Sin is Sin?
Sin is Sin?
Over the centuries there have been different views concerning sin from whether or not such even exists and what exactly fits into the sin category. The first question is are all sins the same, is one sin just as bad as another, or are there greater and lesser sins?
On the One Hand “Yes”
One sin is just like another in the sense that any sin, if engaged in will separate one from God.
- “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery’, also said, ‘Do not commit murder’” (James 2:10-11). The world might want to place great distances between anger or lust from murder and adultery, but Jesus brought them uncomfortably close together (Matthew 5:28).
- In the various “sin lists” mentioned in the Bible it is interesting what behaviors or attitudes God placed in the same list. For example, in Romans 1:29-32 the Holy Spirit placed the sins of greed, strife, gossip, and disobedience to parents on the same list as murder.
- In 1 Peter 4:15 the Holy Spirit put the sins of murder and being a troublesome meddler on the same list.
- The Holy Spirit in 1 Timothy 1:9-10 has liars placed on the same list with those who murder their parents. In Revelation 21:8 both liars and cowards end up in the same place as sorcerers and idol worshippers.
- In Acts chapter 5 Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead for telling what many people today would call a “little while lie”.
- Yes, in the sense that each and every sin is a violation, rejection or ignoring of God’s law (1 John 3:4), all sins are the same.
On the Other Hand “No”
No in the sense that all sins do not have the same earthly consequences. Some sins can bring life imprisonment, the death penalty or result in a quick end to your marriage. On this point I remember a statement in the Proverbs that warns about one of the many consequences of adultery, and one of those consequences is “Wounds and disgrace he will find, and his reproach will not be blotted out” (Proverbs 6:33). The warning seems to be that while people can be very forgiving, this is one of those things that society or the community may never forget. It may just follow you around for the rest of your life.
There are many times in the Bible where a person sinned and they were given time to repent, like King David. There are other times that people sinned and they immediately lost their lives (Leviticus 10:1-2; 2 Samuel 6). No having the time to repent is not always a guarantee.
Sins of Ignorance
“And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few” (Luke 12:47-48).
In the Old Testament we find a similar principle, that is, sins committed in ignorance in contrast with sinning defiantly (Numbers 15:27-31). Yet, even when it came to sins of ignorance, the text assumes that such sins will come to light and they needed to be forsaken and the appropriate sacrifice offered. Thus, in Luke 12, the person who did not know the master’s will is still beaten.
The Consistent Nature of God
- “Do I have any pleasure in the death of the wicked’, declares the Lord God ‘rather than that he should turn from his ways and live?’” (Ezekiel 18:23).
- “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
- “Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).
- “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
From these passages and others I learn that God is not in the business of trying to keep people in the dark or preventing them from being saved. God’s wish or desire is that everyone would end up in heaven. It would not make any sense for God to allow Jesus to suffer and die on the cross for us, to go through such agony, and then to purposely limit salvation to only those who are smart, clever, or lucky enough to decipher all the clues. From the book of Romans, the Holy Spirit emphatically makes the point that God purposefully placed salvation on a basis that all men can reach with the blood of Christ (Romans 4:16). Salvation was not based on race, and neither was it based on geography, the time in which you lived or the technology available.
Better Not to Have Known
Yet the person who knows better is without excuse and God often comes down very hard on the person who knows better and yet continues to sin (beaten with many lashes).
“For if, after they have escaped from the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment handed on to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, ‘A dog turns to its own vomit’, and ‘a sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire’” (2 Peter 2:20-22).
The Christian who continues to live in sin is actually worse off than someone who has never heard the gospel. Probably worse off in the sense:
- They are deliberately sinning against the light, they know better.
- They accepted Jesus’ offer of salvation, they know He died for them, and in order to keep on sinning, they must have the attitude that said centuries ago, “crucify Him” (Hebrews 10:29).
- They are doing a lot of harm to the cause of Christ, because their life says that Christianity doesn’t work.
- In order to come to God for mercy and then turn around and spurn that mercy; that requires a very hard heart.
Levels of Depravity
I think of Ahab and Jezebel on this point. When Naboth rejected Ahab’s offer to buy his vineyard, Ahab was not happy and he went home and pouted (1 Kings 21:4). By contrast, Jezebel is not about to take no for an answer and proceeds to have Naboth falsely accused and murdered. When Ahab is confronted, he humbles himself (1 Kings 21:27,29). At this point, even Ahab has something in him that can still be touched by God’s word. This is something that we never find recorded concerning Jezebel. Even when Elijah calls down fire from heaven and judgment falls upon many of her false prophets, and her husband is an eyewitness of such events, she remains defiant (1 Kings 19:1ff).
- The Bible does picture all of us as sinners (Romans 3:23), yet it also pictures some sinners farther down the broad road than others. For example, “Do you see a man wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12; 29:20).
- So I need to be honest. If I am dabbling in sin, I need to understand the reality of the situation. There are people who are not content to merely mess up their own relationship with God, they are determined to destroy others as well (Romans 1:32; 1 Kings 21:25). It has often been my personal observation that those who dabble in sin are often schooled by the “professionals”. So stay as close to God as possible, because the world outside of Christ is filled with people who have no conscience (2 Peter 2:3).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017