It’s always interesting to hear people talk about things in the Bible that aren’t actually in the Bible. Like that time when Moses told us that cleanliness is next to godliness. Or Jesus’ parable about Johnny beating up the devil with a fiddle.
But there’s another statement from the Bible that isn’t actually in the Bible. And this one is much more painful.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a lot of suicides in the news. Celebrities have killed themselves. Even pastors of large churches have done it. And it forces many people to ask a familiar question.
Will Christians who kill themselves still go to heaven? Doesn’t the Bible say that suicide is the unpardonable sin?
To be fair, the Bible does speak of what some call an unpardonable sin.
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” Mark 3:22-30 (ESV)
This passage disturbs a lot of people. And it should. But the problem is that most people get disturbed for the wrong reasons. They fear that something they said about or to God 20 years ago will keep them from Heaven, even though they have repented and lived under the lordship of Christ for all of these years. Others think that Jesus is saying that suicide is the one sin that will keep people from inheriting eternal life.
To get a better grasp on this passage we need to understand that Jesus isn’t talking about one particular word or even one action that can keep us from him, as if a sin like suicide is somehow beyond the reach of the cross. Instead, Jesus is saying that it is possible for someone to reject the Holy Spirit’s call to repentance so many times that he has exhausted God’s patience and saving grace. That’s the danger the religious leaders were playing with as they continued to reject Jesus and categorize him with Satan.
God is infinite in his wisdom and power. His patience, on the other hand, does have limits. That is what Jesus is driving at in this passage.
Suicide is a sin. It is a person’s attempt to take his own life out of God’s hands, thinking that he knows better than the Sovereign Creator and Sustainer of the universe. Suicide wrecks families. It multiplies the already painful sting of death for those who are left behind.
But it is not the unpardonable sin.
Thankfully for Christians, our eternal destination is not determined by the last thing that we do here on earth. Consider the following illustration.
A married Christian man is sitting on a bench at the mall while he waits for his wife to finish shopping. He notices a woman walking by. The woman is woefully underdressed. It’s clear that her agenda that day was to draw attention to herself. And this married Christian man was more than willing to help that woman with her agenda. Rather than quickly turning away, his eyes lock in on her. Rather than seeing her as a human being in need of the gospel, he treats her like a piece of meat behind the glass at the grocery store. Without question, this man is lusting. He is breaking the seventh commandment (Exodus 20:14; Matthew 5:27-30).
And then his heart stops beating. Right there in the mall, on the bench, while his wife shops. This Christian married man dies and immediately enters the presence of God.
If you hold to another so-called biblical teaching that’s not actually in the Bible – the one that says you can lose your salvation, this man is in real trouble. We all are.
But thankfully, God keeps who he saves (Romans 8:29-39; 1 Peter 1:3-7; Luke 22:31-28; John 10:22-42; John 17:9-12).
That’s no license to pray some kind of a sinner’s prayer and go about living as we please until we get to Heaven. That’s not genuine salvation. Saving faith is fruit-producing faith (James 2:14-26). Instead, it is a reminder of the saving and keeping grace of the Lord Jesus. It’s a reminder of his grace that is greater than all our sin. It is motivation to carry on in our fight against sin.
Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.
That one’s not in the Bible either. But it is true. Many times our imperfections can be quite dark. But because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross and because Jesus Christ is alive today, when imperfect Christians die and stand before their Master, they will be recognized with just one word.