Sin - Are There Degrees of Sin
ARE THERE DEGREES OF SIN?
This is a valid question that is often raised and the answer to the question is both yes and no. Let me explain.
In James 2:10, James writes, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all." (NKJV). By this statement James is indicating that all sins are equal before God. Regardless of whether you commit a great sin such as murder or a lesser sin such as stealing a penny, they are both sin before His eyes and both are equally capable of sending a person to hell. Thus even if you were to sin only once in a life time, it would still gain you the same results as if you committed all the sins know to man, you would end up going to hell.
Now this seems a bit unfair, because many of us have not lived as sinful a life as others have, so why would God give us the same punishment when we die? However, let us remember that our qualifications to enter into heaven have nothing to do with how many or how few sins we have committed. One is all that it takes to send us to hell. In other words all of our efforts to keep the ten commandments, attend church, read the Bible, pray daily, serve in the church, be baptized, take communion and the list could go on and on, will not get us one inch closer to eternal life and a home in heaven. Remember the words of Jesus when he said, “Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” (Matt 7:22-23 NKJV). It is not our efforts that can overcome the sins we have committed, but rather it takes the righteousness of Christ that He procured on the cross for all men. Thus “For by grace have we been saved through faith, and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of human effort lest any one should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-10). We need acknowledge that we are sinners and destined to hell and incapable of saving ourselves. We then must turn to the only One who can rescue us from hell, putting our faith in the Savior. Jesus Christ.
Though all sins are equal in their potential to send someone to hell, yet in this life there are degrees in the severity of that sin. This can be seen in the OT where some sins such as adultery, idolatry, homosexuality, murder and witchcraft God demanded the death penalty. On the other hand, sins such as lying and stealing had lesser penalties. The same can be seen in the New Testament as some sins disqualify a man from serving as a leader in the church (1 Tim. 3:1-13) and other sins are so serious that God shortens the life of the believer (1 Cor. 11:27-34; James 5:13-16; 1 John 5:16-17). Likewise God distinguishes between sins committed willfully knowing what one is doing and sins committed when one does not even recognize he is sinning. (Eph.2:1)
Whatever our sins, let us remember that the only way those sin can be removed is through the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. He has promised that if any man puts their faith in Him to save Him, shall “have everlasting life and shall never perish.” (John. 3:16) If we are a believer, God is always ready to forgive us our sins if we but ask Him in true repentance (1 John 1:9). However, if our heart decides to harbor sin, be aware that God chastens those whom He loves (Heb 12:3-11).