Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?

The answer to this question is “yes” and “no.” Yes, all sins are essentially the same as far as separating us from God. At the same time, the Bible seems to indicate that some sins are worse than others, for there are both sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit:

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Sins of the flesh and sins of the spirit

Sins of the flesh are sins that we can usually see or have some sort of outward manifestation. For instance, when King David committed the sin of adultery with Bathsheba, and then tried to cover it up by murdering her husband, these were obviously sins of the flesh.

Sins of the spirit are the more subtle (yet more dangerous) sins of the heart. We commit these sins when we go against what we know to be true. Returning to the example of David, when the prophet Nathan came to test David by confronting him with a scenario that resembled the essence of David’s sin, David displayed a judgmental attitude. Instead of sensing the similarities in Nathan’s story, he pretended to be more righteous than the perpetrator in Nathan’s story. David’s greatest sin was not the act of adultery and murder, but the covering up of his deeds and then acting as though nothing had happened.

Jesus Himself referred to this type of sin when He told Pilate, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11). Jesus was referring to the High Priest Caiaphas or Judas. Both of these men knew the innocence of Jesus, yet they deliberately did what they knew was wrong. When we have been schooled in the Scriptures (like the High Priest Caiaphas) or exposed to the truth and power of God (like Judas), we are essentially without excuse. We commit a sin of the spirit when we knowingly sin against the light.

In addition, Jesus seems to indicate that there are greater and lesser commandments in the Sermon on the Mount:

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of Heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 5:19).

There are people who ignorantly sin and, when convicted by the Holy Spirit, will feel remorse and repent. But then, as this verse attests, there are those who sin willfully, repeatedly, and knowingly with a callused heart. Such people commit a sin of the spirit.

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