Question: "Does God view unintentional sin differently?"
Answer: The book of Leviticus required different offerings based on whether a sin was intentional or unintentional. Does this mean God views unintentional sins differently?
Not exactly. It is clear that God made a distinction between intentional and unintentional sins in terms of the offerings in the Old Testament. Leviticus 4:2–3 notes this example: “When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands—If the anointed priest sins, bringing guilt on the people, he must bring to the Lord a young bull without defect as a sin offering for the sin he has committed.”
The idea of unintentional sin in Leviticus 4 is related to sin by straying or by accident. In these cases an offering could be made. However, there was no offering available for when a person sinned intentionally. Numbers 15:30–31 states, “Anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or foreigner, blasphemes the Lord and must be cut off from the people of Israel. Because they have despised the Lord’s word and broken his commands, they must surely be cut off; their guilt remains on them.” Those who rebelled in committing intentional sin were to be cut off or separated from the people.
While there may have been a distinction in terms of the consequences of unintentional and intentional sins in the Old Testament, the Bible is clear all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). The offerings of the Old Testament foreshadowed the offering of Jesus Christ Himself as a sacrifice on the cross for our sins. Jesus is the sufficient substitute for forgiveness and eternal life.
In John 14:6 Jesus teaches, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Though every person has sinned (except Jesus), we have the opportunity for forgiveness and redemption from sin through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. By faith in Him, salvation is obtained (Ephesians 2:8–9). This is true regardless of intentional or unintentional sins, whether a person believes he has sinned a little or sinned a lot.
The emphasis in Scripture is that humanity was created good but is sinful now as a result of the Fall (Genesis 3). Regardless of the type or level of sins a person has committed, Jesus is sufficient to forgive and offer eternal life. Those who reject the gospel, regardless of how much or how little sin they have committed, will be separated from God for eternity and will experience everlasting punishment for their sins. God calls all people to come to Him, for there is no other name under heaven given to offer salvation (Acts 4:12).
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