Busted Myth #3: Sin is Sin or All Sins Are Equal

All sins are not equal.  Although saying all sins are equal is often espoused as a means of humility it is not the proper avenue.  In an effort to destroy legalism someone might tout that their little white lie is just as heinous as murder.  As this is untrue so also it is a false means to true humility.

All sin, any sin brings death, but as we examine the law we discover that not all sins meet the same temporal punishment.  While some crimes call for restitution, others call for death.  But this is not the ultimate text upon which I rest my case.  To me, the strongest proof that there are degrees of sin is Christ’s reply to Pilate, “Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11).

One thing we see in scripture is increased obligation according to revelation or responsibility.  For instance abuse of gospel revelation incurs greater judgment now than prior to the Christ’s first coming.

Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.  For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? … – Hebrews 2:1-3

Again exposure to the gospel puts men under greater responsibility.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.  For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God.  But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.  – Hebrews 6:4-8

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.  Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.  How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  – Hebrews 10:26-31

Also those who wish to be teachers will be held to a higher standard.

Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.  – James 3:1

Still I agree with Ralph Venning that:

…as God is holy, all holy, only holy, altogether holy, and always holy, so sin is sinful, all sinful, only sinful, altogether sinful, and always sinful (Genesis 6.5). In my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing (Romans 7.18). As in God there is no evil, so in sin there is no good. God is the chiefest of goods and sin is the chiefest of evils. As no good can be compared with God for goodness, so no evil can be compared with sin for evil.

And Jonathan Edwards that:

That the evil and demerit of sin is infinitely great, is most demonstrably evident, because what the evil or iniquity of sin consists in, is the violating of an obligation, or doing what we should not do. Therefore by how much the greater the obligation is that is violated, by so much the greater is the iniquity of the violation. But certainly our obligation to love or honor any being is great in proportion to the greatness or excellency of that being, or his worthiness to be loved and honored. We are under greater obligations to love a more lovely being than a less lovely. If a being be infinitely excellent and lovely, our obligations to love him are therein infinitely great. The matter is so plain, it seems needless to say much about it.

So the magnitude of sin is to be measured by the majesty of the deity offended.  My sins are bigger than the cosmos.  They are the shirking of my greatest obligation, to love God with all.  So how can sin be infinite and yet there still be degrees of sin.   Edwards helps us here also:

Another objection (that perhaps may be thought hardly worth mentioning) is, that to suppose sin to be infinitely heinous, is to make all sins equally heinous: for how can any sin be more than infinitely heinous? But all that can be argued hence is, that no sin can be greater with respect to that aggravation, the worthiness of the object against whom it is committed. One sin cannot be more aggravated than another in that respect, because the aggravation of every sin is infinite, but that does not hinder that some sins may be more heinous than others in other respects: as if we should suppose a cylinder infinitely long, cannot be greater in that respect, viz. with respect to the length of it. But yet it may be doubled and trebled, and make a thousand-fold more, by the increase of other dimensions. Of sins that are all infinitely heinous, some may be more heinous than others…

So in one respect all sins are infinitely heinous, yet in another respect there can be a difference of degree.  Consider that the two lines below go on infinitely.  They are both infinite, yet one is muted and the other bold.  What one sin whispers, another can shout.

So what does this teach us about the pursuit of true humility?  It is not to come by comparing ourselves with men, even if it is to say all our sins are equal.  No, true humility comes by seeing ourselves in light of God’s majesty (1 Peter 5:6, James 4:10).  In the light of His glory only do we realize the infinite magnitude of our sin.  We will love much, not when we see ourselves equal with our fellow man, but forgiven much by a holy God (Luke 7:47).

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