Q: Are all sins alike, or can we speak about certain sins as “open” or “gross”?
A: In the eyes of the holy God every sin, whether discussing birth sin or that which we may associate with the most vile of criminals, is a rebellion against God and in itself deserves the full and eternal wrath of God. “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10), “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:20), “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law” (Galatians 3:10).
But Scripture also informs us that sins can be distinguished in this sense: If one knows better and yet goes against his/her better knowledge of the will of God, by willfully determining to do or think or say evil this is more heinous than sinning out of weakness. The following passages would speak to this subject, as well as to the subject of different degrees of punishment in hell: Luke 12:47,48; John 19:11; Duet. 1:39; Matt. 11:20-24; Numbers 15:22; and I John 3:9. We have always maintained that the most grievous sin of all is despising Christ’s Gospel, for this is the very and only way in which God offers his complete forgiveness to our individual souls.
Since various sins have a greater impact on society and on the people immediately around us, we often speak in terms of categorized sins as to greater or lesser in degree. We think, for example of the list in I Cor. 6:9 and 10. Sins such as these are more obvious to the public eye. (Homosexuality is described in Romans 1:26 as being “unnatural” indicating a thorough perversion even of the natural law of God.) But a great word of caution needs to be issued: A sin which is secretly ingrained in a person’s mind and soul is just as faith-destroying as a word or deed brought on by a quick burst of passion, if it goes unrepented. Any sin may become a faith-destroying sin if there is persistence to go ahead with it in spite of warnings from God’s Word and the Christian conscience. And finally, since sin is sin in God’s eyes, every sin needs the forgiving grace of Christ to escape eternal punishment.