I think I may have committed the sin unto death. Some years ago A brother close to me backslid. Although I invited him to Church. And one occasion said "You have taken on the name of the Lord and are welcome to come to our Church" He replied it doesn't mean anything to him anymore" I was just to light with him. A elder in our Church tried to encourage him but he rejected the Elders advice.
I just look back And think I was woefully negligent. I also passed by a old schoolfriend on a few occassions and didn't witness to him and he died. I feel that blood is upon me.
I felt one night the wrath of God upon me in bed. It was terryfying. I also had a vision of a cup filling up with wine or blood on a table. I kept saying things like Have I lost my salvation.
I still feel the presence of God's Love and holiness. I have wondered whether the vision of the cup was of the devil because it was a tankard not a goblet. Some times I have rebuked the attacks about the vision which cause distress. And it as worked. But then I go down in distress again because I think the vision shows I am doomed.
There is a considerable amount of misinformation abroad in our time regarding the sin unto death and similar issues (e.g., "the unpardonable sin" and "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" are both referring to rejecting the gospel; see the links at the end of this email). Theologically speaking, the "sin unto death" is not one particular sin or punishment for one particular sin. Rather, it is the severest form of divine discipline which falls upon believers who repeatedly and deliberately push their conduct past what the Lord is willing to tolerate in this life. The concept is found in several places in scripture (e.g., in 1Cor.5:4-5 NASB, we see Paul initiating it through special apostolic authority), but the doctrine itself takes its name from the terminology found at 1st John 5:16. It is clear from that context, that John is distinguishing between "sin not unto death" and "sin unto death". Both terms are anarthrous (i.e., have no definite article). Also, there is no "a" present in this verse in the Greek, so that a better translation is not "the sin unto death" (which makes it sound as if only one or even a particular type of sin is meant), but simply "sin unto death" which actually means a pattern of sinning which goes beyond what may be considered "normal" for Christians in the flesh who, though pursuing sanctification, are not perfect.
We are here to follow Jesus, and that requires sanctification (the "defense" of the Christian life – staying away from gross sin and gradually perfecting our walk in every respect), and spiritual growth (the "offense" of the Christian life, learning the truth of scripture and applying it, passing the tests we are given, preparing for ministry and ministering according to our individual gifts). Those who are following Jesus in this way may falter, and sometimes, unfortunately, in spectacular ways. However, while God does discipline us for all sin, and more dramatically for dramatic lapses, nevertheless, in doing so He is "behaving towards us like a Father to His children" (Heb.12:7). So while the punishment may sting, we are assured of and can take comfort in His love even amidst the tears.
Those Christians who are not pursuing sanctification and those who are not growing spiritually – and even only doing one or the other is always problematic – often end up in a process of spiritual degeneration very quickly wherein they begin to harden their hearts against God and His truth. At that point, some it seems let go of the Lord entirely, abandoning their faith, and in that way, when they cease to believe, they become apostates; God has no proprietary interest in these people who are at that point no longer part of His family, having rejected their faith in His Son whom they had (temporarily) accepted (cf. Mk.4:16-17). Others are determined to hold on to their sinful lifestyle while also holding on to their faith; such a situation is a disgrace to the family of God, and the Lord does not allow it to continue forever. If a believer refuses to abandon faith while continuing unashamedly in a life of sinfulness and increasingly sinful degeneration, he/she is "sinning unto death", daring God to do something about their shameful conduct, and there is "no point in praying" for someone in this state (1Jn.5:16), because it is only a matter of time before such a person is indeed "taken out" by the hand of God. This is a horrible way to end one's life, and represents the most severe form of divine discipline. About the only good thing one can say about it is that the person dies "saved" ("with only the skin of their teeth" as it says in Job 19:20). Contrastingly, in cases where the person who strays from Jesus abandons as worthless their faith in Christ, while no horrible and spectacular end may come, that is the best one can say: the apostate dies unsaved, having returned like a dog to its vomit (2Pet.2:22), and will face eternal fire.
It is always difficult to know completely the mind or motivations of another person. Indeed, self-knowledge in this respect takes much introspection to achieve. When it comes to our interaction with other people, as Christians we are always making choices, and it takes a tremendous amount of spiritual maturity and scriptural knowledge to "get it right" even half the time. We are called to be bold in our presentation of the truth; we are also called to be wise as serpents, and to beware of casting pearls before swine. I cannot say whether you were right or wrong in your handling of this particular individual (I note that he did not respond to your elders either, and apparently did not respond to the gospel message undoubtedly given in the service), but I can certainly affirm that you have not committed "the sin unto death" (if you committed any sin at all). If your conscience is troubling you, we know that we have an Advocate in heaven, Jesus Christ the Righteous, who intercedes with us at all times (1Jn.2:1), and we know that if we confess our sins, God in His justice and faithfulness always forgives us (1Jn.1:9).
Finally, I think it is good that we Christians should be tough on ourselves as far as demanding a high standard of behavior, searching for the truth, and ministering it to others. But I am also confident in God. I know that He would never let a single person go to hell because of our mistakes. When we witness to someone and it actually does minister salvation to them, it is God who is producing the salvation and it is God who has set up and managed the situation wherein salvation was gained. It had nothing to do with us; it was only our privilege to be able to participate – participation which we are exhorted to embrace and for which we are eternally rewarded it is true, but participation all the same, and definitely not effectuation. For God is the One who saves, not us.
I would therefore encourage you to have peace about the matter. Visions wherein God does not personally identify Himself and speak to us directly (and of the occurrence of these in our present age I am highly skeptical) can be open to any number of interpretations. We are called to peace; we are told not to fear. If we truly do have a godly, reverential fear of the Father and our dear Lord Jesus, then we have absolutely no need of walking on eggshells and being irrationally fearful in life. This life is a messy business. If we want to grow and serve in a real and dynamic way, the way to which God has called us, we are going to make mistakes. God is not looking to destroy us; God is ever-present to help us. A solidly-grounded, growing faith in Jesus casts out all such self-doubt, as self recedes and as day by day our Lord becomes our all in all.
There is much more about these topics at the following links:
Apostasy and the Sin unto Death (in BB 3B: Harmartiology)
The Peter Series: in #14: Spiritual Growth
The unpardonable sin.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
Yours in Jesus our dear Lord and Savior.
Thank you for taking another question. I wrote to you about a year ago on the subject of apostasy. To recap I was saved as a child, then, during my teen years, I no longer believed. I would say the most terrible things. Like Jesus was just a man, how can blood take away sin, there is no God. Also when a friend tried to explain the Holy Trinity I laughed and asked him if he worshiped a ghost. I don't tell you these thing with any satisfaction but sadness, terror and pure shame. You explained to me at that time that God was bringing me back to him and that I needed to have faith. I have prayed that Jesus be my lord and for forgiveness. However each day I feel like a yo-yo. I start having doubts because I haven't received peace or joy and I don't feel forgiven, then I think that I must not have faith because I am having doubts, that then turns into maybe I can't be forgiven, maybe my seed of faith has died. Then I think maybe this time, this time I will fight doubts, and I ask Jesus to come into my life. I am terrified to even ask the question, has it died, am I without hope? This is going to sound stupid but could you explain faith?
The truth is that I know He can forgive, that the problem here is me not Him. I believe without any doubt that Jesus is real and what he did on the cross was for the sin of his people. When you have faith in Jesus does doubt disappear, do you know it in your heart that you are forgiven. I always hear about a peace beyond understanding, and that I am lacking. I want to be child of God more then I can describe. When I read the Bible, to read about Him, He is unlike any other. He is so beautiful that it makes me cry to know what we did to Him and that He loved us so much and yet we are still so hard. I sometimes wonder if maybe He has let me know that He is real so that I can warn my children away from my mistakes, is that possible? I never dreamed that what I said in my stupid days would have any bearing. I thought you basically had to say you believed and feel bad when you did wrong and stop doing wrong. At that time I didn't want to admit that it could be true because then I would have to live right, in my mind I think I always thought that I would become a Christian again when I started to live right. I guess I haven't know what faith is for a really long time. I just thought I was running my mouth, being controversial. I never dreamed that I was making a choice that couldn't easily be corrected. I know what I did was just evil and I have no excuse for it except that I had an evil heart. I just want a new heart, one that has unyielding faith in the Lord Jesus. Now I want to ask everyone if they know Him, to warn them, to let them know He's real. That they shouldn't put it off because their hearts may harden. I am so scared that young people will follow my path. I am so scared that I am lost for good, that my heart is to hard.
I have, since this has all begun seen changes in my life, but I have discovered that my heart is so wicked and so deceitful that I can't be sure that those changes aren't self-imposed. I hope I haven't carried on too long. I guess my questions would be: if my seed of faith is dead what do I do and how do I know if it is dead and if it is not am I killing it with doubts and how to stop the cycle of doubt? How can a person tell if they have faith? When a person is saved shouldn't they receive peace, shouldn't they know they have been forgiven? What does the Bible mean when it says that anything spoken against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Can a person who has been like I have for this past year find peace in the Lord? How does someone know that they are saved and not just fooling themselves? I guess, What do I do now? I feel more lost then ever and I am scared that I am trying God's patience and that if it is not to late as of yet that it will be soon. I know that I must sound crazy and I am so sorry for this but when I discovered that God was real it has put a drive in me to never give up seeking him as long as He will allow. I just don't know how to go about it. I hope that even if you believe that my seed of faith is dead and that my soul is lost that you will respond to this email. I thank you for you time and your insight and your help.
Let me answer your question about faith this way. Faith is not simply a "mental attitude" (on this subject please see the link: Peter #24: Faith Dynamics). The Bible generally describes those who follow Jesus as "believers", and it uses the present participle of the verb "believe" to do so. That is to say, a Christian is "one who is [continually] expressing/demonstrating faith in" Jesus Christ. In other words, the proof of faith is in the "pudding" of one's Christian life. That is precisely James' point when he says "show me your faith [something impossible to do] and I will show you my works [which demonstrate my faith]".
Many people make the mistake of assuming that the Christian life is "static". "Just believe" and everything else will take care of itself. But a true "believer" is someone who follows Jesus Christ. A true believer is someone who tries to grow closer to Him day by day through consistent prayer, personal Bible study, the taking in of sound, orthodox Bible teaching, someone who believes the truth taught, then puts it into practice in his/her life, and slowly but determinedly begins to help others do likewise through the gifts and ministries that God provides. Simply put, in the Christian life we are either moving forward or moving backwards. If we take the hill, but then sit down to enjoy our victory, you can be sure that the enemy will counterattack in an attempt to push us right back down again.
That is the situation in general terms. If we are doing the things that Christ wants us to do, we never have to worry about our faith or get hyper-philosophical about its ins and outs because we see our faith in action every day. And there is much more. In our daily fight to draw closer to Jesus, learning and applying the truth is key. No one is able to be focused on Jesus 100% at all times every day right from the start of the Christian life, and no one is a position to be used of the Spirit to their maximum potential immediately after salvation. In order to become ever more useful to God, and in order to be more and more occupied with the Lord and His truth, fixing our focus on Him and the wonders to come, "thinking about the things above and not the things below" (Col.3:2) takes both a "strategic" and a "tactical" effort. By that I mean one has to have the truth in one's heart put there by diligent Bible study and attention to teaching, truth which is then solidified through believing it, in order to have a chance at victory day by day; then one still actually has to go out and do it day by day.
If anyone wants to follow Me, let him [first] deny himself, then pick up his cross and follow Me.
Everything in the Christian life takes effort. It is true that this effort is entirely non-meritorious because of the fact that God is really the One who has done all the real work in Jesus and is doing all the present work through the Spirit. But doing what we know we ought to do still takes discipline; it still takes effort; it still is all about choice – a thousand choices every day big and small which in their aggregate demonstrate the health and the power and dynamism of our "faith" – or the lack thereof.
No one who is as concerned about this as you are has lost their salvation or is in a position where "they can't get salvation back". Your question is a very common one. You have a lot of company when it comes to those of us who "went over fool hill" as teenagers (as my grandfather used to say). In fact that is such a common life-experience that it would seem to me to disqualify some huge percentage of believers if it were true that serious teenage backsliding spelled loss of salvation no matter what. As I often say, God is not trying to condemn us – He wants us to be saved (1Tim.2:4), having already done the most He could to save us by the gift of His beloved Son.
For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. The one who believes in Him is not being judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged on the grounds that he has not put his faith in the Name (i.e., the Person) of God's only Son.
Your very concern indicates to me that you are most definitely a believer. I understand the issue. It is a question, as I say, which I get quite a lot. Theologically speaking, however, it is a moot point. For if a person shows by their thoughts, words and deeds that they are most definitely a believer, then whether it is the case that they never actually suffered the complete death of faith (as I would put it), or whether in some hypothetical situation it might be possible to lose faith and regain, is really a matter of mere semantics. As the passage above states quite clearly: believers are saved; unbelievers are condemned for their refusal to believe. And that is the unforgivable sin – not a one time action, but the "state" of refusing to believe in Jesus carried through willfully unto death (please see the link: "Have I committed the unforgivable sin?").
After all, given what Paul says at 2nd Timothy 2:11-13 about Him denying us if we deny Him, how could Peter be saved? But we know that Peter is not only saved – he is one of the greatest believers of all time, in spite of the fact that he denied Jesus three times.
We have to give God some credit here. He loves us. And He knew ahead of time all of our ups and downs. In terms of the exact spot where we are spiritually, Paul tells us that he was not only not even sure himself but tried not to even have such things in mind, simply because it doesn't matter (1Cor.4:3-5).
(12) [It is] not that I have already gotten [what I am striving for], nor that I have already completed [my course]. Rather, I am continuing to pursue [the prize] in hopes of fully acquiring it – [this prize for whose acquisition] I was myself acquired by Christ Jesus. (13) Brethren, I do not consider that I have already acquired it. This one thing only [do I keep in mind]. Forgetting what lies behind me [on the course] and straining towards the [course] ahead, (14) I continue to drive straight for the tape, towards the prize to which God has called us from the beginning [of our race] in Christ Jesus. (15) So as many as are [spiritually] mature, let us have this attitude (i.e., of focusing on our spiritual advance and reward and not getting hung up on what lies behind: vv.13-14), and if in any matter your attitude is off-center, God will reveal that to you (i.e., assuming you are mature and are advancing as you should). (16) But with respect to the progress you have made, keep on advancing in the same way!
Therefore the Christian life should not be long on introspection, but long on growth and application, and so busy with this in fact that one barely has time for a subjective thought. What matters is carrying our cross day by day, drawing closer to Jesus through spiritual growth and aggressive application of the truth, and helping others do the same through the ministries we are called to perform.
So strive all that much more then, brothers, to make your calling and election secure through these good works. By devoting yourselves to these things (i.e., virtue, growth and the Christian production which springs from faith) you shall never be tripped up along your way. For it is by such means that your path into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be smoothly and generously paved.
2nd Peter 1:10-11
We are all Christian soldiers in this fight, and spiritual combat always gets ugly and dirty, and no one come through it without a scratch. We have to understand and accept this, stop taking it personally (see the link: "The Battlefield"), focus on the objective, get up, get moving, and do what God has called us to do, what Jesus expects us to do. If we take that approach, "forgetting what is behind" (Phil.3:13), we will not fail to win a bountiful reward in heaven, and our days will pass swiftly in the joy of the Lord, even in the midst of trial and tribulation.
I hope this is helpful to you, and that you can through diligent application of the truth and persistent concentration on what you know to be true in Jesus Christ gain the peace that is available for all believers. It is not automatic, but it does come with the growth of your faith.
Here are some other links pertinent to your questions:
Faith: What is it?
Free-Will Faith and the Will of God
Free-Will Faith in the Plan of God.
Putting the Word of God First.
In the One who died to save us, our dear Lord Jesus Christ.
Thank you for your response to my last email. I understand what you are trying to tell me about being a Christian is not about feelings. I was hoping that you might be kind enough to field a couple more questions on the matter. I really am not trying to be dense. Does there come to a point when a person can want to be a Christian however they are to hard of heart to believe? The reason I ask is because the very night that I emailed you. I started to think about Jesus, normally when I think of Him I can feel how beautiful He is, how wonderful He is. How much I love Him, how grateful I am that He would love us. However shortly after the email, nothing. I feel empty, even when I think of my sins. I don't like them but I don't weep over them, they don't cut me to the quick like they once did. Could I have pushed God too far with my doubts about being saved. I still want to be a Christian but I feel nothing. My deep conviction of sin, gone. I have tried to read the Bible, something is so different. In the past, when I would read the Gospel I could almost see him. It was exciting to read about Him. I finally understood why it was called the living word, but nothing now. I could almost see His saving power, I just felt that I couldn't get to it. I knew that He came to save, I felt it, I had hope that He would save me if I could get to Him but now it is all nothingness. I knew before that I was being offered a gift but I felt as if I couldn't figure out how to get it. I am so worried that now I have lost my chance. I know that it is not about feelings but shouldn't you feel something for the One who saves your soul? It scares me to think that my chance is gone, but even that feels as if it is under a fog. Please, have you ever heard of anything like this. I pray every day that He save me that He takes my life for His own. I still sin so much, I know that we will not be perfect till we are in heaven but I feel as if every time a trial or temptation comes along I fail. Am I a reprobate, have I made salvation impossible by asking am I really saved every time I started to think that I was. Have I become like pharaoh and hardened my heart?
I have another question, this one might be more hard to explain. Everyday I blaspheme God's name. I just makes me sick. For the most part there is nothing that spurs it. It just pops into my head. I am not angry or hurt or in a moment of emotion, but it just pops up. I could be thinking about nothing or just in my own thoughts while folding laundry then there it is. Sometimes it occurs when I am thinking of what to say in a situation. It bothers me because of what I am doing that to God's name is reprehensible but also that it happens so frequently. Once it happens once then I start to get bothered about the fact that I just did it then it is like the flood gates are thrown open. I don't know if I am causing it to happen because I get so stressed because it happened, I just don't know. It also happens when I hear a dirty word, my mind just repeats it. Or if a word is bleeped out my mind fills in the blanks. I don't know if I am making myself clear on what I am trying to say. It is myself using these words in my head but they are uninvited and unwelcome. When someone gets saved they are to get a new heart but mine stills speaks rotten stuff. It just kills me, I am afraid that this shows that I have cleaned up the outside but that the inside is still filthy.
How can a person tell if they really believe? I heard that people will miss heaven and go to hell by 18 inches. The distance between you head and your heart. I don't want that to be me. Now that God has shown me that He is real all I want is to be His. I am scared because now that this deep conviction of sin is gone does that mean that the Holy Spirit has left and I have missed my chance? What is Godly sorrow and how can a person tell the difference? Are all of these doubts a sin, is this pushing God away? I don't think that I am doubting His saving power or His word but my own conversion I want to make sure that I am not lying to myself when I say I believe. I thought that I was saved years ago after I said the prayer but looking back nothing in me changed except that I would say I was a Christian and I stopped, for the most part using dirty language. I don't want to align myself with Him if I am not truly His. I believe that it would be a terrible sin to claim to be His and to not be.
Thank you for your time
It's good to hear from you – but I am sorry to hear that you are still having so much trouble with this. Your inner turmoil reminds me of Martin Luther. He never had any peace, always doubting his salvation – until he finally realized from a careful study of Romans that he was "justified by faith" and what that really meant. It means that we who are believers in Jesus as you clearly are (it seems to me), are "righteous" in God's eyes – not because of anything positive we have done and in fact in spite of all the sins we have committed (and continue to commit – though of course we are called to be sanctified and should be improving not getting worse). The righteousness we possess by believing in Jesus Christ is not our own, but God's own. For since we belong to Christ, God the Father sees Christ in us. Jesus died for all of our sins; they have already been judged in Him and are now no longer a written charge sheet standing against us. The charges have all been dropped because Jesus suffered the death penalty for them in our place. Sin now has no power over us for condemnation; sin is now a "family matter" along the lines of when our children disobey us. We don't look to put them to death; we discipline them so they will do better (please see the link in BB 3B Hamaritology: "The Fact and Purpose of Divine Discipline")
Yes, I will say it again, faith is not about "feeling". But let me explain. As human beings we of course all have emotions and emotions are not only unavoidable but an important part of being human: "Jesus wept". However, emotions cannot control us or we are in big trouble. That is clear in any facet of life and is also the case when it comes to our Christian walk. Truth should be what is directing us; not doubts based upon emotional upheaval. So it is understandable that we "feel bad" about past sins, and believe me God will make sure we "feel bad" about present sins. But we have to concentrate upon what the Bible says about our status as sons and daughters of the living God. We belong to Him because of what Jesus did for us on the cross and because of our acceptance of that sacrifice through faith – if we believe, we are believers. To assume that how we feel can trump the work of God is to allow our emotions to control our lives. God is not impressed by how we feel. He is impressed by the death of His Son for all our sins. And He places Jesus' work far above any considerations of doubt we may have.
You see, you have to believe the truth, and then with consistent reading of the Bible, believing of the Bible, taking in of good Bible teaching and believing and applying it, eventually and with diligent application your emotions will begin to follow what you know to be true in your heart rather than to contradict and fight against the truth, rather than to lead you. This is not an easy struggle for any of us. The devil is very clever in his attacks (please see the links from SR 4: "Satan's Tactical Doctrine" and "Satan's Tactical Methodology"). We have to be diligent and consistent in taking in the truth (reading the Bible, listening to teaching, believing it), and we have to be diligent in applying it. That is to say, we have to fight "the battle of the mind" every moment of every day. Our emotions will vacillate between our sin nature and our human spirit based upon how we direct our will, and without having guideposts, without having directions, without having ammunition we are going to lose the fight. Now the ammunition for this fight, the "sword of the Spirit" is the truth of the Bible (Eph.6:17), and the more we have of its truth treasured up deep in our hearts through faith, and the better we know it, and the more vehemently we believe it, then the more leverage the Holy Spirit has to help us in this fight. This is the nitty-gritty of the process of spiritual growth, and it is a fight to which all believers are called, even if most today are effectively "AWOL":
Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers in order to prepare all of His holy people for their own ministry work, that the entire body of Christ might thus be built up, until we all reach that unifying goal of believing what is right and of giving our complete allegiance to the Son of God, that each of us might be a perfect person, that is, that we might attain to that standard of maturity whose "attainment" is defined by Christ; that we may no longer be immature, swept off-course and carried headlong by every breeze of so-called teaching that emanates from the trickery of men in their readiness to do anything to cunningly work their deceit, but rather that we may, by embracing the truth in love, grow up in all respects, with Christ who is the head of the Church as our model. In this way, the entire body of the Church, fitted and joined together by Him through the sinews He powerfully supplies to each and every part, works out its own growth for the building up of itself in love.
Through prayer, through diligent study, personal and otherwise, and through aggressive application of the truth you have heard and believed, you can win this fight. I do know what you are saying about the difficulty of staying away from sin – we all have areas of weakness; but if we persevere in the fight against sin, through spiritual growth we will begin to make headway and we will win in the end. We are responsible for all we think, say and do, or fail to. And I do know what you are saying about thoughts and the difficulty of controlling them – God can give you victory in that too. The main thing is to fill your mind and your heart with the good things God has for you, and His truth will begin to force out and replace the bad. Don't focus on your defeats; look forward and keep fighting the good fight of faith.
If therefore you have been resurrected with Christ, seek the things above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Seek the things above, not the things on earth. For you have died, and your life has been hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, your life, appears, then you too will appear with Him in glory.
It would be nice if upon salvation we were made and stayed "perfect" (whatever that might really mean in this world of dust and decay). But the reality is that all believers continue to have a sin nature and will until we die. We all also have "personal history" and we have to accept that reality; not dwelling on the past, but forgetting it and forging ahead as Paul tells us to do.
I often tell the story about a man who was saved and was suffering from psoriasis of the liver. His remark: "God gave me a new heart, but He didn't give me a new liver". We all have "baggage" of one type or another, and that is symptomatic of my main point here: this fight we are in as Christians in the devil's world is "messy". It is not and will never be a "clean" operation, where we always have success, never do anything wrong, always have complete confidence without doubt, never experience pain or sorrow or suffering, always have our emotions on an even keel, etc. We are forging through a desert to get to the promised land. There is a right way and a wrong way to make this trek, but even on the right path it will occasionally be painful and often it will be quite challenging. The main thing is to "pack up and get moving" and not stay stationary, worrying about the past or lamenting what might have been in the present. We Christians are all about the future, and for that future to be as glorious for us and as glorifying to the Lord as it has the potential to be, we need to make the most of the precious little time we have here down on earth to "grow spiritually and help others do likewise". Everything else is secondary.
God can give you victory over the sins that trouble you and over the doubts that plague you. Give Him the opportunity to do so by embracing His Word without reservation.
By the way, I maintain an e-mail list for notification of major new postings to the site. I would be more than happy to add your name and address if you would be interested.
Here are some additional links which may give you some comfort in these matters:
On the Firing Line: Encouragement in Christian Trials
Fighting the Good Fight of Faith.
Faith and Encouragement in the midst of Fiery Trials.
Encouragement, Isaiah 6:11-13, and the Hope of Repentance.
Encouragement in Christian Sufferings.
In need of encouragement.
Waiting on God.
In the One who love us so much that He died in our place that we might have eternal life through faith in Him.
Can you help me?
Some of your site is scaring me now. I committed apostasy, but I returned and repented. Can I come back? Will Jesus accept me back. Hebrews 6?
Apostasy is when a believer becomes an unbeliever. That is, apostasy is the death of faith (please see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). If you believe in Jesus, then you are a believer, and you are not an apostate. Hebrews 6:6 is talking about Jewish believers who were continuing to participate in animal sacrifice. Since killing the animal represented Christ's death, continuing in these rites after the cross was like saying what Jesus had done never mattered. You can find more about this at the following link:
Are those in Hebrews 6:4 who "crucify the Son of God afresh" lost?
God knows how to keep all His children safe and bring them safe to heaven home. Keep walking in the Lord, reading your Bible and praying, listening to good teaching, believing all the truth you hear, applying it to your life – and help others do likewise, and your confidence in the Lord will be "richly rewarded" (Heb.10:5).
Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
1st Peter 1:11-12 NIV
Feel free to write me more about this.
In Jesus in whom we have eternal life.
Thank you so much!
Your site is great! I agree with all of your site!
But doesn't Hebrews 6 mean I may have lost my salvation and am apostate?
Not at all! There are no believers who are not saved, and no one who is apostate believes in Jesus – the two things are mutually exclusive. Whatever you may or may not have done, if you believe in Jesus, then you are a believer. You may have gone into a "tail-spin", but if your faith is still present, if you have faith in Jesus, then you are saved. The prodigal son went on a long journey away from God – but the fact that he came back proves his faith did not completely die.
. . . it is impossible to restore them to [true] repentance after having fallen [into sin] as long as they keep crucifying the Son of God afresh and exposing Him to open shame (i.e., while they continue in their sin, the particular sin in question here being continued participation in the sacrificial rites of Law which foreshadowed Christ's work on the cross and suggesting by that participation that His work was ineffective).
Hebrews 6:6 does not teach the impossibility of repentance – it teaches the impossibility of repentance while continuing in sin. It is possible for the "faith plant" that grows with the seed of the Word of God in the parable of the sower to come close to death and yet not die. But if the plant of faith born from the seed of the Word is still alive and growing, then the person is a believer, no matter what the history of that person's prior life may be. We all have spiritual ups and downs in the Christian life. It is not easy to be a Christian, for as followers of Christ we are the natural targets of the evil one. But if we persevere in our faith, maintaining our faith in and faithfulness to Jesus firm unto the end, then we have nothing to fear from the second death. We should all be concerned about our spiritual status and strive day by day to be found acceptable in all we think and say and do. But none of us is perfect. God's standard for salvation has been and will always remain the same: faith in Jesus Christ. We are saved through this faith, by grace, and that is the work of God on our behalf (Eph.2:8-9). Keep moving forward spiritually, and you will never have to worry about falling backward:
So strive all that much more then, brothers, to make your calling and election secure through these good works. By devoting yourselves to these things (i.e., virtue, growth and the Christian production which springs from faith; cf. vv.1-9) you shall never be tripped up along your way. For it is by such means that your path into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be smoothly and generously paved.
2nd Peter 1:10-11
I know of no passage that even suggests that God "won't have us back" – all of us who believe in Him and His Son and are truly repentant, that is. Commit your way to the Lord, and He will give you peace (Jn.14:27).
In the Lord who died for us "that we might be saved", Jesus Christ our Savior.
I just had a friend read though your site, even he said there seems to be a few gray areas that you wrote on apostasy.
However, after reading your emails as well, he thinks you're saying that God is with you until you extinguish him with disbelief, then he cuts you off; if he took ones life, he takes it because he felt you may have not returned to him. Maybe God saw that I was going to reverse my apostasy and return to him, that is why he didn't kill me.
If I'm right, you're saying an apostate no longer has God, God leaves them and they are going to hell, but if he repents, does not continue, harkens to the voice of God, he is no longer an apostate, restoration occurs. YES?
I was very sick over this matter, I had to go on medication thinking I could not return. To be honest with you, I found your site because of that reason. But I spent a great deal of time looking through your entire site yesterday, and because I went through what I went through, those few gray areas you wrote on apostasy brought back some frightening memories. Do you know what it's like to feel you're going to spend eternity in hell and God cut you off?
Anyway, if I'm reading you right and this is what you are saying, just a yes in response will help.
Yes. To re-cap, believers believe. Unbelievers do not believe. An apostate is someone who was a believer but who now does not believe. That is different from a believer who becomes involved with gross sin or otherwise wanders from God but yet in his/her core still has a modicum of faith. In cases of particularly gross sin, such persons may come under the "sin unto death" (see the link: in BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). This is a gracious deliverance although it is a very painful one, accomplished by God "so that his spirit may be saved on the Day of the Lord" (1Cor.5:5). The apostate, by contrast, cuts himself off – God has nothing to do with it. There is a difference between heading down the road of apostasy and actually arriving at the point of "the death of faith". If we turn around (or if God "takes us out" before we get there in the manner of 1Cor.5:5), if faith survives, then we are very likely to experience discipline for our sinful behavior – just as any beloved son or daughter should expect from his/her loving parent – but not being cast off by the One who loves us so much He died that we might be saved (not lost).
Hope this helps!
On one hand you use the present tense an apostate does not now believe....but my faith was dead.... this happens to many that go to college and embrace evolution. I'll be honest with you... the eternal sin thing you said is scary. One it can mean the apostates rejection and refusal to repent...means his sins are eternal for there is no other means to cleanse him of it.... he has achieved spiritual death, as he was before he was saved, so it's not the sin of apostasy that is eternal... but the eternal separation from redemption that he chose, unless this turns back.. This is comforting.
The other meaning of eternal sin means even if you ask for forgiveness it will not be granted, equal with the un-pardonable sin... That page is hard to read... call me stupid... maybe i am... maybe the devil is still tormenting me.
I don't expect you to keep trying to help me.. you have been more than kind.
Your work in the Lord is appreciated.
One thing I know: if you have true faith in Jesus Christ, then you are a believer, not an apostate, regardless or what may or may not have happened in the past. I don't believe I have ever said anything about apostasy being eternal – to what "page" are you referring? I have talked about the "eternal sin" or "unforgivable sin" AKA "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit". This sin is the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ; the sin of unbelief or disbelief, of agnostic failure to believe or willful rejection. Either way, this is the one sin for which Jesus could not die, the sin of refusing to accept His death in place of our own (please see the link: "Have I committed the unforgivable sin?").
The one who believes in Him is not being judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged on the grounds that he has not put his faith in the Name (i.e., the Person) of God's only Son.
I hope this is of some comfort.
Stand fast in the faith, follow Him faithfully in this life, and you have nothing to fear.
In the One who came not to judge us but in order that we might have eternal life, our loving Savior Jesus Christ.
You asked "I don't believe I have ever said anything about apostasy being eternal -- to what "page" are you referring?"
Here you stated..... "for, in the end, the path of abandoning faith is identical to rejecting Christ (1Jn.5:16-17; cf. Matt.12:31; Heb.6:4-6)."
You seem to relate apostasy to the unforgivable sin.... but there is a gray area... you say in the end..... not once they do it. By that you can mean... "in the end" if they do not repent and die that way the result is the same. Or it can mean that as soon as ...or at that moment faith is abandoned, blasphemy of the spirit is achieved?
You also relate it to Hebrews 6:6... but again you state... Hebrews 6 does not teach the impossibly of repentance just while they were sinning. So perhaps you're speaking of a permanent refusal to repent (in the end).... will achieve the same result of blasphemy of the spirit... but not technically blasphemy of the spirit........... but you are drawing very close parallel to the two... and people who had problems with apostasy can get sick again.
You seem to indicate that an apostate can't return, or God will kill his child before apostasy is achieved. But that is not the case, and I'm a perfect example of it.
Please get back to me.
Your in Christ.
I believe that in everything I have written on this subject I have been very careful not to say that there is no hope for those who fall away. I always try to be careful and not teach anything that scripture does not clearly teach. For me, the question of whether or not it is possible for a person's faith to die out completely and for that person later on to become a believer again is a bit of a moot point; that is because we must agree that all those who genuinely believe in Christ, all those who are faithful to Christ, and all those follow Christ are "believers" – and all believers are saved. If that is true, and it is, and if you accept that it is true, then it makes little difference what your "official state" was when you journeyed far from the Lord. We have to apply a little bit of common sense and remember with whom we are dealing here. Jesus died for the sins of the entire world. He suffered the pangs of spiritual death in payment for every sin of every human being who has ever lived, unbelievers as well as believers. Jesus didn't do this because He wanted people to go to hell. God "wants all to be saved" (1Tim.2:4), and certainly didn't condemn His one dear Son, judging Him in our place, in order to "send people to hell". People go to hell of their own free will. Those who do not want to go to hell and who are willing to accept Jesus as their substitute by putting their faith in Him and following Him in this life are believers, and believers most certainly do not go to hell. Jesus told us . . .
For God did not send His Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him. The one who believes in Him is not being judged, but the one who does not believe has already been judged on the grounds that he has not put his faith in the Name (i.e., the Person) of God's only Son.
I do understand what you are saying. But I would urge you to have a little confidence in the Lord, remembering that He loved you so much that He died in your place. He did not do this so that you might be condemned on some technicality (if there really is even this technicality out there – I don't find it in the Bible – and even if it would apply to you). Jesus died to save you. All He asks is what you demonstrate by your concern – and I would hope also by your life. All He asks is that you believe in Him. If you do, if you live to serve Him, and if you are growing in Him day by day through His Word in order to help others do likewise, then not only are you absolutely secure in your salvation but you are on the road to earning eternal rewards as well.
God knows everything, and even if our hearts condemn us, scripture says, God is greater than our hearts. I would argue that most likely you were unable to commit the sin of completely disbelieving in Jesus, that some small spark of faith remained in you no matter how terribly you behaved or what you did that causes you guilt, and that the Holy Spirit kept you from committing the sin of completely rejecting Jesus "because His seed [of faith] remained" in you:
(9) No one who has been born of God continues in [a life of] sin, since His seed (i.e., the Word of truth in which we believe) remains in him, and [so] he is not able to continue in [a life of] sin since he has been born of God.
1st John 3:9
Now it is difficult for us to know everything that goes on even in our own hearts, especially in times of spiritual decline, so how do I come to have this confidence in your case when I have never even met you? Precisely because of where you are at now. In my way of thinking about this from what I read in the scriptures the very fact that you came back is the proof that your faith-seed never completely died away – no matter how outrageously you acted or what you may have said or thought. Simply put, the Spirit will not allow a genuine believer, one truly elect of God, to get to that point. When we go down that road of apostasy, one of three things happens: 1) our faith dies and we cease to be believers; or 2) we repent after suffering severe divine discipline and come back to follow Jesus in an acceptable way; or 3) in cases where believers are intent on pursuing ungodly behavior and yet also hold onto the seed of faith, unwilling to give up their faith or their life of sin, God takes them out of this world – graciously – through the "sin unto death" (please see the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"). In this last case, though they are put to death, yet they are still saved (cf. 1Cor.5:5). Now please consider: if God goes to that length to keep sinful believers from being lost, lovingly taking them out of this world so that they may not lose their eternal life, and remembering that Jesus died for all our sins so that we might be saved, how could we imagine that God would allow anyone to be condemned who does actually honor His Son through accepting Him in faith, who does genuinely believe in His Son?
So I do see the distinction that you are making. What about a hypothetical case where someone believes, then ceases completely to be a believer, then becomes a believer again. I don't see that as technically possible, but, because of the above, even if it were possible, I wouldn't see it as a problem – let me stress again that this is hypothetical speculation, because I don't see scripture allowing for the possibility of this happening; it's just that I don't see any scriptural or theological impediment for it to happen if it were possible to happen. Either way you slice it, that would be good news for you. For whether things are as I say they are, namely, that the faith seed has remained alive despite what you may think, or that even if it died and a new one sprang up (to put your position in my terms), in either case you are a believer, and believers are saved. You cannot say "Jesus is Lord" without the Holy Spirit, and there many other things, if you stop to think about it, that you think and say and do that no unbeliever would ever think or say or do. For there to be any serious "problem" with your present state, we would need to suppose that there are a class of people who are believers in every way, who have the Spirit and who glorify Christ in their lives, and yet they are going to be cast into hell at the end. That does not square with the tenor or tone of the Bible in any way, nor is there any scripture of which I know that would justify any such interpretation. Why would scripture go to such lengths to encourage the sinful to repent and the unbelieving to come to Christ if there were no profit in that?
Remember Peter. He denied Jesus three times. Now Paul tells us that if we deny Him, if we are unfaithful to Him – the very definition of apostasy – that He will disown us (2Tim.2:11-13). I am here to tell you that Peter is in heaven. Not only that, but one of the cornerstones of the walls of the New Jerusalem will bear his name (Rev.21:14). Was Peter an apostate? As I say, from my point of view the question is moot. Because if he were an apostate, he certainly came back to Jesus and is saved; and if, as I surmise, the seed of faith remained in him, protected by the Spirit until he should come back, then he never went the whole distance to a complete loss of faith. But in practical terms, this is one and the same thing: those who die with faith in Christ intact are saved; those who do not are not. The unforgivable sin is the sin of being an unbeliever; believers by definition are not committing that sin, and it matters little what they did in the past since at some point in the past everyone was an unbeliever.
I hope this helps to clear the matter up. Only the individual person in question can really have any idea where they are currently "at" spiritually, but from what you have shared with me you certainly seem to me to be a believer in Jesus Christ; and if you are a believer, then you possess eternal life. Hold fast to that life, serve Jesus day by day, and embrace the peace He has left us to shelter us in this turbulent world.
In the Name of the One who gave so much to save us, our dear Lord Jesus Christ.