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Does God forgive us when we intentionally sin?

Feb 12, 2011

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The Base for Grace - part twenty-nine in a study of the book of Hebrews

By Mike Gaudet

 

It’s easy to believe that God forgives us when we sin accidentally.

 

It’s harder to believe that He forgives us when we sin intentionally.

 

Does God forgive us when we intentionally sin?

 

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.”  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”  Hebrews 10:25-31

 

The directive in this letter, “let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” is not targeting Jewish Christians who are sleeping in on Sunday.  It is targeting Jewish Christians who are going back to the synagogue on Saturday.

 

Apparently some Jewish believers had turned their back on Christianity and had returned to Judaism.  In so doing they had “trampled the Son of God under foot,” “treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant,” and “insulted the Spirit of grace.”  

 

The stern warning, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have receive the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left,” is written with this sin in mind . . . the sin of apostasy.

 

This passage is not warning that Christians who sin after becoming children of God are kicked out of God’s family.  Sons and daughters of God have a “permanent place” in God’s family.  Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.”  John 8:35

 

Neither is this passage suggesting that believers in Jesus Christ should be or could be sinless.  To the contrary we read, If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”  1 John 1:8

 

Christians aren’t perfect . . . just forgiven.

 

Ancient Judaism offered no such security.

 

In the Old Testament of the Bible only unintentional sins could be forgiven through animal sacrifice.  But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.”  Hebrews 9:7  Intentional sins, sins not “committed in ignorance”, were a different matter.  The Jew who sinned intentionally had “only a fearful expectation of judgment” to look forward to.  “Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  Forgiveness was out of reach.

 

The writer of this letter is suggesting that Jewish Christians who willfully turned their back on Christ in order to re-enter Judaism were committing spiritual suicide.  This apostasy was an intentional sin.  There was no provision for forgiving this kind of sin in Judaism.

 

God sent His Son so that all our sins might be forgiven.  The New Covenant inaugurated by Jesus Christ provides for the forgiveness of both unintentional and intentional sins.  “He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.”  Hebrews 7:27

 

One sacrifice.

For all sins.

For all time.

 

God wants His children to believe that their sins are forgiven.  In fact, He sends His Spirit “to testify to us” that this is true.  “The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this.  First he says:  “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord.  I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” Then he adds:  “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”  And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.”  Hebrews 10:15-18  God focuses our attention on His forgiveness.

 

On the other hand, Satan “accuses” us.  “The great dragon was hurled down — that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray . . . the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down.”  Revelation 12:9,10  Satan focuses our attention on our sin.

 

Satan accuses us of sin.

 

God assures us of forgiveness.

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