Some sins are worse than others

Every sin is worthy of the infinite wrath of God. The appropriate, rightly deserved consequence of all sin (and every sin) is God’s judgment and condemnation (Rom. 6:23). Every sin is worthy of God’s wrath because every sin is an affront to the glory of God and fails to achieve the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). All sins have the same wrath-incurring end.

But those statements do not mean that all sins are equal in nature. They are not. Some sins really are worse than others. Consider how the Bible speaks of greater and lesser sins.

Some sins were more offensive to God because they attributed the work of Christ to Satan (Mt. 12:31-32). This was the so-called unpardonable sin. It was unpardonable because it demonstrated a hardened heart to the proclamation of Christ as Messiah. And in rejecting the Spirit’s testimony to the authenticity of Jesus as Messiah through His observed and heard works and words, these individuals placed themselves under the irrevocable wrath of God. And while this sin was particular only to those who physically observed Jesus during His earthly ministry, it is an evidence of a kind of sin that is judged more harshly than others. Those who considered Jesus to be from Satan were judged with a more severe standard.

Some sins are more offensive to God because they deserve excommunication from the church (Mt. 18:15-18; 1 Cor. 5:1-5). There is a kind of sin that leads to expulsion from the fellowship of believers, a kind of sin that denotes one has not repented and is not a follower of Christ so they cannot be considered as members of Christ’s body.

Conversely, there are some sins that are not as offensive to God because they do not deserve excommunication from the church body. While every believer is redeemed from sin and no longer has to sin (Rom. 6:5-14), every believer still sins. Yet those sins do not lead to excommunication from the church body because they are accompanied with an attitude of repentance (e.g., 2 Cor. 7:11) that is expressed in a humble confession and a desire to be obedient to Christ even though obedience is imperfect.  That some sins are worthy of expulsion from the church and others are not indicates a distinction between kinds of sin.

Some sins are more offensive to God because they are done in rebellion against the known will of God (Rom. 1:28; 5:14) and some sins are less offensive because they are done in ignorance (Mt. 10:15; 13:13; 1 Tim. 1:13). While sins done in ignorance of the revealed moral will of God are still sins, they are not acts of rebellion. But sins that are committed when God’s revealed will is known (like Adam, who heard God speak His will about the tree of the knowledge of God and evil, Gen. 2:16-17) are willful and intentional acts against the sovereign will of God and by definition are mutinous and rebellious. And that makes them worse than sins committed without knowing God’s specific will about that sin.

Some sins are more offensive to God because they remain perpetual, malicious, willful, and unconfessed (1 Jn. 5:16-17). And those kinds of sins lead to hardening of heart and conscience (e.g., 1 Tim. 4:1-2) and physical death as a manifestation of God’s judgment. Not every sin hardens and not every sin leads to death, but there is a kind of sin that does lead to death, meaning that some sins are considered by God to be worse than others.

And finally, some sins are more offensive to God because they lead to greater punishment in eternity. While all unrepentant sinners will be in Hell, there are degrees of punishment in Hell. Jesus teaches in Luke 12:42-48 that those who know the will of the Master will face a greater condemnation (more lashes) than those who did not know the Master’s will when they sinned. There is not only a difference between those who unknowingly do wrong and those who sin rebelliously, but there is a difference in the judgment they each will receive.

Similarly, Hebrews 10:29 says there is worse punishment for those who knowingly reject Christ as the Son of God than those who do not knowingly reject Him (cf. also Mt. 23:15; Acts 1:25). That is not to say that Hell will be tolerable in any way; it won’t. But it does mean that just as there are greater and lesser degrees of reward for the righteous in Heaven, so there are greater and lesser degrees of wrath for the unrighteous and unrepentant in Hell.

And these truths about sin and judgment lead to at least two conclusions. First, every sin must be repudiated, confessed, and repented. There is never a good end for sin. While God redeems sin, there is never anything inherently good or beneficial in any sin. The sooner one (believer or unbeliever) repents of his sin, the better and more hopeful his life will be. And second, God is righteous. That God meets out His justice according to the severity of sin against Him demonstrates that there really is nothing unfair about Him (Rom. 3:5-6). His righteousness is revealed even in His wrath. And that makes Him worth our worship both now and in eternity.

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