Are there different hierarchies of Sin? Some tell me that the Bible states a sin is a sin, that there’s no ‘big’ sin or ‘small’ sin. Therefore can we say Hitler sinned as badly as the drug-addled man who stole a Snickers Bar at the corner store? Or rather there are different kinds and import of different sins? What does the Bible say on this issue?
Hello, Priscilla (@mutts ). There was another thread on this that I think would have been helpful for you, but I am having trouble finding it. So, this question actually has a couple of different facets. All sin, great or small, is the same in respect to how it affects our standing with God and our need for salvation, because God’s standard is perfection (“for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)). However, in respect to the effects it has on others and/or self, in the Bible there is clearly a hierarchy. Sexual sin in the Bible seem to be treated as worse than others, probably because of the effects they have, both seen and unseen, on both the culprit and others. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:18: “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body” (New King James Version). Also, notice, in the epistles, Paul did not prescribe booting out every Christian out of the churches to which he wrote. However, in the case of a man sleeping with his stepmother, Paul prescribed casting him out.
We should take care, however, to not use the fact that the Bible sees some sin as worse than others to measure and compare ourselves to others. A sexual sin cannot put us any further from God than a lie before salvation. As sinners, we are all deserving of God’s wrath, regardless of the measure of sin in our lives. God is perfectly holy, and regardless of what sin we have, we are not, and so none can approach God except through the perfect sacrifice and priesthood of Jesus Christ.
I’ll try locating the other thread to post it here, but in the meantime, let me know your thoughts
Just found that thread! Here you go: Is all sin the same? Are all sins equal before God?
Hi Priscilla! How are you?
I know where this question is coming from. We are always told in church that all sins are equal in God’s eyes but we kind of feel injustice, how come a lustful thought is equal to rape?! How come a childish lie is equal to fraud and deception?! The example you mentioned as well. Let’s make few distinctions that would help us in dealing with the question.
1-The actual Sin humans fell in, not adultery, not murder, but living independent from God. We decided that we are fit enough to be OUR moral law givers and that we could do away with God. Following this enmity, Man’s relationship with himself and others were distorted. Not as a punishment but as natural consequence of walking away from the author of life. Every light, every beauty, every goodness dwells in His very essence. And away from Him, all of those things starts to fade away.
2-Belivers still make mistakes. Though we are saved and have accepted the work of salvation of Christ, we can still fall sometimes. But it’s different than “living” in sin. We are called to holiness so, it’s a continuous challenge.
3-There is a difference between the wrongdoing itself and its consequences. Maybe I could do something that goes unnoticed, and maybe someone else does the same thing but it ends catastrophically. That’s why we feel that some bad deeds could be ‘not so bad’.
4-The effect of sin goes beyond what we see on the news. Notice how the small acts of selfishness could lead to dysfunctional families and socities. How an inconsiderate word met with laughter could shake the other person’s being in solitude.
God sees the human timeline horizontally and He sees the human heart and what lies deep vertically. So if that’s the way He regards the dynamics of life, it must be so.
But I also realize that the question is concerned about justice.
*Everyone will be judged He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
*Each will be rewarded differently for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead…
1 Corinthians 15:41-42
Hello Priscilla, I hope that you are doing well today. This is a great question and thank you for asking it. The Bible has many statements about sin and each time it mentions sin as sin. All sin is detestable to the Lord, but His grace in forgiving us is unfathomable.
The first verses I would go to are Romans 3:21-24 which state, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
We are told in these verses that there is no difference among us, for we all have sinned. We are all unworthy of heaven and deserving of death for our sin. But we are told also in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” No matter what we have done, we have all earned the same punishment. Eternal death is the sentence for sin, but God is forgiving as we are told in 1 John 1:8-10, " If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us."
In none of these verses are we told that we are unforgivable, or that we have sinned more than another, or that we have earned a greater punishment. Sin is sin and the punishment for sin is eternal death and separation from God. Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice for us so that we may have a chance to escape this eternal punishment, but if we refuse that saving grace, then there is only one other option, and that is the payment for our sins against a holy God.
A couple more passages that talk about sin are Romans 5:19-21, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The laws that we have today put qualifiers on what we do wrong and the punishments for those wrongdoings are prorated to fit the crimes. If we steal we may go to jail for a little while, if we murder we will go to prison for life, but the law of man is not reflective of the grace of God. God does not put one sin above another, but rather where our sin abounded His grace was much more than our sin, and His forgiveness is available to us.
Hopefully this helps and if you have any more questions please ask them. I hope that God will grant you wisdom and discernment as you seek to know Him better. God bless you and thank you.
Hi, Sara. Great answers!
I do, however, have to push back on your use of the Scriptures given, which are pulled out of context and do not mean what they are presented to mean in your post.
The second Scripture you gave has nothing to do with judgment and works but is an analogy Paul is using to teach the Corinthians about the different types of bodies that have been created and how the resurrection will be. Some among the Corinthian believers were denying a resurrection and still some were asking questions in mockery of the teaching of the resurrection.
This is a verse about God’s judgement as applied to those who are in Christ and continue in Christ, growing in holiness through the process of sanctification, and those who are moralists and are solely depending on their judgment of themselves and other people and yet are judging and condemning others for the very things they themselves are doing. Paul is making a point that the first group, because they recognize all fall short and fall under God’s judgment and entrust themselves to Christ and walk that out, will be spared God’s wrath; the second group, thinking themselves the righteous judges, hypocritically point to a standard for judgment outside themselves–a judgment under which they fall while they attempt to pass judgment on and condemn others. There are other verses that point to those who are saved getting rewards for good works, but those who are saved do not get according to their works as far as sin goes, but they get according to Christ’s work. So this passage doesn’t have to do with a hierarchy of sin.
Hi, @mmingus36, you make a great case for our status and position before God as sinners being the same (which I stated in my own response). However, the verse I gave in the Bible in regard to sexual immorality and the incident with Paul do seem to make more of some sins in regard to what they effect and the consequences that come from them–although not in regard to our position before God. Before we are in Christ, we are all under the same judgment and wrath, and after we are in Christ, God’s grace is indeed the same, but that doesn’t mean the sins themselves are treated equally, not only in our human-governed law but also in the Bible. There are various examples from the Bible that show that God deals with different sins with more or less severity. How would you explain or speak to that?
Oh @psalm151ls There are tons of other verses on the matter. I chose this one as it’s a bit poetic and can be used as a metaphor. I am sorry if it has been misleading by any means.
No apologies necessary :). It’s a beautiful metaphor! I was just pointing out that it doesn’t speak to works or judgment. It is incredibly important to use lines of Scripture in a way that is consistent with their context, because otherwise we can make it say anything we want it to.
Can you give me some of the Scripture verses you are talking about, though, so that I can better get a grasp on what you are presenting in regard to works and judgment?
@psalm151ls, I think the first one fits fine with where I was going especially after you elaborated it more. Why do you think otherwise? I think even believers will be judged (not punished) too.
Well, lets start with this so that I can get a better understanding of how you are understanding the passage, because I don’t feel I can respond without seeing how you are understanding it first (I want to check my own understanding of what you are thinking and saying since the misunderstanding might be mine): If you had to mark off the frame of context in the chapter’s text for your mentioned verses, with which verse do you see would that begin and with which one would it end?
Yes, you’re right. As far as salvation goes, believers will be judged in Christ (they are the righteousness of Christ and are therefore spared the wrath that would otherwise come from such judgment). Believers’ works will be judged, though, and they will be given rewards accordingly, but those works which are done for vain or selfish motives will be burned up.
Thanks for clarifying
Oh it doesn’t. I had to read it again. I moved from saying that all sin are one in origin, that’s why they are essentially equal. Then I ended with that we will be equally judged. If I, a believer in christ, commit sin, it’s not less sinful in God’s eyes than when a non-believer does. I know I am stating the obvious, but sometimes we develop a sense of phariseesian aura, not due to works but due to faith.
Yes, and guess what I did? When you said the first one still fits, I was thinking the resurrection verse you gave, the one with the metaphor, haha. I was so confused. I think I need a second cup of coffee; I was up too late with the baby last night, ha.
Anyways, yes, yes, now that you explain how you were thinking with using the first verse, it does go with it in that sense. Sorry for the misunderstanding and confusion. So just disregard my previous post asking for verses framing the context. I was thinking I was misunderstanding something and trying to find what.
I like that exercise. I will do it when I can so we can have a better scriptural standpoint on judgement.
Thrilled to engage in such a topic with you Lindsay. I am sure I will learn a lot from you.
You don’t need to do that, at least not for my understanding . I understand my confusion now. I was looking at the other verse you gave, but in general, it will really open windows for you if you do that exercise with each verse or passage you seek to understand. It’s very helpful!
I enjoyed engaging on this with you, too, Sara. It’s always interesting and beneficial to see what comes out of our conversations and questions!
Here in Connect, I have been asking several separate questions. They might not be connected. So when you wrote you knew where I was coming from after my query about “Sin”, I dont think it is appropriate to ‘connect the dots’ when in actual fact those dots have been sadly misplaced. I did feel misjudged and pre-sumed. However you tried to present and answer with an inaccurately placed presumption. We all learn, dont we?
I am sorry you felt this way. The only presumption I make with anyone on Connect is that they are worthy of love and respect. This is an online forum I don’t know you enough to presume something about you. There’s only one dot actually and it is the question you pose! However, it’s actually healthy to try and phrase the assumptions lying behind statements and arguments. If you watch debates, sometimes the moderators asks the oponents to do that exercise. In addition to the fact that I said I knew “where the question came from”, twice not where you came from.
In the end, this is a two way discussion. We don’t chastise people for getting us wrong, we rephrase and discuss it
I believe Connect is a platform where we can extend understanding, acceptance and respect while trying to make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification, as Paul puts it.
Your sister in Christ,
Really liked the way you stated this. Definitely agree!
I agree that sin is actually living independently from God.