This question is asked often, is all sin equal? Then again, we also ask, what is sin, anyway? Many Christians have been under the impression that all sin is equal in the eyes of God but is that what the Word says? Today, we’re going to examine the Bible to see what it says about the equality of sin. We’ll also discover what “sin” is along with the meaning of “trespass,” “transgression,” and “iniquity” since we see these words often throughout Scripture.
The Psalmist used three of these four words in one verse, Psalm 32:5, “I acknowledge my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.” David knew that there is a progression of sin through to the deepest of sins — iniquities — as all three of these words translate to violating or going against God though each has a different meaning. Let’s take a look at them.
What is Sin?
Before we can answer the question, “is all sin equal?”, we need to define what sin is to God. We’re not too concerned with the average dictionary meaning as they do not normally point back to the Bible. Some do, but not all of them so let’s stick with a Bible dictionary such as the New Concise Bible Dictionary where we read that sin is defined as a violation directly against God and against what His glory demands, Romans 8:7.
This dictionary also teaches that there is a difference between the original Hebrew and Greek words and that sin is commonly defined as missing the mark, rebellion, or going astray. Each of these is directed at God and goes against His holiness.
The nature of sin is present in every human being since the fall of Adam and Eve, Romans 5:12. We are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23. Because of this sinful nature, we find ourselves sinning, even when we don’t want to, Romans 7:15-18. The remedy for this is found in Jesus Christ, who died once and for all, to forgive all mankind of our sins, 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18.
What is Trespass?
You may have read the word trespass in the Lord’s Prayer but do you know what it means? To trespass primarily means to take a false step, to fall away, a deviation from uprightness and truth. It means to cross the line whether it is intentional or unintentional. This is something we all do and as Jesus said in Matthew 6:15, we need to be quick to forgive others for their trespasses. This word is often substituted as offense or fault.
What is Transgression?
Transgression literally means to go aside or to go beyond. I like the “to go beyond” phrase as it is easier understood as overstepping your bounds. When it comes to sin, it refers to overstepping the law or breaching (violating) the law. This is the same as choosing to intentionally disobey or intentionally going against God. We saw this happen when Samson gave away his secret which allowed his hair to be cut, (Judges 16:17).
What is Iniquity?
The word “iniquity” is more serious in that it means lawlessness or wickedness. In the New Testament, it means unrighteousness. This word is used frequently through Scripture and used about 70 times in the book of Psalms alone. Iniquity means it is a premeditated choice, a willful decision to continue doing wrong without repentance.
Iniquity is interchangeable with the word lawlessness or lawless and means men without the law. Paul refers to the “lawless one” or “that wicked” one in 2 Thessalonians 2:8. Another example can be seen in Micah 2:1 where evil men make plans at night and then put their plans into action the next day.
Summary of Meanings
Let’s make some sense of these meanings by capturing them here.
Sin means to go against the holiness of God and is known as missing the mark, going astray, or rebellion.
Trespass means to blunder or take a false step, to deviate from uprightness or truth whether it is intentional or not.
Transgression means to intentionally or willfully overstep the bounds of God’s law.
Iniquity means unrighteousness or lawlessness that is willfully planned.
Now that we understand what sin is, we can move on to discover if all sin is equal or not.
Is All Sin Equal?
Let’s turn our attention to our original question now, which is, is all sin equal? What do you think? What have you been taught over the years? Is all sin the same?
The Potential to Err
In one sense, all sin is equal in that sin is a barrier between us and God as God will not tolerate sin, James 2:10. This is expressed in Romans 3:23 in that we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. And again, in Romans 6:23, that the wages of sin is death.
However, we don’t want to mislead ourselves into thinking that the sin of gossiping is the same as the sin of murder. The potential to err is in believing that since all sin is the same, we don’t need to fight sin. This is deception and leads to thinking it is okay to sin, 1 John 1:8, however, as Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, that those who habitually sin will not inherit the kingdom of God. Such self-deception would cause us to sin greater as we would lose the desire to live holy and blameless before Him.
Punishment to Suit the Crime
The Old Testament teaches that the severity of the sin deserves a different punishment. For example, in Numbers 15:27, if the sin was done in ignorance or unintentionally, the sacrifice that God instituted was less than if the sin was wilful.
In a New Testament example, Luke 12:47-48, Jesus mentions that some would be beaten with many blows while others would receive fewer blows.
Let’s look at John 19:10-11 when Jesus was before Pontius Pilate and said that those who handed him (Jesus) over to Pilate had the greater sin. This indicates that one sin is greater than another.
Here’s another example, turn to the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus said in Matthew 7:3, that there is a difference in sin, the speck in your brother’s eye and the board in your eye.
And another example is found in Ezekiel 8:6-16 where we read the progression of Israel’s sin to be more detestable than the previous sins.
Back to the New Testament with Jesus upbraiding the cities where most of his works had been done but they did not repent, Matthew 11:20-24. He said specifically to Capernaum that if the works that had been done in Capernaum had been done in Sodom (and we know how bad they sinned) that it would be more tolerable for Sodom than for Capernaum on the day of judgment. This is a pretty strong rebuke!
Did you know that sexual sins are more serious? Rosilind Jukic from A Little R&R wrote a great post explaining Why Sexual Sins Are Not Equal that you may be interested in reading.
From these few examples, it is easy to see that some sins are more offensive to God than others and each carries its own punishment.
The Answer to the Question, Is All Sin Equal
So, are all sins equal? According to Scripture, as we have seen above, all sin is not equal as there are differences in sin, from a lesser sin to a greater, more depraved sin. And as a reminder, all sin is a violation against God and His holy standards.
The Remedy for Sin
No matter what the sin is, no matter the severity of the sin, trespass, transgression, or iniquity, there is only one solution. Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for your sins, Romans 5:8, 1 Peter 3:18.
It is vital that repentance is a regular occurrence in your life. We all sin, therefore, we all need to repent of our sins. When we repent with a sincere heart, we will experience forgiveness from Jesus.
You may not “feel” it but the Bible truth is that when you repent, He immediately forgives you. This means that He tosses away your sin(s) so far that He will not throw them back in your face again. That’s what this verse, Psalm 103:12, means.
Let me elaborate for a minute. God does not forget your sin because He is all-knowing and cannot forget, but He will not bring them up to you to remind you of what you’ve done in the past. Forgiven sin will not be used against you though the enemy, satan, will definitely throw your sin back at you causing you to feel unforgiven. Do not believe his lie!
There is one sin that is unforgivable which is blasphemy against Holy Spirit. This is the only sin that mankind will never be forgiven for, Matthew 12:31. However, there are many believers who also think that the sin of suicide is unforgivable but that is not what Jesus taught in Matthew 12:31.
Consequences for the Unrepentant
As Christians living in New Testament days, we are fortunate that we do not have to bring sacrificial offerings for our sins. Jesus paid the price for our sin penalty with His death on the cross. However, for those who are unrepentant, the punishment for their sins will be exacted on Judgment Day, 2 Corinthians 5:10.
That’s a Wrap
So, we’ve covered the definitions of sin, trespass, transgression, and iniquity which helps us to understand that these words do not all have the exact same meaning. We also learned that not all sin is equal and that there are different punishments for the different severities of sin.
Most importantly we learned that there is a remedy for sin and that Jesus Christ paid the price for our sinful nature. He died on the cross offering Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, giving us forgiveness of sins, past, present, and future. This is the gospel message that He wants us to share with others.
Let me know what you think about this quick study on the subject of is all sin equal as I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
If you’d like to stay connected with me, I encourage you to subscribe to my email list. When you do, be sure to confirm your subscription through the Confirmation Email that will be sent to your Inbox. Once you do that, you’ll begin to receive emails from me.
Cindy Barnes has been called by God in the early 80s to be a teacher of His Word. She is a serious student of the Word, focusing on the Inductive Bible Study Method since 2007. Her passion is to teach women how to study the Bible using this method. In addition, she desires for women to develop an intense yearning to draw closer to God through reading and writing out the Bible.
Cindy teaches hundreds of women in her private online Bible Study Group who express their joy of growing deeper in their spiritual walk.
You can stay in touch with Cindy on Liberty Circle – 215 Ministry.