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Question #429

Can only perfect people go to Heaven?

There is a church in our area that teaches we can live perfect in this life! In fact they teaches we must live perfect in order to go to heaven is this true?

The Answer:

This question must be answered in general because the inquirer provides no information concerning what is meant by “liv[ing] perfect in this life.” If the term is used to teach that the only way to go to heaven is to live a sinless life, it is contrary to the teaching of scripture. In fact, teaching such calls God a liar. John wrote:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

On the other hand, if the term is used to teach that a sinner must be forgiven by having his sins washed away by the blood of Christ and receiving continuing cleansing through that blood by “walking in the light as he is in the light,” it would be true. In verse seven of the same chapter John wrote:

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

Those who teach such doctrine may misinterpret 1 John 2:1a: “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not.” The structure of this verse is different from the structure of the verses above. “Cleanseth” in 1 John 1:7 is present tense and indicates a continuing action, i.e., Christ’s blood “goes on cleansing us from all sin.” This is in perfect harmony with Paul in Rom. 6. Read the entire chapter. The Christian cannot go on sinning. He is dead to sin, free from sin, and cannot go on living therein. John is saying that the Christian cannot go on living in sin and as long as he doesn’t live in sin the blood of Christ goes on cleansing him. First John 2:a is in the aorist tense and looks at a single time or action. The action here is “sin.” Sin, any sin or a single sin, separates from God and has done so since Eden. See, Isa. 59:2. In 2:1a, John is not saying that Christians cannot or do not sin. It is a warning in what is called “a negative purpose clause.” In the second part of the verse, 2:1b, John says clearly that Christians can and do sin: “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” This part of the verse repeats the truth of 1:7 – The blood goes on cleansing us through the advocacy of our Savior, who pleads for us based on his merit, not upon our on. We are among those of whom Paul said (Rom. 6-8):

Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works, Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.

One last thought. Folks who teach that one must live a perfect life may restrict that perfection to live after becoming a Christian. That is also wrong for all of the reasons stated above. John and Paul were both writing to Christians. John tells us that a Christian who says that he is perfect has by that act become imperfect – his is a liar. Worse yet, he has called God a liar and has denied the Christ. One who does not sin is not lost. One who is not lost does not need a Savior. One who does not need a Savior has no need for the continuing cleansing of the blood. It strikes me that claiming perfection is not a good argument to make on judgment day before the God of Glory who sent His Son to shed his cleansing blood on our behalf, and did so while were still sinners (Rom. 5:8).

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)