Frank Barnes joins me in this episode of Bible Q-n-A to discuss the biblical principle of spiritual security.
One of the things I love about living in LaGrange, GA is the opportunity to be a frequent panelist on the “Know Your Bible” TV program. “Know Your Bible” is a work of the Cusetta Road Church of Christ in Columbus, GA. It is a question and answer format and was the model for my own “Bible Q-n-A.” I watched “Know Your Bible” with my grandfather on Sunday mornings when I was young. So when I started doing my own program it was naturally influenced by “Know Your Bible.”
Since I started appearing on the program I have been trying to get copies from the studio in Columbus so I could share it here with you. It took me three years to get it but I finally got a couple episodes, hopefully with more to come soon.
This episode aired on September 10, 2017. The questions discussed were:
- Is the call of God irresistible?
- Who is in charge of a congregation which has no elders?
Last week, I posted a clip from a sermon on Hebrews 6:1-12, “Going On To Maturity.” The clip shows the danger of apostasy as addressed by the Hebrews writer to his audience. Here is the clip in question:
As you might imagine, I immediately began receiving emails saying that I taught false doctrine in this clip. The reason, according to the skeptic, that I had taught false doctrine was because I showed from the text the very real danger of apostasy. According to the Calvinist, there is no such thing as apostasy. That is, they do not believe that a Christian can fall away from the faith. If someone does seemingly fall away then, according to them, he was never really a Christian to begin with.
After becoming a Christian, are there any sins that will put me beyond the “point of no return” so that I cannot regain salvation? What sin or sins will put me in such jeopardy, so that, after becoming a Christian, I would be doomed to hell without any recourse? Please be specific and give me clear Bible references.
The apostle Paul referred to himself as the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:9; Ephesians 3:8). He never forgot how, in his ignorance, he had been a persecutor of Christ (Acts 9:4, 5). Regarding his former persecution of the church he says that his salvation was to serve as a pattern for the grace of God (1 Timothy 1:16). Not only does that mean that Paul serves as an example of how people obtain salvation but he also serves as an example of the magnitude of God’s grace. If Paul, who had persecuted Christians, could be forgiven then anyone can be forgiven of their sins and be saved.
How was Paul saved? He did the same thing they did in Acts 2. When he realized his error (Acts 2:37; 9:4, 5), he repented (Acts 2:38; 9:6, 9) and was baptized (Acts 2:41; 9:17, 18; 22:16). Paul understood that he was saved by the grace of God (1 Corinthians 15:10). And, by his example, we see the pattern and magnitude of that great grace!
The “question” asks if there are any sins that will put a person beyond the “point of no return,” which I am understanding to mean incapable of being forgiven, and the answer is that there are no such thing as sins that put a person beyond God’s ability to forgive them. However, the Bible does say that we can put ourselves into a condition where we will not seek God’s forgiveness. The Bible refers to this condition as “the sin unto death,” the “seared conscience,” the “willful sin,” and “blaspheming the Holy Spirit.” None of these situations refer to specific sins but to a condition of sin. That is, any sin can be the sin “unto death” or the “willful sin.” I’ll look at each of these to show how.
The Sin Unto Death
The apostle John refers to this in 1 John 5:16, 17.
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
The context makes it very clear what the “sin unto death” is. In the instance of the “sin not unto death,” it is something that is seen by the brethren. We know that when we see our brethren sin we are supposed to exhort them to repent (Galatians 6:1; James 5:19, 20). When confession and repentance has been forthcoming we are supposed to pray for that one’s forgiveness (1 John 1:9; 5:16; James 5:16). So, the “sin not unto death” is the sin that the brother will repent of when it is brought to his attention. He will confess it and ask forgiveness for it. However, the “sin unto death” is in contrast to this. The sin unto death is not even to be prayed about! So, by contrast, it is clear that the “sin unto death” is the sin that the brother will not repent of, therefore, he cannot be forgiven for it. Forgiveness should not even be asked because the brother refuses to repent.
In relation to the “question,” this is not a specific sin, rather it is a condition of sin. The sin unto death could be anything from adultery to forsaking the assembly. The brother guilty of either one will be just as lost as the other if they refuse to repent of it. On the other hand, either could be restored by repentance, confession and prayer. In that case it would be a “sin not unto death.”
The Seared Conscience
Paul uses this term to describe those who would lead the prophesied apostasy (1 Timothy 4:1, 2).
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron…
The picture is that of flesh that has been branded and, therefore, has lost all feeling. It has reference to someone who has gotten to the point that their conscience has lost its “guilt” reflex over sin. The only way the imagery works is if the person under consideration knows that they are contradicting the word of God and they just don’t care. They have no pangs of conscience over it. They feel no guilt for going against what they know to be right.
When we believe that something is wrong, God has given us a built-in safe guard against violating our conscience. Its the guilt reflex. It is because of this guilt reflex that we will repent when we know we have done wrong.
There are two reasons that a person’s guilt reflex won’t bother them when they do wrong. First, it won’t bother them if they don’t know that what they are doing is wrong. For the guilt reflex to work on our conscience we have to know the difference between right and wrong. Paul’s conscience didn’t bother him when he was persecuting the church because he believed he was doing the right thing (Acts 23:1). It was only after he learned that he had been going against the will of God that he considered himself a sinner (1 Timothy 1:15). However, this is not the kind of person Paul is talking about in 1 Timothy 4:2.
The other reason a person’s conscience won’t bother them when they do something they know to be wrong is that they have become hardened to that thing through repeated offenses. When a person does something they believe to be wrong for the first time they really struggle with their conscience. However, the next time they do it, it doesn’t “hurt” as much. Eventually, they will get to the point that it doesn’t bother them at all. They may even convince themselves that there isn’t really anything wrong with it anyway. That person has “seared” their conscience through repeatedly “burning” themselves in the fire of sin.
In the text it refers to those who willingly and wantonly contradict the word of God and lead others to do the same. It may have bothered them early on but through their repeated transgression against God’s will they have lost any feeling of guilt over doing such. They continue moving farther and farther away from the word of God and it doesn’t bother them a bit. They are not going to repent of it because they don’t feel the “cutting to the heart” of the word’s rebuke (Acts 2:37). Their conscience has become just like the unfeeling flesh seared by the brand.
Again, this “seared conscience” doesn’t refer to any specific sin. Rather, it is a condition of sin. It could be any sin that a person has lost all feeling of guilt over. As long as they are in that condition there is no way they can be forgiven. For that person to be forgiven they would have to confess their guilt, which they don’t acknowledge, and repent.
The Willful Sin
The Hebrews writer refers to this in Hebrews 10:26, 27.
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.
This willful sin does not refer to a single act of sin that causes us to be irrevocably lost. Rather, it refers to making a willful choice to leave Christ and go back to the world. Notice the description that follows for the one who sins willfully.
He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:28, 29).
And the verses just prior to the willful sin reference,
Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching (Hebrews 10:23-25).
In its proper context, it becomes very clear what the willful sin is referring to. It is not a single act of sin, rather it is a condition of sin. It is a returning to the sinful lifestyle from which one repented when they first received the knowledge of the truth. By so doing, they have made a proclamation, by their actions, that the blood of Christ means nothing to them. As long as they so live it is impossible for them to be forgiven. There is no sacrifice for sin outside of Christ!
Blaspheming the Holy Spirit
Jesus refers to the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in Mark 3:28, 29.
Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy [Spirit] hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation…
There has been a great deal of speculation over what this “unpardonable sin” is. However, by a careful examination of the text and parallel passages, it is not difficult to understand what Jesus was talking about.
There is no question that, whatever Jesus is talking about, it is something that causes a person to be in a condition for which there is no salvation. In Mark 3:29 it says that the person guilty of this has “never forgiveness” and is “in danger of eternal damnation.” Luke 12:10 and Matthew 12:32 say “it shall not be forgiven him.” As long as a person is committing this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit it is not possible for them to be forgiven.
What had been done, in the context, that Jesus could be referring to as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Jesus had just cast a demon out of a possessed person and healed them (Matthew 12:22). The people were amazed and began acknowledging Jesus as the Messiah, the son of David (Matthew 12:23). But the Pharisees, unwilling to accept Jesus as the Messiah, claimed that he cast out demons by the power of Beelzebub (Matthew 12:24). So, what Jesus claimed to do by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:28) they claimed to be the power of the devil. They were essentially calling the Holy Spirit the devil. When Jesus said they were subject to eternal condemnation, Mark goes on to say it was “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spiritk” (Mark 3:30). They called the Holy Spirit an unclean spirit!
Now, when people claim that the work of the Holy Spirit is the work of an unclean spirit they are in danger of eternal condemnation. When we relate that to the revealed word of God, the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:13; 2 Peter 1:21), we see how people can be guilty of blaspheming the Holy Sprit today. As long as people reject the revealed will of God as anything less than a divinely inspired production they cannot be saved, they have “never forgiveness.” Coming to salvation through obedience to the word of God, those who later turn away from it and reject it as man-made opinions are just as guilty and just as much in danger of eternal condemnation. As long as one is willing to deny the divinely inspired word of God to justify their rejection of Christ and his will, they cannot be saved.
So, in answer to the “question,” any of the sins from the New Testament, or “such like” (Galatians 5:21), could be the sin that makes it impossible for a person to be saved. But it is up to them. It is not because God is unwilling to forgiven that sin (1 Timothy 2:4). Any sin that a person refuses to repent of, for whatever reason, is the sin that makes them irrevocably lost – as long as they are in that condition. If they will hear the word of God (Romans 10:17), believe what it teaches about Christ and his kingdom (Acts 8:12), repent of their sins (Acts 17:30), confess their belief that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 8:37), and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38), then they can be saved. If they have already done that but have turned away from God and gone back to the world then if they will repent, confess and pray God’s forgiveness, he will forgiven them (Acts 8:22-24).