Are All Sins Equal before God?

are-all-sins-equal-before-God

It is commonly said: “All sin is equal to God; no particular sin is worse than another.” But is this actually true? Does God view murder the same way as gluttony? Let’s look at if are all sins the same to God.

No. All sins are not equal before God.

Before outlining why this is, it is helpful to clarify what many well-meaning believers are trying to communicate by this statement.

  1. Committing any sin, regardless of what it is, makes one a lawbreaker and leads to eternal separation from God. James says,

“Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘You shall not murder.’ If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker” (James 2:10-11).[1]

  • All sin can be forgiven because of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. Jesus did not simply pay for “minor” sins. He paid for all our sin. Because of this, salvation is freely available to all who believe, regardless of what they have done. The only sin which cannot be forgiven is persistent unbelief.

“The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).

“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13; Joel 2:32).

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36).

  • Since we are all lawbreakers who deserve eternal punishment and are saved exclusively through faith, there is no room for boasting. It is not beneficial to rank sins or seek to determine who is the best or the worst in the sight of God.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

How do we know all sins are not the same before God?

Although much more can be said, here are three of the key ways we see this in Scripture.

  1. Jesus explicitly referred to one sin as being “greater” than another. This alone should cause us to refrain from saying that God sees all sin as equal. Here is what Jesus said when He was on trial before Pontus Pilate:

“The one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin” (John 19:11)

  • God does not punish all sin with equal severity. We see this in both the system of justice that God gave to the nation of Israel and in His warnings concerning eternal punishment.
  1. God instructed Israel to punish some sins more severely than others. If God wanted us to see all sins as equal, why didn’t He instruct Israel to punish all sins equally? Instead, God outlined a system of justice where the severity of the punishment matched the severity of the crime.

“If there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21:23-24).

“If the guilty person deserves to be beaten, the judge shall make them lie down and have them flogged in his presence with the number of lashes the crime deserves” (Deuteronomy 25:2).

  • Scripture teaches that God will eternally punish sin in varying degrees. God even speaks of the same sinful act being punished differently based upon one’s knowledge and intentionality.

“But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:22-24).

“The servant who knows the master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what the master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:47-48).

“How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29).

  • The consequences of various sins are not equal. Now, all sin wreaks havoc. It destroys us and those around us. But some sins cause more harm than others. For example, killing someone results in far greater harm than insulting them. Having an affair is more damaging to a marriage than entertaining a lustful thought. Though no sin should be taken lightly (Matthew 5:21-30), some sins cause more pain and destruction than others. And since God deeply cares about the people and relationships damaged by sin, He cares about these consequences.

In light of these considerations, it is best for Christians to refrain from saying that all sin is the same and equal before God. The Bible is clear that this is not the case. Even Jesus Himself spoke of one sin as being greater than another. Therefore, instead of using this statement, believers will benefit by more accurately articulating what they mean: all sin leads to eternal separation from God; all sin can be forgiven by trusting in what Jesus did on the cross; and since we receive this salvation by faith and not by our own works, all boasting is excluded except it be in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Go Deeper


[1] All quotations of Scripture are taken from the NIV.

2 Comments

  1. Thomas Callahan on June 12, 2021 at 9:41 am

    A very well said explanation regarding the differences in sin. But…. in the end, how can we harmonize that which we know is coming i.e. the Lake of Fire? Some think there are degrees of punishment in Hell (and maybe so), but since Hell is not the final abode, why would anyone think there would be varying degrees of punishment in the Lake of Fire? I would appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks.

    • Jeff on June 14, 2021 at 3:26 pm

      Hi, thanks for taking the time to send us your question. This is a heavy topic. I don’t want to make light of it as I also try to answer it succinctly.

      It may be helpful to distinguish between the two places described in Scripture where unbelievers will dwell after they die.

      The first is Sheol (Hebrew)/ Hades (Greek). Both terms refer to the same place, just in different languages. This is the place of the dead. It is a disembodied holding place for the souls of the dead until their bodies are resurrected and stand before God’s great white throne in judgment. What is confusing is that a number of English translations will translate Hades as “hell.”

      The second is Gehenna (the Greek term). It is the term that describes “hell” as we most commonly think of it. It is where unbelievers will spend eternity after judgment. It is often depicted as the “lake of fire” in Revelation. Unlike Sheol/Hades, unbelievers will remain in Gehenna eternally.

      Here is how one theological dictionary defines Gehenna:
      Gehenna (“hell”), the place of post-resurrection torment (judgment), refers strictly to the everlasting abode of the unredeemed where they experience divine judgment in their individual resurrection-bodies. Each of the unredeemed receives one at the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev 20:11-15), i.e. a body that “matches” their capacity for torment relating to their (unique) judgment.

      We don’t always think of unbelievers receiving resurrected bodies as well. Here is a passage from the Bible which speaks of this:

      Acts 24:15
      “There shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.”

      Let me summarize this in a simple timeline:
      Death -> Hades -> Resurrection -> Judgment -> Gehenna

      The severity of one’s punishment in Gehenna (hell) will be based upon “what they have done” in this life. Thus, it will vary from person to person. It is in Gehenna (the place where unbelievers are sent after judgment) that one will receive their just punishment.

      Revelation 20:11-15
      The Judgment of the Dead
      11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. The earth and the heavens fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. 13 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. 14 Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. 15 Anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

      I hope that can add some clarity.

      Blessings,
      Jeff

Leave a Comment





MOST POPULAR
RECENT ARTICLES