Are all sins the same before God?

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There is a legal guilt that puts every sinner in the same standing with God as one condemned. As sinners by nature and by choice, we are all under the same condemnation. Thus, there is a sense in which every sin has the same ultimate judgment: condemnation.

But there are enough passages to prove that not all sins are equal before God. Our first hint is the Mosaic law, where some sins are punishable by death and other sins only require cleansing. Some sins are described as being unintentional and others are high-handed, and the high-handed ones merit a more serious punishment. This is compelling, but the clearer evidence comes straight from the mouth of Christ.

In Luke 12:47-48 there are differing degrees of punishment. For the “servant who knew his master’s will but did not get ready or act according to his will” there will be a “severe beating.” On the other hand, “the one who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, will receive a light beating.” In other words, though the deed be the same, the punishment is more serious for the one who had more knowledge. Those who know more will be judged more strictly, which is exactly the point James makes about teachers: “Those who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1).

Matthew 11:20-24 describes the fate of Chorazin and Bethsaida, cities that rejected the message of Christ. In verse 24, Jesus says, “But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” In other words, the sin of Chorazin and Bethsaida was worse than the sin of Sodom because the former were privileged to witness “mighty works” (v. 21), whereas Sodom had no such opportunity.

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Matt. 23:15 describes Pharisees who travel across land and sea to make a single proselyte. His evaluation is that when they do that “they make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.” The only clear understanding of this statement is that the Pharisee’s proselytes are more an offense to God than themselves. Their sin is worse.

 

But, after saying this, we must understand that there are not degrees of separation from God. All sin makes us equally damnable, equally condemned, equally separated, and equally in need of salvation. There are none who are “closer to God” in their natural, unregenerate state. All have sinned; all need salvation.

So we must say in short, the answer is no. Not all sins are equal before God.  All sin, big and small, separates us from God and earns our eternal condemnation. And yet all sin, big and small, is forgivable faith in Christ’s finished work on the cross. There is no sin so small that it doesn’t earn us hell; there is no sin so big that it can’t be forgiven.

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