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sinEvery sin is serious, even the ones that look respectable.

But that doesn’t mean some sins don’t deserve more attention than others.

In fact, when the Bible rattles off a series of sins, it tends to mention many of the same ones. And while we don’t want to do ethics by list making, it is instructive to note what sins are mentioned, how often, and in what place.

Here are the eight vice lists in the New Testament:

Mark 7:21-22 “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness . . .”

Romans 1:28-32 “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”

Romans 13:13 “Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy.”

1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

Galatians 5:19-21 “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as a warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Colossians 3:5-9 “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another . . .”

1 Timothy 1:9-10 “. . . the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine . . .”

Revelation 21:8 “But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

So what can we learn from these vice lists? Actually, quite a lot.

1. The New Testament denounces a wide variety of sins. There are dozens of evil practices mentioned just in these eight passages--plenty of examples to offend and convict us all. Within this long list of sins, several main categories of vice emerge. There are sins in relationship to the body (e.g., sexual immorality, orgies, sensuality, drunkenness), sins in relationship to one another (e.g., strife, lying, murder, slander), sins in relationship to God (e.g., idolatry, sorcery, lawlessness, disobedience), and sins in relationship to the heart (e.g. covetousness, jealousy, anger, pride). Every category is common. Every category matters. And every category is offensive to God.

2. The Ten Commandments still loom large over New Testament ethics. You could make a case that all these passages are shaped by the Decalogue, but clearly the lists in Mark 7 (content), 1 Corinthians 6 (content), Colossians 3 (content), and 1 Timothy 1 (content and order), reflect Ten Commandment language and priorities.

3. It’s hard to find a sin more frequently, more uniformly, and more strenuously condemned than sexual sin. If we include the discussion of “exchang[ing] natural relations for those contrary to nature” in Romans 1:26-27, all eight lists mention sexual immorality. Moreover, in seven of the eight lists there are multiple references to sexual immorality (in general terms or in specific examples), and more often than not sexual immorality heads the list (Rom. 13; 1 Cor. 6; Gal. 5; Col. 3; Mark 7; and Rom. 1 depending on where you start each list). Sexual sin is never considered a matter of indifference or an agree-to-disagree issue.

4. Sin is always serious. Of course, when each list is taken in context, we understand that there is forgiveness and hope for those who repent and turn from these sins. Let’s not forget that the bad news of sin always shows up in letters and stories filled with lots of good news of grace. Nevertheless, we must not undersell the Bible’s warnings about sin. The vices mentioned in these eight lists are the sort of things that keep you from the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6; Gal. 5) and send you to the lake of fire (Rev. 21). We coddle these sins--in ourselves or in others--at great peril.

Which means: if we as Christian laypeople, Christian pastors, and Christian churches never talk about sexual sin, only talk about sexual sin, ignore what the Ten Commandments say about sin, or refuse to warn people of the dire consequences of sin, we are doing something wrong.

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8 thoughts on “Serious Sins”

  1. There is a teaching in the Christian realm, that says no sin is greater or lesser than any other sin. But I can’t find a scripture supporting that theory.

    On the other hand I can show to you where it is possible and likely that there are categories of sins.

    One thing you brought out about the amount of times they are are mentioned.
    I also believe that the Holy Ghost was not dumb or illiterate, when He had the writers list the sins. I believe He inspired them to list them in the seriousness because of the consequences they have.
    Compare 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, Galatians 5:19-21, and Ephesians 5:3-7.
    Notice all three scriptures start off with sexual sins, I believe they are the worse sins.
    Now you may notice in ! CORINTHIANS Paul said not eat or have company with people committing certain sins. He didn’t say that if they were committing sin not to company or wheat with them, but he list what sins they were doing.
    But let me point off something else to you.
    Under the old Law there was degrees of punishment for sins. Some was death, others restitution and others burnt offerings.
    This showed that God had different degrees of sin.
    Yes I do believe there are degrees of sins.
    Yes I do believe people have respectable sins, which should not be. That is a sin within itself.

  2. Curt Day says:

    It seems to me that Israel was not punished for every single sin, but for a state of sinfulness. And I am wondering if the seriousness of sin in the NT is revealed by certain sins. Considering that while we live in our present bodies, we will sin, we know that we can’t eliminate our practice of all sins through sanctification.

  3. Greg says:

    James 2:10,11 show that committing any sin makes you a lawbreaker. “10For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. 11For He who said, “DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” also said, “DO NOT COMMIT MURDER.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.” So that leads us to conclude that all sin is equal in God’s sight in that sense. Any sin makes you a lawbreaker and worthy of death in God’s sight.

    However, the Bible seems to be saying in 1 Corinthians 6:18-20 that sexual sins are worse in the sense that they are committed against one’s own body, which is a temple of the Holy Spirit for the believer, and should be used to glorify God, not profane His name.

  4. Charlie says:

    Re. the Decalogue here. Its interesting to note that a) the one passage that actually refers directly to the Law says expressly that it is not for the “just”. In the context there and synched with other NT theology, I take “just” there to mean those justified by faith. As 1 John says, Christians don’t do those things.

    and more importantly b) that none of these lists uses the argument “as it is written (in the law)” to make there point. Arguments from silence like this have merit when the silence is least expected. NT writers appeal to scripture in this way “as it is written” so often, why is not found in our vice lists?

    I think what I’m iterating here is the New Covenant position. New Covenant people, is this a valid observation?

  5. beccajrt says:

    The “Ten Commandments” do not “loom large over New Testament ethics”—Christ and Him crucified and what His glorious Gospel entails is what looms large over New Testament ethics. The problem with Reformed theology is the problem with professing Christendom in general; Cross evasion.

    Progressive theology claims Christians can live in sin, e.g., homosexuality, while Reformed theology claims Christians are under the law as a rule of life, both claims are false, un-Biblical teachings. Both groups alter God’s Word by, among other things, by ignoring and or denying God’s Word and redefining sin and the Law respectively.

    God’s Word is clear, Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried, and He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. Not only are we not “under law but under grace” we “died to sin” and we “died to the Law” with Christ. No language can be clearer. Thus, we cannot live in sin any longer and we cannot live under the Law any longer, which is the strength of sin. We are not “guided by the Law” but by the Spirit, we are to walk in and “according to the Spirit” and it is “by the Spirit” that we to “put to death the deeds of the body”—John 8:31-36; John 14:15-26; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 56; Romans 5; 6; 7; 8; 1 Corinthians 5:11-13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 2:19-20; Galatians 3; Galatians 5:16-26; Galatians 6:14-16; Ephesians 4; Philippians 3; Colossians 1:3-29; Colossians 2; 3:1-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; 1 Timothy 1:8-10; 1 John 1; 2; 3, etc.

    Christians everywhere should stop listening to either group, start reading the written Word of God for themselves, take Him at His Word, obey Him, and rest in the Living Word; Christ Jesus the LORD. Whether it’s those who ignore and or deny the divine fact that we “died to sin” or those who ignore and or deny the divine fact that “we died to the Law”—neither will cut Christ asunder and nor will they cut His Gospel asunder, they cannot; “It is finished.”

  6. beccajrt says:

    The Word of God explicitly declares that not only are we not “under law but under grace” we “died to sin” and we “died to the Law” with Christ. No language can be clearer. When Progressive “theology” claims Christians can live in sin or Reformed “theology” claims Christians are under the law as a rule of life, both groups are teaching what is completely contrary to God’s Word, and specifically the message of the Cross. The man made doctrines of both groups are false. “Do not add to His words…” Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6; Revelation 22:18-19. That is a serious sin. You all at TGC can censor me all you want just like the “Progressives” do, I’m used to it from both sides, no one will censor the Truth.

  7. beccajrt says:

    What’s that all about; you post my initial comment at 12:34, take it down and then put it back up at the same time (8:40) I’m replying to the fact that you took it down. That don’t make nary a bit a sense. But hey, it’s good to see you haven’t really censored me. I’m not going to hold my breath though. I went through the same thing on a “progressive” blog just last week, similar issue by the way, and currently my comments are nowhere to be found.

  8. Henry Brooks says:

    When I saw the title of this article “Serious Sins” I thought of something completely different. I did not think of reading in almost every Bible Verse about sexual immorality. It seems like the New Testament focuses so much on it that everything else is secondary. Every action whether positive or negative is our choice just like what we do with our body is our choice as well. I do agree that there are certain things that are way out of line and I do not want to be anywhere near that behavior. I believe that being honest, doing the right thing even when no one is watching is what makes a person true to themselves and faithful to God. This includes personal life, work environment, and every other aspect of life. Will people make mistakes? Yes they will but if they recognize that it was wrong and learn from it I know God will forgive and they will be able to live a full life. I have had moments in my life, personal and work environment as well, when I almost gave up but I pushed through because I had faith and knew that the person doing wrong to me will find their way to God and turn into a positive direction. I never doubted myself that I will be okay because someone was watching over me. Integrity is a very important attribute a person can have. Doing what is right even when no one is watching and lead by example these are the things I live by because I want to show my kids that everything will be okay even if it does not seem like that at the moment.

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Kevin DeYoung

Kevin DeYoung is the senior pastor at Christ Covenant Church in Matthews, North Carolina. He is chairman of the board of The Gospel Coalition, assistant professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary (Charlotte), and a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Kevin and his wife, Trisha, have seven children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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