Jesus’s trial revealed whether all sins are equal. Seeing Jesus bearing a crown thorns and a scarlet robe, the Jews cried, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” pleading to crucify Jesus making himself the Son of God (John 19:6). When Pontius Pilate heard that Jesus was the Son of God, he became afraid yet having found no guilt in him. In his headquarters, Pilate questioned Jesus, “Where are you from?” When Jesus did not answer, Pilate asked again, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” (John 19:10). Jesus revealed, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11 ESV). Jesus revealed that some sins are greater than others.
Some Sins are Greater than Other Sins
Jesus confirmed that some sins are greater than other sins. Are all sins equal? No. The one who delivered Jesus to Pontius Pilate had the greater sin than Pilate condemning Jesus to crucifixion. How is one sin greater than another is? Both the governor Pilate and the high priest Caiaphas misused their power and authority. The high priest carried more guilt as he held a position set by God, twisted God’s Word to condemn the Christ, and delivered Jesus to crucifixion. Caiaphas’s sin was greater. Would he receive a greater punishment? Yes.
Sin Brings Death to All
Sins are not equal, but people who sin are all lost. Sin brings condemnation of death to all because all have sinned (Rom 3:23; 6:23). Death spread to all men because all sinned (Rom 5:12). In this sense, humanity shares an equality in sin. If a person commits one sin, then they are guilty of the whole law. James declared, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (Jas 2:10 ESV). Likewise, John wrote, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4 ESV). Beyond the guilt of breaking God’s law, sin has no more commonality. There are consequences for not recognizing the Scriptures reveal.
The Scriptures teach Christians to avoid contradictions. Paul urged, “Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called ‘knowledge,’ for by professing it some have swerved from the faith” (1 Tim 6:20b–21). Claiming that all sin is equal is a logical fallacy — a false equivalence. For example, if A is a kind of C and B is a kind of C, then someone claimed that A and B are equal. This is the fallacy. If not forgiving someone leads to death and extorting many people leads to death, are both sins the same? They share commonality, but these are not equal.
Greater Consequences for Greater Sins
Some assert that “all sin is equal,” and there will be no variation of punishment. However, Jesus revealed that Sodom and Gomorrah would be tolerated more than Capernaum for rejecting Christ (Matt 11:22–24). Jesus emphasized the importance of believing and following the Christ point when he revealed to the rich young ruler who kept God’s commands that he lacked the faith to sell all and follow Christ (Luke 18:18–27). Not all sin has the same judgment or the same spiritual consequences.
Jesus revealed that those who are not prepared for God or reject God will receive a more severe punishment than those who are ignorant who receive a lesser punishment (Luke 12:47–48). Jesus concluded, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more” (Luke 12:48b). Paul revealed that God gave up to lusts those who reject God by refusing to honor and recognize Him. These exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped the creature rather than the Creator (Rom 1:20–28).
There are varying consequences of sins is throughout the Scriptures. Anyone who changes the Gospel is anathema (Gal 1:8–9; cf. Matt 5:19). Why not say that those who change the Gospel are lost like everyone else if all sin is equal? Anyone who causes a believing child to stumble would better have a millstone hung around his neck and thrown into the sea (Mark 9:42). Why not apply this to everyone if all sin is equal? Anyone who commits sin does so outside the body, but those who commit sexual sins do so against one’s body (1 Cor 6:18). Why did Paul note this? Misusing the Lord’s Supper also has a different consequence too. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner makes one guilty of the body and blood of the Lord (1 Cor 11:27–32). Why not say this of every person who sins because “all sin is equal”? This is because all sin is not equal. The Scriptures do not apply the same level of consequence to all sins.
The sin of rejecting God and Christ excludes God’s forgiveness. God does not forgive unrepented sins like blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31). Those who willfully sin have no more sacrifice to cover sin (Heb 10:26). By such sin, they trample the Son of God, profane the blood of the covenant, and outrage the Spirit of grace (Heb 10:29). Those who know the Word and turn back to the world of sin become worse in state than the first (2 Pet 2:20–22; cf. Heb 6:4–6). Paul revealed that those who practice the sins of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor 6:9–10; Gal 5:19–21).
Sins Not Leading to Condemnation
Practicing sin is different from committing one sin while walking in the light. The apostle John revealed that those who sin not leading to death can ask God for life (1 John 5:16). John expressed, “All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death” (1 John 5:17). John was speaking of those who continue to walk in the light and confess their sins to the Father. These receive the forgiveness of all sins (1 John 1:7, 9). John declared, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
As a note, God can forgive all sins. God forgives sins of ignorance (Luke 23:34). However, faith, repentance, and baptism are essential (Acts 2:38; 3:19). No condemnation exists for those who have sins of ignorance like children (Matt 18:10; 19:14). Paul wrote, “I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died” (Rom 7:9; cf. 2:12; 4:15). However, ignorance is not an excuse for adults to keep oneself from the punishment of sin (Rom 2:14–15; 2 Thess 1:7–9). As Jesus revealed, those who perceive the greatness of their sins love God more for His forgiveness (Luke 7:36–50).
Greater Commands and Greater Sins
Jesus confronted the Pharisees and presented that there were weightier matters of the Law like justice, mercy, and faithfulness than the tithing of spices. By the way, Jesus revealed that they should tithe and keep these virtues of the Law (Matt 23:23–24). Jesus observed that loving God and one’s neighbors were the greatest commands (Matt 22:36–40). When people make sins equal or displaced in value, people displace God’s commands and virtues. What is most important? For doctrine, the first importance of the Gospel is the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (1 Cor 15:1–4). Christ is the foundation come all other doctrines (1 Cor 3). John revealed, “Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9 ESV). Among virtues, faith, hope, and love are greater than spiritual gifts, and love is greater than faith and hope (1 Cor 12:31–13:3, 13; cf. Matt 18:4; 23:11). What is the conclusion? There are commands, doctrines, and virtues that are greater than others are. Those who reject these good things commit sin in various ways and in greater effect.
False Conclusions from Equating All Sin
What are the consequences of believing that all sin is equal? How does this concept affect Christian reasoning and theology?
Some people say there is no difference between a rapist and the person who did not forgive another. If they both confess repentance, some claim that Christians must allow them the same positions and work in the congregation as anyone else. Because of such “cheap grace” and shallow forgiveness, many offenders target victims among churches. Who is culpable for allowing such? Christians must forgive as Christ forgives (Eph 4:32). Therefore, Christians must forgive those who repent (Luke 17:3–4).
Some Christians have said that no sin is greater than another is, so the innocent spouse cannot divorce one’s spouse for fornication and marry another because all people sin and each person is just as guilty as another. However, Jesus gave the exception for the innocent to divorce a spouse for fornication without stipulation that the divorcing spouse is sinless (Matt 19:9). These individuals reason that because the innocent spouse has also sinned in some way that no one can divorce except for fornication and lack of repentance. However, Jesus did not give such provisions in his teachings about marriage and divorce.
Some churches say there is no difference between the man who is practicing a sexual sin and the person who knows to good and secretly does not do it (1 Cor 5; Jas 4:17). Therefore, some reason that the church cannot discipline the man who openly practices sin, because all people are guilty of sin. Many apply the quotation of Jesus, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” They attach this concept to the woman who is openly living in adultery, the couple living together committing fornication, and homosexuals in a “monogamous” partnership. However, the church must withdraw from those who openly practice sin such as fornication, greed, extortionists, idolaters, revilers, and drunkards (1 Cor 5:9–11).
Jesus revealed that some sins are greater than other sins (John 19:11). All have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23). The wages of sin is the condemnation of death that spread to all (Rom 5:12, 18; 6:23). However, equating all sin because a commonality is a contradiction (1 Tim 6:20–21). Sins have different punishments and consequences. Some of God’s commands are greater than other commands. Willful sins and practicing sins differs from those who may sin yet continue to walk in the light (1 John 1:6–10). False doctrines and threats to the church can come from allowing sin because “all are sinners.” The church must remain aware. One cannot agree with Christ and say that believing “one sin is larger than another’s” is a human trait. Sins are more egregious than others. Sin separates all sinners from God, yet no sin is so great that Christ cannot forgive (Col 2:12–13).
[Edited 1:30 PM on May 17, 2017]