The Bereans

The Bereans
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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Are All Sins Equal? (What about Abominations?)

Unfortunately in our liberal society, there is a myth that all sins are equal.  Are All Sins Equal?  People will often say this, but I think it is more of a liberal “Christianese” catch phrase than a reflection of true Biblical thinking… 
In a quick nutshell, didn’t Jesus Himself teach us otherwise?  John 19:11 Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you IS GUILTY OF A GREATER SIN."  We will cast some more light on these words of Christ in a moment!

Let’s think critically about this for a moment…if all sin is really equal in the sight of God, and we really believed this and lived out our lives within this reality, then wouldn’t we suffer equal conviction of the Holy Spirit for all sins.  Most of our consciences have suffered from the conviction of the Holy Spirit by some unrepentant sin…but this spiritual heaviness normally only comes from those sins we perceive to be more severe.

If it were true, however, that all sin is equal in the sight of God, then we should be just as troubled spiritually and just as repentant before God when we break the speed limit--as when we commit adultery.  After all, breaking the speed limit, even by 1 mph, is breaking the law and breaking the law is sin according to Rom 13.  But nobody really lives their lives in this manner.  We all see speeding down the road as “water under the bridge of God” compared to the abuse of a child or the rape of a woman.  It appears to me, that our conscience bears witness that controlled speeding is not as bad as some other sins—even if we confess differently.

So, where does this myth of theology come from?  Perhaps it could refer to Christ’s comments in the Sermon on the Mount. In particular, the reference made to Matt. 5:27-28 could be justification for this way of thinking.  Matt. 5:27-28 27: “You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall not commit adultery’” but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.   Is there a difference in the eyes of God between thinking about adultery and actually doing it?  Absolutely!!!  If we say anything other than this, I believe we do damage to the character of God and encourage the act to be carried out--based upon its premonition. The point Jesus is trying to make in Matt. 5:28, in my opinion, is not that lust and the actual act are equal, but that they both violate the same commandment, even if the degrees of this violation differs. Thus, Christ was telling the people – and particularly the religious establishment of the day that thought they were safe because they had fulfilled the letter of the law – that the law runs much deeper. THE SPIRIT OF THE LAW IS WHAT MATTERS.

This is the same argument that James makes in James 2:10 when he says “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.”  James is not equating all sin, but showing how any violation of the law, no matter how small, is still breaking the whole of the law because the law is connected to such a degree.

Think about it this way: if you truly believe that adultery and lust are equal in the sight of God, and we logically extend that reasoning, then here are the consequences: any man or woman can justify divorce based upon the fact that in Matt. 5:32 Christ condemns divorce except for marital infidelity. All they need to do is make the safe assumption that their spouse has lusted to some degree during their marriage.  This will make their divorce justified and biblical.  In the same way, if a man were to lust after a woman on the internet, he might as well commit the actual act since in God’s eyes he already has.  Or (I am on a roll), if you have ever lusted after a girl, then you are under God’s mandate to marry her since in God’s eyes you are one with her (1 Cor. 6:16).

To me, this way of thinking is not only wrong biblically, but it also has repercussions that lead to a distorted worldview and also discredits the integrity of God and the Gospel of Christ.
The Bible seems to indicate that there are varying degrees of sin.  BUT, I WANT YOU TO LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE AND DECIDE FOR YOURSELF:

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is set apart as a greater sin than blasphemy of the Son in Matt 12:31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

1 John 5:16-17  If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

So, we see that the Bible has told us there are some less serious sins that do NOT lead to death and some sins that DO lead to death.  There is also the unforgiveable sin of blasphemy against the Spirit.

NOW, LET’S CONSIDER ANOTHER, MORE SERIOUS CATEGORY OF SINS, GOD CALLS ABOMINATIONS.  Biblically speaking, there appears to three graduated levels of Abominable sins: Ceremonial Abominations (ceremonial un-cleanliness) which can be involuntary, Regular Abominations and Detestable Abominations.   We do however, have to scale the language barrier because in English, the words “Detestable” and “Abomination” mean exactly the same thing.  But in Hebrew, there are distinctions between these terms that we need to know to understand what the Bible is teaching.

Ceremonial Unclean Abominations: OT:6292 lWGP! pigguwl (pig-gool'); or piggul (pig-gool'); from an unused root meaning to stink; properly, fetid, i.e. (figuratively) unclean (ceremonially):

According to the Law, several things could cause a person could become unclean having a dead body in your home to long, or by having leprousy, or even a woman giving birth.

Abominations:  Usually focuses on SOCIAL/SEXUAL SINS that are committed in a brotherly, cultural and/or political sense.  

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.  This seems to confirm that sexual sins are certainly sins of greater earthly consequence, but also infers they are also sins of even a greater degree of insult to God SINCE OUR BODY IS HIS TEMPLE.

Here is an example: 1 Chr. 5:1 The sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel (he was the firstborn, but when he defiled his father's marriage bed, his rights as firstborn were given to the sons of Joseph son of Israel.  Now, if you are following my reasoning, we can be certain Reuben’s other 11 brothers also committed sins, but Reuben’s sin was considered greater and consequential, while most of the other brothers sins were not mentioned.

Lev 20:13 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination (8262). They shall surely be put to death. NKJV

Lev 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. 

The Hebrew words that are usually translated to describe these sins are:

OT:8441 hb*u@oT ‎tow`ebah (to-ay-baw'); or to`ebah (to-ay-baw'); feminine active participle of OT:8581; properly, something disgusting (morally), i.e. (as noun) an abhorrence; especially idolatry or (concretely) an idol:  KJV - abominable (custom, thing), abomination.

OT:8442 hu*oT ‎tow`ah (to-aw'); feminine active participle of OT:8582; mistake, i.e. (morally) impiety, or (an ungodly act that shows a lack of due reverence for God, or a lack of religious respect or devotion, political) injury:   KJV - error, hinder. 

Detestable Abominations:  A FAR GREATER, MORE SERIOUS DEGREE OF AN ABOMINABLE SIN THAT USUALLY INVOLVES EITHER SPIRITUAL ADULTERY, IDOLATRY, OR BY A PERSON IN LEADERSHIP IN THE CHURCH.   In other words, this type of abomination has a focus on gross sins that happen within the church community (NOT on culture or politics)—AND CAN ONLY BE COMMITTED BY GOD’S HOLY PEOPLE.  This is the type of abomination that is referred to by Daniel 12:11 when he described the Abomination of desolation.   When we scale the language barrier, it would have been more accurate to have translated it “A Detestable desolation.”  Why?  Because Bible prophecy primarily concerns the people of God and His church—not the culture.

Now, within this proper context, the words of Jesus that we considered earlier now take on a fuller meaning don’t they:  John 19:11 Jesus answered, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you IS GUILTY OF A GREATER SIN."   After all, wasn’t it the High Priest, all the Chief Priests and Pharisees (the Sanhedrin) who handed Jesus over to Pontius Pilot.

FYI: Jews who ate unclean foods also fell into the detestable sins category because it defiled their bodies:

Lev 7:18  And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offering is eaten at all on the third day, it shall not be accepted, nor shall it be imputed to him; it shall be an abomination to him who offers it, and the person who eats of it shall bear guilt.  NKJV

Lev 11:42-43 Whatever crawls on its belly, whatever goes on all fours, or whatever has many feet among all creeping things that creep on the earth — these you shall not eat, for they are an abomination (8263).  NKJV

Unclean foods fall under this category also under the sister meaning found in OT: 8262. 

OT:8262 Jq^v* shaqats (shaw-kats'); a primitive root; to be filthy, i.e. (intensively) to loathe, pollute:  KJV - abhor, make abominable, have in abomination, detest,  utterly.

OT:8263 Jq#v# ‎sheqets (sheh'-kets); from OT:8262; filth, i.e. (figuratively and specifically) an idolatrous object (something that you would want to spit out): 

Now, Let’s see if we can now formulate a way of distinguishing between these ideas to gain a better understanding:

Let’s consider Jdg 2:13-15: They (the Israelites) forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.  14 And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. 15 Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said…

As we read above, the nations that surrounded Israel in the Old Testament practiced Temple prostitution as part of their ritualistic worship to the false gods of Baal and Ashtoreths.   Unfortunately, Israel kept sharing in their sins.

According to Lev. 18, adultery is an abomination even when the motivation is simply carnal/physical and the sin is committed in private.   This makes God mad, and the Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Cor. 6:9 that the penalty for people remaining in an unrepentant lifestyle of adultery is that they will not inherit the kingdom of God.  However, as we read above in Jdg 2:13-15, when the sin of adultery is then further compounded with a SPIRITUAL motivation of false worship, it causes God to become even madder as the abominable sin is escalated to a higher Detestable sin called SPIRITUAL ADULTERY.

1 Co 6:9-11 Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

Then, let’s consider Ezek 8:15-16: O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these."  So He brought me into the inner court of the Lord's house; and there, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they were worshiping the sun toward the east. NKJV

In this passage, we read of two more aspects of SPIRITUAL ADULTERY: first, the abomination was committed in the Lord’s house, right in front of the eyes of God—as if He can’t see.  This too, causes the sin to become DETESTABLE.  Secondly, we also learned back in Leviticus that there are only 25 people who are allowed to be in this area of the Temple called the Holy Place.  The only people who are allowed in the part of the Temple are the 24 Chief Priests and the High Priest.  Therefore, it is clearly discernable that these abominations are being committed by the leaders of the House of God, this also makes the sins more DETESTABLE.  

In summary, depending upon the variables of Spiritual motivation or spiritual status (MOTIVATION of the person’s heart, and WHO is committing the sin, and sometimes WHERE the sin is being committed)--can cause the sin to become escalated to a much greater sin in the eyes of God. 

Let’s review this by answering a few quick questions that might apply to our context:

1.                  If a pagan were to engage in a homosexual relationship, or to offer his child as a burnt offering to a false god, what kind of sins would these be?  Answer: either sub would be an abomination.

2.                  If a Christ follower, and even more so, A MEMBER OF THE CLERGY, were to engage in a homosexual relationship, or to offer his child as a burnt offering to a false god, what kind of sins would these be? Answer: these sins would not only be abominations, but much worse—DETESTABLE ABOMINATIONS!  BECAUSE THESE PEOPLE KNOW THE LORD AND THE KNOW BETTER THAN TO COMMIT THESE ACTS OF IDOLATRY AND SPIRITUAL INFIDELITY!

3.                  In the first century, if a unbelieving Gentile army had go into the sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem and committed ritual prostitution, and while they were there, they sacrificed a pig on the alter, would this have defiled the sanctuary?   Answer: No, when it comes to defiling a temple of God, unbelievers are spiritually neutral.  Only a believer, usually a Spiritual Leader, who has spiritually legal access to the temple can commit a DETESTABLE, ABOMINABLE SIN that causes God DESOLATE His Temple.

Therefore, the Bible seems to indicate that Christ evaluates the ABOMINABLE SINS OF PAGANS on a lower level, a sort of “Credit Basis,” meaning that their unrepentant sins will build up until the unbeliever either comes to Christ and is forgiven, or, their sins continue to mount up until death when they will be dealt with entirely on judgment day—but their sins have little spiritual consequences for them today.  Peter seems to imply this: 

2 Pet 2:9-10 …then the Lord knows how to…reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority.

But it seems to me, the same sins committed by BELIEVERS (who claim the name of Christ and know better) are dealt with immediately, on a sort of “Cash basis,” meaning there will be earthly consequences such as the removal of blessings and spiritual/church discipline, escalating to the removal from fellowship, and other consequences ranging from health and family and even sometimes financial are increasingly enforced in this world.  And ultimately then, CHURCH LEADERS are held to yet a higher level of accountability, their ABOMINATIONS are considered as DETESTABLE ABOMINATIONS, much greater than the same sins committed by Pagans and the laity.  

This is why Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matt 23:24 You strain out a gnat while you swallow a camel. If all sins are equal, Christ’s rebuke does not make any sense. (See also Lk. 20:46-47)

The consequence for these sins can include the removal of the clergy from the office or the Lord desolating the Temple.  Christ, in speaking to the Pastor of the church in Ephesus tells John to write: Rv 2:5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent. NKJV

Then James echoes this same teaching speaking to the “brethren” in Jas 3:1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.  Let’s look at some examples:

1 Samuel 2:17  This sin of the young men (Eli’s sons who were Priests) was very great in the LORD's sight, for they were treating the LORD's offering with contempt.  (God kills Eli’s sons for these sins they committed in the temple as Priests).

2 Samuel 7:15 my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. (Saul was prideful, disobedient, and unrepentant; plus, SAUL CONSULTED A MEDIUM FOR GUIDANCE and did not execute the Lord’s wrath on Amalek. 1 Chr 10:13).

 Isa 22:14 (Because they did not look to God for protection) "Till your dying day this sin will not be atoned for," says the Lord, the Lord Almighty.

1 Cor 6:9-11: Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

Luke 12:47-48 "And that slave WHO KNEW HIS MASTER'S WILL and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, WILL RECEIVE MANY LASHES,  48 but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they (GOD) entrusted much, of him they (GOD) will ask all the more.

Prov 6:16 These six things THE LORD HATES, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.  (It is apparent that there would be no reason to list these sins as the sins “GOD HATES” if all sins are equal).
Deut 12:31 You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.

Certain sins in the law are distinguished in a particular context as an abomination to God, implying that others are not as severe (e.g. Lev. 18:22; Deut. 7:25, Deut. 23:18, Isa. 41:24).  See also: verses regarding Psychics, Spiritual Adultery and Capital Punishment, many of these sins are clearly sins of greater magnitude in the eyes of God.