If you have gone to a Bible-preaching church for a length of time, you’ve probably heard the concept that God sees all sins as the same. This notion says that we categorize sin while God does not. There is some semblance of truth here, but I believe it is an incomplete picture. God views any sin as sin and God hates all sin. But does He view every sin the same? Let’s find out.
All sin is an affront to God, and He stands opposed to all forms of it, no matter how small. Why is this? The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). James echoes the end result of sin as well: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust (sinful desire), and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (James 1:14-15). Rather than face death, God wants us to experience life, and that more abundantly (John 10:10).
We often define death as the cessation of physical life (heartbeat, breathing, etc.), but the Biblical understanding is that death is separation. That’s how you can have such a concept as death (eternal death) in hell, contrasted with “eternal life” in heaven in Romans 6:23. Physical death is separation from our loved ones and separation from this world, for we are no longer present in it. “Whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord (in heaven)… We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:6, 8). Simply, “the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2:26). At death, our physical body and spiritual soul are separated.
Now that we know that sin produces death (separation from God), we realize that death is opposed to the eternal will of God. God’s desire through the ages is unending, intimate fellowship and union with human beings.
Why This Idea Is Taught
I’ve heard good preachers say that God views all sin the same. Again, there is some truth to that statement. Where do we find such an idea in the Bible?
In the Old Testament, we learn that God does not see sin quite the same way we do. When King Saul disobeyed the clear word of the Lord, the prophet Samuel was sent to rebuke him. God commanded Saul to destroy the Amalekites completely, but he saved alive the king and kept the spoils of war (I Sam. 15:18-21). Samuel then says, “For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (v. 23). It would seem that God views stubborn disobedience the same way He sees communicating with the demonic realm.
Let’s look in the New Testament. Jesus stunned His listeners as He uttered the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus turned the current-day religion on its head, proving what righteousness really looks like in God’s eyes. He told them what the Law said (or how it was understood at least), then He condemned the socially-acceptable sins of the day that edged so close to the prohibitions of the Law. We’ll consider two particular instances. First of all is the command to not kill, which comes directly from the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:13). Jesus expands on this, equating anger with murder (Mat. 5:21-22). Murder often springs from anger. Then He deals with adultery. Of course, everybody knew the seventh commandment. But Jesus shows that the same root sin is involved in a lustful look as the physical act (Mat. 5:27-28).
Furthermore, James 2:10 states, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” This surely sounds like all sins are the same in the eyes of God. But the next verse clears up the meaning, showing us that one sin brands you “a transgressor of the law.” One sin is all that’s required to earn us eternity in the lake of fire (Romans 6:23). It doesn’t matter how many sins you’ve committed or even what sins they were — the end result is the same for those who break God’s law, and everybody breaks God’s law (Romans 3:23). This is illustrated by a person hanging high off the ground by a chain. How many links must fail for him to fall? Of course, just one. Even if fifty of the links broke at the same instant, the result is the same.
As we’ve seen above, God views certain “lesser” sins similarly to more egregious sins. So why would anyone say that God views different sins differently? The answer is two-fold.
Why This Idea Is Incomplete
1. God does not punish all sins the same.
If God viewed all sins equally, then why does He punish them differently? First John 5:16 says, “There is a sin unto death.” In other words, there is a particular sin, unknown to us, that will occasion a believer’s death. For Saul, it was consulting the witch at Endor. For Achan, it was the theft of war spoils.
In the Mosaic Law, God required captial punishment for certain crimes (murder, rape of a married woman, kidnapping, idolatry, witchcraft, etc.). We all know the same punishment was not to be inflicted for lying or theft. The Law prescribed different means of remediation for those sins.
There are sins of commission and sins of omission. One is a sin of action and the other of in-action. Would God weigh not reading your Bible today the same as the crimes of the likes of Hitler?
It seems that the only logical options are that God views different sins differently or else He must punish all sins the same.
2. God declares specific sins that He hates and finds abominable.
To learn who God is and what He is like, we must search the Scriptures. Observing creation displays the glory of God and shows His handiwork (Ps. 19:1), but doesn’t teach us much more about Him. So what do the Scriptures teach us? As we’ve already seen, God hates sin — any sin and all sin. It would then seem unnecessary to state that He hates specific sins. Yet, God says there are many that He hates.
“Neither shalt thou set thee up any image; which the Lord thy God hateth” (Deut. 16:22). Other sins He hates are child sacrifice (Deut. 12:31), sacrificing stolen property to Him (Isa. 61:8), devising evil against your neighbor and not keeping your promises (Zech. 8:17), and divorce (Mal. 2:16). Furthermore, “These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto Him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren” (Prov. 6:16-18). Here the writer of Scripture ties the thoughts of what God hates to abominations.
An abomination is something that is repulsive, disgusting, and abhorrent. It’s like finding a fly in your mouth as you take a bite of soup. As you spit out the soup and fly, you realize it provokes an immediate and strong reaction — it is abominable to you. You become disgusted and lose your appetite. So when God calls a particular sin abominable, be sure that He hates it.
So what is abominable to God?
- marrying a close relative,
- seeing the nakedness of any of your relatives (i.e. sexual relations),
- taking two sisters as your wives,
- and child sacrifice.
Homosexuality is summed up in one verse in this chapter: “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination” (v. 22) and is reiterated in 20:13 – “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” See also I Kings 14:24.
God lists other abominations in Scripture:
- using witchcraft (Deut. 18:10-12),
- wearing clothes of the other sex (Deut. 22:5),
- bringing the profits of prostitution or sodomy into God’s House (Deut. 23:18),
- unjust trading (Deut. 25:13-16, Prov. 11:1, 20:10),
- lying (Prov. 12:22),
- wicked people acting righteously by sacrificing to God (Prov. 15:8-9, 21:27, Isa. 1:13),
- pride (Prov. 16:5),
- unjust judges (Prov. 17:15),
- the prayer of the unteachable (Prov. 28:9),
- violence (Ezek. 8:17),
- and a list of sins in Eze. 18:10-13.
Other abominations are often repeated, such as committing idolatry, committing adultery and eating unclean animals. (Note that the ceremonial law was done away with when Christ died on the cross. We’re no longer held under the dietary laws, nor in keeping the feasts of Israel or the sacrifices.) While the ceremonial law was done away with, the moral law stays consistent through time.
So God singles out many sins, which goes against the idea that He sees them all the same.
To sum it up, God views all sin as sin. It’s all evil and it all works death (separation) in us (see Isa. 59:2). When you choose a particular sin over another, it’s the same as “picking your poison” — it leads to separation (death) from God. Any one sin is enough to render us unfit for heaven. Thus, the eternal impact of any sin has the same impact: eternal death.
But certain sins have different consequences. Consider another example: divorce renders a man unfit for the position of pastor or deacon (I Tim. 3:2, 12). There is a sin unto death, as Achan and King Saul found out. For the sins of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, they were told they would receive greater punishment in hell (Mat. 23:14). If every sin looked the same in God’s eyes, necessity would dictate that they must all be punished alike.
Still, the stronger point is that God declares certain sins to be ones He especially hates and finds abominable. If all sins were the same, why would He single out particular sins and not the rest? So there is some truth to the idea that God sees all sins the same, but the greater truth is that He does not consider them all alike.