All Sins Are Not The Same
by Kenneth E. Thomas
-There Are Consequences When We Sin-
-There Are Consequences Even in This Life-
-There Are Consequences In The Next -
If Those Sins Are Not Forgiven!
But All Sins Are Not The Same!
The terribleness of sin may be seen early in human history. Consequences always follow sin and many times those consequences not only do much harm to the one guilty of the actual sin, but to generations yet unborn who must bear the consequences. Consider the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve for a prime example. Women’s pain in child bearing as well as submission to the husband are a consequence passed down upon all women. Man must earn his living by the sweat of his brow among thorns and thistles to plague his efforts. Work was commanded before the fall and work is fulfilling but a curse was put on the ground and we all must suffer those consequences even though we are innocent of the sins of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3; 1 Timothy 2:11-15). See (Ezekiel 18:20). I have not the slightest doubt since mother Eve was “deceived” by Satan that he convinced her that she would actually reap good benefits by disobeying God ( 2 Corinthians 11:2-3).. Satan still has those capabilities and is called “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:2-3).
King David was forgiven of his adultery, yet he suffered consequenes the rest of his life for the sin he committed concerning Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite, and for murdering Uriah, his son’s life was taken among other things (2 Samuel chapters eleven and twelve). In similar fashion, one can contract sexual disease that will be hurtful as long as one lives, to one’s self and to one’s mate and offspring. Alcoholics, can get forgiveness, but the problem will plague them all their life; other drug addiction does the same. Various consequences are not taken away when one is forgiven. Paul could and did look back at his history (Acts 26:9-10; 1 Tim. 1:13-15). (Cf. Acts 9:26ff) Saul’s past life of persecuting Christ by killing and imprisoning Christians haunted him all the days of his life. Unwise decisions we make that aren’t sinful in and of themselves can carry consequences to other generations. My “mammy” Thomas was married to the wrong man as I now look back at it. She was converted to Christ but he never was. She had a difficult time attending faithfully and it was difficult for her to get any money to give to support the cause of Christ, for he resented any amount that she gave.
We must always remember also that ANY unforgiven sin will keep one from heaven (Rev. 21:27, 8). At times this seems to be overlooked. Any sin can be forgiven IF and ONLY IF God’s condition of pardon is met (Acts 8:18-24; 1 John 1:9). Yet, being forgiven will not keep the consequences or the “fruits” of one’s action from following. Therefore, we need to warn people that sin has it’s wages, and DON’T get involved in something that will haunt one the rest of his/her life. Therefore, in that sense, there are no “little” sins, even though we’d like to THINK that there are!
Men are made righteous through forgiveness, and not through our performance. Man invariably ends up estranged from God through the sins of both omission and commission. No people have ever lived up to the light they were given: Hence, God has concluded that “there is none righteous, no not one” (in or of ourselves ket) and because of the guilt of our sins whether we see them as “little” or “large” cause all mankind to need a Savior, for our sins have separated us from our creator (Romans 3:10-25; 6:23; Isaiah 49:1-2; 1 Peter 3:12; John 9:31; Ezekiel 18:20).
Having said the above, let us consider another aspect of this important subject. I believe that some sins are lesser in magnitude than others and they cannot all be lumped into the same category. Let me ask you some pointed questions. Let us say that you are about to get a new neighbor next door and the city is going to give you the right to choose which neighbor will be allowed to live there. Your answers to these situations will show that you do indeed make a distinction in the nature of sin involved. Here’s the illustration:
Candidate #1 is a God fearing man. He is a praying man. He is entrusted with a position of power and authority. He has a sterling reputation. He gives alms to the poor as opportunity and needs arise. This man reminds us of Cornelius of whom we read in Acts chapters ten and eleven.
Candidate #2 is a bum. He rides the rails and has been suspected of murder and rape. He has no job and wouldn’t keep one if he did. Often he is found in shelters for the homeless. He drinks alcohol and smokes “pot” whenever he is able to get it. Your wife and children will be left at home alone when you are at work with one the of these fellows living right next door.
Candidate #3 is a seemingly nice fellow, but the reason for his being a prospective neighbor is because he is getting released from prison for child molestation. He has “paid his debt to society” in serving the prison term; Should you not accept him as having all of the same rights that any other citizen has? If the nature of one’s transgressions are not to be considered, surely you should. If sin is sin and there is no difference between one “kind of sin” and another, surely it would be inconsistent to expect or demand different treatment for this fellow than you would the others!
Candidate #4, you are told, is a faithful Christian. You can trust him with your life and he will also be helpful in the salvation of your soul and the souls of your family due to his good influence etc. Oh no, he isn’t perfect! He has his “feet of clay” and from time to time says, thinks, and even does things that a Christian ought not to do. One thing you must say about him, however, is that when he realizes he has “messed up,” he is always filled with godly sorrow that leads him to repent and as necessary make restitution for any problems his mistake has caused others (1 John 1:1-10).
Question: Which man will you tell the city that you wish to have as your neighbor?
Why such a choice? The person who isn’t living as he should, but is a good moral person, isn’t nearly as bad as the fellow who is riding the rails killing folks, now is he? Of course, the child of God who dies with unforgiven sins will suffer the same spiritual fate as the impenitent murdering bum, yet we have demonstrated that some sins have a greater immediate impact on the person committing them and upon others, than do other sins.
Examples From God’s Word:
1. Sin unto death and sin not unto death (1 John 5:16-19). Such a distinction could not and would not be made if all sins were identical.
“THE SIN UNTO DEATH...”
(1 John 5:14-17)
I have studied this passage over and over and have considered it from every angle. searching for the best explanation of these passages. The passage reads: (16) “If anyone sees a 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. (17) All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.”
Here are some questions:
1. What is sin NOT leading to death?
2. Is this death literal, spiritual, or the 2nd death?
3. Is the brother who sinned repentant and another brother is praying for him?
4. What does it mean: “He (God) will give him (the sinner) life”?
5. Why not pray for sin leading to death?
I believe the following will answer all of these questions concerning 1 John 5:14-17. I think the key is found in understanding Ezekiel 18 & 33, which John would have been well familiar with and likewise his readers. I believe much of the difficulty we have with this text is not seeing it with the same understanding.
The simple answer to the the question “What is a sin unto death?” is: a sin of which one will not repent. (And likewise, a sin not unto death, is a sin of which one does repent.)
The source of my interpretation of this text is the rest of the scripture. The best way to understand one text is to understand it’s immediate context and then look at the rest of the scriptures. The immediate context does not define a “sin unto death.” John is discussing intercessory prayer and assumes his reader knows what he means. So we must go to the rest of the scriptures.
The subject of 1 John 5:14-17 is prayer (see, vss. 14-15). The subject of verses sixteen and seventeen is praying for a brother in sin. One is to pray (a pray of intercession) for a brother who sins “a sin not unto death” and God will “give him life.” If a brother sins a “sin unto death,” John says “I do not say that he shall pray for it.” John is not promising prayer for a brother’s “sin unto death” will “give him life.”
What makes the difference in God answering my prayer on behalf of my brother in sin? The attitude of my brother in sin. God will not forgive my brother’s sin without his repentance. This is exactly what James says, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19-20). The word “repent” simply means “to turn.”
John’s warning about not interceding in prayer for those in “sin unto death” is also found in the prophets: “Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee” (Jer. 7:16). “Then said the Lord unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth” (Jer. 15:1). God had called his people to repentance and they refused. Thus, he tells his prophet that intercessory prayer will not bring forgiveness to these people. (See also Isaiah 59:1-2; 1 Peter 3:12).
The scriptures teach that the consequence of sin is “death,” that is separation from God (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:1; 1 Tim. 5:6). When one repents in “godly sorrow,” he “turns from” his sin and comes out of “death,” and into life. “Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (2 Cor. 7:9-10).
The best passage to illustrate that a “sin unto death” is a sin one will not repent of is Ezekiel 18 and 33.
“Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die” (Ezk. 18:4).
“Therefore you, O son of man, say to the children of your people: `The righteousness of the righteous man shall not deliver him in the day of his transgression; as for the wickedness of the wicked, he shall not fall because of it in the day that he turns from his wickedness; nor shall the righteous be able to live because of his righteousness in the day that he sins.’ When I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, but he trusts in his own righteousness and commits iniquity, none of his righteous works shall be remembered; but because of the iniquity that he has committed, he shall die. Again, when I say to the wicked, `You shall surely die,’ if he turns from his sin and does what is lawful and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has stolen, and walks in the statutes of life without committing iniquity, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of his sins which he has committed shall be remembered against him; he has done what is lawful and right; he shall surely live” (Ezk. 33:12-16).
I believe one can see a “sin unto death” and a “sin not unto death” herein without any uninspired man’s commentary being needed.
2. The one who delivered Christ to Pilate had the “greater sin” said Jesus in (John 19:11). Jesus means that they have more to answer for than did Pilate.
3. Jesus said of a certain scribe who told him of his righteous life and his understanding of the teaching of the law of Moses, “..you are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:28-34). If such understanding and actions placed him nearer to the kingdom of God than others who did not so conduct themselves, then the Lord made a distinction between those a long way from the kingdom and those near, based on godliness as opposed to those in ungodliness.
4. Inspiration shows that “a difference is to be made among brethren” as regards either the nature of their sins or their attitudes . “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Unto Him who is able to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever.” (Jude 21-25) A-men.
5. Accidental killing is spoken of in (Deuteronomy) as well as murder. For the former, a different rule applied , cities of refuge were to be prepared so justice could be meted out in Israel. “...one who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without malice...” For instance, a man may go into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, the head may fly off and hit his neighbor and kill him. That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life. Otherwise, the avenger of blood might pursue him in a rage, overtake him if the distance is too great, and kill him even though he is not deserving of death, since he did it to his neighbor without malice aforethought, This is why I command you to set aside for yourselves three cities (Deuteronomy 19:1-13).
6. Murder as opposed to manslaughter recognizes a difference as regards intent. Accidental killing is called manslaughter but it isn’t murder. Taking life under law is not murder (Romans 13:1-4). The person killed is just as dead either way, but both God and man look upon the two differently and the punishment even in the human courts is lesser for one than the other. Through all three dispensations of God’s dealings with mankind, God has demanded that “if man sheds blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Genesis 9:6). That God makes a difference in the immediate punishment may be seen in several Old Testament instances: 1. Cities of refuge were set up so the one who killed someone accidentally could flee to one of these cities and await trial. If he was caught outside the city the “avenger of blood” could take his life with impunity. I understand that the “avenger of blood” was the next of kin (Numbers 35:9-34).
7. “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19). Among these seven sins that are detestable to our Lord is listed the “shedding of innocent blood” V-17. Abortion would certainly be included in this category, yet even on this subject we find teaching that distinguishes penalties for an action, depending upon the outcome of the action. Exodus 21:22-23 says, “If men who are fighting hit a pregnant woman and she gives birth prematurely but there is no serious injury, the offender must be fined whatever the woman’s husband demands and the court allows. But if there is serous injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21:22). Note that the offender's actions in the first scenario resulted in the child "coming forth," that is being born "prematurely," yet the child was alive, and suffered no ill-affects from the premature birth. In such cases, the offender who struck the woman was to be appropriately fined. However, the 2nd part of the verse does address a miscarriage - that is - if the offender hit the woman in such a way that her child was injured or killed, then the civil law penalty that matched the crime was to be envoked. In cases where the child died from the man's actions, the death penalty was to be enforced.
The Bible teaches that “all liars” will have their part in the lake of fire and brimstone along with others who live ungodly lifestyles (Revelation 21:8). Still, is there not some distinction between the medical doctor or the nurse, who in order to give some ray of hope to one who has a terminal illness, says something like “you’re going to be alright” and the person who tells a malicious lie intended to do harm to the reputation of the one about whom he/she is lying? Do you look at the doctor and nurse who lied to give hope in the same light as the malicious slanderer? I dare say you don’t. Understand I am not attempting to “justify” the doctor or the nurse who is less than honest with their patient, but “intent” has always played a large role in how God views infractions of His perfect will! Wrong is wrong let me remind you but does not James say “ He shall have judgment without mercy, that has showed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (James 2:13). This means something! What does it mean? I suggest that it is saying that if we demand absolute perfection of others without being willing to “judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24), taking extenuating circumstances into account, we can expect God to show us no mercy and judge us the same way. If He does, we are without hope for we each need mercy and not absolute justice. God gave the deceiver and the deceived some time to apply that which they were taught before cutting them off (Revelation 2:20-22).
The candlestick (identity) of local churches wasn’t immediately removed when they were involved in errors needing correction. If said correction was not forthcoming in a reasonable space of time (whatever God’s space may be He knows I do not) they would lose their identity which is spoken of as “removing their candlestick” (Revelation 2:5).
We stand before the Lord, not because of our perfect law keeping abilities. We stand because we are made perfect through forgiveness in the blood of the sinless Son of God almighty. This is true initially by obedience to the first principles of the gospel of Christ (Acts 2:22-38; Romans 6:3-6' 16-18; Romans 1:16-17; Phil. 2:12), and it is then true as we “walk in the light of divine revelation” imperfectly admittedly, but we have constant access to the shed blood of Christ through repentance, confession, and prayer (1 John 1:1-10; Acts 8:22).
Fornication unfortunately is a common sin. It has been through the ages. This sin is given special significance above others by the Lord Himself. Should I say it is no worse than any other sin when the Lord says it is? I would think not! I might not (and do not) know all that is involved in what Paul said of this sin in writing to the Corinthians, but I know what he said. He said, “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). Earlier in this chapter Paul wrote “Don’t you know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? Don’t you know that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? For two, saith He, shall be one flesh.”(1 Corinthians 6:15-16). The “one flesh” aspect here is one of the ingredients which is reserved for the marriage bed. See ( Genesis 2:24; Hebrews 13:4).
You may not love me as you should. In fact you may hate me and become guilty of murder in the eyes of God (1 John 3:15). Is the sin “as bad as” the actual act of murder? Insofar as your soul is concerned it may well be, but insofar as I am concerned it isn’t for I am still alive and well. By the same token, you may lust after a woman or man and be guilty of committing adultery in your heart as Jesus plainly stated in (Matthew 5:28). Is this sin (and it is a sin) “as bad as” if you had actually committed adultery with another person? Insofar as your soul is concerned, yes! Insofar as the other person is concerned, no! For they did not become involved.
Are all of God’s laws of equal importance? The answer is both yes and no! Jesus Christ our blessed Lord and Master recognized a difference in the laws given to Moses for Israel and so stated in His condemnation of the self righteous scribes and Pharisees in the following language. “Woe unto you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought you to have done, and not leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23). I am aware that He said they should have done all that the law required in the above statement but keep in mind the distinction made when He said that there were some matters in the law that were “weightier” than others. I recognize too that James said--”For whoever shall keep the whole law, yet offend in one point. he is guilty of all” (James 2:10). James is saying one does not have to break every law in the book to become a lawbreaker, one is sufficient , because the same God gave them all. Still, that does not negate my point that just as some laws are weightier than others, likewise some sins are worse than others because of their very nature.
Under the Old Testament law system God made a distinction in the kinds of sins by virtue of the fact that different instructions were given concerning these sacrifices For example there were “Burnt offerings” -”Grain offerings” - “The fellowship offerings” -”Sin offering” -”Guilt offering” (Leviticus chapters 1-6). They were to offer sacrifices for “unintentional” things the people had done and instructions given for the same. They were still sin, but my point is that God made a distinction between “intentional” and “unintentional” sins. Comparing this to statements in the new Testament two particular passages come to mind. (1). “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received a knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin, But a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversary” (Hebrews 10:26-27). (2). “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Peter 2:20-22). Question: Does this leave you with the impression that to know and then turn away is worse than never having known the way of righteousness as God views it? I may not (and do not) know what all is involved in how it may be worse for such but that it is cannot be denied for scripture (which is God speaking) plainly says it is. Even though I cannot fully explain these passages I must accept the principle stated by faith, without equivocation.
Human responsibility is predicated partially on man’s ability and opportunity to have known the will of the Almighty as we attempt to serve Him. We must remember that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and that “all men are in need of the Savior” hence, the “great or worldwide commission” of (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-29; Acts 17:30-31).
After folks come into the kingdom, accountability varies according to Jesus’ teachings about the two men one of whom was “beaten with many stripes” because he knew his master’s will and did not do it. The other was “beaten with few stripes” because although he did not do the master’s will it was because he did not know it . In this context Jesus is speaking of the judgment to come at His return. Let us read it: “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:47-48).
In the church of our Lord we are instructed to deal differently with the weaker brethren than we are with the more mature. Paul isn’t saying we should overlook sin in any of its forms, but that since God makes such distinctions as regarding how he judges such folks, so should we (Read Romans chapters 14-15). The Hebrew writer speaks of “milk drinkers” and “meat eaters,” each figures of speech depicting the ability or lack of the same to accept the weightier or more difficult teaching of Christ’s word. He wants us to become “meat eaters” and not remain as “milk drinkers” of course and said so in so many words in (Hebrews 5:12-14; 2 Peter 3:18).
While we must emphasize how terrible sin is, in any form we may consider; I fear that many folks have been caused to give up trying to please the Lord and make heaven their eternal home due to our failure to properly instruct babes in Christ about the matters under consideration in this study. Many have fallen by the wayside for lack of hope and confidence in the possibility of living a life with which the Lord is pleased, due to the doctrine of “perfectionism” that looks at the slightest infraction of the law of the Lord in the same light as they do the most dastardly deeds of one who has hardened his heart and lives in opposition to the will of God. Paul said that we should “rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Paul wrote of how he lived “in hope of eternal life...” (Titus 1:2; Romans 8:24). This great man cautioned against getting overconfident and falling into the devil’s snare as a result in (1 Corinthians 10:12), in the next verse gave hope by the fact that God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our ability and that a way of escape is there if we will look for it (V-13). Consequently he could write to Timothy as an old soldier of the cross of Christ whose armor bore the scars of many battles for Christ: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:6-8).
In conclusion we should read what the apostle Peter wrote about the hope and assurance that can be ours, even with our weaknesses and in our faltering attempts to live up to the perfect standard . As we attempt to walk in the steps of Him who did no sin, we often falter and stumble, but since we have access to the cleansing blood of the crucified, resurrected, and exalted Messiah through repentance, confession and prayer (1 John 1:6-9), keeping our eyes on the goal, and “leaning on the everlasting arms” of our Lord and Savior , Jesus Christ, we hope to reach the shores of that eternal city where we can bask in the sunshine of His love forever and ever.
“According as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (love). For if these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, you shall never fall: For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:3-11).
If sin has you separated from God, take advantage of His provisions for you to obey the gospel of Christ. If you are an erring Christian you need to repent confess your sins and pray for forgivness so heaven can be your eternal home at last.
Kenneth E. Thomas
1519 West Shore Dr.
Pekin, Il 61554 1 (309) 347-5645
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