A catchphrase that has become so common in evangelical circles that many take it as “Bible” is the saying: “All sins are equal in God’s eyes.” If we were to be honest most of us who have used this expression would have to admit that we have mentally appended this outwardly dogmatic statement with an internal interrogative. The idea that all sins are equal goes against our own innate sense of justice. How could the sin of a little child stealing a cookie from the cookie jar be equal to the sin of a grown man raping and murdering a defenseless little girl?
It is true that God’s ways are infinitely higher than our ways and our ability to comprehend them is indeed very elementary. However, His judgments transcend our sense of justice rather than flying in the face of it. Our innate sense of justice is so true to God’s justice that, according to Paul, even a Gentile without the law of God can still discern what is right in such a manner as to leave him without excuse before God (Rom 1:14-16). Jesus rebuked the multitudes for not using their God given ability to judge what is right: “Why don't you judge for yourselves what is right?”
To say that all sins are equal not only defies all sense of justice, but it also contradicts the Scriptures. The Scriptures frequently use comparative language when referring to different sins. In Exodus 32:21 Moses said to Aaron when he saw the golden calf and the people dancing around it: “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” Here we see that there are greater sins and lesser sins. We can also see that it was considered a greater sin in the eyes of God than their murmuring and other prior sins by the severity of His judgmental actions against them.
Numerous prohibitions were given under the law but only a few were so great and abominable that the death sentence was prescribed. Jesus himself indicated that there are degrees of sin when He used comparatives like “the least of the commandments,” and “the weightier matters of the law.” (Matt 5:19; 23:23) He said to Pilate, referring to Judas, “The one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin. (Jn 19:11) Jesus said that, “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men… either in this age or in the age to come.” (Matt 12:31-32) The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not an “unpardonable” sin as many believe, but it is greater than other sins and for that reason Jesus said that it will not be forgiven in the present time nor in the coming age (For more detail on this subject see my book “The Triumph of Mercy”).
We can also see that all sins are not equal before God by looking at the varying degree of punishment for progressive stages of the same sin. For example, in the area of sexual sin, Jesus said that one who looks at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart. Nevertheless, looking upon a woman is not as great a sin as actually committing the act of adultery. Committing adultery is a very grave, damaging and selfish sin, but it could not be said to be as great as pedophilia, bestiality or sodomy.
We can see from Romans 1 that sodomy is a greater sin than adultery or other forms of fornication because it is a perversion of nature:
“Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.” (Rom 1:24-27)
Some today would argue that sodomy is no greater a sin than any other form of fornication or committing adultery with the opposite sex. However, Paul here shows a cultural descent in a downward spiral which culminates in abandoning the natural heterosexual form of intercourse, practicing or condoning sodomy – men with men, committing what is shameful. Peter also refers to sodomy as filthy conduct:
“and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; 7 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed (kataponeo: “oppressed, harassed, mistreated”) by the filthy conduct of the wicked 8 (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)” (2Peter 2:6-8)
Jesus also compared the time of His Second Coming to the days of Lot. (Luke 17:28) The people of God who are unwilling to compromise their godly convictions in order to accommodate GBLT (gay, bisexual, lesbian, transsexual, etc.) lifestyles are increasingly being subjected to harassment and mistreatment by the gay activists and their sympathizers, just as it was in the days of Lot in Sodom.
Some today would argue that Sodom was not destroyed due to the practice of homosexuality, but rather because of their lack of hospitality. However, Peter characterized their sin as “filthy conduct” which is not a descriptive phrase one would use to describe a lack of hospitality. “Filthy conduct,” just as Paul’s other descriptive terms “against nature” and “that which is shameful” are terms understood by all to be descriptive of sexual perversion and not a lack of hospitality.
The text used by gay activists to argue that Sodom’s sin was inhospitality instead of the sin of homosexuality is Ezekiel 16:49-50 which says:
“Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.”
Here, as in Romans chapter one, we see a downward spiral. In this case we see that it began with pride and spiraled into excess, laziness, indifference towards others and then they finally ended up committing the abomination. It was committing the abomination that provoked the severe judgment of the Lord – not a lack of hospitality (“they…committed the abomination...therefore I….”).
What is the abomination they committed? Certainly, it was not inhospitality. In the first place, inhospitality is a sin of omission – not commission. What sin is Sodom historically known to have committed that could be aptly described as an abomination? Homosexuality. That is why sodomy has historically been utilized as a synonym for the homosexual lifestyle.
Lack of hospitality is never referred to in Scripture as an “abomination” requiring the death penalty. God would have been acting outside of His own law if He inflicted the death penalty upon them for failing to show hospitality. The law of God does not prescribe the death penalty for failing to give to the poor, but it does require the death penalty for the abomination of homosexual activity:
“If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death.” (Lev 20:13)
What abomination did Sodom commit that justified their death penalty “as an example?” This phrase “committed an abomination” as it appears here in Hebrew in the singular form is the same as “committed abomination” in Ezequiel 16:50. In all of Scripture it is exclusively used to refer to the homosexual act. Jude, who was one of the brothers of the Lord Jesus, further describes the nature of Sodom’s sin:
“as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.” (Jude 7)
If you were a reader with a bias in favor of the homosexual lifestyle you probably would have stopped reading this blog the moment I first referred to same sex acts as sodomy. However, in the light of what we have seen in these texts, clearly sodomy is a term which aptly characterizes homosexual activity. I believe that in these times at the end of the age we are seeing a repeat of the cultural decline described concerning Sodom in Ezequiel 16:49,50 and in Romans 1:18-32. This same downward spiral was prophesied by Paul in 2Thessalonians 2:9-12. Paul says that, at the close of this age, all who do not receive the love of the truth will fall under a strong deluding influence which will prepare the way for the final deception under the Antichrist:
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, 12 that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
Paul said in Romans 1 that: since they did not want to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them up to vile passions. He, in all probability was making reference to Sodom. In 2Thessalonians 2 Paul says essentially the same thing: He will send strong delusion to all those who do not receive the love of the truth but take pleasure in unrighteousness.
The Scriptures also foretell the present societal intolerance towards sound biblical doctrine and a proclivity towards new and novel “interpretations” of the text in order to accommodate the Scriptures to one’s own sinful desires. This is a very real phenomena which we are witnessing in today’s culture – not only in the world but also within the churches. Paul warned us saying:
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (2Tim 4:2-4)
In our days, more than any other time in history, we need to know what God has revealed in His Word and hold fast to it:
“Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (2Tim 1:13)
“But hold fast what you have till I come.” (Rev 2:25)
Returning to the focus of this blog, we can now see some of the practical consequences of a seemingly innocent but unbiblical catchphrase like “all sins are equal before God.” All sins are not equal before God. And placing a lustful thought on the same plane as adultery and homosexuality is having a disastrous effect upon modern society and has greatly contributed to the disintegration of the family. A common argument used to justify homosexuality in our present culture is based upon the supposition that all sexual sins are the same. This same erroneous logic could soon easily be applied to incest, pedophilia and bestiality.
If God set Sodom and Gomorra as an example of what will become of a society who gives itself over to “sexual immorality” or “filthy conduct” in defiance against nature and God’s clearly established boundaries, where does that leave us today? Some years back Billy Graham cited a statement made by his late wife, Ruth. She said: “If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”
The question remains as to where the saying: “all sins are equal before God,” originated. Like many other unbiblical phrases used in theological circles, it seems to have originated as an attempt to justify the generic sentence of eternal condemnation to all the lost, regardless of the magnitude of their sin. It is a common traditional response to those who might ask: “If God is just, why would he sentence the little boy who stole a cookie from the cookie jar to an equally eternal sentence as a grown man who rapes and murders a little girl?”
The response of the traditionalist would be worded in somewhat in the following manner: “All sin, no matter how small, is against an infinite and eternal God, and is therefore worthy of an infinite and eternal penalty.” The statement, “all sins are equal,” although unbiblical, is necessary in order for the traditionalist to bolster the doctrine of an equally eternal punishment for every sinner, without regard for the greatly varying amounts and degrees of sin between individuals.
However, a generic sentence of eternal punishment for all does not align with the Scriptures. Future punishment as presented by Jesus is of measured duration and in proportion to the offense, rather than infinite and eternal. Jesus said that some will receive many lashes whereas others will receive few lashes. (Luke 12:47-48) Many or few lashes are both, by their very nature, limited in duration. They are also seen to be measured out with a just measurement. Each will be judged according to their works and will receive their part or allotted portion. (Luke 12:46; Rev 21:8) A portion is a justly measured sentence according to the works of each one and not infinite. Jesus said that they would not get out until they have paid in full. (Matt 5:26; Luke 12:59). If one infinite generic condemnation will be meted out to all without distinction, then why is there any need for a judgment of each individual according to their works? Why does Jesus say that the sentence will be more tolerable for some than for others? (Matt 10:15; Luke 10:14) Why does He say that some will enter the kingdom before others, and that some will be first while others will be last? (Matt 21:31; Luke 13:30)
While all sins are not equal with God, we must also insist along with Scripture that all sin, no matter how small, is unacceptable before God. All have sinned and the wages of sin is death. James says: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” (James 2:10) God’s standard is not like a baseball game where you get three strikes before you are out. Some states within the United States have adopted a “three strike” law for repeat offenders. God’s holiness requires perfection. No sin can enter the eternal kingdom of God. Sin will be nonexistent in eternity when God shall be all in all.
Due to the fact that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, all, without exception, are in need of the Savior. All of mankind, from the child stealing the cookie from the cookie jar to the man who rapes and murders an innocent child, stand guilty before God. The law was given for the express purpose of revealing our sinful state. The law was given to condemn us. It was the ministry of death and condemnation to all who have placed their hope in self-salvation. (2 Cor 3:7,9) Only those who come to recognize their hopeless sinful condition will look to the Savior. Therefore, the law was given as our schoolmaster to lead us to Christ. (Gal 3:24) All, without exception, have “struck out” and need the grace of God that only comes through the blood of the cross of Jesus Christ. The law placed us all under disobedience in order that all might come to Him for mercy:
“For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.” (Rom 11:32)
Only in Him can we find justification in spite of our sin, and only in Him can we attain to the sanctified life without which no one shall see the Lord.
While it is true that sin is sin, and all have sinned and equally stand in need of the Savior, we can clearly see that all sins are not the same in God’s eyes. His judgments are just, good, limited, measured and merciful towards the repentant. It is His mercy that is eternal – not His wrath. It is my conviction that the phrase “all sins are equal in the eyes of God” is just one more traditional saying that distorts the true revelation of God, invalidating the Scriptures.