By William C. Sexton
There are different ways of classifying things, all of which can be helpful in allowing us to see matters more fully. So it is, I believe with looking at sin. Therefore, we are challenged to look in this direction. We need to think of the different ways we can and perhaps often do sin, in order that we might improve our lives.
The wages of sin is death (Ram. 6:23). Such is defective, missing the mark; such is deceptive, offering something that it cannot deliver; such is destructive, keeping one separated from God, the source of life (Isa. 59:1-2; 2 Thess. 1:7-10; Jas. 1:15). Consequently, we need to learn how to identify, shun, and be forgiven of sin. Hiding the word of God in our heart is the remedy to keep one from sin (Psa. 119:11) and that word tells us what sin is!
Types Based On Disposition
Ignorance - not knowing what it is, being deceived (Acts 3:18) is one kind of sin. Peter said the Jews killed Jesus in ignorance. Jesus's prayer on the cross is indicative of the ignorant nature of the action (Lk. 23:34). Likewise, Paul pointed to the ignorance of the people when he spoke to the people in Antioch (Acts 13:27) "because they knew him not, nor the voice of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him." Paul, himself, prior to his conversion, had acted in ignorance in opposing the Christians (Acts 26:9-10).
We need to ever keep in mind, however, that being ignorant does not keep one from being accountable, having the sin charged against him (1 Tim. 1:12-15).
Jesus pointed to not knowing the Scriptures as the cause of the error of certain ones (Mt. 22:29). Therefore, we need to know the Scriptures in order that we may not sin against God and our fellow man!
Weakness - knowing better but not having the strength to say "no" or restrain oneself from so acting - is another type of sin. By following the path of least resistance, many do things that are not pleasing to God. By going places they should not and drinking, smoking, etc., people become involved in behavior that is not beneficial but rather harmful; even if the beginning is small, it opens the door to bigger and more corrupting things.
Peter allowed himself to be carried away by pressure in circumstances to deny and withdraw (Mt. 27:73-75; Gal. 2:11-14). In a different circumstance (Mt. 16:21-23; 26:31-34), Peter had become boastful, refusing to entertain the idea that he would deny the Lord; yet when the hour came, he yielded to the pressure. So, none of us should become too highly lifted up in our pride, for any of us many find the pressure to be of such a degree that we would yield to it.
Later, Peter committed a similar sip, by withdrawing from Gentiles, contrary to what he had preached. Such was a sin, and needed to be called to his attention, hoping that he would see the blame and seek forgiveness. Paul pointed to his sin and recorded the same for people of the future to see that even a man such as Peter could and did sin and was in need of forgiveness.
Rebellion - knowing but not caring - is a type of sin that is destructive, in that it is committed by a person with a disposition that is almost unreachable! It is not that the sin cannot be forgiven, but that it is next to impossible to get such, a person to meet the conditions of pardon, repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22; 1 Jn. 1:9). There are those who have seen themselves as being able and wise enough to push themselves on to safety (2 Pet. 2:9-15).
Many are practicing openly what they know is not allowed by God and decent people in society. They know better but they do not care to violate the rule of God. There is little hope for such people, unless they suffer a set back such as will cause them to re-evaluate their life and total existence.
Many such people have to be placed in confinement; thus, we have the institutions for such people; prisons are an unfit place to have men and women spend time, but some people are not "fit" for society, so they are restrained. Some, religious people, however, openly violate God's rules and, for awhile, get by with it; their day is coming however (Ram. 14:10-12; 2 Cor. 5:10; Phil. 2:9-11).
Beloved, we can see the different sins, as coming from or being committed by a different type of person, thus revealing something of the character and the likelihood of them seeking and finding forgiveness. Yet, let us remember that each sin can be forgiven and needs to be; but the conditions are the same, and unless such conditions are met, the penalty of death remains (Acts 22:16; 1 Jn. 1:9).
Types Based On Action
Moral - behavior that is immoral - is a sin that is common today and has always been. The standard of morals, of course, is God's book, the Scriptures, and behavior contrary to them is sinful. So much of this is observable in our land today! The world's standard is, "if it feels good, do it," if it doesn't hurt someone immediately. -Laws of decency are violated; killing, stealing, sexual behavior of fornication and adultery are engaged in by many; at times these sins are committed by "church members," and at times with no shame! It is a shame that some religious people do commit such; but it is worse when they try to find sanction for such in God's word.
However, at the other end of the spectrum, some feel that if you are a good moral person, then you are safe and have no need of salvation, forgiveness of sins. All have sinned and are in need of forgiveness, however; it is needful that we recognize this and act accordingly (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). What we need to do is compare ourselves with the inspired word and respond accordingly, not using other people as the standard (Jas. 1:21-25).
Doctrinal - teachings other than the truth of God's word is sinful too. Much of the Bible (if we will look closely we can see) is taken up to correct mis-concepts and misdeeds! Paul wrote to the Galatians (1:6ff) to refute a perverted gospel and announce that no one had the right to preach "another gospel" without having the curse of God resting on him!
Peter pointed firmly to the need of keeping our speaking confined to the "oracles of God" (1 Pet. 4:11). Even in stronger language, Paul told the Romans (3:3-4) how to be "justified" in what they said and "overcome" when judged: "let God be true, but every man a liar."
Jesus proclaimed that some worshipped God, His Father, "in vain," teaching for "doctrine the commandments of men" (Mt. 15:9) "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men" (Mk. 7:7).
Religious Practices - doing things in religion which are not authorized by God - constitute another category of sins! Early in the Law (Lev. 10:1-2), God let it be known what His sentiments toward deviating from His proscriptions in worship were!
People have added various things to what the New Testament authorizes since the first century. Yet, the Scriptures are plain: "Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him" (Col. 3:16-17). John (2 Jn. 9) pointed to the separated state for those who go beyond the teachings of Jesus while announcing the security of those who remain or "abide" within the teachings!
Doing more or less is walking on dangerous ground (Rev. 22:18-19). Historically, the organizational arrangement has been changed by many, to suit their own likeings. Yet the New Testament arrangement is congregational, (Acts 14:23; 1 Pet. 5:1 ff). The work that the Lord gave the church to do has been changed by some to suit their likes, too. Beloved, we need to see the gravity of such. It is not a small matter to "change" what the Lord said to something else! But many have done so in the past and, no doubt, many will continue to do the same. You and I then need to be careful that we do not participate with such people.
Is There A Difference In Results?
A prevalent idea advanced by some today is that some sins are a lot worse than others. The implication of what some are claiming today, it seems to me, is that some sins will cut one off and another will not. I raise the question: Where is the passage that affirms such?
1. I would suggest that the Scriptures point to some becoming so involved in sinful conduct that it is next to impossible to get the person to meet the terms of forgivensss (cf. Heb. 6:4-6; 10:25-31). But I am aware of no Scripture that affirms that some sins can go undetected and be undestructive to the person. If you know of such a passage, please show it to me. I would like to find such a passage.
2. 1 am aware of the fact that the type of sin one commits may very well be reflective of the character of a person and thus be predictive of that person's response to God's will. As we have said before, he who openly rebels against God's will is not likely to be affected by God's "goodness" to lead to "repentance" (Rom. 2:4-11). But as I read my New Testament, I am impressed with the destructive nature of "sin," not that some are bad while others are not so bad.
3. If we can convince ourselves that there are some sins that will not cause us to be lost, what will that do to our watchfulness? Will that tend to cause us to be as careful as we should be or cause us to be less careful? To me the answer is clear!
4. Most important, as I see it, is - what do the Scriptures say? Where is the passage that says some sins will not destroy if not forgiven? Or, where is the passage that says sins undetected will be taken care of -forgiven - by the Lord without any specific response by the sinner? If such is taught by God, then we need to teach it. If such is not taught by the Scriptures, however, what are we doing when we teach such?
5. There is a legitimate concern by some, I believe, relative to being pressed down and overcome by one's sense of the situation. The idea is, "If I have to recognize all of my sins and repent specifically of each in order to be saved, then I'm afraid that I'll overlook one." Satan, no doubt, the adversary of man, will try to use that type of thinking to get us to give up! However, will he not, on the other end, use the idea if you can get by with one sin, then surely more than one, so why be careful, too (2 Cor. 2:11; 1 Pet. 5:8)?
So, it comes down to the facts stated or unstated in the Scriptures. Look for that passage and stand on it. Faith based on anything other than the word of God (Rom. 10:17) is faulty!
Truth Magazine XXIV: 48, pp. 780-781
December 4, 1980