Sin as missing the mark is the foundation of all sin and present in all sin.
Trespassing. Being where we are not supposed to be. Whether we do something wrong or not, when we are where we are not supposed to be we expose our self to temptation, we witness wrong stuff and we still sin because we are where God doesn't want us to be. When we sin we are not always trespassing, but when we trespass we always sin. To do any of the higher levels of sin, we have to trespass because we have to be where we can do these sins.
Transgression. Whenever we do what is clearly wrong, against the Word of God. Transgression shows our rebellion against God, what we do is clearly against His will but we do it anyway
Iniquity. Worshiping an idol. Be it sexual sin, lying, stealing, love of money/power, drug /alcohol abuse, any sin that traps me so that i cant escape. I have seen numerous times how people seek God until you tell them their idol is sin, leave that behind too. That is when people gets rude and upset. Rather lead them to find it themselves and decide for themselves to break with it.
Blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Sorry, you are lost, no help.
Is it a misconception and misunderstanding that "all sins are equal". Of course there are different levels of sin!
"All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death" 1 John 5:17
Not all sin leads to death. Not all sins are forgivable either (see the unforgivable sin)
Some sin is sin of Omission (as opposed to commission)
"If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them." James 4:17
-- Sin is deviating from what God would do. It is not just violating a law or a rule. It is the state of not being one with the spirit.
Well, from a human perspective yes. Because the consequences of some sin actions affect more than the one person. And it's quite easy to make a judgement on which sin is worse.
But from an eternal perspective it doesn't actually matter.
"For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God." Rom 3:23
"The wages of sin is death ..." Rom 6:23
Ultimately, it doesn't really matter which sin is worse than another. What matters more is "what are you doing about Jesus?"
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
If you haven't believed in his salvation then you won't care if you were a good person when you were alive on the earth 1000 years from now, not with God in heaven but burning in hell. It's true, but it's not good news.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God Eph 2:8
The good news is that we are saved by grace through faith. In other words, believe on Jesus and confess it. It's available to all who would do just that.
From my understanding, there are no degrees of sin according to God. Romans 3:23 states "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." While there is the "unforgivable sin" which is blaspheming the Holy Spirit, that is out right refusing that God exists and saying He cannot save you. Therefore, yes one would probably suffer in Hell (I say probably because I am not God and cannot pass judgement on anyone). God judges us according to our sin, however as a Christian we are taught that everyone is made new in Christ. Therefore, when we stand before, yes we are guilty of sin, but God makes us new, and therefore sinless in our new lives. From what I have understood, with my flawed broken human knowledge, it is that not all sin leads to death because those who believe in Christ and accept Him as their Savior, will not die, but live again. Yes everyone dies. But it is whether our spirits live with Christ in Heaven or burn in Hell that is the difference between life and death. I noticed though some pointing to the verses about not pointing out a speck in the eye of your brother before removing the plank in your own. That is not referring to the degree of sin you committed, but rather saying who are you to judge the sin your brother has committed when you sin as well. We cannot judge each others sins, we are not righteous to be able to call someone out and say "hey you're sinning." But that is just my understanding. One thing I do caution against is that it is very easy for us as human beings with limited knowledge to shape what the Bible says to go along with what we want to believe. While God may or may not have different degrees of sin, all sin separates us from God. I will use just one hypothetical example. Murder, in society, is considered unforgivable. And it is a sin. We are not to kill another human being. Rape, while still considered a very horrible thing to do, is not given the same weight in punishment in society as murder, particularly if the victim was "asking for it" or considered someone who is already quite sexually active. But rape kills a person inside. It makes them question their value, not only to themselves but to society as well. And when society puts different degrees of punishment on rape cases, particularly judging on whether or not the person "asked for it," the victim feels like less of a human being. But in God's eyes, a sin is a sin is a sin. Every sin we commit makes God sad, as He longs for us to turn to Him and know Him. We will all have to answer for every sin we have ever committed. Whether it be lying, stealing, cheating, adultery, idolatry, or whatever sin we have committed. The difference is whether or not we have asked for forgiveness for our transgressions and are truly repentant for what we have done.