Greater and Lesser Sins

So many in cultural Christianity always try to say that all sins are equal in nature.

But the entire point here of this post is that some sins are more wicked than others. We must understand this truth. All sins condemn a person, but some sins bring a harsher judgment than others. Regardless, we all should repent of both the greater and the lesser sins in our lives.

 

I was reading in John the other day about the trial of Jesus. During one of His exchanges with Pontius Pilate, He declares, “You could have no power at all against Me unless is had been given to you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”

The obvious truth from this statement is Jesus telling Pilate that nothing happens outside the will of God. God is sovereign and nothing comes about that He has not decreed.

But the other point is that Jesus tells Pilate there is one who has committed greater sin than the sin Pilate was committing. Jesus is not giving Pilate a pass for his part in the crucifixion, but his role is not as serious as the role that Judas Iscariot played in betraying Christ.

We are seeing that there are greater and lesser sins. We need this reminder because so many in cultural Christianity always try to say that all sins are equal in nature. I get the impression this error is put forth in order to lessen the wickedness of some sins in comparison with others.

There are several errors in this thinking. First, Jesus doesn’t pardon Pilate for his role in the trial. He just tells him that the one who betrayed him is guilty of the greater sin. Therefore, both Pilate and Judas are in need of repentance and a Savior, but the judgment upon Judas will be greater.

Secondly, we need to remember that sin is usually graded based on responsibility. Those who had the Law of God, but rejected Christ were held to a higher standard of responsibility than those who were ignorant of the Law. This is why Jesus was so hard on the Pharisees, and pronounced judgements of doom upon them in the “woe” passages (See Matthew 24).

The Apostle James shows us this truth as well concerning those who would be teachers of God’s word. My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. Because of the teacher/student relationship, in which the student is trusting the teacher to guide him in the truth, the teacher is held to a stricter judgment than the student. This is because of the greater responsibility that that teacher has. He should know the seriousness of teaching that which is false and the condemnation that he falls under when he teaches falsehood.

Neither Jesus nor the apostles ever treated false teachers kindly. They were extremely harsh in their words towards false teachers because of the seriousness of what they were doing. False teachers lead people to eternal hell. This is truly serious.

But the entire point here of this post is that some sins are more wicked than others. We must understand this truth. All sins condemn a person, but some sins bring a harsher judgment than others. Regardless, we all should repent of both the greater and the lesser sins in our lives.

Timothy Hammons is a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.