Monday, May 2, 2022

Degrees of Sin (Romans 2)

God “will give to each person according to what he has done” (Rom. 2:6).

As we begin this month by looking at issues surrounding the doctrine of sin, we first ask the question, “Is all sin the same in degree?” Too often our motivation in asking such a question is to find an excuse for failing to search the depths of our hearts and root out sin, or to excuse our gross behavior as being no worse than anyone else’s. Yet, the question is legitimate, and the answer is complex. While all sins are the same in that any transgression of God’s law, no matter how slight, is worthy of eternal damnation, there are degrees of rebellion, and levels of seriousness in God’s sight. 

While Jesus said that anyone who lusts in his heart is guilty of committing adultery, He did not say that lust was the same as committing adultery. Jesus’ goal in the Sermon on the Mount was to expose the Pharisees for misunderstanding the depth of the law of God. But we can discover from the Old Testament as well as the New that there is a higher degree of seriousness in actually committing adultery. Adulterers were put to death. In the New Testament, those who commit adultery and remain in unrepentance are put out of the fellowship of the church. There are a number of sins outlined in the New Testament that have a heavier weight to them than others.

Even the secular society recognizes that some sins are more serious than others in that they have greater consequences and deserve greater punishment. For example, there is a difference between grand larceny and petty theft. While all crime, all sin, is an affront to God, God has said that He will judge us according to what we have done. We cannot say, “Since I have lusted in my heart, I might as well go ahead and commit adultery.” Such an attitude undermines the very righteousness of God. If there were not degrees of sin, the church would have no authority to discipline and excommunicate members who remain impenitent. God hates all sin, and He will judge righteously according to what we have done. We must, therefore, seek to live by His grace that we might not transgress His law at any point. We must not excuse sin at any level or try to ignore the serious consequences of sins that bring blatant shame on the Gospel and the holiness of God.

Read 1 Peter 1:13–17. How do you reconcile Paul’s statement that God judges each man according to his works with salvation by Christ alone? How does Paul say we should live? Is this your goal? Ask God to help you live in “reverent fear” of Him and to recognize degrees of sin in your own soul.