Does God Always Give Second Chances? John Says “No.”


It’s a common myth that God will always bring us back to repentance. This myth is debunked in the first letter of John. While John writes that “if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9), he also tells us that sometimes God never gives us another chance to confess our sins and be forgiven.

In 1 John 5:16–17, the apostle gives us the other side of the sin-confession-forgiveness coin:

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

Put simply, there are sins that Christians commit that don’t lead to death—but there are some that do. Is John talking about a divine law of cause and effect, where a specific sin irrevocably results in death? Not exactly.

We can be certain that John has no specific sin in mind because he never names a sin in this passage. John is saying there may come a time when God has had enough of our sin, and then our time on earth is up. We cannot know when such a time might come—so we shouldn’t be in the habit of sinning with impunity.

When sin literally led to death

John had actually seen this happen. In Acts 5:1–11, Luke relates the incident of Ananias and Sapphira, who lied to Peter (and to God) about the proceeds from a piece of property they had sold. They were under no obligation to give any of it to the church but pretended that they had given all the money to the Lord’s work. When confronted by Peter, both of them collapsed and died on the spot. Luke writes that “great fear came upon the whole church and upon all who heard of these things” (Acts 5:11). No kidding.

No doubt this incident left an imprint on John’s mind. But John would have also known that there was Old Testament precedent for “sin unto death” as well. In Numbers 11, in response to the latest wave of complaining about their circumstances, the Lord sent the people of Israel meat to eat in the form of quails. “While the meat was yet between their teeth, before it was consumed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck down the people with a very great plague” (Num 11:33). John’s message to believers wasn’t: “God doesn’t judge like that today.” Rather, it was: “Stop sinning, because there is a sin that leads to death.”

Lest we think God is horrible and negative, we would do well to remember that it was John who penned “God is love”—in this same letter (1 John 4:8). As with Ananias and Sapphira, removing a sinning believer from the church was (very) tough love. But the fledgling church was all the stronger and more committed for it.

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why is the bible hard to understandDr. Michael S. Heiser is a scholar-in-residence for Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible Software. He is the author of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible and has taught many Mobile Ed courses, including Problems in Biblical Interpretation: Difficult Passages I.

This article is excerpted from Dr. Heiser’s book I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible.

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* Header image: Death of Ananias, by Raphael.

Comments

  1. Alex O. Sellman says:

    A sobering reminder and warning, thank you for posting it.

    Henry Blackaby in his well-known study “Experiencing God”, also points out that sometimes God does not give second chances, e.g., the sin of Achan mentioned in Joshua 7.

  2. Alex O. Sellman says:

    (I’ll try this again)

    A sobering reminder and warning, thank you for posting it.

    Henry Blackaby in his well-known study “Experiencing God”, also points out that sometimes God does not give second chances, e.g., the sin of Achan mentioned in Joshua 7.

  3. Jesus had taught the disciples not to judge (Matthew 7:1) and to allow the tares to grow along with the wheat (Matthew 13:30). However, he also told the Twelve that they would would sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:28) “in the regeneration”. So the resurrection of Israel (Ezek 37) and the regeneration occurred in the outpouring of the spirit on all flesh in the last days of temple-centric Judaism (Joel 2, Acts 2). And as Malachi predicted, judgment would be swift (Malachi 3:5). The ministry of the apostles in Acts 1-15 is NOT normative for the assemblies today. For the Christian there is always a second chance, per the Davidic covenant and the “sure mercies of David” (Psalm 89).

    • Jeffrey Towell says:

      @Bill Ross, I’ve carefully read your words but cannot see how you arrive at the conclusion that what started at Acts 2 is the fulfillment of the “regeneration” Jesus refers to in Matt 7. I also cannot see how your argument discounts the point made in the article (and more importantly by John) that there is sin leading to death. I’m guessing (with respect) that you see the writing of John to be in a different dispensation and hence not applicable today.

  4. Dean Poulos says:

    Alex, I certainty agree the OT is replete with examples of “no second chances.” Michael provides the example from Num 11.33. Let’s remember the sin of Achan (I wonder if Akan is a play on words, akor, i.e., trouble) is an Old Testament “Type.”

    One man’s sin was bestowed corporately. The entire camp of Israel was held responsible. God revealed Himself much differently in that age, while at the same time He is also revealing a Type for the age of Grace. The sin of Achon is one of the most obvious. It is not only a Type, it provides crystal clarity on how God administers His purpose differently through the ages in how He interacts with man. [any emphasis is mine]

    1 Cor 10:1-12

    “1. For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. [5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.] [6 Now these things took place as EXAMPLES for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8. We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and [twenty-three thousand fell in a single day.] 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for OUR instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

    Paul dwells on the “Examples” (Types) from the age of the Law, then quickly ends his message with a single verse in the age of Grace.

    1 Cor 10:13

    “13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

  5. So you are saying that blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is not the only unforgivable sin? Correct me if I am wrong, but does not scripture say this is the only unforgivable win…

    • B. Huff – Ananias and Sephira committed blasphemy (lying) to the Holy Spirit. They committed the unforgivable sin.

      Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit takes many forms, and we can see several warnings of them in the New and Old Testament.

      for example, 2 Peter 2 and Jude both warn against the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit that turns the grace of God into a license to sin, this is known today as Once Saved Always Saved or Eternal Security. Eternal Security teachers will tell you that even though God took the Holy Spirit (ekpsycho) from Ananias and Sephira, they still got to go to Heaven. Sin all you want and die, and end up in heaven early.

      Or as some of these blasphemers state;

      “You can sin like the Devil and still get in!”

      This is _literally_ blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and they are condemned for it. read the text of Jude and 2 peter 2.

      [Jde 1:4 KJV] 4 For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

      Those that do this were _ordained_ of old to receive condemnation. This is the same language Peter uses.

      [2Pe 2:1-3, 14-17 KJV] 1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 3 And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not. … 14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: 15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam [the son] of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

      Eternal Security is and always has been a damnable heresy, it’s blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

      BUT – so is the prosperity gospel, that Ananias and Sephira were practicing. You can see from Jude and 2 Peter 2, that these two doctrines intermingle. Those that pursue unrighteousness, pursue it’s wages.

  6. So I wonder what this might mean in today’s church? How would John respond to the 700 alleged sex offenders from the southern Baptist convention? It’s so sickening. A new set of clients for Discovering Mercy. I’m crying for all those affected.

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