THEOLOGY & APOLOGETICS
The Consequences of Willful Sin
By John Ruiz-Bueno
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Continued from Page One
4. Fearful Expectation of Judgment
Hebrews 10:26-31 starts with "For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins." Because of that last line, many tie it to Hebrews 6:4-6 ("For it is impossible [for the saved]...[who] have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt"), which is often also correlated with the unforgiveable sin. Jesus isn't going to die twice. So, if you're in a position where you have potentially had your salvation "negated" somehow, if such a thing is even possible, then your willful and deliberate sin prevents you from ever being restored to repentance. If you are capable of repenting, then you are in the clear with respect to that aspect of it.
More to the point of this passage, regardless of whether or not it is a reference to the unforgiveable sin, there is certainly a "fearful expectation of judgment" that we must be wary of if we "go on sinning deliberately." But what is meant by that phrase is disputed. There are two main camps:
· It means any known, willful, and intentional sin that is done regularly, regardless of our heart-state or efforts toward repentance.Second Timothy 2:12-13 clarifies between these two. It says, "If we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful — for he cannot deny himself." The concept here is that someone who has a repentant heart, but is faithless in their efforts to live in light of their salvation, God will remain faithful and they will remain secure in their status before him. However, if someone makes an intentional effort to disown/deny God, then God will respect that choice and allow that relationship to be severed (or in the "eternal security" view, to remain severed forever), which ushers in the judgment referenced in Hebrews 10. Accordingly, I side with the second view of the two listed above.
· It means any known, willful, and intentional sin that is done regularly, but only counts when we are not repentant and doing the sin as an active and intentional act of defiance against God.
To be clear, a "fearful expectation of judgment" almost certainly means "hell." First John 4:18 specifically says that fear is connected with punishment and the one who fears is not made perfect in love. That is, a genuinely saved person has no basis for fear. So, if Paul is saying one should "fear" judgment, then he is presuming that the person is not saved. However, it's also pretty clear that Paul is talking about Christians. Some would argue that "after receiving the knowledge of the truth" only means people who have intellectually had the opportunity to hear and understand the Gospel, but have not necessarily accepted it at a heart-level. However, Paul says in verse 26, "If we go on sinning," thus including himself as someone who would potentially be subject to this risk of judgment if he were to go on sinning as well. It is unlikely that Paul would have accepted the possibility that his salvation was in question, as he often speaks authoritatively as one who is secure in his status before God. As a result, the "fearful expectation of judgment" can only mean that the person has either (a) lost their salvation, or (b) was misguided in their basis for believing they were saved, and were really never saved to begin with. Regardless, a person's salvation is in question if they "go on sinning deliberately."
Although I may be conscious of sins as I am committing them from time to time, and yet proceed anyway, because I am acting in weakness as Paul did in Romans 7 and not out of a willful defiance, I am not at risk of the "fearful expectation of judgment." But test this reassurance against the Spirit, for I do not want anyone to have a false reassurance based on something I have said that you have not prayed about and discerned in the Spirit for yourself.
5. Unforgivable Sin
The unforgivable sin is found in Mark 3:22-30 and Matthew 12:22-32, where it is described as "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit." There are many interpretations on this:
· It is attributing the work of the Holy Spirit as being evil;There is a wide debate among these possibilities (and other less common views). I side with the last of these, as I believe this is most supported by the story of Moses and Pharaoh, as affirmed in Romans 9, as well as the overarching concepts of hardening that we see throughout Scripture and the many declarations that any individual sin can be forgiven.
· It is telling lies about the Holy Spirit or claiming something is of the Spirit when it is not;
· It is dying without ever having responded to the Holy Spirit's call on your life toward salvation;
· It is hardening your heart to the point where it is so callous that repentance no longer becomes possible.
The most common viewpoint on the unforgiveable sin, which I also hold, is that if you are concerned that you have committed it, then there is likely enough room in your heart for future repentance, and thus you are not so callous that you cannot repent. Someone who has become that callous enough to be prohibited from forgiveness would be so stubborn and hard-hearted against God that they would not care if they are saved or not.
Sinning is bad. Don't do it — especially not intentionally. But even at that, bear in mind that there are more important things God has in mind for us than simply avoiding sin, and doing those things is often the best way to avoid sin anyway.
Image: Kersley Fitzgerald
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Sin-Evil | Theological-Beliefs
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