Saturday, October 16, 2010

Does God Really View All Sins the Same? by Gail Purath

We were shocked--a rapist had been attending our small in-home Bible study!

We were living in Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas (where the military prison is located), and “Bob” was out of prison appealing a rape charge. He had successfully convinced several local Christian leaders of his innocence. However, during his appeal, Bob was rearrested for raping a local woman, clearly guilty.

When our Bible study met after his arrest, we expressed shock and confusion regarding the behavior of this man who had sat in our midst one week earlier. One woman in our group made a statement commonly heard among Christians who are trying to be fair and forgiving: “Well, I know he sinned, but when I gossip I am no different. God sees all sins the same.”

Is this true? Are all sins equal in God's eyes?

There are two ways God sees all sins the same:

1. Any sin, no matter how small, keeps us from heaven if we don’t trust Jesus.
2. Any sin, no matter how great, is forgiven by God when we repent and believe.
But that is where the equality of sins ends.

There are four ways God sees sins differently:
1. Motives
The Old Testament (Numbers 15:22-31) and New Testament (Luke 12:47-48) treat unintentional sins more leniently than deliberate acts of rebellion.

2. Knowledge and opportunity
Sins are also judged according to our knowledge and opportunity (Luke 12:48). God expects more from an adult than a child and more from a person raised in the nurture of the Lord than a person newly introduced to Christ. In John 19:11 Jesus said Judas (who had the advantage of living with Jesus) and the religious leaders (who had the advantage of Scripture) were “guilty of a greater sin” than Pilate who had neither advantage. 

3. Position and influence
People in positions of spiritual influence and leadership are "judged more strictly" (James 3:1; Mark 12:40) and their eternal punishment can be more severe (2 Peter 2:17; Jude 13).

4. Type of sin
God also considers the type of sin. In the Old Testament, some sins required restitution (Exodus 22:1) and others the death penalty (Exodus 21:12). God punished sins like human sacrifice and sexual sins more severely because they had more serious consequences on the individual and community (Leviticus 18:24-30). Sexual sins, sins against children, and blasphemy against the Spirit are emphasized as more serious in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 6:18; Matthew 18:6-7; Matthew 12:31), and Jesus tells us that obedience is more important in some areas than in others (Matthew 23:23).

Any sin--great or small--condemns us if we don't trust Christ.  Any sin--great or small--is forgiven when we trust in Christ.  But God judges sins differently--according to their severity, influence, and intentions--and so should we.

Gail is pictured in Budapest where she and her husband served as missionaries from 2004-2009.

Gail now writes a devotional site called Bible Love Notes featuring a 1-minute devotion each weekday. Check it out and sign up for a free subscription HERE.


  1. Excellent explanation!

  2. I see what you're saying here! :) However, I think there is a big difference between "seeing sins differently" and "judging sins differently." The Judge gives the outcome based on the sin, and while he sees all sins in their individual circumstances (complete with motives, opportunity, position, and type), he still judges them the same way: death or life. He sees the extenuating circumstances, but in the end sin is still sin, and if it's not been repented of, it's all treated the same way.
    Please respond if you know of any scripture that states differently! I know I'd like to learn more about this. :)

  3. I may not fully understand your question, but let me do my best to answer:

    The seriousness of sin matters because of the consequences:
    Repentance restores our relationship with God, but, in most cases, it doesn’t prevent the consequences of sin. (e.g. King David fully repented but that didn’t change the judgments pronounced by God through Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:10-12.) See also Psalm 99:8.

    The seriousness of sin matters because it will affect our rewards and judgments as Christians: 1 Corinthians 3:12-15; 4:5; 2 Corinthians 5:10 and 2 Timothy 4:6-8.

    The seriousness of sin matters because it affects whole cultures:
    Romans 1:18-32 explains that some sins result from God giving people over to increasing depravity, and these sins are more damaging to individuals and societies than other sins.

    When we say/think “God views all sins the same”:
    1. we downplay serious sins and may encourage some people to keep committing them (i.e. if stealing from my employer is no different to God than thinking bad thoughts about my employer, why not steal?)
    2. we downplay our role in warning people of sins that will greatly damage their lives (i.e. homosexuality has more serious consequences than gossip, and we should have a greater concern for the homosexual because of this...a greater desire to lovingly warn him/her.)
    3. we're misrepresenting what God says in His Word. God never says that He views all sins the same...He says the opposite.

    Thank you for your question and the kind way in which you ask it. I hope this helps. If not, please let me know.
    Thanks, Gail

  4. I agree with the gist of the article, but am not convinced about what you said in the comments above!

    You said that people might think, "if stealing from my employer is no different to God than thinking bad thoughts about my employer, why not steal?" If someone thinks that way, it shows they have a completely wrong view of sin - if we think about ANY sin "it's no big deal so I might as well do it", we have a problem! Unfortunately we do think that way sometimes. And, as it says somewhere, sins come from the attitudes in our hearts.

    You said, "homosexuality has more serious consequences than gossip" - sometimes, yes. But gossip can have very serious consequences. For example, it could even lead to murder, suicide...

    The Bible spends a lot of time criticising the 'less serious' sins - the ones that as Christians we are far more likely to do.

  5. Hi Kirsty,
    If you read my comment more carefully, you'll see that I totally agree with you that a person who thought they might as well steal would have a wrong view of sin. What I was saying is that one wrong view of sin (i.e. all sins are the same) encourages other wrong views of sin.

    God is the one who has differentiated sexual sins ( Corinthians 6:18; Matthew 18:6-7; Matthew 12:31), and He is the one who has placed special emphasis on Homosexuality (Romans 1:18-32), so you will have to argue with Him about that one. Of course one sin can lead to another, but the consequences for Homosexuality are direct. It doesn't need to lead to something else to be hugely destructive to lives.


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