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3 March, 2014 By Rev. Ted Pike

Editor's Note: This is the transcription of my recorded Bible study at Truthtellers.org.


Jesus held up the belief of a little child coming to Him as the height of sincerity. Why? Young children in their simplicity take reality for what it is. They do not manipulate or evade it. They are dependent on adults and the truths adults tell them. They are guileless. The unfeigned sincerity and simplicity of a young child is a quality we need as adults in our relationship to God. This sincerity makes it possible for us to move forward directly to God and His salvation in response to the Holy Spirit. Sincerity is our most precious gift, to be nurtured, treasured, and protected. It makes possible honest communication with God.

Most people lose their childlike sincerity when they realize that truth and reality restrict their pleasures. Rather than loving truth, they prefer rationalizations and evasions to excuse sin. This breaks off fellowship with God. We must cry to God in desperation that He will forgive our sins and all the insincere mind games that justified them. Otherwise, we will languish in insincerity, trapped in the labyrinth of our own self-delusion. Childlike sincerity can only be restored when our will and His grace work together.

When a person has grown up in an insincere worldly environment and knows little else, he has hope of finding sincerity. He has largely sinned in ignorance. It is far more dangerous to have known the whole truth and consciously chosen to deny it and rationalize sin. This is an incredible insult to Christ. God may reject such an apostate permanently, leaving that person in the state of insincerity he chose over truth and fellowship with his Creator. He literally cannot sincerely repent or cry out to God because the Holy Spirit will not draw him to redemption. He may have committed the unpardonable sin mentioned by the apostle John. (I John 5:16) God has, however, shown grace to many who have backslidden and given them the ability to cry for mercy.

When has a person sinned the unpardonable sin? The traditional theological criterion is that if this question worries you, then you probably haven’t committed it. The unpardonably sinning could not care less because the Holy Spirit is not gifting them with concern for their souls. The unpardonable sin is described in Scripture as committed by persons so loathed by God that He cut them off, unable to find sincerity for true repentance.

I believe the unpardonable sin is more common today than most realize. Let's turn to Numbers 15:27-36:

27 ‘Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one-year-old female goat for a sin offering. 28 The priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven. 29 You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. 30 But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.’”

32 Now while the sons of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering wood on the sabbath day [rebelling against the known will and law of God]. 33 Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation; 34 and they put him in custody because it had not been declared what should be done to him. 35 Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 So all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Scripture says, "A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy." (Prov. 29:1) The apostle Paul confirms that fearful possibility: "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries." (Heb. 10:26-27)

Esau is an example. He was born into a family with an incredible amount of knowledge of God. As grandson of Abraham, he knew the story of Abraham being willing even to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, in obedience to God. He knew he inherited the birthright of God’s special relationship with Abraham. Yet he sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. As a result, God hated Esau and would make his inheritance an abomination. Scripture tells us Esau was never able to muster enough conscience to come with sincere repentance to God. (Heb.12:16-17) Scripture says he wept, probably fearing punishment, but could not actually find repentance.

King Saul was very popular with the Hebrews, a spectacular specimen of young manhood who showed himself very meek in his beginnings. He was so frightened about becoming king that he hid! But he very quickly realized he had the ability to become a popular leader and turned to his own resources and judgment. Scripture says he presumptuously disobeyed God's command to kill everything that breathed among the wicked inhabitants of Amalek. Instead, he brought back the king and the best of the sheep. He tried to justify himself before Samuel but failed. As a result, God never would communicate with him again (I Samuel 15 and 16:1).

The rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16 is also one of the most flagrant rebellions against God in Scripture.

Now Korah…[and other leaders of Israel] took action, 2 and they rose up before Moses, together with some of the sons of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation chosen in the assembly, men of renown. 3 They assembled together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is in their midst; so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”4 When Moses heard this, he fell on his face; 5 and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His, and who is holy, and will bring him near to Himself; even the one whom He will choose, He will bring near to Himself.

Rebels of Korah were eminent princes of the congregation. Did they, and the multitude of Levites they gathered around them, sin ignorantly? Hardly. These were people who saw all of God's miracles in Egypt and His spectacular deliverance through Moses. They walked with their children and livestock through a corridor in the Red Sea, divided by the wind, while Pharaoh's army was drowned. They knew the mighty works of God and that those works had been wrought through the faith and obedience of one humble man, Moses. Theirs was blatant, in-your-face defiance, not just of Moses but of God Himself. And yet they postured as being on God's side against the usurper, Moses.

Sinners, rebels, apostates, false prophets from the beginning of time have always said, "Let the Lord be glorified. We don't have any problem with the Lord. We have a problem with Elijah, or with Jeremiah, or with Jesus the Nazarene. We have a problem with that unwelcome person who is telling us what we don't want to hear." The Babylonian Talmud, anti-Bible of the Pharisees, constantly repeats the phrase about God: "Blessed be his name." In reality, the Talmud, like the rebels of Korah, does everything it can to subvert God's law as revealed by Moses.

God says, "I have the right to send my message, even my unpleasant message of reproof and judgment any way I want to. I can even send it through a braying donkey, as I did to rebellious Balaam." If people are truly of God's flock, eventually they will hear the Master's voice, the voice of the Good Shepherd, through such an oracle, unpopular and imperfect as it might be.

It is possible to reject the Holy Spirit by consistently despising those humble servants who come with a burden from the Lord, attempting to tell people what they need to hear. You do not have to go out and shake your clenched fist against the sky and loudly blaspheme the Holy Spirit. That seldom happens. But it routinely occurs that people being chided by the Holy Spirit for their sins reject the messenger, the one God has sent, and that is perilously close to rejecting the God Who sent the messenger. This borders on sin against the Holy Spirit, the One Who labors to bring us the whole truth. Jesus said the Holy Spirit is not lightly insulted -- that if people rejected Jesus the Messiah they can find mercy, but their sin against the Holy Spirit would never be forgiven (Matt. 12:32). Jesus is the Saviour, but the Holy Spirit is the One who convicts us of sin and draws us to repentance, so if we reject Him, we have no hope of salvation (John 6:8-11).

Thus, the rebels of Korah gathered together in concerted rebellion against the authority of Moses and the God Who had called him. This threatened to sabotage not only the existence of the nation of Israel but God's plan to use Israel to bring forth Jesus. Together, the rebels re-wrote history:
13 Is it not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, but you would also lord it over us?

In reality, when slaves in Egypt, they were not even getting straw to make their quota of bricks. But now they portray Egypt as a land of milk and honey, accusing Moses of going down to Egypt in some grand plan for selfish political gain, to make himself prince over a nation of slaves.
14 Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Would you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!”
15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not regard their offering! I have not taken a single donkey from them, nor have I done harm to any of them.”

In short,
31 As he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 All Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, “The earth may swallow us up!” 35 Fire also came forth from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering the incense.

But this terrible judgment from God did not turn the people who followed these leaders from their wickedness and discontent because the very next day:

But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You are the ones who have caused the death of the Lord’s people.”

Here we see the difference between sins of omission and ignorance, passion, or partial understanding versus blatant rejection of tremendous light and truth. God is making it clear He will not be mocked and that He can bring swift judgment on defiant rebels, or He can judge them by denying them the grace to sincerely cry out to God. In this case, His judgment was immediate. He brought plague on the rebels not swallowed up by the earth, killing 14,700.



Part 2

Contrary to many people's image of the Old Testament, it very frequently reveals Jehovah not as a God of wrath but of incredible willingness to forgive those who have most grievously sinned against Him. David is one of the greatest figures in Scripture, a man after God's own heart. He killed the Philistine giant and remained faithful to God through great tribulations in the wilderness, fleeing Saul. But when he came to power, he seems to have been carried away with a tremendous rush of monarchial power and instant gratification of pleasure. Despite everything he knew, he lusted after a married woman, Bathsheba. This impaired his spiritual judgment to such a degree that he actually committed adultery with her, perhaps more than once. Finally, when it was found that she was pregnant, he gave orders that her husband, righteous Uriah the Hittite, be virtually executed by putting him in the very front ranks of battle. But when David was approached by the prophet Nathan and it was pointed out to him that he was the unrighteous man who had killed the beloved lamb of the poor man, instantly the sword of that reproof pierced David's heart. He realized how grievously he had sinned and repented with total sincerity.

Why did God show David mercy? Although both Korah and David received great light from God, David had a soft heart that could be entreated. He repented immediately and without excusing himself. So he found a place of grace, a stay of execution from the damnation that would have occurred otherwise. On the other hand, the curse was laid on David that for the rest of his life he would have trouble. Bloodshed would not depart from his house. This was a heavy sentence, and he did not escape the consequences of his sin.

Another king who found grace after great sin is described in I Kings 16:29:

Now Ahab the son of Omri became king over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord more than all who were before him.31 It came about, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he married Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went to serve Baal and worshiped him. 32 So he erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal which he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made the [l]Asherah. Thus Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel than all the kings of Israel who were before him.

Then we go to I Kings 21:20:
Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” And he answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and because you have made Israel sin. 23 Of Jezebel also has the Lord spoken, saying, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.’ 24 The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs will eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds of heaven will eat.” 25 Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife incited him. 26 He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the sons of Israel.

Ahab was a pedigree Jew, king of the northern ten tribes of Israel, but he killed a righteous man so he could steal his vineyard. However, when this thunderous rebuke came from God's man,

27 It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.”

Isn't this remarkable -- considering this tremendous backlog of the very kind of provocation against God that we have been talking about, which earned instant damnation for the rebels of Korah -- Ahab softened his heart and repented. This shows that, although there are general standards by which some are cut off and some may find repentance, it is up to God to decide when He will cut the sinner off, when He will consider his sin unpardonable.

With this in mind, let's consider the prevailing Protestant theological interpretation and its opinion on how God responds to rebellion from Christians. Calvinism says if you have once been soundly born again you can rebel against God to His face and go to heaven without repentance. Calvinism points to David’s story but draws a very false conclusion: that if David had not repented and had died in adulterous intercourse, he would still have gone to heaven. The Bible does not say this. David was restored only after repentance.

Calvinism says it is wrong and disheartening to warn saints who are blatantly sinning against great light that they might no longer find restoration. I once heard the very popular Calvinist radio Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee say if a homosexual had ever been soundly born again but died in the middle of sex with another man he would go straight into the arms of Jesus. However, my observation over a lifetime has been that those who were once Christians but sin against great light, expecting to repent and be restored after their sin, usually cannot find the necessary sincerity and conscience they once had. Their conscience has been seared. They may go to church three times a week and cherish their religious reputation. But there is something dead about them, even within all their pretense and enthusiasm.

Scripture does not contain the Calvinist view of an ever indulgent God always drawing the rebellious back to Himself. The Bible portrays a God who, like the Good Shepherd, leaves the 99 in the fold to rescue a single soul who will allow Jesus to cradle him in His arms. Jesus commanded us to forgive 70 times 7and set the example of going not only the extra mile but beyond all seeming reason. But God may or may not lead us to expend that kind of prayer, intercession, and self-sacrifice for those who have blatantly rebelled against Him and great spiritual light.

Scripture says it is a dreadful thing to "fall into the hands of the living God.” (Heb.10:31) It is a fearful thing to be in such a state that you have lost your sincerity, humility, and the advocacy of the Holy Spirit drawing you to repentance. There could be nothing worse than to no longer be wanted by your Creator.

In September and October in western Oregon we have little caterpillars ("fuzzy wuzzies") who crawl around the ground. They are dark orange and black and absolutely fearless. They walk in front of cars and cross streets. They just move along slowly. When you pick them up, they curl into a ball. Why are they so indifferent? Every one has a parasitic wasp eating its insides out. They have lost their inhibitions. They are literally walking around in a semi-dead state. That is the fearful state which an Esau or a Saul gets into. God came down and very quickly sent the rebels of Korah into the pit, but that fearful state of abandonment by God can last the rest of your life, if, having grievously and persistently offended the Holy Spirit, your conscience has been "seared with a hot iron" while you yet live (I Tim. 4:1-2).

That we have a conscience or any sincerity at all is the gift of God who imparts the conscience and empowers the choice of our free wills. His grace and the Holy Spirit assist us in nurturing these attributes of our moral nature which are more valuable than anything we can imagine. Remaining shockable, sensitive to sin, and spiritually tender must be nurtured by the Christian and protected against the desensitizing, even searing effect of the influence of the world. Esau did not value the things of God. He valued fun, games, and sex with Canaanite women, which caused him to despise the great birthright God had entrusted to his care. He entered a state where he simply could not repent. When Jacob last saw him, he was having the time of his life, fathering the Edomites, confirming the fact that when we do commit the unpardonable sin, we could not care less. The last thing on his mind was, "Lord, save me or I perish!"

Ultimately, every person who goes to hell has sinned the unpardonable sin—whatever sin was their last before death. The threat faces us all: the threat that God may be done with us and we may end our lives in a state of unrepentance. This is why we are told to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Only the fool takes it for granted that there will be time to repent later. When our lifeline is as fragile as the beating of our heart—when a split-second car accident could end the inflating of our lungs—how can we ever procrastinate about repentance? We have no way to know which sin will end Christ’s intercession for us. Whether our lives end at that time, or go on afterward in a state of walking dead, hardly matters. What matters is that God is a “consuming fire” whose mercy is never to be taken for granted. Every person who goes to hell has worn out His grace.

C. S. Lewis said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “All right, then, have it your way.”” To hear from God that He will give us in hell the independence from Him that we choose by sinning is the worst, eternal death sentence. That sentence can occur at the moment of death or years before. If there is unrepented sin in your life at this moment, and you have any ability to repent and choose Christ, do not delay. His Spirit is speaking to you at this moment. Who knows when He will fall silent?

current Ted Pike photo
Ted, today - photo: John Pike, October 2019

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