The Fruit of Sin
Romans 1 gives a near thorough account of the fruits of sin. It stems from unbelief, un-thankfulness, and pride (Romans 1:21-22). As people give up God, God progressively gives them up to “uncleanness… vile passions…” and finally, “a debased mind” (Romans 1:24, 26, 28).
So are the “vile passions” worse than the “uncleanness”? That doesn’t appear to be the point here, the point is that the “vile passions” and “a debased mind” are a further development of not wanting “to retain God in their knowledge” (Romans 1:28). At the end of the chapter Paul gives a list of sins, which is what the debased mind is full of (Romans 1:29-32), he lists “disobedient to parents” alongside “murder.”
Physical and spiritual consequences
So we come back to our initial question, does this mean that all sins are equal? Should I treat my children’s’ disobedience to clean their rooms the same way I would if they murdered someone? To answer this we will have to look at the consequences of sin.
There are both physical and spiritual consequences for sin. The spiritual consequence for all sin is the same – estrangement from God (see Isaiah 59:2; Ezekiel 14:5; Romans 3:23; 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:9).
For the believer
For the believer, sin causes a break in fellowship with God, but not a break in relationship. The Bible calls it grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), this command is preceded by several warnings not to sin by anger, theft, or evil speaking, and is followed by similar injunctions. The consolation is that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption.
The sin of a believer is not taken lightly by God, He disciplines all of His children when they err (Hebrews 12:3-11). This discipline can involve physical suffering (James 5:15), spiritual conviction (Psalm 32:3-4), and even death (Acts 5:1-11). But believers will never lose their salvation (Romans 8:1). The point of this discipline, or chastening, is correction, not punishment.
For the unbeliever
For the unbeliever the spiritual consequence for sin is eternal separation from God (Revelation 21:8). The Lake of Fire is a place of eternal, conscious, torment (Revelation 20:10). But some will suffer there more than others.
The Lord Jesus warned the citizens of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum that they would have a worse time at the last judgment than Tyre and Sidon, and Sodom (Matthew 11:21-24). The Lord also taught that those who know more, will have more accountability and therefore worse punishment (Luke 12:47-48). He also called some sins “greater” than others (John 19:11).
We can’t say with certainty how those in the Lake of Fire will suffer worse than others, but if the rich man’s experience in Hell (the temporal waiting room for the Great White Throne final judgment, which will be followed by being cast into the Lake of Fire [Revelation 20:11-15]) is anything to go by, then it will be more excruciating torment thinking back on all of the opportunities to repent that were rejected (Luke 16:24, 30).
The physical consequences for sin can be experienced by both the believer and unbeliever. Peter reminds us that it is better “to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:17). This is a reminder that believers can suffer for doing evil. God has given civil government the authority to punish whoever commits crimes (Romans 13:4).
There are many other physical consequences for sin; like addiction, broken relationships, sexually transmitted diseases, mental anguish etc. Many people also suffer these physical results of sin due to other people’s wrongdoing. All sin has some physical consequence attached to it, and the further someone goes along in that sin, the worse the consequence. Looking at the story of Samson, we can see the physical consequences of sin vividly depicted as it binds, blinds, and grinds (Judges 16:21).
There is a deliverer
Thankfully we know the only One who can deliver from the penalty, power and eventually, the presence of sin.
For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
1 Peter 2:21-25