What is the Greatest Sin

 

 

What is the Greatest Sin?

Richard Hollerman

A discussion of the degree and destruction of the greatest sins in the Bible!

Christ is the only One capable of solving the dreadful problem of Sin!

A Relevant Subject

Over the years, people have discussed the question of sin. Part of this discussion revolves around what we should think of the various sins that bring guilt on people. 

The Catholic Church has traditionally categorized sins as either venial or mortal, with venial being sins of lesser importance and mortal being sins that bring eternal condemnation.  If one dies with venial sins on his record, he will suffer punishment for them in purgatory (according to Catholic theology) but will eventually be received into heaven. On the other hand, if one dies in moral sin, he cannot be saved but will spend eternity in hell. In contrast, the Bible teaches that the wages of all sin is death—the tragic and horrible second death of hell!

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church began to emphasize the so-called “Seven Deadly Sins” which were thought to underlie and lead to the whole range of other sins.  Catholic society viewed these sins as particularly important: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony. 

In our day, many people tend to emphasize such sins as murder, adultery, and idolatry, but we might wonder what happened to the popular sins mentioned above—wrath (anger), greed (covetousness), sloth (laziness), pride (arrogance), lust (sexual immorality), envy (and jealousy), and gluttony (eating or consuming more than needed).  Sin indeed is popular in our day and the Medieval obsession with sin is passé.

In our discussion on the following pages, we will be focusing on those sins that the Word of God seems to emphasize. These are not the only sins but they do constitute major sins or widespread sins that should make us constantly aware of sin’s guilt, punishment, and Christ’s gracious forgiveness to all who come to Him.

What is the Greatest Sin?

When we ask, “What is the greatest sin mentioned in the Bible?,” some may wonder what we mean.  In fact, a few readers may question whether this is a legitimate question.  We’ve all heard someone blithely say, “All sin is the same. Sin is sin!”  In a sense, this is true.  Sin is sin and any sin makes the person guilty before God.

Sin—any sin—is utterly serious!  Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a).  He further said, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). Sin separates us from a holy God (Isaiah 59:1-2). Thus, all sin offends God and when sin remains unforgiven, it will result in eternal condemnation (cf. Romans 1:19-22; Galatians 5:19-21; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Revelation 21:8). If one dies is his sins, he cannot enter heaven (John 8:21; Revelation 21:27; 22:15)!

Yet, in another respect, there are differences between sins. Our Lord said to Pilate before He was condemned and crucified, “He who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11).  He is saying that the prejudicial, hypocritical, and blinded Jews (both Pharisees and Sadducees) were guilty of a greater sin than the sin for which Pilate was guilty (as serious as that was).  The Jews should have known that Jesus was the Messiah. After all, they had the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures along with Jesus’ many miraculous works and peerless life.  This suggests that some sins are “greater” than others in the eyes of God.

Consider this.  We know that Jesus said if someone lusts for a woman, he has committed “adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28).  Thus, inward sexual lust is sinful and considered as adultery by God since it is the inner attitude that brings forth actual adultery.  Yet are we not justified in saying that the person who commits the act of adultery has committed a “greater” sin than mental adultery—at least in regard to its consequences?  The act of adultery is a sin committed against the partner of the woman (or man), against the sexual partner herself, against his own body, and against society as a whole.

What about murder?  John the apostle wrote, “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).  We see from this that hatred is equated with murder and the one who commits murder (hatred) and remains unrepentant does not have eternal life—but remains in spiritual death.  Yet we must admit that in another respect, the one who actually commits the act of murder has done something more devastating and far-reaching than the one who harbors mental hatred for another. Both the thought and the action are sinful but the act of murder surely must be considered “greater” in some respects since it is a sin against the image of God in man (Genesis 9:6-7).

As we read through the pages of Scripture, we notice that God (or Christ) considers certain sins to be particularly heinous, evil, and serious. All sin is equally sin, as we noticed, but not all sin is on the same level.  Some are confined to the mind, while other sins are committed against many other people. Surely those types of sins are particularly sinful.  And remember that some sins are sins of ignorance while others are committed with the full knowledge of their sinfulness.

Let’s notice a number of the more serious sins mentioned in God’s Word.

God hates pride

Have you ever noticed how some people walk around with arrogance and look down on those around them whom they consider to be inferior?  Pride may be manifested in the boasting that people enjoy doing as they flaunt their talents or proclaim their high grades, their accomplishments, or display their awards. They may boast about their athletic prowess, their high position, their extensive travels, and their knowledge of “important” people.  Some are even prideful before God as they just assume that God owes them His mercy and grace.

God has always hated pride and valued humility.  Proverbs tells us, “There are six things which the LORD hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes” (6:16, 17a). Of the seven vices mentioned, haughtiness or pride heads the list.  This is why we read, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD” (16:5).  Later in the chapter we have this warning: “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling” (16:18). On the pages of Scripture, we notice that Nebuchadnezzar had great pride (Daniel 4:30, 37), Herod had extravagant pride (Acts 12:21-23), and the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable had extreme pride (Luke 18:10-14).

In the New Testament, Jesus our Lord says that pride comes “from within, out of the heart of men,” and this vice defiles the person (Mark 7:21-23). Paul warns us that those who are arrogant are “worthy of death” (Romans 1:30-32). Peter reminds us of the value of humility and the danger of pride: “Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to pride, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in the proper time” (1 Peter 5:5-6). 

The Lord Himself emphasized the value of humility and the sinfulness of pride: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:12; cf. James 4:6, 10).  We can see how utterly serious pride is and how desirable humility is!

God hates idolatry

Idolatry is another of the particularly heinous sins.  We become idolaters when we elevate something or someone to such a level that God is demoted or neglected.  We also practice idolatry when we imagine a “god” in our mind and worship it instead of acknowledging and serving the true and living God of Scripture.  People may even make a “god” or “idol” of themselves when they place themselves in the center of their life and always think of themselves rather than God who is worthy to receive our worship, service, and devotion.

Paul wrote to certain Christians and said, “You turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).  We also need to turn to God and turn away from all idolatry.  The very first of the Ten Commandments says, “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3). Whether we form and fashion an image of a “god” made of wood, stone, or precious stones, or whether we imagine a “god” of our own liking, we are committing idolatry and violating the first commandment. We are exchanging “the truth of God for  a lie” (Romans 1:25).

We must say, therefore, that the gods of Hinduism are false gods that take the place of the true God.  Other personalities of history are clearly in the realm of gods for they are worshiped and served rather than the only true God exclusively (Matthew 4:10). This would include Confucius, Muhammad, Buddha, Mary, the so-called Pope, the many Hindu gods, and many others.  They are exalted to a “god like” status and those who follow them are, in effect, idolaters.  Further, we can become idolaters when we place a house, a car, education, music, entertainment, sports, travel, or even our own family before God.  God deserves and demands our exclusive devotion!

Jesus calls us, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). If we love any human being before God, we can’t be a disciple of Christ (Matthew 10:37). Our devotion to Christ Jesus must be so great and exclusive that any other “loves” must be like hatred in comparison.  Jesus is saying that we must not “idolize” anyone or anything; rather, we must give our supreme love, devotion, service, and worship only to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

God hates hypocrisy

Hypocrisy comes from a Greek term that means “play acting.” One is a hypocrite when he is purporting to be someone or something that he is not.  He is committing hypocrisy when we fails to reveal his true self and allows others to think that he is better and holier than he really is.  A hypocrite is one who says that he is a Christian but acts in an unchristian manner or fails to submit himself to Christ’s commands found in the Bible.  We are even hypocrites before God when we claim to be worshiping and serving Him when, in reality, we are offering Him half-hearted and compromising devotion.

God hates this form of deception and play-acting.  When Jesus lived on earth, He was particularly opposed to the Pharisees who wanted others to think of them as religious and holy but inwardly they were much less than that. The Lord warned His disciples, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1).  Hypocrisy, if allowed to run its course, grows and expands and produces much ruin in people’s lives.  As Paul says, “Let love be without hypocrisy” (Romans 12:9a).

Christ warned His disciples, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 6:1). These Pharisaic hypocrites gave alms, prayed, and fasted that they might be “honored by men” or “noticed by men” (6:2, 16), but their own heart was much different from what they displayed. At another time, Jesus said, “They do all their deeds to be noticed by men” (23:5a).  He went on to accuse them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence” (v. 25). Quite plainly, the Lord condemned them, “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (v. 28). Unmistakably, the Lord Jesus considered hypocrisy to be a great sin!

Are you honest with God and others?  Or is there sin in your heart that you refuse to confess to the Lord and refuse to allow others to see?  Do you pretend to be “religious” and “Christian” and “pure” but inwardly you love the world, don’t hunger for righteousness, harbor lust and hatred in your heart, and fail to love God with all of your heart?  Are you a hypocrite?  Beware, for Jesus declared that hypocrites will be sent to hell where there will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51)!

God hates sexual immorality.

We can definitely say that we are living in an age of gross immorality of nearly all kinds.  Ever since the “sexual revolution” of the 1960s, sexual sin has entered American culture like a flood!  Europe has also embraced all kinds of sexual looseness so that many aberrations now prevail in the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, and other countries.  Sexual immorality continues to be found in Africa, Asia, South America, North America, and even the Muslim dominated Near East has noticed at least some Western influence of sexual immorality (though it is not nearly as pronounced in Islam).  Of course, Islam has its own forms of immorality, such as adultery.

The floodgates of immorality have opened and wherever we look, it seems that sexual immorality has flourished.  Think of fornication before marriage. Think of the boy and girl (man and woman) who “live together” before marriage. Think of the sodomy or homosexuality practiced by both men and women, to the point that polls now say that the majority of Americans approve of this perversion.  Some go so far as to endorse the perversion of sodomite “marriage”! Think of the adultery of the partner who is unfaithful to his or her spouse. And think of the adultery that comes from an illegitimate divorce followed by a disallowed remarriage. Think of the pornography, the child sex (pedophilia), the incest, and so many other expressions of gross immorality and perversion.

It is significant that when lists of sins are given in Scripture, it seems that sexual immorality generally heads the list! This suggests that this was a leading sin when the New Testament letters were written as it is today—and in some cases an even greater expression of sexual immorality since it was often linked to the pervasive practice of idolatry! Today sexual immorality of all kinds should head the lists of sins (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:3-7; Colossians 3:5-9).

When Paul describes the wicked world of the Gentiles in Romans (vv. 16-32), he begins by writing, “God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them” (v. 24).  He then discusses homosexuality: “God gave them over to degrading passions, for their women exchanged the natural functions for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error” (vv. 26-27).  In the United States, it was the decade of the 1960s when the homosexuals “came out of the closet” and began to openly declare their sexual perversions. Before that time, there were a certain number of sodomites and lesbians but they had enough shame to keep their sin secret. After this time, more and more homosexuals openly declared their deviant lifestyle. But God clearly condemns this base sexual sin (1 Timothy 1:10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Jude 7; cf. Ephesians 5:5 with v. 11).

As we go to the New Testament revelation, we see Paul condemning fornication in 1 Corinthians 5:1-13 and says that any professing Christian who indulges in this sin must be excluded from fellowship (vv. 1, 13).  In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, the apostle says that fornicators, adulterers, effeminate, and homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Likewise, those people guilty of “immorality, impurity, sensuality” cannot enter God’s kingdom (Galatians 5:19-21).

Further, no “immoral or impure person” will enter God’s kingdom but, instead, will receive the wrath of God (Ephesians 5:3-6; cf. Colossians 3:5-7).  Paul writes, “This is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8).  The Hebrew writer also warns that “fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (13:4). In fact, those guilty of sexual immorality of all kinds will be cast into the lake of fire if they refuse to repent (Revelation 21:8).

God’s Word would condemn sex among unmarried people and sexual compromise among couples, one or both of whom is or has been married and divorced for reasons other than fornication.  Thus, fornication is condemned (Galatians 5:19), as is homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27). Adultery is condemned in its two forms: One commits adultery if he is presently married and has a sexual relationship with someone other than his wife (which would be true of a woman committing adultery against her husband as well). One also commits adultery if he or she divorces a spouse, except for immorality, and marries another person—or if one marries one who has been divorced from another person (Matthew 19:6-9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2-3; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 12-15).  Such sins as group sex, polygamy, bigamy, child sexual abuse, pornography, bestiality, and other forms of immorality are likewise sinful.

Since so much is mentioned in the New Testament (and the Old Testament as well) that shows the sinfulness and devastation of various sexual sins, surely this must be what the Lord would call a “greater” sin. Repentance is the only remedy of this personal and societal degradation.

God hates deliberate or known sin

We know that there are different forms of sin. There are sins of commission (doing what God forbids) and sins of omission (failing to do what God commands). There are sins of thought, word, attitude, and action.  There are also sins of knowledge as well as sins of ignorance.  All of this would be sinful but obviously sins of knowledge must be considered greater sins.

The Hebrew writer speaks of these known and deliberate sins: “If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries” (10:26-27).  The writer continues to describe this form of sin and gives this warning, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (v. 31). 

If a person sins unknowingly, he may learn of his error and take immediate steps to repent of his sin (Revelation 9:20-21; 16:11), confess his sin (1 John 1:9), forsake his sin (Proverbs 28:13), and determine to bring forth fruits of righteousness (Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8; Acts 26:20). But if one sins with the full knowledge that the sin is wrong, if he sins willfully and deliberately and purposefully, there is no justification for such a sin at all.  Even a sin like this is forgivable if one repents but if one deliberately chooses to sin, it is doubtful that he will repent and seek forgiveness.  “They again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:6).

Sadly, the majority of people do willfully and deliberately sin and therefore experience the continual wrath of God (Romans 1:18; 2:4-5). They knowingly and deliberately tell lies, use profanity and vulgarity, slander and gossip, lust, steal, squander, blaspheme, waste time and money, and commit a hundred other known, deliberate, purposeful sins.  Because there is no excuse for such sins, surely the Lord would consider known and deliberate sin to be a great one!

God hates a lack of love for Him

Let’s discuss another sin that must be considered a “great” sin in the eyes of the Lord.  A lawyer once came to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” (Matthew 22:36).  Christ answered, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” He said, “This is the great and foremost commandment” (vv. 37-38).  If love for God is the “great” and “foremost” command, surely the violation of this command must be considered a great or chief sin!

This command to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength is found another place in the New Covenant writings (Mark 12:30), with Christ’s command reflecting a command given by Moses (Deuteronomy 6:5). A person asked Jesus, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:23), and Jesus asked the inquirer what he read in the law.  He replied by saying that one must love God with all of one’s heart, soul, strength, and mind (v. 27).  Christ then said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live” (v. 28). This shows that eternal life itself is directly related to our total and complete love for God! Our Lord said that if we truly love God, we will obey Him (1 John 5:2-3; 2 John 6). Although one may not love God completely, we can safely say that this should be our sincere purpose in life!

If our love for God is so utterly important—even being the greatest of all commands—we can conclude that a lack of love for God must be among the greatest of all sins!  Yet a loveless attitude toward God is commonplace today among most people.  Think of your neighbors, your family members, and even your own life.  Is there a lack of fervent love for God the Father? If so, you are committing a great sin against Him! 

We would say the same in regard to loving Jesus with all of our hearts. Such a love must have no rivals (Matthew 10:37) and must have no compromises (Luke 14:26).  If we love Jesus we will obey Him (John 14:15, 21-24).  Surely a failure to love Christ is a serious and damning sin: “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). We simply can’t be saved eternally if we refuse to love God and Christ with a comprehensive and passionate love!

God hates a lack of love for others

Probably all of us will agree that most people around us fail to really love one another. They don’t love their friends and family and especially their enemies (cf. Luke 6:27-28). So how important is this omission?  We have already noticed that Christ said we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. But the Lord goes on to discuss the “second” greatest command given by God.  He said, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). This is a command found some nine times in the New Testament (The Revell Bible Dictionary).

A neighbor is not merely someone who lives next door to you; it refers to any person you have contact with who is in need.  The parable of the Good Samaritan “taught that all the world were neighbors” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary). While “neighbor” can be used to refer to “a close friend; an acquaintance; a fellow member of a community,” it can also refer to “anyone we know who may be in need” (The Revell Bible Dictionary). The point is that we are to love others just as we would want others to love us.

If love for others is so important, we know that a lack of love would be a serious sin.  Love is from a Greek word, agape, meaning an outgoing love and concern for another person. When we fail to genuinely care for another person, we fail to love the person. And when we fail to love a person, we are being loveless and sinful! This must be a serious sin in God’s sight.

We could further this matter of love by discussing a love for our brothers and sisters in the household of God, something that the New Testament mentions many more times than love in general. A lack of love for our fellow-believers, therefore, would be a great sin against them and God.  (Please see John 13:34-35; Galatians 5:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 4:7.) So important is that that John wrote, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). Lack of love is a great sin!

God hates unbelief

We all know how vital—even indispensable—faith is to our life in Christ and our salvation.  We couldn’t be saved without it!  “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).  The Lord Jesus said that faith or belief is the only way to receive eternal life: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. . . . He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already” (John 3:16, 18a). 

Jesus claimed that if anyone wants to be saved and have eternal life, he must place his or her faith in Christ Himself.  This is the consistent message of John (cf. 3:36; 5:24; 6:47; 11:25-26; 20:30-31) and the rest of the New Testament (cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 5:14; 13:48; 16:31; 18:8; 20:21; Romans 1:16; 4:4-5; 5:1; 1 Timothy 1:16; Hebrews 11:1; 1 John 5:13).

Since faith or belief is so vital to our spiritual life, this would mean that a failure to believe in God and in Christ must be a great sin!  If faith brings life, unbelief brings death. If faith brings salvation, unbelief brings condemnation.  A lack of faith is continually viewed as a great and serious sin.  Jesus warned, “He who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). He said, “He who does not believe has been judged already” (John 3:18a).  

Paul also said that “He who does not obey [in unbelief] the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36b).  The Hebrew writer writes of those who have “an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (3:12). The unbelieving will have their part in the lake of fire (Revelation 21:8).

If faith is necessary for our experience of salvation blessings and if lack of faith (unbelief) brings condemnation, we can see the need to proclaim the good news of Christ far and wide around the world.  If faith is the channel through which we receive God’s eternal blessings in Christ, we can see that a failure to believe or a refusal to believe will bring eternal consequences! If faith comes from our exposure to the words of Christ or the word of God (Romans 10:17), we can see how vital it is that we grow in our faith through our regular searching of the Scriptures (cf. 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

God hates Lukewarmness

This subject may be somewhat surprising to the reader, but when we think of our life in Christ, we can see the meaning of it.  If we understand anything about reality, about God and His demands on us, and of the death and resurrection of Christ, we can see the consequent importance of living for Jesus with passion and earnestness!  Paul commands us to not be “lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). 

In another place, he writes, “My beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58).  Apollos was “fervent in spirit” and spoke out boldly to the lost (Acts 18:25-26), and Christians should be likewise described in this way.

Since our life in Christ is such a vital and all-consuming fact of existence, since God is real and Christ has risen, and since we have been saved from sin and given eternal life, we can see that our life must be lived with a passion!  It is a passion to love God, to love Christ Jesus, a passion to know God better and consume His Word in diligent study, and a passion to share the good news of Christ with the lost. 

If we fail to earnestly devote ourselves to living for Jesus, we become lukewarm—to use Christ’s own expression.  This speaks of apathy, indifference, or a lackadaisical attitude.  Jesus spoke to the apathetic Christians in Laodicea, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or not. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16).  He went on to express this warning: “Whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent” (v. 19). 

In light of the importance of Christ and His way of life, we can see that if we treat this with indifference and apathy, we become lukewarm. And if we are lukewarm about God and Christ’s way of life, Christ Jesus will “spit” us out of His mouth!  In other words, Christ will reject and repudiate us!  If Christ means anything, He means everything! Having an apathetic, careless attitude toward God, Christ, the Kingdom of God, and spiritual things certainly is a “great” sin!

God hates Greed and Materialism

Again and again in Scripture, we read of Christ’s warning against the sin of covetousness or greed.  Yet it is one of the chief popular sins in America—as well as other parts of the world.  A rich, young ruler came to Christ and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17; cf. Matthew 19:16-26; Luke 18:18-27). This young man claimed that he had kept all of the commandments (vv. 19-20). Scripture says that “Jesus felt a love for him” (v. 21) and this love prompted Him to get to the heart of the ruler’s problem: “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (v. 21). 

In effect, the Lord said that the young man’s priorities were not correct. Yes, he had lived a religious and moral life (vv. 19-20), but he was an idolater. He worshiped and served money. He exalted money and material things above God! He had violated the very first of the Ten Commandments (cf. Exodus 20:3; cf. Matthew 4:10).

Christ then shows how devastating greed is to the soul. He declared, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23).  Hard? Yes, instead of making our entrance into heaven easier, it is a lock on the door of the kingdom!  Jesus then elaborates: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” (v. 25).  It is impossible for a camel to go through a needle’s eye and it will be impossible for a wealthy person to enter God’s kingdom—unless he is willing to humble himself, repent of his greed, and begin to show outgoing love. The rich ruler needed to sell everything since his possessions were his “god.”  He needed to give the proceeds to the poor (demonstrating genuine love for the needy). And he needed to “follow” Jesus as a true disciple, obeying his every command (cf. Mark 10:21).

The Lord Jesus said that we must not lay up for ourselves treasures on earth (Matthew 6:19-21), but we must lay up treasures in heaven, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (v. 21).  He declared, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” (Matthew 6:24). Americans and others are seeking to serve both God (their religion) as well as wealth (or material things). Jesus said that this cannot be done.

Paul said that greed must be renounced (Ephesians 5:3) and the greedy or covetous man is, in reality, an idolater (v. 5), and this will keep one from the kingdom of God and Christ and result in the wrath of God (vv. 5-6; Colossians 3:5-6). The apostle also warned, “Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9). Yet Americans are eagerly seeking to become wealthy, unaware and unconcerned about the “ruin and destruction” that awaits them!  Indeed, “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil” (v. 10). The apostle says that we must be generous with what God gives to us and in this way we lay up treasure in heaven (vv. 17-19).  We must see greed and materialism as a “great” sin that plagues the majority of people!

God hates the rejection of Christ His Son

God knew that mankind was lost in sin and under His judgment.  “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23) and this sin will keep one from entering the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21).  It will bring one to eternal punishment or destruction (Ephesians 5:6; Revelation 21:8).  In light of this, surely the “good news” (gospel) of Christ is the remedy for sin’s condemnation!  Paul says that this gospel or good news of Christ is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).  Since sin brings God’s righteous wrath (1:18), it is the best of news to learn that Christ rescues us from this eternal judgment: “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23).

In light of the horrible fate that awaits those who are under the weight of unforgiven sin, we can see the blessing of God’s provision for us through Christ Jesus, His Son.  Paul says that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). How is it possible for God to save us through Christ Jesus?  Peter answers: “[Christ] Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). He also said that “Christ . . . died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit” (3:18). In brief, God caused our sin to “fall” on Christ His Son (Isaiah 53:6).

If Jesus already died for us by dying for our sins (Galatians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 15:3) and then rose from the dead (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15:4-20), we can see that we would need to repent of those sins and place our faith in Christ for the forgiveness of those sins (John 3:14-17, 36; 11:25-26; 20:30-31; Acts 3:19; 20:21; Romans 4:4-5). We must be buried with Christ into His death and rise from the water (baptism) to live a new life (Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:11-13) so that we may be forgiven by God’s grace and have new life in Christ (Acts 2:38-41; 22:16; Galatians 3:26-27).

Maybe we can see now how important it is that we might come to Christ to be benefitted by His sacrificial death on the cross. He is the only way to God in heaven (John 14:6). There is no other way (Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5). If we reject Christ, we turn from the only possible way we can be forgiven!  We remain lost in our sins, will die in those sins, and cannot go to heaven (John 8:21) if we refuse to find forgiveness through Jesus! This shows why it is necessary to tell the “good news” of God’s salvation to those who reject Jesus—such as Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and Jews—if we want to see them in heaven!  It further shows how essential it is that we reach those professing “Christians” (whether Protestant or Catholic) who claim to be saved but have never truly come to Jesus Christ as the Scriptures direct.

Indeed, to reject Christ Jesus is to reject the only way of salvation that God has given to us. Further, Jesus declared, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16; cf. Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:46-47).  The only way for people to be saved by Christ is to learn of Him and His saving work on the cross and His new resurrection life. Thus, it is a great sin to reject Jesus ourselves (or fail to believe in Him) and it is a great sin to refuse to share the message of Christ to others who are lost in sin.  How dreadful to face God in judgment, while yet in our sins, without a Savior! And how dreadful to refuse to share the good news of salvation from sin to those who need it so desperately!

Another way to reject Christ Jesus is to deny Him in some way. Jesus said, “Everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32-33; cf. Luke 12:8). Paul referred to this when he wrote, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us” (2 Timothy 2:12).  This shows the tragic results of a Christian who has at one time been saved through confessing Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9-10) but later denies Jesus in word or deed.  It is a terrible and shameful sin, one that will result in the person’s rejection by Christ Jesus.

God hates blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

There is not much said about the “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” in Scripture but the little we know shows that this is indeed a serious sin—so serious that it can’t be forgiven! We need to compare Matthew 12, Mark 3, and Luke 12 . . . in order to understand Christ’s reference to this sin.

In Matthew 12:31, our Lord warns, “Any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.”    He then says, “Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (v. 32; Luke 12:10).  In Mark 3:29 we read, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”  After this, Mark adds his own comment, “. . . because they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit’” (v. 30).  This suggests that the Jews who were guilty of this “eternal sin” were attributing the healings of Jesus to Satan rather than to the Holy Spirit.  They were thereby blaspheming the Holy Spirit!

The unforgivable sin may, therefore, refer to the matter of being so blind and hardened that one claims that Jesus’ miracles and healings came from Satan rather than the Holy Spirit Himself.  It may also involve a basic attitude of hardness in which one has become so hardened to truth and righteousness that his heart is impenetrable to the gospel of salvation. He is beyond hope. He is hardened, calloused, and closed to the message of Christ which is the only way to be saved. He no longer is capable of responding to the message of Christ conveyed by the Spirit. And if he cannot so respond, he is guilty of an unforgivable sin.

We can see that this, indeed, is a great or chief sin!  In fact, the other sins committed from time to time may be forgiven, for Jesus said, “All sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter” (Mark 3:28). Sin is forgivable, thanks to God. But when a person has gone so far as to be beyond the reach of the gospel and beyond the ability to respond, he is guilty of “an eternal sin” (v. 29).

 

So What is the Greatest Sin?

We have examined twelve different sins that the Bible presents as serious or great sins. Each one is viewed in Scripture with defining terms and explanations so that we can get some idea of the sin’s gravity.

Reader, are you guilty of any of these serious sins?  As you have read these pages and looked up the cited scriptures, have you—personally—been convicted of your own guilt and standing before God?  If you do recognize your guilt, what can you do about it?

Let’s discuss this very briefly.  First, if you have never come to Christ, obviously, the most basic response you must make is turning to Christ. Paul spoke of “repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). That is, you must repent of all of your sins before God and place your faith in Jesus Christ, your Savior and Lord (cf. Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; Romans 2:4-5). You must believe in Christ as revealed in Scripture (John 3:14-17, 36; 20: 28-31) and trust in His death on the cross for you along with His resurrection from the grave to new life (Romans 6:4; 10:9-10).  You must confess Him as your Lord and be baptized into Him and into His death (Romans 10:9-10; 6:1-5; Acts 2:37-41; 8:12; 22:16; Colossians 2:11-13; Galatians 3:26-27).  Yes, you can be forgiven of all of your sins!

If you did come to Christ in the past but have become “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13), you also need to repent of all of your known sins (cf. Acts 8:21-22) and humbly confess them to the Lord (1 John 1:9). Then you must “bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8; cf. Luke 3:8).  Yes, you must forsake your sins (Proverbs 28:13) and perform “deeds appropriate to repentance” (Acts 26:20).

You may recognize that you have sinned greatly before the Lord!  You have not only committed a wide array of sins, but you have been guilty of some of the great sins we have discussed above. You should remember that Jesus died for those sins (1 Corinthians 15:3) and He died for you (Galatians 2:20)! Your sins were borne by Christ when He hung on the cross (cf. 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; Isaiah 53:6, 11, 12). You need not bear them anymore!

Jesus is willing to forgive your sins (Acts 2:38) and wipe them away (3:18).  He will be merciful for your sins and remember them no more (Hebrews 8:12). It is just as though God casts all of your sins “into the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). He will separate your sins from you “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). Scripture gives these descriptions to show that when God forgives your sins, He actually does forgive them!

I encourage you not to become downhearted by our discussion of the many sins that God considers “great” and even abominable. No, take heart that God is willing to forgive your sins. And rejoice that His mercy and grace are even greater! “Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20). Won’t you come to God through Christ today and find His full and complete forgiveness!

 

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