1 Corinthians 6:9-11
9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
Have you ever had someone ask you, “Do you think I’m going to hell?” I know that this question has been posed to me before, usually when I am trying to share the gospel with someone. Also, usually, the person who asks it has a pet sin, some part of their life that is against the will of God and to which they are clinging. They are looking for me to condemn them because of their particular sin so that they can be offended and ignore the gospel presentation.
I think the passage above is helpful for us to consider when we are put on the spot and called on to pass a sort of judgment on another based on their lifestyle choices. Paul shows us that many people of many different kinds of lifestyles were at one point headed for the wrath of God, but were transformed by the gospel. And that means that we cannot answer anyone’s particular question about their eternal destination base on their particular sin.
The truth is, any sin merits hell. My tendency to think too highly of myself, someone else’s tendency to twist the truth, another’s tendency to bully others, all of these merit hell. Any time in my life that I have ever ignored the right thing to do for the sake of laziness or comfort merits hell. And all the particular sins mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 merit hell. So, if a person is practicing any of those sins, or any other sin at all, the logical answer is that they are not going to heaven.
However, verse 11 above also offers us an important answer. The people of Corinth used to be like the people mentioned in verses 9-10. They used to be headed for hell; just like I used to be headed for hell. But God intervened. God washed, sanctified, and justified those sinful people. And God washed, sanctified, and justified me.
How did people headed for hell change course? It is because of the action of the Father cleansing us through the perfect, saving work of Jesus. It is in the name of Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God we are washed, sanctified, and justified. It is by the finished work of Jesus that our sins are atoned for, covered, perfectly punished, and put away. God remains just. We become forgiven. And God’s Spirit begins working in us to change us, making us different than we were before. God begins to convict us of former sins and help us to turn from them. God moves us, step by step, away from our naturally sinful tendencies and toward a picture of his righteousness.
So, when a person touting a particular sin asks you if they are going to hell, honestly tell them you do not know. Tell them that everyone you know is a sinner who deserves hell, including yourself. Then tell them that they can be washed, sanctified, and justified if they are willing to turn to Jesus, turn from sin, and ask for mercy.
Our testimony has never been that we are good. Our testimony has always been the very same as what we see in 1 Corinthians 6. We used to be all sorts of sinful. We used to be headed for hell. But God cleanses all who come to him in Christ and sanctifies us all in the Spirit so that our entire eternity is secure.