What Happens If I Sin?

Providing one’s heart is oriented rightly toward God, he will not sin out of calloused blatant rebellion but instead out of weakness due to our fallen nature, and he is therefore covered by Christ’s blood sacrifice on the cross, should death occur before conscious repentance of that sin.

Todd Beal

I spent many years wrestling with the concept of losing one’s salvation, and recently I made some very important discoveries, as follows.

While fully realizing we Christians are called to live apart from sin, we still have a fallen nature, which means we will eventually, inevitably, sin. But in the event we do sin, do we consequently lose our salvation, or does God instead grant us free-license to indulge our sin because salvation is irrevocable?

Some say that once Jesus takes up residence in one’s heart, that person is guaranteed eternal life, even if afterward he or she sins and subsequently dies with an unrepentant rebellious state of heart. This belief makes a mockery of living a Holy life pleasing to God, and also devalues Christ’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross, the total game-changer that not only blots out our sin upon accepting him into our heart, but so too empowers us to live apart from sin thereafter.

Another belief is that, yes, an individual does lose his salvation upon sinning, but as long as the individual repents of that sin before dying he will obtain eternal life with Jesus. This belief creates the bondage of perfectionism and legalism (or Pharisee-ism), forcing one to focus more on not sinning than on building a powerful relationship with God. It makes one seek human perfection at the expense of Godly Holiness, thus robbing one’s spiritual power at best, and ultimately becoming a God-replacing idol of faith-devoid works at worst. Neither of these two beliefs completely reconciles with scripture, as they both are two artificial divisions of the underlying indivisible truth.

Lance Ponder summed it up in his comment on Can I Lose My Salvation?: “It is all about focus. If we focus on self instead of God, even if the reason seems as virtuous as avoiding sin and rebellion, we are in fact in rebellion which is itself sin. Herein lies the great paradox and the lie is revealed.”

So what happens if a true believer sins but dies before repenting? As stated on my recent post, Can I Lose My Salvation?, “I don’t believe it is the sin itself that negates one’s salvation, but instead the state of heart that does the sinning. Willful and unrepentant rebellion always assures separation from God, and ultimately incurs his wrath. This was the downfall of Lucifer, the one who knows, and once gloried in, absolute truth but tossed it away for his own arrogant pride against God.” Therefore if one’s heart is oriented rightly toward God, not only is he assured an eternally secure salvation but he also retains free-will, thus giving him the ability to choose at each given moment which path to take, obedience or rebellion. This also means that the only criteria for maintaining assurance of salvation is maintaining a heart that hates sin and loves God, which necessitates both a repentant heart and growing one’s relationship with God.

Providing one’s heart is oriented rightly toward God, he will not sin out of calloused blatant rebellion but instead out of weakness due to our fallen nature, and he is therefore covered by Christ’s blood sacrifice, should death occur before conscious repentance of that sin. However, in the event the Holy Spirit convicts him of that sin – ultimately insisting he choose between repentance and eternal damnation – and instead of repenting, he willfully, rebelliously, chooses to reject the Holy Spirit in favor of sin, rebellion immediately fills his heart and his relationship with God terminates. The Lake of Fire then becomes his eternal destiny.

So in the end, both “eternal security” (eternally secure salvation) and the ability to lose one’s salvation are together valid, but not separately. That is my conclusion.

I want to give my heart-felt thanks to Jerry Starling (Author of the “Committed to Truth” blog; post, Security of the Believer) and Fr. Robert (my personal friend: “Irish Anglican’s Weblog”; post, Apostasy in the Church, Gal.1:6-7, our attached conversation) for their invaluable insight in helping me reach my conclusion.

It means so much to receive wise and patient mentoring from seasoned fellow believers. Thank you.

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About Todd Beal

I love truth and its facts. I love thought-provoking conversations that give both the other person and me a better understanding of a particular topic. I love to find answers to life-long questions; answers that let me see things for what they are instead of what they seem to be. I truly enjoy being in the midst of a group of people where all individuals are joining in, where everybody is enjoying the company of each other. I relax in the company of individuals who are competent yet humble. I like to catch myself doing or saying something ridiculous and then laugh my head off. I enjoy my church and being involved.
This entry was posted in By Title [W], Eternal Security, Salvation, Sin and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to What Happens If I Sin?

  1. Excellent conclusion, Todd, one born of a great conversation on the topic. I would just add one thought on “maintaining” our salvation and the importance of what I call the sacrament, and what others call the Lord’s Supper or communion. During those few minutes each sabbath in which the emblems of the body and blood of Christ are passed to my congregation, I can reflect both on the tragedy of the nasty and weak things I’ve done during the week and the majesty of what Jesus has done to reconcile me with God once again. I can take time to feel true sorrow for my mistakes and make commitments to myself to make restitution where I can, and beg for mercy where I can’t. I can think back to the day of my baptism and that feeling of cleanliness as I took His name upon me. Baptism is meant to be a one-time thing, but the sacrament can help me achieve that same “clean” feeling I had the day I joined the Lord’s church.

    I agree with you that a person caught by death between sin and repentance will have claim on mercy–God judges less by the point we stand on and more by the direction in which we’re pointed. Otherwise Jesus wouldn’t have bothered to spend so much time trying to change the direction of sinners. However, if the sins are habits that we are not making any effort to change, we will eventually incur his wrath.

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    • Todd Beal says:

      Michael,

      I too take The Lord’s Supper very seriously, and it scares me to think of partaking in an unworthy manner. I am humbled every time I take Communion, as it reminds me that I am partaking in his sacrifice. I feel like I am punishing him for my sin, but at the same time I am thankful that he took my punishment so that I would not die forever. I concur with your statement about soul-searching during the Sacrament. Taking Communion is my time to once again humble myself before God and ask him to reveal my heart to me. It is not unusual for tears to emerge during that process, just as they are as I write this sentence.

      | God judges less by the point we stand on and more by the direction in which we’re pointed. |

      Excellent statement.

      | However, if the sins are habits that we are not making any effort to change, we will eventually incur his wrath. |

      This would fall under paragraph five, sentences two and three, of the post elaboration: “However, in the event the Holy Spirit convicts him of that sin – ultimately insisting he choose between repentance and eternal damnation – and instead of repenting, he willfully, rebelliously, chooses to reject the Holy Spirit in favor of sin, rebellion immediately fills his heart and his relationship with God terminates. The Lake of Fire then becomes his eternal destiny.” This is the awesome part of God’s grace in salvation. He doesn’t demand we change everything at once, as trying to do so would wreck us entirely. Instead, God commands we draw close to him in our heart through the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to grow in God’s truth and holiness. As we spiritually grow and mature, he reveals areas of spiritual hindrance, prompting us to confess them before him and leave them behind (repent), thus allowing us to draw closer to him in love and obedience. Only when we reject that prompting – out of a blatant, calloused, ‘could care less’ rebellion, not weakness due to our fallen nature – are we then in danger of his wrath.

      This completely negates the enslaving power of legalism, the manmade approach to God, by focusing the entire meaning of salvation on one’s personal relationship with God, not some Pharisee-itic creed or ascetic code. It is this concept right here that finally took away my forty-year burden of trying to live out of perfection. We cannot be humanly perfect; it is literally impossible. But we can live and grow in the perfection of Jesus’ Holiness because he – the living embodiment of God’s law – lives within our heart, empowering us to satisfy the requirements of his law by living through the Living law, Him.

      That is awesome stuff.

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  2. Lance Ponder says:

    Two references. First is Leviticus. The first several chapters deal with procedures for sacrifices. In every case that involves sacrifices for sin, it is for sin committed in ignorance. Such sins are covered by the blood, unlike sins committed willfully.

    Heb 10:26-27 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.

    The latter informs the former. Cheers.

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  3. Todd Beal says:

    Lance,

    I have been turning your original comment over and over in my mind, and the implication of what you are saying suddenly hit me just now. The two scripture passages you provided – Leviticus and Hebrews 10:26-27 – separately and together Biblically confirm my conclusions regarding retaining/losing salvation.

    God set up the Old Covenant sacrificial system with the same premise as the New Covenant salvation. Our fallen human nature is the same today as it was back then; personality is the same today as it was back then; and God’s personal standard for sin and righteousness is still the same as it was back then. The difference between then and now lies in God’s method for sin atonement. Under the Old Covenant, God used the blood of animals to atone for our sin. Under the New Covenant, God uses Christ’s once and for all eternal blood sacrifice to atone for our sin. But equally under both systems, God deals with sin according to one’s state of heart. God has never tolerated open rebellion, but he has always given grace and mercy for sin committed out of ignorance and human weakness. At the same time though, once he reveals to us the truth about our sin (just as he did when David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband), he requires us to confess to him, and also repent if the sin is presently ongoing. But if we refuse to accept that truth and confess our sin, our heart instantly fills with rebellion; a most dangerous state of heart, because if we continue our rebellion to the point we divorce our self from God, we can look forward to the Lake of Fire as our future eternal home.

    Once again Lance, your knowledge and understanding of scripture brings an unexpected bonus. Thanks a lot for this.

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    • Lance Ponder says:

      Just a thought on…

      //The difference between then and now lies in God’s method for sin atonement. Under the Old Covenant, God used the blood of animals to atone for our sin. Under the New Covenant, God uses Christ’s once and for all eternal blood sacrifice to atone for our sin.//

      You know I can never let go of something I see in a completely different way. The key sentence here is “The difference between then and now lies in God’s method for sin atonement.” I don’t think so. I don’t think the method changed at all. It was NEVER about the animal sacrifices. Those were always prophetic and never saved anyone. They always pointed toward Jesus and never held power of their own. It was always a question of faith, which you later said in your reply. Of course many who understand the basics of OT sacrifice hold your understanding and I do not fault you or them, but seek to illuminate a deeper truth and that is that when Jesus became the atoning sacrifice once and for all, that once is out of all times past as well as future and for all who lived before and after the cross.

      I love chatting about this sort of stuff and I thank you for the forum and the thought provoking posts and dialog.

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      • Todd Beal says:

        Lance,

        I realize I left myself open to misunderstanding. I originally added, “albeit they were symbolic” at the end of “God used the blood of animals to atone for our sin”, but I ultimately removed it because I didn’t want to come across as minimizing the serious nature of the sacrificial system. God told Israel in Isaiah 1:11 that because of their continued rebellious state of heart, he took no pleasure in their sacrifices. The blood of animals in and of itself did nothing to cleanse sin. It served only to symbolically show that something had to die for humans to spiritually live, thus pointing ahead toward Christ as you mentioned in your comment.

        My point was that the sacrificial system was God’s method for facilitating his atonement for sin. In other words, he wanted Israel to participate in satisfying his requirement for atonement, obedience through an open heart toward him. God could have simply atoned for their sin without the sacrifices, but the whole purpose of the Law was to show sin for what it is. Therefore, God used the sacrificial system as his means to facilitate atonement, refusing to atone for Israel’s sins if the people rebelled against the Law.

        Throughout the entire Bible God reiterates that due to the fall of man, something always has to die for something else to live. Animal sacrifices served this purpose in the Old Testament; Jesus sacrifice on the cross serves this purpose now. Animal sacrifices were symbolic; Jesus’ sacrifice actually redeemed mankind and literally changed the order of all Creation, something that the blood of animals could never do.

        The whole point to my comment was that behind the scenes, God atones for sin the same way now as he did back then. Sin has always been sin; Grace has always been Grace, and mercy has always been mercy. Forgiveness has always been forgiveness, and atonement has always been atonement. I was trying to show that regardless of which Covenant we are looking at, God requires a non-rebellious heart oriented toward him to extend forgiveness of sin. And finally, he will not forgive sin where rebellion persists. Providing one’s heart is oriented toward God, one cannot lose his salvation due to sinning out of ignorance or human weakness: only rebellion revokes salvation. This premise was true under the Law, and it is still true today. Understanding this premise is what finally allowed me to solve the “‘eternal security’ versus ‘one can lose his salvation’” doctrinal discrepancy.

        I hope this makes sense.

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        • Lance Ponder says:

          Yes, you make sense. I still am struggling with a part of your response, tho…

          //My point was that the sacrificial system was God’s method for facilitating his atonement for sin. In other words, he wanted Israel to participate in satisfying his requirement for atonement, obedience through an open heart toward him.//

          I learned something this weekend. It is something which, now that I know it, I feel that I must do something about it and I still don’t know exactly what. What I learned – the great epiphene de jur – is that what Jesus did in going to the cross to atone for our sin was to take upon himself responsibility for our sin. He accepted responsibility for the failure of us. To be Christlike means many things, but the practical short way of saying it is that to be Christlike we are to take responsibility for our brother. The lesson of Cain is what it is all about. Adam and Eve hid – they didn’t take responsibility. Cain disavowed responsibility. Moses ran off and didn’t take responsibility but later, when he did, he was blessed. Ultimately it isn’t the animal sacrifice or even Jesus’ sacrifice that matters so much – it is about our response to our sins and the sins of our fellow humans. I know how to point fingers as good as anyone and I’m well practiced at it. My behavior is unspeakably evil, as it is for most of us. And now that I know I’m responsible for my brother, how much greater is my sin for not acting? How I am allowed to live from one day to the next defies my understanding. May God have mercy on me, and on us all.

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        • Todd Beal says:

          Lance,

          You just laid out my whole premise for saying God wanted Israel to participate in satisfying his requirement for atonement; obedience through an open heart toward him. In other words, the Law was not about God simply atoning for one’s sin. It was first about showing one’s sin for what it is, hopelessly sinful, and second, it was about satisfying God’s prerequisite to his atonement for that sin. He required each individual to, as you put it, take personal responsibility for his own sin and then offer the appropriate sacrifice for God’s forgiveness of that sin.

          The same prerequisite applies today, except that now, Christ (the fulfillment of the Law) both reveals our sin to us through the Holy Spirit and is simultaneously our ‘once all – do all’ permanent sacrifice for that sin, not the blood of animals as symbolic. So once again, God atones for sin the same way now as he did back then. The only difference between now and then is his means to facilitate that atonement, the Law and its associated symbolic sacrificial system, versus Christ, the fulfillment of the Law who both reveals our sins to us and is our eternal sacrifice for that sin. However, regardless of what Covenant we are looking at, personal acknowledgment of the sin for which one is offering a sacrifice (previously animals, now Christ) is and always was God’s requirement for our participation in that sin atonement.

          Lance, I realize that my explanation is not the best. I am still eyeballs-deep in explaining it even to myself. I understand the essence and concept but not the necessary fullness to lay it out completely and transparently. The one thing I do know is that God always has and always will atone for our sins, providing we first acknowledge those sins (take personal responsibility) and subsequently turn from those sins toward him. And further, providing our sin is due to either ignorance or human weakness we cannot lose our salvation, but should we rebel against God to the point of divorcing our self from him, choosing to remain in our sin instead of repenting, we consequently lose our salvation. The Lake of Fire then becomes our promised eternal future home instead of heaven. This is the truth I found to at last resolve the discrepancy between “eternal security” and “the ability to lose one’s salvation”.

          The doctrine itself is simple by nature (once understood), but there’s a whole lot of ground to cover before one can adequately grasp that simplicity. I really do think that if I could adequately explain this whole concept, the age-old division between Calvinism and Arminianism would finally have grounds to disappear; leaving behind the original indivisible truth these two doctrines artificially divide.

          Thoughts?

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