A brother and I regularly have discussions over lunch regarding the existence of God with an atheist friend. During lunch one day, our conversation turned to the character of God and whether or not He is truly “good.” The atheist friend argued, hypothetically of course, that God could not be good because stories in the Bible reveal that He kills people, a sin that humans are punished severely for. He then went on to rationalize that no one is deserving of eternal torment because even those who have committed the worst of sins, like murder, cannot be held to that kind of damnation. And as I thought about it, I realized that he had actually made a good point. Most people go their whole lives without murdering, raping, or physically attacking anyone, and yet if they don’t know Jesus, they will spend an infinite amount of time separated from God in unimaginable pain. Should telling a few lies and cheating on a test really result in the fury of God’s wrath?
I’m sure you have heard it just as much as I have, that “sin is sin” and “God looks at all sins as the same.” But does the Bible actually say that? As I have searched the Scriptures, I have found it makes no mention of all sin being equal, but rather under the law, God punishes sin quite differently. In the Old Testament we see that those who murder are punished far more severely than those who lie. Now, if all sin were the same, would not both receive death? Because of the different levels of sin, they are punished on different levels on earth. In Numbers 15 we see a differentiation between unintentional sins with sin that is intentional and specifically rebellions. Under the old covenant, sexual sin, improper worship, and idolatry, for example, are recognized as abominations, meaning offensive to God (Deut. 18:12, 27:15). In Proverbs 6 we learn the seven sins that God hates (v. 16-19). The New Testament makes mention of an “unforgivable sin,” namely, blasphemy of the Spirit (Matt. 12:31, Mark 3:29). Jesus speaks of greater sin and greater condemnation in John 19:11 and Luke 20:47. Of course, all sin is in fact sinful, however Scripture seems to imply that certain sins are particularly worse than others.
Thanks be to God that we no longer live in the Old Testament under the law, but under grace! And because of that grace, sin is no longer punished by earthly means. That is why we now see verses like Romans 6:23 that say, “the wages of sin is death.” Not the wages of murder, or rape, or lying, or cheating, but sin. All sin is ultimately punished the same. But is the punishment of sin equal because all sin is equal? Or perhaps something else?
Again, as I was contemplating this idea, I was reminded of a sermon by David Platt. He was speaking on man’s deservedness of hell, and I believe the analogy he used fits well with the point I am trying to make:
“If I were to slap you in the face, what would my punishment be? You would most likely slap me back. If I were to slap a police officer, what would my punishment be? I would probably be arrested. If I were to slap the queen of England, what would my punishment be? Surely I would die. See, the same sin was committed each time, and yet the punishment increased based on who it was committed against.”
The same is true of our sin against God. If I sin against a rock, I am not guilty. If I sin against man, I am guilty. But if I sin against an infinitely holy and perfect God, I am infinitely and utterly guilty. So we see that it is not the magnitude of our sin that makes us deserving of hell, but rather the fact that we have sinned against God. Even in telling a lie, we have disobeyed and dishonored the Creator of all things. Our imperfection is what separates us from God. While some sins are worse than others, the punishment for sin is the same. While some sins are worse than others, the fact that they have been committed against a holy God destroys our chance at obtaining salvation. While some sins are worse than others, Christ has redeemed us from them all.