The Roman Catholic Church teaches the concepts of mortal and venial sins. In this tradition, mortal sins are serious sins that separate a person from God. These are generally defined as deliberate, serious sins and include actions such as murder, rape, adultery, and theft. Venial sins are usually described as smaller sins in which the person was not fully aware of the action or did not fully consent to the action.
Are the concepts of mortal sin and venial sin biblical?
The Roman Catholic tradition rightly teaches that God can forgive all sins. However, this distinction between various levels of sins is a tradition not found in the Bible. Though the consequences of sin may vary, all sin separates a person from God unless a person has received forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
Scripture teaches all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Romans 3:10 adds, "None is righteous, no, not one."
Further, any and all sin leads to death apart from Christ. Romans 6:23 shares, "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
As this verse highlights, sin leads to death, but eternal life is a gift from Jesus. Those who believe in Him have eternal life (John 3:16) and can have fullness of life now (John 10:10).
The tradition of categorizing sins into various levels is based on human standards regarding sin, not God's view. From a human perspective, murder appears to be a much greater sin than a small lie. To God, however, all sin separates us from His perfection apart from Christ. As James 2:10 teaches, "For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it."
One final area regarding the tradition of mortal and venial sins is also important to address. In the Catholic tradition, mortal sins separate a person from God, meaning that unless repentance occurs the believer has lost his or her salvation and will not go to heaven at death. However, the Bible clearly teaches, "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).
The person who has truly placed his or her faith in Jesus Christ can never be separated from God's love: "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). God is clear that nothing separates the believer from the love of Christ.
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Truth about Sin