Articles Question: Are there different degrees of sins?

Question: Are there different degrees of sins?

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Are there different degrees of sins? Can one sin be worse than another sin or is all sin on the same plane to God? Does Hitler receive the same amount of judgment in hell as a man who is a moral man, but an unbeliever (like for instance, a Mormon)?

The concept that any man is moral outside of the work of God, the new birth, is a false concept. We must think biblically, and recognize that "all our righteousness is filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6), or as Paul states in Romans 3:12 "there is none good, no not one." So therefore all of our good deeds, or what appears as moral and just behavior is still tainted with sin outside of the blood of Christ and His perfect work. Keep in mind that God looks not at the externals, but at the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Genesis 6:5 states that God did an evaluation of all men and found the "thoughts and intentions of the heart were evil continually." This means that man outside of a work of God is at his best still evil and doing whatever good or positive thing he is doing with wrong motive, or tainted manner. This is why Paul said in Philippians 3 that although he kept the letter of the law, it was so insufficient that he counted it as rubbish. It is also the reason that Christ was hardest on those who professed to know God, and keep His word externally, but internally He said they were like tombs “beautiful on the outside but inside they were full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” Yet, even though unsaved man cannot please God in a saving manner because of his heart, there is no doubt that the deeds of mankind fall into degrees of better and worst. We see this in society. Our country had general morals and standards 50 years ago that were higher than today. As those standards have deteriorated, so has society, and the consequences or outcomes show the rule of God in cause and effect. God in His sovereignty is judging both in temporal matters and eternal matters.

The question of degrees of sin, and degrees of punishment fits with the infinite righteousness and omniscient understanding of God. With God there is no limitations to His perfect judgment. Christ will judge every man (John 5:22), and Isaiah prophecies (Isaiah 11:3-4) in the coming kingdom of God that Christ will judge not according to externals, but with righteousness. The fact of His perfections of knowledge, righteousness, and wisdom assure the perfect equity of justice at all levels - whether in Heaven or in Hell. Those in Heaven will be there because of the blood of Christ and His grace. However, their responsibilities in this wonderful environment of righteousness will be according to the perfect judgment of Christ concerning their faithfulness during this life (2 Corinthians 5:10). The person in Hell without the grace of Christ, and because of their Christ rejection will receive according to their deeds (Revelation 20:12-15). This means that every person will receive absolutely perfect justice. Those in Christ will have the justice of Christ absolve them of their sins, but yet they will be judged for their faithfulness, and those outside of Christ will be judged perfectly for their deeds without any absolution from sin. Anything else other than perfect justice with God is impossible.

The statement by Christ in Matthew 11:21-24 concerning His denouncement of the people in Chorazin, and Bethsaida for having an accountability greater than Tyre and Sidon (whom God destroyed because of their sin), and extending that accountability to the day of judgment using the term "more tolerable" is a clear statement of the perfection of degrees of punishment. These were unsaved people, but according to Christ's judgment one group had a magnitude of sin worse than the other. The statement by Christ in Matthew 12:36-37 "that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall give an accounting for it on the day of judgment" is another clear statement of the detailed perfection of Christ's judging. In Mark 12:38-40 Christ's says to those who are pretentious "Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows' houses, and for appearance's sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation." This clearly indicates that certain sins bring more accountability than other sins. Christ here speaks of the sins of hypocrisy. In the parable of the Lord concerning the faithful and sensible steward, Luke 12:42-48, Christ closes it by saying: "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." This indicates again the perfection of Christ's righteous judgment according to the light a person has been exposed, and in accordance with their actions in relation to the opportunities they have received in life. In Hebrews 10:29-30 "How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY." And again, "THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE." Again, this speaks of the judgment of God being severer on those who have had the greater opportunity, and yet have not taken advantage but wickedly rejected those opportunities. In each case there is an individual assessment, not a blanket assessment and it is according to the righteous knowledge of God. Some sins are then obviously greater in magnitude and bring with them greater judgment.

There is the fact that those who deal directly in the things of God, professing God, have a special and severe accountability before God for leading people astray. Christ had the most scathing statements against the religious leaders of His day (see Matthew 23). James says "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment" (James 3:1). Also, you have the statement made by Christ concerning those who would lead others astray "but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea (Matthew 18:6)." Paul also proclaimed that he was the "foremost of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). This would indicate that his sin of persecuting the church of Christ was the greater degree of sin. All these statements and the concepts they present show that God is holding man accountable individually and particularly for their sin, and the judgment of God will be perfect to fit each person. That is why “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 9:10). How much wiser to flee from the wrath to come by finding reconciliation in Christ.

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