Are there levels of sin, one greater than another?

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Are there levels of sin, one greater than another?

People sometimes say that all sins are the same in God’s sight, and there is some truth in that. All sins are the same in that they violate the revealed will of God, generating true guilt. All sins lead to death, unless confessed and forgiven in Heaven. In this sense all sins are equal.

For purposes other than guilt, however, the Bible does classify sins. They come in all sizes and are not equal in seri­ousness or impact. Some sins deserve greater punishment than others (Luke 12:47, 48).

There are sins of ignorance (Leviticus 4:2, etc.). Though still sins, they were punished less severely than others. Willful ignorance (2 Peter 3:5a) is itself a sin (Romans 1:18ff).

There are sins outside the body and sins against the body (1 Corinthians 6:18). There are sins of commission and sins of omission (James 4:17). There are sins that easily beset us (Hebrews 12:1): human weakness. The personal failings that slip up on us in life are not counted against as we walk by faith in the Savior.

Then there are willful, presumptuous sins (Hebrews 10:26), elsewhere called the great transgression (Psalm 19:13). Wrong done continually with consent and awareness should bring sober reflection about one’s salvation. This may be what is meant by “a sin unto death, and sins not unto death” (1 John 5:16).

The most important distinction among sins is for those for­given and those unforgiven. All sins are forgivable (Matthew 12:31a) through faith in Christ (Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 1:9) except one (Matthew 12:31b). Whatever that one is, you are not guilty of it as long as you still desire and trust God’s grace.


Calvin Burrell
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Calvin Burrell is former editor of the Bible Advocate and former director of G. C. Missions. He retired in 2015 and lives with his wife, Barb, in Stayton, OR. They attend church in Marion, OR.