Is it really true that all sins are equal? After all, all sin is sin. Certainly all sins are equal in the sense that “it only takes one unforgiven sin” to keep us from heaven, as we need a perfect account with God to be counted righteous. Praise God, we are counted 100% righteous through the redemption of Jesus Christ taking the penalty of our sins. But are all sins really equal in the eyes of God?
James 2:10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
This verse in James is not saying that all sins are equal. He is making the point that we need to be 100% right with God and that by committing even one sin, we are guilty of being a law-breaker. It is translated, “guilty of all” but we can see more of what he means in the following verse.
James 2:11 For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
Does it say that in committing murder, you are also an adulterer? No. I believe James is saying, that by committing any one sin, we become a “law-breaker.” To build a whole false doctrine taking James 2:10 out of context and ignoring all other verses pertaining to the degrees and depths of sin, would be ludicrous. We must consider all the verses of the Bible on any subject to get the full picture. When James says in verse 10, “he is guilty of all” he continued further to say that just because one did not commit adultery but did commit murder, one becomes “a transgressor of the law.” This confirms his intent showing that committing any one sin, makes one a “transgressor of the law.”
Prior to verse 10 and 11, James was rebuking prideful partiality and was using these verses to exhort grace. In essence, he was saying that we are all sinners and should love our neighbor as our self and from a place of grace. Once again, to take what James said to mean that all sin is equal is errant with the rest of the Bible. To even say that all sin is equal in God’s judgment, is equally errant.
As stated in the beginning of this message, we must be counted perfect before God, blameless, and the only way it is possible is through Jesus Christ. It only takes one act of disobedience to God to be unrighteous. Let’s look at more Scripture to see how God feels about sin and if it really is all equal.
When the Law was given through Moses and later the punishments for breaking the laws, the punishments varied with the sin, just as the punishments for breaking the laws today varies. Here are a few examples.
Leviticus 6:1-7 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: "If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by lying to his neighborabout what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbor, or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely-- in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins: then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found, or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering. And he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD, a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering, to the priest. So the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for any one of these things that he may have done in which he trespasses."
Leviticus 7:22-27 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'You shall not eat any fat, of ox or sheep or goat. And the fat of an animal that dies naturally, and the fat of what is torn by wild beasts, may be used in any other way; but you shall by no means eat it. For whoever eats the fat of the animal of which men offer an offering made by fire to the LORD, the person who eats it shall be cut off from his people. Moreover you shall not eat any blood in any of your dwellings, whether of bird or beast. Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.' "
Leviticus 20:10The man who commits adultery with another man's wife, he who commits adultery with his neighbor's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress, shall surely be put to death.
Each one of these three random selections found in Leviticus, came from God Himself. And each sin, brings about its own punishment, as specified by God. The sins vary and the punishments vary. The punishments ranged from restoration plus a penalty and offering, to being “cut off” from the people, to death. The type of sins varied and the punishment was in line with the sin.
Let’s go to the New Testament. Since Jesus came to earth, He has called us to a deeper level with God. The following verses show that God is concerned not only with the physical act of sin, but with the condition of the heart. He wants us to have a clean heart to prevent sin and provide the help we need when we fall into sin.
Matthew 5:21-22 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.' But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment."
Matthew 5:27-28 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
We can see that the condition of the heart matters. One can sin in the heart and be completely guilty. The sin in verse 28 is committing adultery in his heart. The Lord told about this for us to put a stop to those thoughts. This is the sin of adultery in the heart. But if one continues and acts upon it, it then becomes a bigger sin, the physical sin of adultery.
Try going before a judge in a court of law and telling the judge that all breaking of the law is the same. The judge would wonder how on earth you acquired such a notion. All convictions of crimes come with corresponding guidelines and punishments. How could anyone think that God would judge a liar the same as a murderer, or the sin of self righteousness, the same as someone who commits incest? It only takes one unforgiven sin to keep one out of heaven, but one should never mistake that God considers all sins equal. The wages of sin is death, but the specific judgment of sin varies.
Luke 12:45-48 "But if that servant says in his heart, 'My master is delaying his coming,' and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and be drunk, the master of that servant will come on a day when he is not looking for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in two and appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few."
Our Lord is the only one that knows the true heart and real circumstances of sinful situations. The servant who “knowingly did wrong will get beaten much” and the one who “unknowingly did wrong, will get beaten little.”
Even in hell, there will be degrees of punishment. Some say, “Even if there are degrees of punishment in hell, what difference would it make; because, hell is hell. Jesus spoke about it, so it must be important. While all hell is hell, there is also justice. If one person commits sins worse than another, should they not be dealt with by a holy God according to His wisdom and fairness in the punishment? If any of us do not repent and we refuse the pardon that Jesus has offered by His own blood, we will reap what we have sown by our own doing, according to the judgment of the Lord of all creation. Please consider the following verses which show judgment and degrees of it.
Matthew 10:14-15 "And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city" (Also in Luke 10:10-12).
Matthew 11:20-24 Then He began to rebuke the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you" (Also in Luke 10:13-15).
Matthew 12:31-32 "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come" (Also in Mark 3:29 and Luke 12:10).
Matthew 23:13-14 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation" (Also in Luke 20:45-47).
Mark 9:42 "But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea" (Also Matthew 18:6, Luke 17:2).
Matthew 26:24 “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born" (Also Mark 14:21, Luke 22:22).
John 19:10-11 Then Pilate said to Him, "Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?" Jesus answered, "You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin."
Hebrews 10:26-29 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
Revelation 20:12-13 And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.
1 John 5:14-17 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.
In conclusion, all sin separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2) and will do so eternally if not repented from. We all need the complete forgiveness provided by Jesus Christ and to have all our sins forgiven. For those who reject Jesus as Lord and savior, not only will they not be allowed into heaven, but they will spend eternity with punishment and regret. There will be a Great White Throne of Judgment for the wicked, and the level of hell and punishment for those in attendance will be determined by God (Revelation 20:11-14). For those who reject the pardon of Jesus Christ, it will be just as Revelation 20:13 says, they will be judged, "each one according to his works."