A young man recently asked me, “Do you have to be right about everything? What if you do everything right but just make one little mistake, could you still go to heaven?” Most would look at this question with compassion and empathy because they might also understand how one could make a few mistakes in his/her Christian life, and they probably would have said, “No, one does not have to do everything perfectly right in order to go to heaven.” However, personal empathy and bias has often obfuscated the truth. One must consider the Word of God (Col. 3:17). Every Christian should consider how his/her answer can be taught from the authority of Scripture (1 Peter 4:11).
Firstly, the terms and meaning of this question must be made clear. Does God expect those who follow Him to never make a mistake? If God was the type of God who cast out every Christian who sinned, no one would be in heaven (Rom. 3:23). After talking a bit more with the young man, his question is not asking if Christians have to get everything right the first time and never sin during their walks with the Lord, but rather, will God excuse the sin of a Christian who faithfully obeys all the laws of Christ except for one or maybe two? Will God overlook a few unrepented sins on Judgment Day because this Christian’s good deeds outweighed the bad? While some wouldn’t even care to make a distinction, they would simplify and go with the first concept because the answer is more obvious and popular. The second concept requires more thought, and the answer may not be what people want to hear.
Secondly, the discussion must include what the Bible says in James 2:10: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” Now, one might ask (and I did), “Guilty of all…what?” Obviously from the context, this verse tells the reader that if the Christian offends God’s law even in “one point” then he/she is guilty of the whole law of God. James 2:11 provides an illustration to the same point. The same God who forbids adultery forbids murder. If a Christian commits adultery but doesn’t kill, they “become a transgressor of the law.” God judges a person as either faithful or a transgressor. The Law of Middle Exclusion, which is part of the study of hermeneutics in biblical theology, states that a proposition is either true or false; a proposition cannot be true and not true at the same time, there is no middle ground (Encyclopedia Britannica, “laws of thought.” https://www.britannica.com/topic/laws-of-thought). God’s law employs the same rationality. Christians either keep the law and go to heaven, or they do not keep the law and go to hell. There exists no middle ground for those who obey God’s law well enough or maybe not all of it but most of it. A person is either a Christian or they are not a Christian. There is no middle ground in judgment (2 Cor. 5:10).
Consider other passages of scripture that support the Law of Middle Exclusion. John writes, “We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6). Once again there exist only two paths; one either hears God or doesn’t hear God. Followers are either of the “spirit of truth” or “the spirit of error.” God recognizes no “spirit of partly hearing God” or “spirit of mostly truth.” Christ, likewise, supports this idea in Mark 16:16, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Christ only gives two options here. The option to believe and be baptized, which results in heaven; or to not believe the words of the Lord, which results in damnation. Christ also states in the Sermon of the Mount, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13-14). Jesus speaks of only two paths, one that leads to destruction and one that leads to eternal life. Christ also says in the same sermon, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Christ commands His followers to be perfect, and Christ would not have asked this if it were not possible (Phil. 4:13). It is possible to follow the law entirely and completely, to do everything God requires. Christians have all the information they need to live complete in the law (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:13).
Thankfully, the merciful Father has given the world an escape when they fall into the path of destruction (1 Cor. 10:13). Sinners can be forgiven for offending the Law of Christ through the blood of Christ (Rev. 1:5). They must hear (Rom. 10:17), believe (John 8:24), repent (Acts 17:30), confess (Rom. 10:9), and be baptized (1 Peter 3:21). Furthermore, after God saves the obedient, they can be forgiven of sins if they pray to God for forgiveness and repent (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9). Christians either obey this or they don’t, there is no middle ground.
Ultimately, no young Christian should ever be fooled into thinking that any can enter heaven while holding to an un-repented sin (Luke 13:3; Isa. 59:2). No Christian should believe that God will ignore her drug addiction if she keeps all the other laws. No one should teach that God will excuse his watching porn as long as he does everything else right. Yes, Christians will occasionally sin, but those Christians must repent of those sins or go to hell (1 John 5:16; Heb. 10:26). The world hates black and white judgment, but this is God’s judgment, and Christians need to be prepared for it.