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Salvation Lost and Found

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Question #1:

Hi Bob,

The more I think about it, the more it seems that the ability for one to blot out God, or worship vanities which are not God, is an enormous reward for unbelievers, because nobody will ever have that kind of freedom to do that to God outside of human history.

But out of his mercy, he lets unbelievers do that.

Sincerely,

Response #1:

Yes, I think that is the essence of unbelief – using the God-given image of God to live for oneself instead of responding to Him. We are all here to choose whether or not we want to spend eternity with God. If unbelievers were allowed into heaven, they would not be pleased with the subordination of their will to His. This is all discussed at the link: BB 4B: Soteriology.

Your friend in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #2:

Dear Brother Bob,

I have been praying for years for my family member who has embraced a very sinful life style. I have faith The Lord hears my prayers, and I believe He will someday send something or someone to help her return to His fold. Yet, it is very difficult for me to watch her going deeper and deeper into the darkness, and sometimes I despair of her ever turning back to the light. It breaks my heart. At one time, when she was a child, she made a genuine confession of faith in Jesus Christ. But in her teen years and later, she started sinning with gusto. I feel it is partly my fault, because I had departed from my walk with The Lord for a long time and set a horrible example. Yet, she was old enough and knew enough to bear the consequences of her sins.

So I have three questions:

1) Should I continue praying for her? I feel like the widow annoying the king to the point He grants her request just to get rid of her. Am I annoying The Lord? He promises to grant our prayers that are in His will, and certainly her salvation is His will. But she has a will as well.

2) Am I sinning because I love my sinful prodigal? I know The Lord will search out the one lost sheep, but some people have frowned on me since she is living an abominable life. I haven't compromised my beliefs or shut my eyes in any way concerning the sinfulness of her life, but I believe that in God's eyes, sin is sin, whether it's a white lie or the slaughter of innocent babies. So I can hold an opinion on the sin itself, but I can still love the sinner. God forgave mine; should I not forgive hers?

3) How can I find peace and not be so impatient? My greatest fear is that The Lord will come and she is not saved.

Certainly, this is between her and our Father. He has a perfect plan that will be fulfilled. But this causes so much pain for me. Perhaps He wants me to turn it over completely to Him and let Him work. I try that but it still pops up in my mind and heart regularly. I would greatly appreciate some guidance.

May Our Lord continue to bless you and your great ministry,

Response #2:

Hello again,

I am sorry to hear about this heavy burden on your heart. The spiritual welfare of those nearest and dearest to us is always a huge concern when there is anything but deep and obvious commitment to the Lord on their part. If it is of any small consolation to you, I gave my parents fits in my earlier years before returning to a life and walk with the Lord in my mid-twenties. Mostly what I can do here is to confirm that you are seeing things exactly right: we should continue to pray and we should continue to love. Indeed, it is only by doing #1 and #2 that #3 (finding peace) is even possible. We cannot know this side of heaven specifically why it is that the particular troubles that afflict us have come upon us in the way and at the time they have. What we can know is that if we are truly walking with Jesus then anything that happens is for blessing in the long run . . . and can be even in the short run too. In the long run, we know that sharing the sufferings of Christ builds our patience and solidifies our faith. In the short run, though we are being refined as if by fire, we have to take pains to remember that this refining of our faith is of more value than any earthly gold, and we know that God is the One who is directing the process. We can trust Him.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1st Peter 1:6-9 NIV

If all of our prayers were answered immediately, what faith would be necessary? If all of our problems were solvable by human effort, why would we need to trust Him? The sort of trouble you write about requires us to trust in the One who is Lord of all that the world sees as impossible, and continue to do so regardless of how long we are required to wait for the solution. If we do so, we glorify our Lord Jesus, build up and deepen our faith, and earn the crowns of victory we shall wear for all eternity.

Where there is life, as I like to say, there is hope – because as long as a person is alive, that person is capable of turning bad choices into good ones (repentance and return in the case of the prodigal). None of us is perfect, but you seem to me to be setting just the right example and doing just the right thing. Is anything impossible for the Lord? No! He can turn the world upside down with a nod. He can renew the universe with a word. He will raise the dead with a single trumpet call. He can certainly help us right now with our present problems too, and we need to remain faithful in asking Him to do so and in trusting Him that He will, in His own good and perfect timing.

Regardless of what our eyes and ears and feelings tell us, no matter that the world, the flesh and the devil laugh at us, we will keep our faith in Jesus Christ that He can and He will hear our prayers and send us just the help we need at just the right time.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.
Psalm 20:7 NIV

I will certainly be praying for you and you family member.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #3:

Hi Bob, Sorry I'm slow getting on here. If I get on the computer once in awhile, I'm always anxious to go on your site first and foremost because it always seems I learn something new there or I become more confident in where I stand already. It 's very encouraging for me!

When you mention p.k., is that "promise keepers"?

Amen to all you said about churches. I'm in full agreement. It seems like Jesus, Paul etc were forever warning about religious leaders (using phrases such as wolves in sheep's clothing, "full of great swelling words of emptiness", savage wolves, men will heap up teachers to tickle their ears etc.; more warnings than anything it seems); so it seems that true teachers are going to get more and more rare. The two 'best' churches I could find which were fairly local were the Pentecostal and the Church of Christ since at least they seem to have a real enthusiasm for the Lord when you first go in there compared to the really dead ritualistic type churches, but I just could not stomach it for very long even though many of the people were very friendly and kind. The Pentecostal ladies were trying to encourage me to 'get baptized in the Holy Spirit' and 'speak in tongues', and of course there was nothing I could really say to try and kindly convince them that I just don't agree with how their church teaches on that subject; and the Church of Christ seems to want to avoid Old Testament teachings in favor of New Testament which is so odd, plus the baptismal regeneration teachings deeply bother me.

Almost all the friends on my friend list are either street preachers (which had a negative influence on me, as I began to understand some of their harsh tactics), devoted Pentecostals, or they are very strong against the teachings of original sin/sin nature which I really do not understand why they obsess about those matters so much, plus those who have other deep obsessions concerning water baptism, Saturday Sabbath keeping, Hebrew Roots movement, and on and on and on. (It can sure be easy for people to get side-tracked by all these diversions and lose their first and most amazing love.) You and one other friend are about the only two I know of that I can honestly relate to, and I am trying to kindly encourage her to study your site and I hope she will do so.

One other question: Are people who are mentally like children considered as a replacement for one of the fallen angels too?

Thank you for your encouragement and for all your kind responses!

God's grace and peace be always with you!

Response #3:

Hello,

"PK's" are "preacher's kids". My dad was a Presbyterian minister (back in the days when that church still had something to do with the Bible).

In regards to those who are mentally infants, yes indeed, they are saved (will be saved). This life is all about choice. If someone to whom God gives life never has the genuine opportunity to express a choice in their heart for or against Him, then their salvation is not compromised. One thing most people, even those who profess expertise in theology, don't seem to understand is that every human being was written in the book of life "before the foundation of the world" (Rev.13:8). What that actually means is profound. It means that for the world to be created, Jesus had to agree to die for the sins of every human being, even those of the majority who would reject Him. It means that God's "default setting" is the salvation of every human being. It means that to be saved, all a person has to do is to "not say NO!". It means that people who are not saved are lost only out of their own free-will deliberate choice to reject God's provision of salvation. While from our earthly point of view we are all (rightly) disturbed by the death of infants and by the birth of those who are forever mentally infants, this is one way God has ordained to provide for Himself and for His Son an eternal family "from every race and people and tribe and nation". For there never was a people, no matter how hard of heart, where because of what we rightly see as tragedies God did not bring blessing out of heartbreak by providing for the salvation of a remnant even from among the chronically unwilling.

"As for you, go back home. When you set foot in your city, the boy will die. All Israel will mourn for him and bury him. He is the only one belonging to Jeroboam who will be buried, because he is the only one in the house of Jeroboam in whom the LORD, the God of Israel, has found anything good."
1st Kings 14:12-13

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #4:

Hi Bob, That is wonderful your dad was a preacher ... and a true preacher of the gospel at that! No wonder you turned out to be such a strong leader in the Church. Praise God! The Presbyterians I have met online did not even believe in free-will choice (which is always a concept that boggles my mind), so it is wonderful that you do not believe in that way.

You mentioned "every race, people, tribe, and nation" above, and that reminded me of a question I had been wanting to ask you. I do not understand how all the races came from Noah and his 3 sons. I have never understood why people look so distinctly different between the whites, blacks, orientals etc. I always appreciate your answers!

Amen to your last paragraph; I have tried to explain to people many times in the past that the only reason people do not become saved is because of their own refusal to turn to God. Of course, when we say this though, many misunderstand and say "then you must think that people save themselves." I will then explain that no one can be saved apart from what the Lord did for us by already providing the way of salvation when He died to pay for our sins, but we still must choose to either walk with Him or to go our own way.

That makes sense what you wrote about some people who can't choose for God (such as babies who die, or those who are grown but are children mentally), are allowed to be this way because God ordained to provide for Himself and His Son an eternal family from all races and nations. Many times the mentally handicapped make more sense to me than those who are considered "not mentally handicapped," I guess because the mentally handicapped just naturally have pure type hearts. Sometimes I wonder if they are some of the few that the Lord can even bear to look upon here on earth. Thanks for sharing those verses from 1 Kings 14:12-13. I didn't recall those verses, but they are quite amazing.

God bless you and thank you for your helpful thoughts!

Response #4:

You're most welcome.

I appreciate your encouragement and enthusiasm for the Word of God!

Keep fighting the good fight in Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #5:

Hi Robert,

Yes Solomon is a sad case, and probably no one knows the full situation of his life. It puts fear in my heart how he turned out though, and it makes me examine myself even more closely, especially when I consider that Solomon was supposed to be the wisest man at one time. This verse in 1 Chronicles 28:9 puts both great peace and great fear in my heart when I think of these words to Solomon:

"And you, Solomon my son, know you the God of your father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands all the imaginations of the thoughts: if you seek him, he will be found of you; but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever."

I was wondering what your views are on those who have never heard of Jesus our Lord such as the American Indians before Christians could witness to them. When I was in Fourth Grade and first studied about the American Indians, I enjoyed hearing how some of them had such a respect for the earth and did not seem to be so worldly minded. It seemed to me that some of them may have been closer to the truth than many who claimed to be "Christians". Are your views in this area similar to what is read in the following short message?

http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/neverheard.html

I am almost done writing notes on your Laodicea era thoughts, and what you wrote is greatly helpful to me and how I so immensely relate to all that you have written! Like you said, overall the Laodicea era does not want to:

1. CONSISTENTLY teach the Word of God

2. Delve into EVERY aspect of God's truth, or

3. Delve into EVERY portion of scriptures

And now we have such terrible teachings as 1. the rapture 2. "church" security and 3. eternal security (OSAS)

There were times when I was wondering if I was 'crazy' or the majority of the world was 'crazy' because it is truly so difficult to find others who do have a true passion and zeal for EVERY aspect of God's truths and who sincerely want to know the full truth and live it out. Your writings here truly do make me feel like I was following the 'sane' diligent, and determined path despite all the apathy and confusion we are surrounded with in this Laodicea age. I also am comforted by your teachings because after being confused by most of the world's religious teachings, I just decided to basically study on my own with no actual teacher 'over me'; and now when I read your writings most every day, I can see that what you teach is exactly eye-to-eye with what I understand too on all of the basic/essential teachings and all of the moderately deep teachings. But on all the very deep teachings that so very few people understand (such as much of Revelation, Genesis Gap, the purpose of mankind, the seven millennial days etc.). I have had a tremendous eye-opening experience to understand all these matters now, and I am so thankful that you have been so deeply blessed by God for your faithfulness and that He has revealed these truths to you that so very few can understand. I am so thankful that the Lord led me to a teacher that I can truly respect and relate to! Praise God, and I pray that many more searching souls will experience the same in this difficult day. Thank you for all your dedication to truth and to our glorious Lord!

In Christ Jesus our precious Lord,

Response #5:

Good to hear from you as always, my friend. On the three major false doctrines afflicting current evangelicalism, if you have not already found it, I just wanted to let you know that these are the subject of the last installment of the Peter series at the link: Peter #27: "Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith".

On the question of "what about the heathen" or "what about those who never heard the gospel", I have written about this quite a bit and will give you the links below. This is one of those questions which the evil one uses to trip up believers and also one which lukewarm or only pretend believers use to justify all sorts of false doctrines and wrong ideas (e.g., universalism, relativism, ecumenicalism). People who take the tack of saying that because some apparently "didn't hear" they can't be held accountable, or for that reason that "God is not fair", or "God will save all", or "there are many ways to God", are building massively false doctrine from a huge logical leap – and an incorrect one at that.

In part, the answer to this question depends on "how big" one's God is. My God is bigger than the universe, than all of time and space, to an infinite degree. He knows not only all that has and is and will happen, but all alternative possibilities. Indeed, nothing whatsoever could happen without His decree of it in the first place. We only exist, we only have free will, and we only have the opportunity to use that free will genuinely and effectively because He set the stamp of His decree on what He knew we would choose.

The implications of this fundamental truth are enormous. What it means in terms of this question you ask is that God put everyone in exactly the right place (to maximize not to minimize their receptiveness to His truth). For those who would have no use for Him, He was under no obligation to provide them with any information about Himself whatsoever. However, in His great mercy, God has made a tremendous amount of information about Himself and our human situation available at all times and in all places, namely, natural revelation (see the link). It will be shown at the last judgment of unbelievers precisely what went on in the hearts of each and every person when they were made aware from observing what He created that He not only existed but also what a powerful, omniscient and just God He was and is.

(18) God's wrath is about to be revealed from heaven upon all ungodliness and unrighteousness – on men who suppress the truth [in their hearts about God] in their unrighteousness. (19) For that which can be known about God [from everyday experience] is obvious to them, because God has made it obvious. (20) His nature, though invisible, is nevertheless plainly apparent, and has been since His foundation of the world, for it may be clearly inferred from this creation of His – [this is true of] both His eternal power and His divinity – so that they are without any excuse: (21) they knew about God, but they neither honored Him as God nor thanked Him.
Romans 1:18-21a

Couple this with the knowledge of mortality and sinfulness (i.e., we know we can't stay here in life and that we're not good enough to live with God), and there is every reason for every single person in world history to want to seek out God and His solution. And for everyone who has ever wanted any divine truth beyond natural revelation, God has never ever failed to provide it more bountifully than that desire: our Lord is not stingy with the truth.

(24) The God who made the world and everything in it, He is Lord of heaven and earth. He does not dwell in man-made temples, (25) nor is he waited on by human hands, as if He needed anything from us. He is the One who gives us all life and breath and everything else. (26) From one man he created all the nations of mankind – that they should come to inhabit the whole face of the earth. He fixed and determined the specific times and extent of their habitations, (27) to the end that they should seek out this God, that they might go in search of Him and so might find Him – for His is not far off from any one of us.
Acts 17:24-27

As this passage makes clear, not only did God provide for everyone all the information they needed to set themselves to seek Him (and made Himself available to all who ever have), but He also put everyone where He did to maximize their chance for salvation. What we can glean from all this is that there never existed a single aboriginal person who was not saved because "he/she never had a chance to hear the truth". We know this definitively from scripture (not to mention also from what we know about the Plan of God and the sacrifice of Christ who died for all and the character of God who is goodness and love and wants all to be saved), and that is the case regardless of what unbelievers and doubters and scoffers and who worship a "little god" may opine to the contrary.

God is all powerful. He could easily have caused any person at any time in any place to travel willingly or be transported unwillingly to another place where he/she could receive the gospel (if the gospel was desired); and He could easily have caused a believer willing to ministry to travel or to be transported unwillingly to another place where the gospel was desired. We do not know all we would like to know about these truly important divine facts of history, but we do have little snippets here and there both within the Bible and without which do let us know that these things always did happen in fact. For example: Jonah gave the Word to the Assyrians; the Pharisees sent "missionaries" around the globe and "Moses is preached" in Jewish communities throughout the world (Matt.23:15; Acts 15:21; even if the messengers were not believers, they carried the Bible with them and the Word was read); and there is evidence of Christian expansion into China as early as the first century B.C., etc. And these examples are quite apart from any purely supernatural means that the Lord might choose to make use. The point is that we know enough about things that did happen so as to make us reluctant to affirm dogmatically that such and such did not happen. We don't know everything that happened. But we do know that God is fair and has never denied any willing person the water of life in the truth of Jesus Christ – He never has and never will.

One last thing to consider in this "nutshell" treatment: the Church of Jesus Christ will consist of people "from every tribe and language and people and nation" (Rev.5:9; 7:9; 11:9), and one of the ways this no doubt will be effected is from the truth that only those who came to mental maturity and actually had a chance to express their essential preference for or against an eternal life with the Lord will be held to account. What that means, of course, is that all who were mentally handicapped and thus incapable of accepting or rejecting the truth of the gospel and also all those who died too young to be able to have a genuine free will choice in the matter are automatically saved. As this situation obtains and always has in "every tribe and language and people and nation", all such will be represented in Christ's Church. We may see this as "unfair", but God knows the truth about all individuals. We cannot at present say, for example, whether or not someone who was born a native American in the 12th century and died young would have made significant spiritual progress if given the opportunity by being born elsewhere and granted a long life, but God surely knows. He knows how that person would have decided and what he/she would have done with the truth if something else had happened. We can certainly say that no one is going to be deprived of eternal rewards (let along eternal life) because of circumstances beyond their control: God is fair. My own supposition on this point, based on the scriptures above et al., is that the Lord puts every single person in the place where they will be saved if there is any possible circumstance in which they would be willing to be saved, and that the same is true when it comes to opportunities for spiritual growth.

As I often say, "God knew who we wanted to be and made us who we wanted to be"; the corollary to that is that He helped us in every way through orchestrating every detail of our life circumstances precisely in order to optimize our positive choices for Him. Human beings that we are, we react to what happens, and we naturally have a default setting of imagining that God is doing the same thing. In fact, however, when we come to know Him and His truth better, we come to recognize that He has had all this planned out perfectly from the start, that is, before He ever initiated creation through the agency of His Son our dear Lord Jesus Christ.

In the history of the world, most people have had absolutely no interest in spending eternity with the Lord on His terms, namely, accepting His Lordship and His forgiveness. And of those of us who have craved that salvation, very few have wanted to do much if anything with the chances for growth, progress and production which constitute the Christian life after salvation. Those like yourself who do in fact want to make use of the fantastic opportunity that is life in the Lord, will never regret the decision, and will never regret the least effort made to learn and believe the truth, walk closer to Jesus day by day, and serve Him in ministering His truth to others. We may be considered as nothing in this world, and we may suffer opposition and resistance for choosing the best part; but in the end it will all be worth it – far more so than at present we can yet even imagine.

Here are those links:

BB 4B: Soteriology (which approaches the issue in detail from the point of view of the Plan of God)

What is the Eternal Future of those who Lived before Christ?

Are Those Who Have Never Heard the Gospel Lost?

God knows all things.

God's justice "bigger" than often imagined.

Keep running the good race! And thanks again as always for your wonderful enthusiasm for the truth and for all your good and encouraging words.

Your friend in our dear Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #6:

Thanks Bob, Hopefully later this month I'll have my gospel video done (it is not fancy or anything, but I do seek to share the fullness of truth and to present it in a hopeful and positive manner). I would like to share it with you when it's done, and then if you see anything that could use correction, I'd really appreciate your honest thoughts on that.

Thanks for standing strong and faithful in our blessed Lord and for bringing His encouragement and guidance to so many,

Response #6:

You're very welcome.

I'll be looking forward to seeing your video!

Best wishes for this in the service of our dear Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #7:

Dear Bob L.,

I am terrified that I have either fallen away or committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit was trying to lead me to saving faith. I know that I need Jesus in my life but am terrified that I am beyond repentance.

I was raised in a Christian home and professed to be a Christian. I had responded to an invitation at a church camp as a teenager and said the sinner's prayer. In obedience, I was baptized when I returned home from camp. I began to read my Bible, pray, participate in various ministries in church, and help others. I truly believed that I was a Christian and even my family and church family thought I was a growing Christian. It was not until fairly events that I realized that I did not truly have a personal relationship with Jesus.

God began to quietly and occasionally prompt me that I was missing Jesus. At first, I dismissed these promptings as being from the devil because at the time I was involved with several others in a prison ministry where we shared the gospel weekly with the inmates. The promptings subsided and I continued to serve in ministries in our church and work.

Recently, the promptings returned and were more intense. I began to think that these might be from the Lord, but could not understand why God was telling me that I was not saved and that I needed Jesus. I would argue with God that I was already saved, otherwise, why would I be serving in these ministries that shared the gospel with others? Looking back, I do not understand why I was so resistant to God's promptings. He was lovingly trying to show me that I was wrong and had been basing my salvation on works instead of trusting fully in Jesus. I do think that I was mainly afraid to admit to myself and others, particularly those in our church, that I did not know Jesus like I professed that I did.

There was a night when God seemed to speak to me and remind me of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. (where the rich man received all his pleasures in this life time and spent eternity in torment) and immediately the promptings departed. I have been terrified and in a depraved state since that night. It is as though my mind has become dull and not capable of functioning. I keep asking myself if God gave me over to a reprobate mind because I would not listen and obey His call to salvation (Romans 1:28). My thoughts are constantly filled with fear of death and Hell and I have no zest for life. (Is this the scripture in Hebrews 10:27 being fulfilled in my life?) I'm in despair & therefore am not eating much at all and neglecting everything; I have lost all zest for life. I feel like a living corpse. I quit my job because I could not concentrate on my work and had very poor performance. I can not seem to get my mind to turn off to sleep. Although I sleep, it is never a restful or refreshing sleep. I awake to the same awful nightmare each morning; fear that I am condemned.

I have shared with my family and church family about this, & they're all tired of hearing about this. I either have them tell me 1) that it is never too late (until you are dead) to be saved and that I just need to cry out to God to save me, or 2) if you are concerned you blasphemed the Holy Spirit then you haven't.

I myself used to believe that you had until the time of death to choose to accept Jesus, but after my experience and the research I have done on falling away or blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, I believe that a person can be alive but have missed their opportunity for salvation. I do struggle with the second comment. I am truly concerned that I have blasphemed the Holy Spirit but it offers me little comfort to think that my concern means that I have not committed it. If I hadn't committed it, why do I feel so dead inside and rejected by God?

I know that I need Jesus as my Savior. The problem is, I know that I can't manufacture belief & faith on my own, no matter how much I read the bible, pray, or go to church. God draws us to Himself and the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, righteousness, and judgement.

I don't know what to do. Am I really damned or is this a trick from the devil to make me think I am damned and give up hope? If I choose to remain in this hopeless state and believe that I am damned, then maybe that is what the Devil wants and I may end up truly missing my opportunity for salvation because I have chosen to give up. If I am not damned and there is still an opportunity for salvation, why do I feel like God has given me up?

Response #7:

Good to make your acquaintance – although I am very sorry to hear about your troubles. Let me start by saying that I get this question quite a bit, though usually the person in question has focused their "lost my salvation" concerns upon some more tangible sin or failure from the past. I have heard enough of these stories to understand, however, that whatever the impetus for the concern, this notion can become a sort of spiritual cancer that eats away at the peace and spiritual confidence of the believer in question.

You have not lost your salvation.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
1st John 5:13 NIV

All who believe in Jesus Christ have eternal life. In terms of salvation, faith is an absolute. Either a person is a believer or a person is not a believer. It is not a question of feelings. It is a question of having made a free will decision to trust God for salvation through putting one's faith in the One who died for that salvation, the God-Man Jesus Christ.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

There is no question of apostasy here. If you are a believer, you are merely a troubled one. If you have indeed never put your trust in Jesus so as to be saved, then you would be an unbeliever, not an apostate believer. From reading your email it seems much more likely to me that you did accept Jesus at a young age. In any case, apostasy is when a genuine believer comes to reject Jesus Christ. That only happens when said person's faith completely dies out, when there is no longer even a shred of faith left in that person's heart. Your friends are absolutely correct that if such were the case with you, like the rest of the unbelieving world you would not deign to give this issue any more thought whatsoever. The very fact that you are so concerned certainly indicates to me that your own diagnosis is correct: you are being tested and plagued by the evil one – whether the exact source be his minions or his system, and/or his ally on your inside, the sin nature with which we all have to contend. On this last point, we are all tested and plagued by the sin dwelling in our physical bodies, but that temptation comes out in different ways for different people. It is more common to think of gross sins as the manifestations of the sin nature, but all manner of mental complaints and sins of the heart can also present the believer with struggles. Whatever the area of weakness and temptation the individual believer must face coming from the "inside" or "the flesh", the one thing that is clear is that we all do have weaknesses so that all believers have to learn how to cope them.

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.
Galatians 5:17 NIV

The good news is that for every problem, God has provided a solution. Jesus loves you more than you have any idea. If you really do belong to Him (as I believe you do), then He deeply desires your peace. If you do not yet belong to Him, then there is no need to worry on that score either, for the solution to your problem is close at hand, as close as your heart and your mouth with which you believe and acknowledge Him as your Lord so as to be saved (Rom.10:8-10). God wants everyone to be saved (2Tim.2:4), and that includes you, if in fact you really are not saved already (which I doubt):

He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household."
Acts 16:30-31 NIV

As I say, I cannot imagine anyone with your past testimony and present circumstances not being a believer, but if after considering this email you are convinced you are not, we can have that conversation – or better yet, have that conversation with the Lord: He wants all to be saved; He died for all; all that is required to be saved is to accept Him and His work of salvation for your own in simple prayer; all that is required to be saved is not saying "No!" to Jesus Christ (please see the links: "Salvation: God's Free Gift" and "God's Plan to Save You").

As to the "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" (aka the "unpardonable" or "unforgivable sin"), this is the sin of refusing to accept Jesus Christ as Savior, and, specifically in the context of our Lord's mention of it, claiming that He Himself was "demon possessed" and thus calling the Spirit who was mediating His words of truth in giving the gospel a lying spirit – that is certainly blasphemy against the third Person of the Trinity by any definition (please see the links: "Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and the Unpardonable Sin", "The Unforgivable Sin", and "Willful Sin").

So the issue is actually very simple. If you are an unbeliever (which I sincerely doubt), it is true that as long as you live you do have the opportunity to be saved through accepting Jesus Christ, in which case, unlikely as it may be for you based on what you have said, I certainly "implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" (2Cor.5:17 NIV; n.b., this is accomplished by putting your faith, your trust, your belief in the Person and work of Christ – it is a simple decision rather than some huge mountain that must be climbed; see the link: "Faith Dynamics").

If you are in fact a believer (as I really do think you are), you are being troubled by the same sources that trouble all believers, namely, the influence of the world, the influence of the sin nature, and the influence of the evil one and his system. The antidote for that is spiritual growth. The reason so many Christians today are so unsure about their salvation and about all things spiritual stems directly from the dearth of solid and orthodox Bible teaching in today's church-visible. Please understand, no false ritual (water-baptism, saying the sinner's prayer, altar calls, public confession, re-dedication, etc.), no emotional experience (worship services, revivals, charismatic activities, etc.), and no self-help solutions (therapy, counseling, retreats, pilgrimages) can in any way ever substitute for what Jesus really wants you to do: grow up spiritually.

"You will know the truth, and the truth will free you."
John 8:32

Spiritual growth requires that you give careful and consistent attention to the truth of the Word of God, both in daily personal Bible reading and also in accessing good, solid, substantive Bible teaching. When you hear the truth in this way, then you must believe it for it to do you any good and for it to contribute to your growth. But as you grow, you will find that all these things that trouble you begin to fall away. You are trying to fight the spiritual battle with no ammunition. Working hard for the Lord is no substitute for "choosing the better part" (as our Lord told Martha: Lk.10:39-42). Indeed, unless and until a believer grows up spiritually, all their Christian service will of necessity be less effective. Spiritual growth is then followed by spiritual progress (the application of that truth to our lives, especially in the negotiation of the testing we are called to endure to refine our faith), and only then by substantive spiritual production as the Lord leads us into the particular personal ministry to which He intends to call us. But in all these things, it is the truth of the Word of God which underpins all of our spiritual armor (Eph.6:11-17). Without the truth, understood through the Spirit and made real in our hearts through faith, we are defenseless (see the link: "Epignosis, Christian Epistemology, and Spiritual Growth").

Right now, your feelings are running you, and that is not at all uncommon thing for contemporary Christians. But we have to learn that the Christian life is not about how we feel; it is about what we choose to think, whether it be the truth or something else. Please see the links: "The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle" and "Who controls our thoughts and emotions?"

As we grow, we find that there is indeed great joy and peace in the true Christian walk, but that joy and peace are not automatic. They have to be accessed and defended day by day and step by step through the application of the truth of the Word. That is the essence of the warfare we are facing, and that is how the fight must be fought (see the links: "Spiritual Warfare I" and "Spiritual Warfare II"):

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12 NIV

So I commend to you the challenge that all believers are given after salvation, the challenge of picking up our cross and following our dear Lord Jesus in the way He would have us to do. Few today understand how to do so (though it is patently obvious from the Bible), and fewer still are doing so in this lukewarm era of Laodicea (though our eternal rewards depend upon doing so). But unless and until a Christian begins the process of growth, progress and production in the correct, biblical way, he or she will continue to be subject to the sorts of pressures you report (only the form they take will vary):

(11) Christ Himself appointed some of us apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (12) 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, (13) 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; (14) 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, (15) 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. (16) In this way, the entire body of the Church, fit 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.
Ephesians 4:11-16

You are most certainly welcome at Ichthys for the pursuit of this noble and necessary goal of spiritual growth. In achieving it, there is great reward (see the link: "The Judgment and Reward of the Church").  Another very good source I can recommend is Pastor-Teacher Curtis Omo's "Bible Academy".

Take your focus off of yourself. Put your eyes on Jesus Christ. He loves you. He died for you. He wants you to walk with Him through this world. That you will do if you make the Word of God – the very thinking of Him who is the Word of God – your guiding star.

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1st Peter 1:6-9 NIV

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob Luginbill

Question #8:

Hi Bob,

I found your website by mistake, or perhaps not. My question is more of a where do I go next question. I've been a Christian for about six years and as I have been recently pressing in to find out more, I realised that the cross of Christ doesn't move me one bit. I don't really have a grasp that God loves me. I have knowledge that He loves me, just like you might have knowledge that it's raining in York or Newcastle. But I don't know this personally. I know Jesus died as a matter of fact but that He did so for me is just another blasι fact without any deeper meaning. I am concerned because I really want to know Jesus. I want to have this relationship that other Christians seem to have. But I can't help feel that I'm missing something. I need revelation from God, and I keep asking Him. But what am I supposed to do? It could be 50 years before He opens my eyes. How am I to carry on until then? Just bumble along, worship in a half-baked sort of way? Somehow that isn't honouring to God and I feel uncomfortable doing that.

Is all hope lost?

Response #8:

Good to make your acquaintance, although I'm sorry to hear of your spiritual troubles. It is far from unusual for Christians – especially in this day and age – to experience what is sometimes termed "spiritual dryness". What is unusual is for them to admit to their status in the straightforward and honest way you do here. My diagnosis of this problem generally (you will have to decide whether or not what I will say here applies to yourself and to what degree), is a lack of spiritual growth aggravated by the false substitute of emotional "worship services". It is very common for believers in our lukewarm era of Laodicea to find themselves in churches, denominations and fellowships where the Word of God and its doctrinal principles are not being taught and explained in a systematic and substantive way – in fact it is by far the rule. Most churches and groups try to make up for this deficit by pumping up the congregation in a "worship service" where through music, ranting, ritual, histrionics, emotional testimonies and the like, those who attend will "feel good" about coming, and perhaps even "closer to God" . . . for that 1-2 hours of what amounts to entertainment, at any rate. To draw a nutritional parallel, this is a bit like starving all week and then chugging down a triple-syrup mixture of heavily caffeinated sugar water once (or twice) a week. Clearly, however "good" it might make a person feel at the time, no long-term good will come from this sort of diet.

The problem and the solution are directly related. If a person wants to appreciate what Christ did for them on the cross, then knowing precisely what it is that He did – in detailed theological terms explained so as to be understandable – will be helpful (see the link: BB 4A: Christology). If a person wants to appreciate what God is doing for them in their life, then knowing in detail about the Plan of God and all it entails will be helpful (see the link: BB 4B: Soteriology). True, to be of benefit this information must be believed, but we have to hear the truth before we can believe the truth (and that takes searching out the right source, as well as time, discipline, effort and persistence to achieve). As we take in more and more of God's truth, and as through faith and the ministry of the Spirit it becomes real to us in our hearts, we will find that instead of a once a week artificial burst of synthetic emotion we instead begin to experience the sustained peace and joy of the Spirit which scripture promises: but the Spirit only acts on the truth in our hearts; that is His leverage, His fulcrum.

Hope is far from lost. We have more opportunities for spiritual advance today thanks to the internet and modern communications than has been the case ever before in human history. Ironically, there is less interest in genuine and orthodox Bible teaching of a substantive nature than ever before (see the link: Laodicea).

If you set yourself to learning, really learning the deep things of scripture, believing the truths you are taught, then peace will come, followed by joy and an ever deeper appreciation and gratitude for all God has done for you in Jesus Christ. It is certainly better to own up to the truth than to pretend (as most out there are doing); but even better is to address the problem through the biblical solution: spiritual growth through the truths of the Word of God. This leads to spiritual progress in our walk with Jesus and, eventually, coming into the full-fledged ministry our Lord has for each and every member of His Body. Much joy and satisfaction awaits – but only if and when things are done God's way. You might consider starting with the Peter series (see the link).

Yours in Jesus Christ, the One who died to save us from death and condemnation – no small thing indeed.

Bob Luginbill

Question #9:

[no email question]

Response #9:

It was great to see you the other day!

I wanted to reassure you that while none of us is perfect, all of us who have faith in Jesus Christ are indeed saved.

"And this is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith [in Christ]!".
1st John 5:4

Believers are saved. Only unbelievers are not saved. As long as we maintain our faith in Christ, nothing can snatch us out of His hand (Jn.10:28-29). Sin is an issue in this regard in that it can erode and degrade faith to the point of apostasy in some cases, but as the parable of the Sower shows, this happens only when faith dies (the case of the faith-plant drying up and dying in the rocky soil).

Here is a short posting which sketches out the basic principles involved in Hebrews 10:26:

Does Hebrews 10:26 teach loss of salvation?

At the bottom of the posting are many other links which go into even more details.

Here's wishing you and your family a blessed and happy Thanksgiving!

In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,

Bob L.

Question #10:

Hello Robert. Would you please pray for me? I am still struggling with whether I am beyond God's forgiveness and cut off from true repentance due to all the years I was fallen away. I have problems with Hebrews 6 and 10 still and other passages (1 John, 2nd Peter). I just don't know what the Lord is saying to me but I fear it's too late to be forgiven because I sinned too long. I would appreciate it. (I pray I have not committed the sin unto death you are not supposed to pray for).

How did your friend's son who had the heart condition?

Response #10:

It's good to hear from you, but I am distressed to hear that this issue is still troubling you. I have been praying for you daily, for you to accept the truth of God's mercy and forgiveness, let go of guilt, and move forward spiritually in true repentance, escaping the "negative gravity" of sin, so as to earn a full reward before our Lord when He returns.

As to the possibility of repentance, as with all positive decisions, " 'The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart', that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming:" (Rom.10:8 NIV). Faith is our victory over the world (1Jn.5:4). All who maintain faith in Jesus Christ firm until the end are saved.

For we all have a share in Christ, as long as we hang onto that original confidence [of our faith in Him] firmly to the end.
Hebrews 3:14

Sin is an issue, but sin is dealt with by 1) confession; and 2) doing the "work of repentance", that is, turning the page and moving on, staying away from our past mistakes, and, sometimes most importantly of all, throwing out guilt:

Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NIV

There are only three days in the Christian life: 1) yesterday, when Christ died for all of our sins; if we look back on anything it should only be this; 2) tomorrow, when will be with Him forever; if we look forward to anything it should only be this; 3) today, when we are still in this world to serve Him, if we are concerned about anything, it should only be this. This is the way God has arranged His plan for us.

Jesus Christ, yesterday and today the same, and unto the [end of] the ages.
Hebrews 13:8

If you have sinned, confess your sin. Believe that you will be forgiven, because that is what scripture says (1Jn.1:9). Indeed, you have an Advocate in Jesus Christ Himself (1Jn.2:1)! He has already died for all of your sins and mine – and for those of the entire world (1Jn.2:2). He did not die for your sins, suffering pain beyond what we can imagine – more than the entire suffering of the entire human race throughout all the ages to a degree we cannot comprehend – in order to throw you into hell! He wants you to be saved; that is why He came and died for you:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:17 NIV

"For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it."
John 12:47 NIV

Is this life serious business? Yes indeed it is! It is more serious than most people are willing to recognize. But it is serious in that it represents our opportunity to be saved by doing what God demands, namely, accepting His Son as our Substitute so as to be saved:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
John 3:18 NIV

Do you believe in Him? Then you are "not condemned". Only the one who "does not believe" is condemned, as this verse states unequivocally – our Lord's own words.

Sin is serious business too, because it alienates us from God and creates all of the spiritual uproar and misery you have related. But God has given us a means of dealing with sin: confession, repentance, and spiritual growth. For our spiritual safety and for our peace of mind we must move forward and not allow ourselves to get bogged down in "old business".

Not to put too fine a point on it: failing to accept the fact that God is willing to forgive is dangerously arrogant. God is love; and there is no greater demonstration of that love than that the Father sacrificed His dear Son for all of us, for all of our sins, for all of your sins and mine. That is the "demonstration" of the love of God (Rom.5:8). We cannot imagine what the Father gave up or what the Son sacrificed. We can only accept that the cross establishes the love of God as the most powerful force in the universe: it has overcome the needs of His holy righteousness for all those willing to accept it. I urge you in Christ's Name, be willing.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 NIV

The passages in Hebrews and elsewhere that bother you are only bothersome out of context – of their chapters, their books, and of the Bible. To make headway in the Christian life, we have to actually believe the truth. Constantly weighing issues we understand intellectually without actually committing to them by faith does us no good and usually does us much spiritual harm. I am telling you the truth when I tell you that none of these passages teaches that you or anyone else who genuinely has faith in Jesus Christ has passed over some terrifying line of no return. That is what the devil says, but he has been a liar from the beginning. I urge you to have a look at these links and accept the truth of the teaching that all believers are saved; only unbelievers are lost:

Lost my salvation?

Lost my salvation II?

Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

On your question, at last report the child was doing well, though our friend was still worried about him. He has his own issues too – trying to figure out a way to support his family. He is carrying many burdens, and it would be good of you to continue your prayer support for him.

The fact that you are concerned about another brother in Christ whom you have never met nor communicated with directly shows absolutely that you have Christian love – something that it is not possible to have without faith. You are a believer. I encourage you to take up that shield of faith and begin aggressively quenching the fiery darts of the evil one.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior who died for all of our sins,

Bob L.

Question #11:

Thank you Robert for your reply.

Response #11:

You're very welcome.

Keep on fighting the good fight of faith!

Jesus loves you . . . and He will help you through.

In Him,

Bob L.

Question #12:

Please keep praying for me to be released from this spiritual torment. Thanks

Response #12:

I have been doing so and will continue to do so.

Please understand, however, that the only thing that can really end all such spiritual dis-ease is the truth – that is, the truth believed.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;
Psalm 103:8-13 NIV

I know you fear God, and I know you a child of God, so these verses definitely apply to you. They were written for you. They are promises from God made in Jesus Christ. Please do claim they by faith and make them your own.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
John 14:27 NIV

May God grant you to take hold of this peace which Jesus offers to all who trust in Him.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #13:

Dear Dr. Luginbill,

I have enjoyed and benefitted from your website, that said I have a very important question to ask you. Let me first give you some back ground. I was dramatically saved years ago from a life of occultism; I was raised by a mother whom was a well known psychic medium.

After my conversion God blessed me with wonderful opportunities in a hospice, as medical missionary, worker in church planting, etc. During the last few years I have attended a few deliverance services and was prayed over; after which I went through approx 10 days of intense spiritual battle, I was unable to sleep ate very little and started to hallucinate; I reached out to 2 pastors whom said they were praying for me and that I needed some much needed rest, I tried to sleep but I had a nightmare that I lost my salvation, that a pastor was reading my mind and put the mark of the beast on me. That was several months ago and I have been afraid to talk to the previous pastors. I think I have lost my salvation because I was mad at God for the intense spiritual warfare I was going through. Could you please give me some insight if this could be true?

I appreciate your education and time.

Response #13:

I can tell you definitively that if you believe that Jesus is the Christ, then you are saved. All believers are saved. Only unbelievers are not saved.

This [is] a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance. "For to this [end] we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is [the] Savior of all men, especially of those who believe."
1st Timothy 4:9-10 NKJV

Further, when we confess our sins, they are forgiven (1Jn.1:9). That being the case, there is not only no point in torturing ourselves for things done long ago, confessed long ago, repented of long ago, and turned away from long ago (Phil.3:13). God deals with us in the here and now. We need to be moving forward as Christians, not backward. This is easier said than done for many of our brethren in this lukewarm age of Laodicea, often because solid Bible teaching is hard to come by. But even with good Bible teaching we still need to believe the truth of what we are taught for it to be of any benefit to us. We have to commit to what is true, making it our own by faith, in order to build a solid edifice of faith in our hearts for the Spirit to utilize. If we want to have a faith strong enough to shield us from all such fiery darts as you relate, then we need to aggressively embrace the truth with that faith. Faith is only strong when it believes in something. Just as we believe in Jesus to be saved – and are saved as long as we hold fast to that faith – so we have to believe in the truth of scripture in order for it to become truly real to us, in order for it to grow stronger and to become capable of dealing with these attacks of the evil one.

"I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life."
John 6:47 NIV

God's forgiveness is boundless. The only thing that limits His mercy and forgiveness is our own stubbornness. As long as we are willing to "come back" to Him, like the father of the prodigal son, He will take us back with open arms.

There is, simply put, no terrible and terrifying invisible "line" of no return. Sin of every type, including those of the heart as in anger, is problematic of course. But no one is without sin, and all of us need our feet washed from time to time. What is dangerous is 1) resisting the confession of sin; 2) refusing to give up sin; 3) getting bogged down in worry about sin past or, worse, long past. We certainly do not need to worry that God will not discipline us effectively for whatever we do in violation of His will – but He also does so in love, as a loving Father training His dear sons and daughters in righteousness (Heb.12).

"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved".
Acts 16:31 NIV

If you believe in Jesus Christ – which you certainly must do in order to write this message – then you do not need to worry about the fact of your salvation or about deliverance: you were delivered when you were saved, and you will maintain that deliverance from all past influences and failures as long as you hold fast to Jesus Christ. In my experience and observation, the best way to handle anything having to do with the occult or demonic influence is to give it all a wide berth and ignore it completely. Paying attention to this sort of thing, even in the seemingly "helpful" ways you describe, is incredibly spiritually dangerous. It has the potential of giving the evil one and his minions some opening or other. Better to leave all that sort of thing to the Lord. After all, "greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world" (1Jn.4:4), and "those who are for us are more than those who are against us" (2Ki.6:16).

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 NIV

Here are some links you may find helpful:

Lost my salvation?

Lost my salvation II?

Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

And do feel free to write me back about any of the above.

In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #14:

Hello. I have been dealing for a couple weeks with the worry I have committed apostasy. I came to believe the things about Jesus and the Bible about 2 years ago. After that, I spent a lot of time looking into evidence for Christianity, apologetics etc. I was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran Church. I have struggled with certain sins all the time I believed, I would try to stop, but would return to them. I faded from Church, and haven't been for a couple months. At times, I would question prayer, sometimes say it didn't work, I would be angry at God, and sometimes even question if there was a God. It really scared me when I read this passage. Now from some definitions, it seems like apostasy is denying the faith all together after believing and become hostile to it. I have also struggled with 'born again' I honestly see no change in myself after 2 years, I asked online, and they believed I had a emotional response and had a false conversion experience, which I believe also. Maybe I have treated this as something intellectual, based on facts and evidence, rather then based on faith. It just seems I can't get an understanding of born again. From various places on the internet I see various views on Apostasy, If it can be forgiven or not. Now I truly want to repent and get connected to a good church, But this worry is hindering me from believing I can return. I never denied anything about the bible, Jesus or God but lately I have fallen into a pattern of sin. I do truly want to return to church. I now realize that it was ignorant of me to question these things, but it worries me that in the past several months I crossed a line. This has been causing some worry, I keep thinking I have committed it. Also in my mind there seems to be thoughts that pop out of nowhere about Jesus and God, or the Holy Spirit, and are not positive, which worries me all the more.

Response #14:

Good to make your acquaintance – although I am sorry to hear of your travails. You didn't mention which verse was disturbing you, but as I often tell Christians who are concerned about these matters, the fact that you are concerned virtually guarantees that you are not an apostate. Apostasy is the complete death of faith. As it says in Luke 8:13, " They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away (i.e., from faith)" (NIV). If you still believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you have eternal life through His Name on account of His death for your sins, then you are a believer. That is true no matter how you feel. Christianity is not a matter of feeling but a matter of choice. If a person feels saved but is not saved, that feeling will not avail him/her anything. If a person is saved, that person is saved regardless of what his/her emotions may be up to at any given moment. Almost nothing is worse than to surrender one's Christian spiritual I.Q. to the emotions. Emotions are meant to be led – with the truth of the Word of God – not to lead us (for they seldom lead us anywhere good). Being born again is possessing eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ (see the link). This is not something we can see or touch or taste because, obviously, we are not experiencing our eternal life as yet – that will not occur until we are resurrected.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
1st John 3:2 NIV

Sin is destructive to spiritual life, and left unchecked can do a believer great damage (including ultimate damage by degrading faith until it dies), but "all of us sin" and fall short of God's glory (Rom.3:23; cf. Ps.143:2; Jas.3:2). That is why the Lord died for all of our sins and left us believers the mechanism of accessing forgiveness when we do sin as we shall surely do, especially if we do not fully appreciate the principle of divine discipline: and that mechanism of forgiveness is repentance and confession which is always followed immediately by forgiveness and renewal of fellowship (1Jn.1:9; see the link: "John's primer on sin").

The solution to all of your spiritual difficulties is the same one that the Lord offers to us all: spiritual growth through reading, hearing, learning, believing and walking in the truth of the Word of God. That is also the only way to please Jesus Christ and earn the eternal rewards we are left here on earth after salvation to pursue. This site is dedicated to supplying believers with just that guidance, information, encouragement and support – and you are certainly welcome to access it at any time. Here are some links which may help to get you started (and do feel free to write me back about any of the above):

Salvation, the Gospel and Unbelief

The necessity of Spiritual Growth

The Judgment and Reward of the Church

Lost my salvation?

Lost my salvation II?

Have I Lost My Salvation? (III)

No, Hebrews does not teach that you lost your salvation.

Determine to fight the good fight, and you will be surprised what God is capable of doing for you!

How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.
Psalm 119:9 NIV

In Jesus Christ through whom we have received light and life and all things,

Bob Luginbill

Question #15:

I understand what you are saying, but this continues to be on my mind all the time. When I read the Bible, and read the Gospels, I feel like I had a chance before, but because for a couple months I really had nothing to do with God, Jesus the Bible etc. and continued to sin, I fell like I wasted that time I should have been using at Church and reading the bible, and trying to keep from sin. This thought of crossing the line keeps entering my mind. I don’t know if this something that is trying to be told to me, or being punished for what I did.

Response #15:

And I understand what you are saying, but it seems to me that you are a believer. You believe, don't you, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through believing you have eternal life through His Name since He died for all of your sins? And if He died for all of your sins, then all of your sins have been forgiven. And if you have since committed any other sins of any other sort, then repent of them and confess them, and He will forgive them too (1Jn.1:9). It is not right for Christians to continually torment themselves over sins (or the fear of sins) which may or may not have been committed in times past, sins for which Jesus died, sins which were forgiven at salvation, sins which have already been forgiven on confession. He promised to forgive them. We should believe Him and not doubt Him. We are meant to look forward, not backward.

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing [I do], forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 NKJV

I would encourage you to embrace the truth and reality of the Lord's mercy, forgiveness, goodness and love. He cares for you.

As far as the east is from the west, [So] far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:12 NKJV

Yours in the Lord of love and mercy, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Bob L.

Question #16:

Hi Bob, me again. Just when I think I'm making progress with this issue I read something else that sets me back again. I was reading the New Living Translation and the passages in Hebrews and 2 Peter read as follows:

Hebrews 10:26:
Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God's judgement and the raging fire that will consume His enemies.

2 Peter 2:20-21:
And when these people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life.

I find it draining to believe God is willing to forgive me and then read things like this that so clearly say otherwise and leave me feeling hopeless. I don't see how these passages can be interpreted in any other way when its published like this.

I hope and pray I am not taxing your patience, I just know if I can’t gain absolute assurance God is willing to forgive me then I am useless and powerless as it is knowing our sins are forgiven that frees us to live for Him victoriously. After much striving I have no sense of assurance my sins have been forgiven me. Matthew Henry comments that there are those who God gives the awareness of their hopeless condition and the impossibility of pardon. It is truly a condition of profound misery and unhappiness.

Response #16:

Matthew Henry was wrong about a great many things. Add this to the list. I can give you explanations for the latest brace of passages (though if memory serves we have covered them before), but this second email gets me to thinking that it's not a question of the interpretation of specific passages. With enough determination, many such or similar passages may be found, which, with the right (by which I mean wrong) translation or interpretation or spin can be unsettling. Also, there is no limit to the number of commentators, "Bible teachers", preachers, and "well-meaning" Christians out there who are more than willing to stoke your worst fears. It strikes me that what you really need is a better understanding of the nature of God.

God is a God of justice, it is true, but He is also love. For me, the whole story is encapsulated by the fact that to satisfy His perfect justice (of which you appear to be terrified) He sent His own dear Son to become a human being – a sacrifice in and of itself for God beyond what we can know – to live a life of mortal combat, to run an impossible gauntlet to get the cross, and to die for the sins of the entire world on the cross in the three hours of darkness that followed His crucifixion. Jesus has paid the entire price for all of your sins. This is the mercy of God – and it is truly beyond understanding in its wonder and its magnitude.

Mercy is the result where the justice of God meets the love of God – not a blanket forgiveness without penalty, but a forgiveness that is paid for at God the Father's own inestimable cost in the blood of His dear Son our Lord Jesus Christ. This is no small thing. Indeed, it really is the only thing – and it explains everything.

So when Jesus says "I did not come to judge the world but to save the world" (Jn.12:47 NKJV) and "God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him" (Jn.3:17 NIV), if we are willing to believe these words we will understand the truth of the proposition that the Father is "not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2Pet.3:9).

The forgiveness and the mercy of God pulse electrically through the entirety of scripture – and they are quintessentially necessary to understand in order to know anything at all about Him. He is willing to forgive. Willing? He gave up His own Son to unspeakable and unknowable judgment that He might forgive in a just manner. The question is, are you willing to be forgiven?

The vast bulk of humanity will end up in the lake of fire, but not because Jesus did not die for their sins (He died for all of theirs sins, every one), and not because the Father didn't want them to be saved (He wants all to be saved). Most people want nothing to do with God and His mercy. And God does not force His mercy or His forgiveness on anyone. It is there free for the taking – free, because Jesus paid for it. But it has to be asked for; it has to be accepted. This is a question of free-will, which is essentially what the exercise of faith is, namely, a choice.

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
Psalm 130:3 NIV

None of is perfect. If any one of us were held to the perfect, legalistic standard with which you are tormenting yourself, all of us would have nothing to look forward to but the lake of fire. In truth, we stand fast through faith – because of the mercy of God.

I would encourage you to read Part 1 of Bible Basics: Theology (see the link). Getting a firm handle on the essence of God is the foundation of all relationships with Him. As it says in Hebrews 11:6, "And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him." (NIV). And how can we do this if we have doubts about His character?

I hope you find this helpful. The sense of assurance you seek comes from faith which comes from within you by choice. Knowing what a loving and merciful Father we have makes that choice of accepting what He says is true as true easier, but it is still a choice that no one else can make for you.

We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2nd Corinthians 5:7 NIV

In the One who bought us out of the slavery of sin by His blood, Jesus Christ the righteous.

Bob L.

Question #17:

Hi Robert,

I have a second email in addition to the one on the prodigal son parable so I figured I would send it now so you could reply to both at once instead of a second one. I'm sure you can shed a little light.

Being reasonably sure that God is WILLING to forgive me, I have 4 areas that I am having difficulty with.

1. Godly sorrow that leads to true godly repentance, which is REAL repentance. How do I know if I have experienced THIS kind of necessary repentance and that my repentance is not worldly repentance that does NOT lead to forgiveness. How do I tell the difference so I can be sure?

2. Confidence when I come before the Lord. I have none. Every time I come before the Lord in prayer, I explain how sorry I am for all the sins I committed as a believer against the light and knowledge of the Gospel and ask Him to forgive me. I don't come before Him bold and confident in my position or relationship with Him because I feel so ashamed and feel that it is arrogant of me to come before Him in this manner.

3. Faith. If faith is a gift from God, is it God who is not giving me the ironclad faith to fully embrace and believe He has forgiven me and restored me or is this something that is entirely my doing and I must be the one to fully believe it? In other words, is it fully my responsibility for this or does this come from the Lord and is it something I should be asking Him for?

4. Mental Habits. I have an extremely hard time breaking/dealing with mental habits involving foul words in my mind. I believe they are of no importance as you have said but I can't seem to gain any serious ground in defeating them and not being bothered by them any more. I am particularly anxious about them when praying or contemplating God and sometimes end up fixating on them when they seem to present themselves clearly and loudly in my thoughts. I am not sure of a really effective way to deal with them victoriously.

Your insight and help is appreciated and valued more that you know.

Thanks for all your time and help Robert, I know you are busy. As I said, I am working my way through our correspondence and your writings.

Response #17:

I am thrilled to hear that you accept that God wants to forgive you. Gaining cognizance of and confidence in His love, mercy, goodness and forgiveness is something I have been praying for you. As to your specific questions:

1) Repentance has become a highly charged and "loaded" word in Christian circles, so much so that I try to avoid using it or try to make a point of explaining what I mean by it when I do. It means, etymologically and in terms of its essential application, "changing one's thinking". True repentance is a genuine change of thinking that leads to a genuine change of direction. To over-simplify, if my conscience is struck in terms of some chronic bad behavior, that can legitimately be termed genuine repentance only if I change my behavior (or in the case of particularly stubborn bad habits begin to engage earnestly in the fight to do so). In other words, it's not only what I feel or may say to myself that matters but also what I do about it.

This definition is one that could be used for anyone of anything. In Christian contexts we need to add a bit more. For an unbeliever, the change of thinking involves rejecting their former worldly view and accepting the truth that God exists, that He is righteous, and that only by accepting Jesus Christ as Savior will there be eternal life; the change of behavior which marks out the repentance as genuine is that actual acceptance of Christ as one's Substitute. For those who are already believers, the change of thinking is the recognition of having committed some sin or being involved in chronically sinful and/or spiritually dangerous behavior; the change of behavior which confirms the repentance as genuine is asking for God's forgiveness.

In terms of Christian repentance, it is important not to confuse pre- and post-salvation repentance. The former is a "one time", once and for all simple act of putting one's trust in God and His Son even as one turns away from the world. The latter is something that all of us have to master as a regular part of our Christian lives. For while the patterns of bad behavior we may be involved in certainly ought to become less common and less severe as we advance spiritually, we will never achieve absolute sinless perfection this side of heaven and the resurrection (even though that most certainly is the mandate we have been given). God gives eternal life to all who profess their belief in His Son; the proof of that (and of the genuineness of the repentance that led to the profession) is to be found in the new life of the convert. God forgives all His children whenever we confess; the proof of that (and of the genuineness of the repentance that led to it) is to be found in the newly straightened-out life of the forgiven believer. The main difference in mechanics between pre- and post-salvation repentance is that the former is only necessary once, while the latter will be necessary countless times. Blessedly, just as we are commanded to forgive others, so our Lord is willing to forgive us as often as we confess our sins (which we would not do if we were not generally concerned about them):

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
Matthew 18:21-22 KJV

And forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.
Matthew 6:12 KJV

Clearly, a chronic pattern of continuing to sin in the same old way will compromise and hinder our spiritual growth, even though we do continue to confess and be forgiven. Confession, moreover, while it restores us to fellowship with the Lord, does not remove the divine discipline for the sin (even though afterwards it will then be for our good in every way). So while we can and absolutely should be confident of God's forgiveness whenever we confess our sins – and latch onto that process of honest confession as the sign of our genuine repentance – we should not kid ourselves about the consequences of failing to advance past chronic sins and bad behavior problems. This is where the balance between the reverent fear of God on the one hand and the confidence of the mercy and love of God on the other comes in. And this is why divine discipline is such a blessing. Just as we can't really explain to little Johnny theoretically that running across the street without looking is dangerous and have him react accordingly – but are confident that with a tanned backside he will be more careful in the future – so our loving heavenly Father is not going to allow us to sin/confess/sin/confess/sin/confess the same thing over and over lackadaisically without consequences – for that would be spiritually dangerous.

It amazes me that so many Christians skew to one extreme here or the other. After all, the family relationship was invented for us by God to teach us this lesson. Even if our earthly father was not perfect (or even if we never knew him), we can all imagine as those who live in the world how a perfect human father would behave: loving us unconditionally but not tolerating our bad behavior; punishing us when need be in just the right way for the pain to correct us, but never withdrawing his love and favor from us. If we can imagine that in the case of God's model, the human family He created, why do we have such a hard time accepting that our heavenly Father treats us just that way – only with a perfection we can as yet not fully limn?

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.
Hebrews 12:7a NIV1984

Please see the links:

Repentance (1)

Repentance (2)

Repentance (3)

2) With all due respect, how you feel is not important. It only becomes important when and if you think that how you feel is important. Putting our feelings in the balance as an issue is very typical of religion, Roman Catholicism in particular, but it has no place in true Christianity. God forgives us when we confess our sins (1Jn.1:9). We are not told we have to "feel bad" about what we have done. Do we feel bad? Perhaps; perhaps not. That is irrelevant. If we do not feel "bad enough", God is perfectly capable of making us feel appropriately "bad" through the discipline He doles out. He treat us "as sons" (Heb.12:7), as individuals who are all part of His family through accepting the sacrifice of His One and only Son Jesus Christ. Since He treats us as individuals, and since He knows all, God certainly knows whether we are being hard enough on ourselves or whether He needs to step up the discipline.

Turning from our wrong way quickly and decisively (and taking measures to avoid going "back there ever again") is the best course when talking about any sort of sin, provided we back it up with confession. Waiting to confess, dallying with the sinful behavior, going back there frequently, are all bad decisions which we will end up ruing. But when we do finally decide we have had enough of the pain, and when we do turn back and confess, we are forgiven, each and every time. And when we do "clean up our act", the discipline will come to end at some point and we can have confidence of being in God's good graces thereafter. But if we assume that God is forgiving us because we are emoting appropriately (or not forgiving us because we are not emoting appropriately), we risk turning confession into an emotional legalism – a kind of "forgiveness by works" – not to mention never being forgiven. When we confess, God forgives us because we belong to Him and because Jesus paid for the sins we confess. If we add any sort of works to this process, we vitiate grace – and it by grace alone that we are saved, and by grace alone that we stand solidly in the love of God.

3) I would be reluctant to tell anyone not to ask for almost anything from God. It is true that the more spiritually advanced we become, the better we get about what to ask for and how and when to ask for it – as is the case with everything else in the Christian life.

(8) For you have been saved by [God's] grace through faith [in Christ]; and this did not come from you – it is God's gift. (9) Nor did it come from what you have done, lest anyone should boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9

As this translation demonstrates, it is salvation that is the gift of God which does not come from us "lest anyone should boast". As a faculty, faith is essentially indistinguishable from free will (I often call it "free-will faith"). As an action, faith is a personal decision to trust someone, and, in Christians terms, to trust God for salvation on the basis of embracing His Substitute for our sins, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Just as we enter into the Christian life through a single faith-decision, so we live our Christian lives thereafter by means of continual and continuing faith-decisions. We remain here on earth to continue to "trust the Lord", and we have opportunities to do so every step of the way and in everything we see and hear and do. As we grow, we learn how to trust Him more and more. All failures to trust Him are mistakes and defeats; all decisions to trust Him are good and right, and are spiritual victories that lead to more success and growth in our walk with Jesus.

It is fair to say that all Christians have their areas of weakness on this score where they find it hard to "trust God". While some may have absolutely no problem with accepting His forgiveness of sins when they confess, they may find accepting other truths of scripture when they hear them. Or they may have trouble trusting God to bring them through trouble, or difficulty in waiting on Him to provide for their various needs. Trust, active faith in God, is an area where we can all stand to be refined. Trusting Him that what He says is true is the place to start. Thereafter, applying more and more of His truths to the life we are leading here on earth in ever growing faith will result in the cycle of spiritual growth, progress in our walk with Jesus, and, eventually, the service to His Church which results in the highest rewards. To this we have all been called, and for this God has made every possible provision – but we have to trust Him.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
Hebrews 11:6 NIV

4) We have talked about this before as a common problem (controlling one's thoughts in general rather than specific terms), and I have allowed as how in my view this is probably a bigger issue for some than for others. When it comes to this sort of thing, since you clearly are not wanting to do it, it would seem to me to fall into the category of temptation. Being tempted is not a sin; engaging with the temptation is dangerous; giving into it is a sin. So my advice to you and all on this and similar scores would be to do your best to ignore it, pay it no heed if and when it can't be completely ignored, train yourself to recognize that it is of no true importance, and in any case wherein you may feel that you might have sinned in this regard, confess the sin without lingering over the issue, forget it and move on. My guess is that once the evil one is no longer having dividends paid in this area, he and his will move on to probe for other vulnerabilities.

As always, the best thing is to move forward and not look backward. We are in a fight to the finish, and no battle is ever clean or without casualties. We earn our rewards by taking the hill, not by wringing our hands half-way up the slope over the casualties we are taking.

Keep fighting this good fight of faith in Jesus Christ our Lord.

Bob L.

Question #18:

When I initially fell into gross sin I sought forgiveness and wanted to know if I could/would be forgiven. I was told yes and I believed in OSAS - you can't lose your salvation no matter what. Also I read a lot of stuff on God's 'superabounding grace' which covers all sin no matter how much sin increases so I slid further into comfortable sin without worrying about it and figured I was saved because I believed in Jesus and the gospel and there was nothing to worry about.

Some points you made:

... once and for all simple act of putting one's trust in God even as one turns away from the world.

But I didn't turn away from the world. I turned away from it for three years but then turned back to it.

... God gives eternal life to all who profess their belief in His Son; the proof of that (and of the genuineness of the repentance that led to the profession) is to be found in the new life of the convert.

But my new life didn't prove this out. I fell back into sin for a LONG period of time.

... Clearly, a chronic pattern of continuing to sin in the same old way will compromise and hinder our spiritual growth, even though we do continue to confess and be forgiven.

But when I was back in sin I did NOT continue to confess. I went long periods of time with no prayer, no repentance and no confession. Why was I content to continue in sin without confessing it for so long? How come the half dozen or so times I repented and returned didn't stick and I slid right back again?

... confidence of being in God's good graces thereafter. But if we assume that God is forgiving us because we are emoting appropriately (or not forgiving us because we are not emoting appropriately), we risk turning confession into an emotional legalism – a kind of "forgiveness by works" – not to mention never being forgiven.

Does this mean we may NOT be forgiven? All these points just make me think I was not saved

Because of all that I feel that I was so irreverent to God for such a long time, which no Christian should be able to be, WHY would a holy, righteous God want to forgive me. I know I didn't consciously throw His grace in His face, but isn't that the same thing?

Response #18:

Respectfully, it's not about you. Jesus died for all of your sins. The only sin that is not forgivable is the sin of rejecting Him as Savior, the sin of disbelief.

If you do not believe in Christ, you are not saved.

If you do believe in Christ, you are saved.

It's not about what you did or when you did it or how you did it or how often you did it or how you felt about it when you did it or whether or not you confessed it or, or, or, or . . .

In the parable of the prodigal son, we are told that he "went to a far country", and the whole nature of the parable suggests a long distance and a long time away -- meaning straying far from the Lord and doing so for a long time. The important thing is not how far you went or how far you stayed away. The important thing is that you came back.

The prodigal son indeed thought he had lost his sonship, and is his own eyes he was not worthy of being a son any longer: "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son" (Lk.15:21 NIV). But what does his father, meaning our Father, say? "This son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found" (Lk.15:24 NIV). We may debate the theology of this ad infinitum as to whether or not the son had become an "un-son" or had merely been estranged. But for all practical purposes it makes absolutely no difference. The father wants him back and is pleased to have him back – just as our heavenly Father wants all those who have strayed from Him to come back and to be restored to His loving embrace. He seeks out the lost sheep, the lost coin. He is not trying to destroy us; He gave up the One He loves more than anything in order to save us. Since that price has already been paid in full in Jesus' blood, the only thing that stands in the way of anyone's salvation or restoration is their refusal to accept it.

Since you are not refusing salvation/restoration but pleased to have it, you are saved. Only those who spurn their faith in Christ and reject the One they once loved by abandoning all trust in Him are lost.

Those who are far from you will perish (i.e., unbelievers); you destroy all who are unfaithful to you (those who continue to prefer cheap substitutes to the Lord; i.e., apostates).
Psalm 73:27 NIV

In hopes of your growing peace of mind based upon the character of the Father and the work of the Son rather than upon anything you might do or fail to do,

Bob L.

Question #19:

Do you think it's possible for someone to want to be saved but the Spirit is not willing? Can someone want to be but not be chosen as in "many are called but few are chosen"?

Response #19:

As Peter says,

The Lord is not slack concerning [His] promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
2nd Peter 3:9 NKJV

The Trinity is "One" in every way, and this is certainly also the case when it comes to their purpose of carrying out the Father's plan. Since the Father does not want any to perish, that would also be the case with the Spirit and with the Son. And, after all, the Son died for every person's sins. If only some were "worthy" to be saved, why did Jesus have to die for the sins of all? The fact that He did shows unmistakably that the reason anyone is not saved is out of personal refusal to be saved.

As to the "many are called but few or chosen" verse, this means that the gospel comes to many, but few are actually saved. God "chooses" for salvation those who "choose" to be saved by putting their trust in His Son. That is what it means to be "elect". The "elect" are those foreordained for salvation in the plan of God because of the faith He knew ahead of time they would manifest in this life. Predestination and free will are thus not at odds; rather they are both indispensable to the plan of God. There is much more about all that at the link in part 4B of Basics: Soteriology.

Yours in Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #20:

Hi Robert, I have a question about something you wrote in your first email response to me. When describing the meaning of Hebrews 6:4-6 you said:

Hebrews 6:

Here is the link you asked about:

Are those in Hebrews 6:4 who "crucify the Son of God afresh" lost? <http://ichthys.com/mail-crucify%20afresh.htm>

The key points for our purposes in this passage are 1) the verse is addressed to believers who are acting in an outrageous fashion, not to those whose faith has died; 2) the specific "error" is that of continuing in the blood sacrifices of the Law as if the cross had never taken place; and 3) the correct translation of the participle here is "as long as they continue to crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame". Restoration means here not a recovery from apostasy but a recovery from spiritual decline, divine disfavor and intensifying discipline. Paul makes it very clear that such a restoration was impossible until these wayward believers repented of their continuing evil practices and came back to the Lord in true repentance.

God does not forgive us in the process of sin; God forgives us when we confess and turn away from our sin. But that is something far different from holding an intractable grudge against us for sins long past (1Jn.1:9)

I was reading another article on this where the author says basically the same thing as you (below):

"Now, the crucial question to which all of this leads is as follows: If Hebrews 6:6 should be interpreted as I have outlined above, does this mean that apostasy is beyond remedy? Not at all. The present inability of apostates to accept instruction in even the "elementary principles" or "milk" (5:12) of the faith does not preclude them from ever being able to do so in the future, anymore than the present inability of the partially "dull of hearing" Christians to accept "solid food" (5:12-14) permanently precludes them from being able to heed the writer's warnings and be receptive to such "solid food" in the future. In each case there is a type of spiritual food ("milk" on the one hand, "solid food" on the other) that the group in question (full apostates on the one hand, dull Christians on the other) is presently unable to receive, and in neither case is there reason to believe that this present inability equals permanent inability. I do not mean, of course, that apostates can free themselves from the prison of spiritual deadness on their own. Just as in the case of those who have never believed in the first place, God's grace is required to draw the apostate back to Christ (John 6:44). My point here is simply that we cannot conclude from Hebrews 6:6 that God is unwilling to extend such grace to the apostate. What is "impossible" at present (in the case of either apostates or dull Christians) need not be "impossible" in the future, if the recipient of God's grace is willing to respond to that grace and allow God to open up once again his sensitivities to spiritual truth. This interpretation is compatible with two details found in the text following the writer's statement in 6:6a that it is "impossible to renew [apostates] to repentance." Between this statement and the following statement that apostates "again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame," most English translations supply some form of clausal connector such as "since" (NASB), "because" (NIV), or "seeing that" (KJV). However, it is important to note that no such word(s) occurs in the Greek text; instead, the relation between the first and second clauses of 6:6 must be derived from the overall syntax of the sentence rather than from a single lexical item. The syntax would just as readily allow the reading "while" (supplied as an alternative reading in the margins of both the NASB and NIV). Indeed, the present participle status of the two Greek verbs anastaurountas 'crucifying again' and paradeigmatidzontas 'exposing publicly' in the second clause of 6:6 (cf. NIV) can be seen as favoring the "while" reading. This result accords well with the conclusion reached above that apostasy is not necessarily beyond remedy. That is, the apostate's inability to receive instruction in the elementary principles of the faith necessarily holds only as long as (i.e., only "while") the apostate persists in his willful rejection of faith in the Son of God, by which he is at present "crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace" (NIV There is a second detail in 6:8 that supports the conclusion that apostasy is not without remedy. At the close of the writer's agricultural metaphor in 6:7-8 likening the apostate to a cultivated field that produces only "thorns and thistles," the writer states that such an unproductive field "is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned." Though the last statement that "it ends up being burned" may seem to carry an irrevocable finality, the writer's preceding statement that it is "close to being cursed" (NIV, "is in danger of being cursed," from the Greek kataras eggus, 'curse-near') suggests a window of hope that this ultimate judgment will necessarily obtain only in the event that the apostate persists in his present attitude of rebellion (cf. Shank, Life in the Son, p. 319)."

My question is if so many translators translate it as being "since","because", or "seeing that" how do we know that "while" is the better translation? The two interpretations are worlds apart and one offers hope to the repentant desiring forgiveness and restoration to God and the other does not. A pretty serious difference.

Thanks

PS - You indicated things had been better. Is there anything I can pray for you?

Response #20:

The English word one chooses to represent and introduce the clause-substitute circumstantial participle here is not the critical point. Rather, to be correct, a translation must 1) use present tenses in the English, and 2) connect that clause to its proper place according to the Greek. Since this participle modifies "renew to repentance", doing both 1) and 2) will yield the same semantic result regardless. There is not any significant difference between these two renderings of Hebrews 6:6 (the translations are mine):

. . . it is impossible to restore them to [true] repentance after having fallen [into sin] since they keep crucifying the Son of God afresh and exposing Him to open shame.

and

. . . 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 prefer the latter, but the former also makes it clear that the problem which prevents repentance is precisely the action contained in the final English clause (the Greek circumstantial participle phrase). There can be no possibility of repentance either since these people are or while they continue to be shaming Christ by their actions. Solution: stop shaming Christ by your actions. That would be the sign of true repentance. But one cannot be restored from any sin while in the process of committing it or refusing to admit it or having no intention of stopping it.

Thanks for your concern. Rather than going into specifics, let's just notice that the fact that you are concerned for me and are willing to pray for me is sure proof in my book that I am addressing a brother in Christ.

In Jesus our dear Lord,

Bob L.

Question #21:

Hi Robert,

The link is: http://rti.myfineforum.org/sutra2768.php#2768

Please read the posts by 'lyncx', especially the posts on pages 2 and 3 (there are 3 pages to this blog). There is quite a bit of reading so it might take you a bit. I did not understand where he was going with some of it but on page 2 I believe he says falling back into a sinful lifestyle is apostasy to the Lord and on page 3 that it's pardon is basically hopeless. There is a lot of Greek involved here so I want to know what you see. I think he refutes the idea of the present tense participles meaning if you stop you can be forgiven.

Thanks,

Response #21:

Correspondent ("C") may not even be a Christian (inasmuch as he believes that water-baptism and salvation are one and the same thing). Also, C admits in the last post that the present participle can express exactly what I have interpreted it to mean: there is no restoration for those who are in the process of committing this foul act as along as they continue to do it. C doesn't like that, however, and wants to link the two participles to the infinitive – which makes the distinction in tense of the two nonsensical (especially since the present follows the aorist and only after the infinitive phrase). This may work in C's head but it doesn't work in Greek. In other words, the verse says what most translations render it to mean (in terms of tense), and means (when rightly translated taking the tenses into account) that for those "fallen" renewal is "impossible" since/while they continue to crucify Christ by participating in sacrifice. C wants the aorist participle to be hypothetical. It is a general statement – but there is nothing hypothetical about this situation. C doesn't even realize this is Paul who, after all, was guilty of the same sin during his ill-fated last trip to Jerusalem but has now realized and owned up to that error.

Finally, even if "true" apostates could never be restored, we are only dealing with man-made definitions here (scripture never addresses things in such terms directly). If that were the case, then the litmus test of a "true apostate" would be his/her current status of not believing in Christ. On the other hand, according to this man-made definition, if a person does believe in Christ, then, regardless of past actions and past perceived statuses, said person would never have been a "true apostate" according to the definition proffered. In fact, this passage in Hebrews chapter six is the only "impossible to restore" passage I know of, and it clearly says what it says: it is impossible for anyone to be restored . . . as long as he/she is continuing to deny Christ by his/her actions. This is not garden variety sin we are talking about. Renouncing Christ and becoming a Muslim/Buddhist/pagan or whatever – or doing the same by one's actions (i.e., pretending to be such in a region/country where said sect prevails in order to avoid persecution) – would put a person in a position where it is impossible to be restored to fellowship (until, that is, they own up to their mistakes).

Then there is "restored from what?" C is confused about what this participle means, but even he does not seem to think it to refer to "apostasy" in the sense you and I have been discussing it (i.e., the death of one's faith in Christ); C seems to think it is "falling away from contemporary Judaism" (this makes no sense on any level and merely serves to show that C doesn't have a clue about this passage or the purpose of Hebrews or true theology generally).

It is a very large (and demonstrably incorrect) assumption to take "having fallen away" as meaning "having abandoned the faith so as no longer to be a believer". I am certain that Paul uses this in a more general sense of getting off the path; how far off the path would depend on individual cases, and Paul is writing to the whole church. Anyone involved in continuing to engage in the Levitical sacrifice was in the wrong, and failing to correct that action negates the possibility of restoration. That could mean no forgiveness of the sin since the person is continuing it with no intention to stop. That would be a "falling down", and of course could/would lead to worse things down the road. But I am certain that Paul is writing not to those who have turned entirely away from Christ but to believers who need some correction on a number of issues. In other words, if these people – people who Paul was counting on benefitting from these words – were totally over the cliff, they wouldn't be listening to this letter in the first place.

This set of postings is a good example of everything that is wrong with the contemporary professional clergy: even those with a good education are usually 1) weighed down by tradition and incorrect doctrine; 2) not particularly spiritually advanced as a result (even if they seem erudite); 3) when they do actually interact with the Bible, after much blah-blah-blah it is clear that they really don't have any answers or any firm conviction about what they say. Not exactly a recipe for leading other believers forward.

This passage does have something to do with the issue of "I strayed from Christ; can I ever come back?"; it says restoration of any sort "is impossible" while a person is in the act/posture of committing this sort of offense against Christ. If there is any application here, I would say it is that one cannot expect to have a sin forgiven while in the middle of committing it or when there is not true repentance and every intention of continuing in the practice/posture.

I hope this is of some help. No doubt there are thousands of such ill-informed but scholarly sounding opinions out there in the ether. If you have any specific questions about this one or others, I am always happy to answer them. But it's really quite simple: if you believe in Christ, you are a believer, not an apostate. So the issue of what happened when-what-if is irrelevant. What matters for God is always "where are we now" and never where we were. We cannot rest on our laurels and we cannot worry about our past mistakes. Today is the day of salvation (2Cor.6:2). And what we do today determines our eternal tomorrow.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #22:

Thanks Robert.

1. Are you of the belief that Paul wrote Hebrews? I thought the author of Hebrews was unknown?

2. If God does not consider falling back into a life of sin as apostasy, why are there so many references in Hebrews comparing those in the wilderness who were disobedient to the commandment of God as being 'unable to enter His rest'?

3. John MacArthur has also said in his Hebrews commentary that those spoken of in Hebrews were not true believers and that once they fell back into a life of sin (also calling it apostasy) opportunity for salvation was gone for them forever. In other places he says that if someone reconsiders then they never made a full and final decision to reject Christ and are therefor not beyond hope. Quite confusing.

4. If someone is able to 'practice' sin habitually does that not prove they were never saved as stated in 1 John?

Thanks Robert,

Response #22:

You are very welcome. As to your latest questions:

1) Yes, Paul most definitely wrote Hebrews. The language in the Greek is unmistakably Pauline as is his way of putting things, theologically speaking. Also, there were good reasons for him not to sign his name. He was writing from prison to Jerusalem (and his accusers were in Jerusalem, after all). For more on this see the link: "Who wrote Hebrews?". Apropos of our conversations, Paul is the one who says that we are "saved by grace through faith" and justified by faith alone, after all.

2) Hebrews 3:19 NIV: "So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief". Faith is the issue. The people of the Exodus being used here as a negative example for the Christians in Jerusalem who were in danger of slipping the same way (in general; we cannot account for individual cases) did not have faith in the Lord despite all they had seen first hand. As this verse says, it was because of their lack of faith that they were not able to enter the land. They kept testing the Lord instead of accepting His goodness and mercy and faithfulness. Every time something went wrong, they blamed Him and refused to believe He would save them. "Not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times-" (Num.14:22 NIV). Disobedience resulted from lack of faith and these were tests of faith they failed "ten times". God was "not pleased with them" (1Cor.10:5), because the only way to please God is to trust in Him (Heb.11:6).

3. MacArthur is dead wrong about more things than I would wish to count up. I agree with your assessment. This is what happens when people develop or buy into a system of theology without ever seriously testing its tenets, and get to the point where scripture can no longer even influence them; they impose their theology on any scripture they wish even when a passage clearly refutes their system in whole or in part.

4. This question, along with 2 and 3, in the end depends upon how we are defining things. Unlike Platonic philosophy, however, the Bible is the truth and it says what it says and means what it means quite apart from the way we may think about things, or the presuppositions we bring to the table, or the systems of theology we may be conversant with, or the definitions we apply. A good Bible teacher will understand the truth first from reading and exegeting scripture, then try to make it clear in a way that is both understandable but also reflects all that scripture actually has to say about the matter. Sometimes traditional definitions get in the way of the truth because of the "baggage" or connotations words can pick up over time, especially when persons and groups begin to use them in a technical way. "Repent" is one such word, for example (see the link: "Biblical Repentance"). The Bible actually does use the words "apostasy" and "apostatize", but these words have to do primarily with "rebellion" (Gr. apostasia, lit. a "standing away or apart"). The devil rebelled against God, and that meant a total break in his allegiance to the Almighty. Similarly, apostasy in biblical terms as applied to believers would have to include a total repudiation of faith, faithfulness, belief, loyalty and allegiance to Jesus Christ. If someone were to say that sin fulfills this requirement they would be dead wrong – either that or there are no believers at all because "everyone sins" (Rom.3:23 – Paul). We have that from 1st John chapter one as well; in fact, if we say we don't or haven't sinned or have no sin nature, we are lying and making God out to be a liar (1Jn.1:6-10).

So how are sin and apostasy related? Simply put, if we go down the road of sin too far, we may get to the point where we are no longer willing on any level to turn back (repent) and may even resent God for being perfect and calling attention to our shortcomings. That is the danger in sin from the standpoint of loss of faith, namely, go too far and you may come to prefer sin to an eternal relationship with the Lord. Of course there are those who go too far down the road and yet still won't give up their faith; the danger there is that the Lord will not allow a horrible witness to go on forever, and in the absence of repentance, will take that believer out through the sin unto death. See the link: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death".

So the ultimate issue is faith. Nowhere in scripture do I see any evidence or example of a person wanting to repent (change of mind and change of course) but not being allowed to do so. Moreover, there is a deadly self-righteous streak in those of the ilk of the example you give who seem to think that they are Simon-pure or that their sins are "not so bad", whereas others who sin in different ways are "now lost". That is a horrific message to give some poor soul who has erred and now wants to come back into the Lord's fellowship. It reminds me of what the Lord said to the Pharisees:

"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in [yourselves], nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."
Matthew 23:13 NKJV

After all, the parable of the prodigal son tells us all we need to know about this entire issue: for all who are willing to come back and do so, the Father embraces them with open arms – and has little patient with the "good" son who self-righteously would deny the prodigal reentry into the family.

Our Lord is the Good Shepherd. He leaves the 99 on the hillside and seeks out the one who strays, and there is more joy in heaven when this one is "found" than for the 99 who didn't need finding again. The "one" was in the flock in the first place but wandered off, so he/she was a believer. Not only does the Lord not say, "good riddance" or "don't come back" – to the contrary, He diligently seeks out that lost sheep so that he/she may be restored. That is the love of Jesus Christ. I have little patience with those who dismiss it.

Yours in Jesus Christ in whom we have believed for eternal life.

Bob L.

Question #23:

Hi Robert,

Forgive me, I am so frustrated. I know what your interpretation of Hebrews 10:26-31 is and your disdain for modern evangelicals and their graceless interpretations of scripture. However, when I read Hebrews chapters 10 and 12, I can't help but seeing that there is no hope in these chapters.

I have read a TON of commentaries by both Arminians and Calvinists, internet pages, books on this subject and prayed diligently about this and I keep being told that if someone falls away back into a sinful life for a long time, they have apostatized and they have NO hope. Salvation and forgiveness are gone. Hebrews 6 may be talking about believers or unbelievers but Hebrews 10 is talking about believers. No one seems to indicate that if you repent that is a different story, in fact it doesn't seem to matter since you are beyond the pale of God's forgiveness. It doesn't seem to matter if you fall away from pursuing an obedient life back to Judaism as in the book or if it's back to your former lifestyle - it's still apostasy and not forgivable. It doesn't matter what you apostatize to only what you have apostatized from. In addition, many people link it to the unpardonable sin - even though it was in regards to the Pharisees labeling the Holy Spirit as evil - it is stated that it is the overall attitude of rejecting His conviction, which is what a willful sinner does. Hence the unpardonable sin.

I cannot seem to appropriate God's forgiveness for what I did in my heart and soul. I believe I am Bunyan's man in the iron cage.

I just can't seem to understand why ANY Christian could or would commit the number of sins I did and still hope that God would forgive them after coming to a knowledge of the truth. Perhaps this is why it says there is only the fearful expectation of judgement.

Response #23:

It doesn't matter where you were; it only matters where you are. If you have faith in Jesus Christ, you are saved. If not, then not. It's as simple as that. But that simple truth has to be believed to be of any benefit or comfort of guidance.

In order to get anywhere in the Christian life, a person who does not have the gift of pastor/teacher and/or is not yet prepared to study and teach on his own even if he does, can only make headway by 1) reading scripture (and by that I mean all scripture, not just favorite or troublesome parts), and, very importantly, 2) listening to a good, solid source of orthodox Bible teaching. In respect of both points, it doesn't do anyone any good to "know" scripture or to "know" doctrine . . . if they don't believe it. Only by believing the truth does it become more than mere knowledge (gnosis) being converted by the Spirit through faith into "usable knowledge" (epignosis). Only what resides in our hearts through faith is usable by us and by the Spirit to direct our way, encourage us in dark times, illuminate what we see. I do understand that "Smorgasbord-itis", as I like to call it, is very prevalent in our Laodicean age, but, at some point, Christians have to "settle in" with one basic theology, one pattern of teaching, in order to make headway (cf. Heb.13:9). That is because if a Christian puts him or herself in the position of having to call the "balls and the strikes" on every point of doctrine, well, that is hard to do with one's eyes closed, and only prepared pastor/teachers are really capable of seeing the difference – beyond, that is, the general principles of "good" and "bad". Every Christian, led by the Spirit, is more than able to figure out where to go to and where to flee from in terms of teaching and theology – if, of course, they are willing to do so. But once a genuinely good source of truth is found, that source should be given general credence. If a mistake has been made, that will become obvious soon enough, and said believer can move onto the next possibility. But without believing what is taught, no progress is possible. This is a long way of saying that I can explain this to you until the cows come home, but you have to believe it in order for it to do you any good.

Your characterization of these chapters in this current email puzzles me greatly, especially in light of our detailed conversations about them. I certainly don't hold these views, nor would I even allow that these are the most natural ways of taking the passages even in an English translation. I do understand these chapters (and this book), and there is nothing in them or it which teaches what you fear. So I would ask that we go back to specific verses with specific questions about them inasmuch as no one can combat wide, negative generalizations like these.

One of the problems we are having here, in my view, is that of narrowly focusing on a few chapters of scripture without taking into account that they are part of and can only be fully understood as part of the entire Bible. In my considered opinion, the parable of the prodigal son is not consistent with a "no hope" interpretation of Hebrews, but Hebrews is entirely understandable in every respect when considered in terms of grace and God's desire for all to be saved (Jn.3:16-18; 1Tim.2:4). And there is much throughout scripture – in every nook and cranny of it, in my view – that is at odds with the idea that God will not forgive:

Examples:

"But if a wicked person turns away from all the sins they have committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, that person will surely live; they will not die. None of the offenses they have committed will be remembered against them. Because of the righteous things they have done, they will live. Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?"
Ezekiel 18:21-23 NIV

So God encourages the repentance and return of sinners.

But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.
Psalm 130:4 ESV

So even the fear of God is based upon understanding that He does forgive – otherwise, once a person was beyond the pale there would be no point in returning (and fear itself would be useless).

God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5 NIV

So we are secure in Him no matter what – and the only way to change that is to forsake God by becoming (and staying) an unbeliever; but if you have faith in Jesus Christ, then you belong to Him, and "no one will snatch" you out of His hand.

This point is everywhere in scripture and flows from the character, the plan, and all the actions of God in this world. It would be absolutely inconsistent with His character, His plan, His sacrifice of Jesus His Son, and also with all of scripture, for Him to play favorites and decide that some are allowed to repent and others not. But our God is absolutely righteous, and since Jesus has paid the price for all sin, all are justified by faith – and only by faith.

Jesus always searches out the lost sheep. Isn't that what this parable means to you?

As you have noted, there are plenty of "authorities" out there who will choose to ignore these truths and instead confirm your worst fears. The problem for them (and more to the point, for you) is that they couldn't be more wrong. The specifics of why this is I am happy to revisit as many times as you wish, but at some point you have to trust in the goodness, the mercy, the forgiveness, and the love of God. God is love. He doesn't want anyone to perish. We are all here on earth to respond to Him and given time to do so. Many unbelievers not only refuse to do so, but actually reject Jesus outright – and they are left here anyway. Why? To give them ample opportunity to demonstrate the solidness of their choice. It's all about free will. If there were no hope for you, why then has God not blasted you off the face of the earth? But there is hope. Indeed, from my vantage point, you are a believer, just a somewhat confused and self-tortured one. The way out is through faith, faith in the character of God, and in His promises. They have been made for you that you might have hope. Trust Him, and find someone you can trust who will lead you closer to our Lord Jesus day by day – not someone who delights in pronouncing himself "better" and you "lost".

Your friend in Jesus Christ, the One who died for all your sins that you might be saved.

Bob L.

Question #24:

Thanks Robert. Some observations that I have come across in my searching below:

I am not refuting what you say just what I've seen a multitude of others saying. There seem to be strong arguments from scripture on both sides of this.

In my considered opinion, the parable of the prodigal son is not consistent with a "no hope" interpretation of Hebrews,

The common interpretation of the prodigal son is that he was saved but Jesus doesn't say that. It is also stated that he was a representation of a Jew (who Jesus preached to first) and that he was a "son" by virtue of that. He went away from God but God called him back through the coming of the Messiah. Not that he was a saved Christian who fell away back into sin and then came back.

So God encourages the repentance and return of sinners.

Yes but this was in a dispensation prior to Jesus coming to earth. Hence the warning not to fall back in Hebrews "after coming to a full knowledge of the truth". Before Christ and full revelation, yes, but after knowing the truth, no.

but if you have faith in Jesus Christ, then you belong to Him, and "no one will snatch" you out of His hand.

But we can leave His hand by violating the warnings can't we?

Jesus always searches out the lost sheep. Isn't that what this parable means to you?

I can see it also being the lost sheep of Israel who He was still preaching to at this point. Not a saved person who has fallen back away.

If there were no hope for you, why then has God not blasted you off the face of the earth?

Because scripture says God doesn't react that way. They are kept to the day of judgement (2 Peter).

Response #24:

If you are looking for reasons to doubt, you will be sure to find them. If you are looking for alternative interpretations (alternative to the truth, that is), they are a dime a dozen. It's all about faith in the character of God.

Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you. But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.
Psalm 73:27-28

Being faithful includes obedience, but obedience is essentially the obedience of believing what God tells us. The next step is to do it; after that, we try to help others. In order to be "unfaithful" to the point of perishing, one has to go so "far" from God that there is no longer any faith. No Christian is 100% faithful (would that we were). We all fail; we all fall short.

All sin and fall short of God's glory.
Romans 3:23

It is better to be 90% than 10%, but only the 0% in faith are lost if they once believed – and only if and when they die at 0%. Is this you? Not from what you have told me.

As to your comments:

1) The common interpretation of the prodigal son is that he was saved but Jesus doesn't say that. It is also stated that he was a representation of a Jew . . .

It may be common, but I have not heard this before. In my view, this is utter nonsense. If we were to take this hermeneutic approach to its logical end, we would essentially throw out the gospels (which "suffer" in their entirety from this objection), not to mention the entire Old Testament. The "gist" of this parable is accessible to anyone reading it in an English translation: God welcomes back the penitent. What does the Holy Spirit tell you about it when you read it?

2) Yes but this was in a dispensation prior to Jesus coming to earth.

Dispensations are God's eras of providing the truth in various ways, but they do not change His character or the essentials of how He made us or what He expects from us: salvation has always been by grace through faith (please see the link for a correction of hyper-dispensationalism). There is nothing in this passage to indicate it doesn't apply to everyone.

3) But we can leave His hand by violating the warnings can't we?

We all have free will, and anyone can decide to completely abandon the Lord by relinquishing faith 100%. That is what apostasy is. I.e., not "sinning really bad", but completely abandoning one's faith in Christ to the point where the person in question no longer believes in Him, no longer trusts in Him, no longer wants anything to do with Him. As it says in the gospel of Luke, "they believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away " (Lk.8:13 NIV).

4) I can see it also being the lost sheep of Israel who He was still preaching to at this point.

True Israel and the gentiles who are saved constitute Christ's Church.

I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
John 10:16 NIV

The clear message is that Jesus seeks all out who have strayed. Again, there is no limitation obvious in the simple language here: a person would have to foist all sorts of non-biblical baggage on this illustration in order to dilute its obvious meaning. The principle of the illustration would include anyone who has been unfaithful to any degree. This illustration does not deny our free will. The Lord won't force anyone to come back. But He directs the life-circumstances of all so that they will come back . . . provided there is even a spark of willingness to be saved. That is the point: He wants to save/rescue you (and me and all of us). Our Lord and our Father are not "looking for an excuse" to damn anyone; quite the contrary.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 NIV

5) Because scripture says God doesn't react that way. They are kept to the day of judgement (2 Peter).

2nd Peter 2:9 tell us that it is the unrighteous who are being "kept for the day of judgment". So who are the "unrighteous"? Sinners? Then we are all damned because "all sin"(Rom.3:23; Jas.3:2) and anyone who says he is without sin makes out God to be a liar (1Jn.1:6-10). No, the unrighteous are those who do not have God's righteousness. How do we get (and keep) God's righteousness? By "being good"? But that is impossible. No, we are accounted righteous by God only through faith:

But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: "Blessed [are those] whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed [is the] man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."
Romans 4:5-8 NIV

I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness [comes] through the law, then Christ died in vain.
Galatians 2:21 NKJV

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.
Philippians 3:8-9 NIV

In Jesus Christ through faith in whom alone we are saved.

Bob L.

Question #25:

Hi Robert, can you please read this article on Hebrews chapter 6?

If Hebrews says we are not cut off and without hope or falling back into a sinful lifestyle is not fatal apostasy, how do people arrive at this?

http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue49.htm

I would appreciate it.

Response #25:

As to the link, the first thing to note is that the analysis is predisposed by the conclusion. The purpose of the article is to "resolve" the question of whether a) true Christians can commit apostasy, or b) apostates were never saved in the first place, or c) true Christians always respond to warnings so as to be saved and not lost. Since that is the case, the analysis is fatally flawed a priori because of the bias in the purpose of the analysis (and the false assumptions it makes to further its preordained conclusions).

The main point to draw from this for our purposes is that the writer finds these verses to be a "warning". If this is a "warning", then ipso facto it is something that can be heeded.

The article completely overlooks the two most critical points: 1) what does parpesontes in Hebrews 6:6 mean? 2) what is the effect of the present participles? The latter is key as we have seen before since it means that recovery is only impossible while the offensive behavior is going on – and that is what is being warned against, namely, continuation of behavior that makes the recovery impossible (i.e., present participle of anastauroo = "while in the process of crucifying again"). The former point is key because if the verb meant "apostasy from which there is no recovery", then it would make no sense to include either the warning or the qualifying participles; we would just be stating a fact that "you are all damned" – therefore in no need of warning and damned without qualification; but there is a qualifier here, and since this is a warning it cannot be talking about unavoidable damnation already achieved. In fact, the New Testament does have vocabulary to express apostasy and it is always some form of the verbal stem from which our English word is derived. That is because our English word comes directly from those passages where apostasy is actually discussed: apo-histemi is the verb. But here the verb is entirely different, and if Paul had meant to suggest a complete falling away, he would, among other necessary changes, have used the correct verb.

This article is a very good example of what is wrong with theological seminaries these days and why in my view there is little to be gained in attending them. I began noticing several decades ago that no new commentaries and no new references books were being produced for biblical studies that were of any value whatsoever, and this analysis you link is a perfect indication of the reason why. When individuals have a great deal of "book learning" but have very little clue about what the Bible actually means, there is no end to the very erudite-sounding material they can produce that has absolutely no value to a genuine believer. More simply put, when a person is operating in language A, trying to make sense of a document in language B without knowing that language will not work. Instead, one will only achieve false results, even though they may sound "good" to others who only know language A.

Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,

Bob L.

Question #26:

Hi Robert,

Hoping you are well.

I believe I am making progress on this issue. I do have a couple more questions for you though if you can answer them when you can.

1. How do we know 1 John 1:5 is referring to physical death and not spiritual death? Commentators see it both ways. If you fall back into habitual unrepentant sin does this not grieve and quench the Holy Spirit and proves He has left you (or you never had Him) and that's how you got to that point?

2. If the Holy Spirit seals you to the day of redemption when you believe, how can someone who believed apostatize if they were sealed to the day of redemption unless you can lose your salvation by grievous, willful sin?

3. I believe you mentioned in your first email, Hebrews 10:26 virtually has no application today. I thought ALL new testament passages had application today?

4. 2 Peter 2:20. Does this not imply doomed? This is ominous and has no hope attached to this statement.

5. I can see God saying "look at what I did for you in the gospel, what I gave you and you basically threw it back in my face by going off and sinning ridiculously. Why would I forgive that?" God's patience has a limit. How do I know I'm not past that point? These were sins against light (2 Peter 2:20). How do I know God has accepted my repentance for these sins or whether He rejected it. I absolutely can't tell. I believe God cut Jezebel off and wouldn't let her repent either. Also no sacrifice for the sons of Korah. If God denying some people repentance isn't implied, why the example of Esau? Why use the example of Esau if not to prove the impossibility of repentance even though some want to?

6. Finally, I don't understand how so many learned theologians believe if someone falls back into willful sin they are lost if it's not true. How can so many believe this? Arminians like Ben Witherington, etc.?

7. Do you get a lot of email from people in similar situations as mine?

8. I also wanted to ask you about the fact that God did not accept King Josiah's repentance either in 2 Kings 22 - 23. In addition to the example of Jezebel, King Josiah was a good king but the scripture says despite all of the things he did right, God's anger was not turned from Judah and their repentance was not accepted. Is this correct? Sorry, basically just trying to figure out if God will/has accepted my repentance and how I can have assurance He has.

Response #26:

1) I think you have given me the wrong reference. Couldn't figure out what verse you meant. One aside without looking: if commentators are the measure, well, you can find at least one commentator (or church father) on every side of every issue. There are many believers out there who suffer from what I like to call "Smorgasborditis": taking a little for here or a little from there. But if a person is looking at the Smorgasbord of opinions to have faith confirmed the result will be the opposite if only because there is a qualified person for every opinion: too many choices. This is one of the arguments that the RC church uses against Protestantism, by the way. At some point, a believer either has to become his/her own authority and decide on each and every choice, actually taking something from the Smorgasbord at each section (and that can result in a very odd and unbalanced meal at the best of times, including leading to serious food-poisoning), or he/she can find a good cook and trust that the meal is balanced and healthy and properly prepared. There are many cooks and none is perfect, but there are good ones and bad ones, and we can tell the difference with minimal experience. It has always amazed me how that in spiritual matters believers have such a hard time figuring out (or accepting and acting on) this very obvious principle.

2) You should know (if you don't already), that I do not believe in "absolute eternal security no matter what". What I believe is what the scriptures teach: believers are saved. Sin is dangerous because it compromises faith. But when you say here "unless you can lose your salvation by grievous, willful sin", you are making the huge, logical leap that "grievous, willful sin" is how salvation is lost. That is not stated anywhere in scripture and is not the case. Christians apostatize through abandoning their faith. Sometimes this happens when a person would rather sin without divine discipline or guilt (and that is not possible as long as one is a child of God); more often it happens when the person feels let down by the Lord. But in any case it is the loss of faith that results in the person in question no longer being protected by the Holy Spirit. He protects all who belong to Christ. But if a person renounces his/her faith in Christ, they are no longer His (and no longer under seal).

3) Hebrews 10:26 (taking this verse on its own) does apply today – if it is understood correctly. There is a nothing a person can do to sacrifice for sin. That is what the passage says. And it is absolutely true. So if a person thinks that he/she can give money, or flagellate themselves, or fast, or do whatever as penance for sin, that will be a waste of time – and worse: doing so would proclaim that Christ's sacrifice for sin was not effective or deficient, and that is just as bad (and really no different from) what the Jewish believers of Hebrews were doing. Therefore "sinning willfully" or sinning in any way and assuming that we can "make it up to God" by something we do is the worse form of blasphemy. Denying Christ by one's actions cannot be made up for – that is the sin the recipients of Hebrews were committing – and the same is true of all sin. But, praise God, Christ died for all of our sins! So if we want forgiveness, we need only stop and confess.

4) In the beginning they were unsaved – yet they believed and were saved (so they were not doomed from the start); now they have fallen away, and that is demonstrably worse because anyone who has "tasted that God is good" and then thrown Him aside is beyond argument going to be less likely to come back to the Lord thereafter. It does happen: consider the prodigal son. In any case, the key thing is whether or not someone falls into this category; you are assuming you do (out of guilt), whereas in fact this category is composed of those who have given up their faith in Christ and returned to the state of unbelief. That is what "returning" here means, to the state of unbelief. These people were not sinless before they believed, did not achieve sinless perfection after believing, and are sinners still after falling away. But they fell away by "turning from the holy commandment", that is, the gospel of Jesus Christ to which they had previously given their allegiance.

5) If God had ever said anything remotely close to "Why should I forgive that?", then we would all lost. But He has not. What does His Word say?

If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
Psalm 130:3 NIV

How does the Father react when someone "has the nerve" to come back to Him after behaving egregiously?

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20 NIV

"For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found."
Luke 15:24 NIV

Esau never believed – ever; Jezebel never believed – ever. Our God is a loving Father to all who are the least bit willing to be loved by Him. Did you know that Christ died for every single one of the sins that troubles you? The Father thinks much more of that sacrifice than He does of your bad judgment in committing the sins that had to be atoned for. I beg you in Jesus' Name to be willing to be reconciled to Him.

6) Well, how come there are so many Muslims, Hindus, animists, Buddhists, Roman Catholics, atheists? And when it comes to alternative viewpoints coming from true believers, none of us is perfect. What we can do is show how we got from the Bible what we believe. If it is true, the Spirit works on that truth. But we still have to be willing to accept the truth when we hear it and not bat it away because we don't like it or having trouble accepting it for any reason.

7) You bet! But you are more persistent than most!

8) Josiah was a great believer. But no single person is good enough to "stand in the gap" for an entire country all on their own (at least men like David are rare; and consider: Ezek.14:14 KJV: "Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver [but] their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD"). But Josiah was good enough to deliver himself and his entire generation – not bad, I would say!

"Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the LORD. Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place."
2 Kings 2:19-20 KJV

In Jesus our dear Lord and Savior in whom we have life eternal,

Bob L.

Question #27:

1) The reference I meant was to the sin unto death (1Jn.5:16). A lot of people believe it's in reference to the Lord physically taking you out of the world but some believe it's in reference to spiritual death. Hence my question.

Also,

6) Well, how come there are so many Muslims, Hindus, animists, Buddhists, Roman Catholics, atheists? And when it comes to alternative viewpoints coming from true believers, none of us is perfect. What we can do is show how we got from the Bible what we believe. If it is true, the Spirit works on that truth. But we still have to be willing to accept the truth when we hear it and not bat it away because we don't like it or having trouble accepting it for any reason.

This is pretty much my point. How can I have confidence that God is willing to forgive what I did if in fact these people may be correct in their interpretation that I am beyond God's forgiveness for what I did.

I beg you in Jesus' Name to be willing to be reconciled to Him.

I desperately want to be reconciled and restored. I just have a really hard time with having absolute confidence that God is truly willing to forgive me when there are so many interpretations of the 'difficult passages' that say that I have NO reason to believe God will forgive me because of what I did.

Forgot to add, this is the entire nature of my hangup on this. If these people are correct and I have sinned grievously beyond God's forgiveness and these sins will not be forgiven then it doesn't matter how BAD I want to be reconciled and restored to Him. It is beyond hope. The Holy Spirit is not giving me the assurance that He is willing to forgive me or that I'm forgiven.

Response #27:

No need to apologize in being persistent in trying to get to the truth of the Word of God!

As to 1st John 5:15-17, in my view it is patently obvious that this is not taking about Christ's sacrifice – it certainly doesn't say anything at all about that. This passage divides sin into two categories, one of which is sin that leads to death. Based upon all of the other passages that discuss this issue, it is very clear to me that the issue is one of some believers crossing the line in their sinfulness and getting to the point where their sinning is about to kill them (physically) – there is no point in praying for someone who has gotten to that point without any inclination to clean up their act. Even so, please note that this sin unto death is a gracious provision on behalf of the Lord so that the person in question may be saved even though it requires his/her physical death for that to happen:

". . . hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord."
1st Corinthians 5:5 NIV

Please see the link: in BB 3B: "Apostasy and the Sin unto Death"

On point #6, someone is right and someone is wrong. On my side I am convinced that I have the scriptures (in every point we have ever addressed together) and also the Holy Spirit (who is testifying of the truth of these things to your spirit). But for this truth to do you any good you still have to let go of doubt and believe it. That is a decision, a choice, that you make. If you really want to believe in God's mercy, love, forgiveness, goodness, and grace, like the father of the prodigal son, He is willing to comfort you (He has already embraced you). But this acquiescence to the truth and to the Spirit has to come from you. No one else can plug it into your heart, no matter how persuasive. If you do open yourself up to the Spirit's testimony and accept the truth that God has provided to you, you can begin the healing in all respects, and you can have the peace that our Lord promised to us all.

I beg you in Jesus Name to believe that you have been made whole in Jesus Christ – for you have been.

Jesus our dear Lord has already died for every one of your sins, no matter how bad you believe them to be – just as is the case with everyone else.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Isaiah 53:6 NIV

I would believe God, His Word and His Spirit and the testimony of those whom you know and trust are really from Him and of Him – even if the entire rest of the world says otherwise. That is the essence of faith.

Bob L.
 


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