On The Sin Unto Death And Finding No Repentance

There is a sin leading to death…
1 John 5:16

A Hard Teaching Of The Beloved Disciple

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death.  (However…) there is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.
1 John 5:16

Proof-texts for Easy-Believism

Before beginning our study, let us first consider that these words of Scripture were penned by none other than the beloved disciple John from whose writings so many today would be led to believe that the only requirement for salvation is a casual belief in the truth and that once one is saved he can never be lost.  For it was he who wrote,

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16

For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.
John 6:40

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.
John 11:25-26

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God.
1 John 5:1

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
John 10:27-29

Indeed, only 3 verses before he wrote,

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life.
1 John 5:13

Con-texts Against Easy-Believism

And it is here that so many would stop, delighted with such proof-texts of the false prophets that appeal to their flesh, and not at all disturbed by James’ words that “the demons also believe, and shudder” (James 2:19).  Neither are they concerned that although Jesus said those sheep who follow Him shall never perish and no one shall snatch them out of His hand, He never said that those sheep who ceased to follow Him would not be cast away by God Himself for their own sin and rebellion.[1] Nor do they consider “these things” which John has written by which we may truly know that we have eternal life:

By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.  The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected.  By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.
1 John 2:3-6

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be.  We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.  And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.  No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.  Little children, let no one (like a false prophet) deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.  The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil.  No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God.
1 John 3:2-10

Indeed, it is quite clear what John means by “believe”, for he writes,

He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
John 3:36

We see then from the writings of John that salvation is in no way a simple matter of casual belief.  In fact, as we now return to the point of our study, we see that he has written clearly that a believer may even commit a “sin unto death” and so lose his salvation:

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death.  There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this.
1 John 5:16

Spiritual Life and Death

And yet some would argue that John here has only in mind some capital offense for which either the civil authorities or perhaps even God Himself would put the believer to physical death.  But let us consider that if it were only physical death to which John alludes, why would he imply that we ought not to pray for such a one, seeing that his soul might yet be saved despite the destruction of his flesh (cf. 1 Cor 5:5)?  And why then, in the case of the brother committing a sin not leading to physical death, would one have need to ask God to give him physical life, seeing that he has not committed a sin that would cause him to be put to physical death?  We see that his words only make sense if he is talking about spiritual life and death.  For then there is great need to pray for the brother committing a sin that does not lead to spiritual death, that God would grant him a repentance unto life, lest by continuing in his rebellion he commit a sin for which no prayers would avail (cf. Jer 7:16, 11:14, 14:11, 15:1, and Ez 14:12-20).  Indeed, let us consider the words of James:

My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins.
James 5:19-20

The Sin Unto Death

It is clear then that John meant for us to understand that there is a sin unto spiritual death.  In fact, the Scriptures are quite clear about this and offer us numerous warnings and examples that this is the case.  And as we now turn our attention to consider these warnings and examples it will become clear that the sin unto death is not necessarily any one particular transgression, but rather a reckless attitude of the heart concerning the salvation which God the Father has spent all of recorded history bringing to pass; it is a despising, whether by word or deed, of the precious blood of God’s own dear Son Jesus Christ, who, on account of His great mercy and love, offered Himself up on the altar of Calvary to deliver us from our sins; it is a ceaseless resistance to the Holy Spirit of God who would lead us in the way of life and perfect us in righteousness and holiness so as to complete that great work of salvation which was ordained by the Father and wrought by the Son.  Let us begin with,

The Example Of Esau

And when Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.”  Therefore his name was called Edom.  But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.”  (Esau was the first born and so it was his right, as well as his responsibility, to inherit the blessing of his father Isaac.  This typifies the rights and responsibilities of those who would be born again and come to the “church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven”, Heb 12:23, in order to receive the blessing of their heavenly Father which is eternal life.)  And Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?”  And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob.  (Esau did not esteem his birthright as worth dying for, and so proved that he loved the flesh more than he loved God).  Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way.  Thus Esau despised his birthright.
Genesis 25:29-34

Then (after Jacob had already received his father’s blessing, albeit deceitfully) Esau also made savory food, and brought it to his father; and he said to his father, “Let my father arise, and eat of his son’s game that you may bless me.”  (After despising his birthright Esau still sought the blessing of the firstborn.  But because he had despised his birthright, neither could he now inherit its blessing:)  And Isaac his father said to him, “Who are you?”  And he said, “I am your son, your first-born, Esau.”  Then Isaac trembled violently, and said, “Who was he then that hunted game and brought it to me, so that I ate of all of it before you came, and blessed him?  Yes, and he shall be blessed.”  When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried out with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me, even me also, O my father!”  And he said, “Your brother came deceitfully, and has taken away your blessing.”  Then he said, “Is he not rightly named Jacob, for he has supplanted me these two times?  He took away my birthright, and behold, now he has taken away my blessing.”  And he said, “Have you not reserved a blessing for me?”  But Isaac answered and said to Esau, “Behold, I have made him your master, and all his relatives I have given to him as servants; and with grain and new wine (typical of the spiritual food of the Word of life that sustains us spiritually) I have sustained him.  Now as for you then, what can I do, my son?”  And Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father?  Bless me, even me also, O my father.”  So Esau lifted his voice and wept.
Genesis 27:31-38

Esau’s Example A Warning  to Christians

See to it that no one (of you who believes he is saved) comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.  For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
Hebrews 12:15-17

In despising his birthright Esau committed the sin unto death, so that afterwards, as the Scripture declares, when he wanted to inherit the blessing he could not, but was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.  Let us then heed this warning of Scripture and learn from Esau’s example!  May we never despise those blessed beginnings and rights and responsibilities of the gospel in our hearts, most especially the need to take up our cross and follow Christ by dying to the carnal flesh, lest in the end we be rejected from inheriting the blessing of eternal life as well.  For as we are even now beginning to see, we are not without ample warning and example of this sobering truth in God’s holy word.

The Example of Those Whom Moses Led Out of Egypt

Then (after being dissuaded by the bad report of those who had been sent to spy out the land of promise but had no faith to take possession of it) all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.  And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt!  Or would that we had died in this wilderness!  And why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword?  Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?”  (The people had no faith to enter in and possess the land of their promised inheritance from God and so desired to return to their slavery in Egypt.  They are like so many today who have no faith to enter into and possess the land of their promised inheritance, which is the kingdom of God, but would rather return to their bondage to sin.)  So they said to one another, “Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt.”  (O dear reader!  Let us take heed to consider that with this grave statement an entire generation damned themselves from inheriting the blessing of the land of promise, which typifies eternal life.  For like Esau, they did not consider their birthright as children of God worth dying for but despised it.)…

And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me?  I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me.  Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; your corpses shall fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me.  Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.  Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey—I will bring them in, and they shall know the land which you have rejected.  But as for you, your corpses shall fall in this wilderness.  And your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they shall suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.  According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you shall know My opposition.  I, the Lord, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me.  In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they shall die.’”…

And when Moses spoke these words to all the sons of Israel, the people mourned greatly.  In the morning, however, they rose up early and went up to the ridge of the hill country, saying, “Here we are; we have indeed sinned, but we will go up to the place which the Lord has promised.”  But Moses said, “Why then are you transgressing the commandment of the Lord, when it will not succeed?  Do not go up, lest you be struck down before your enemies, for the Lord is not among you.  For the Amalekites and the Canaanites will be there in front of you, and you will fall by the sword, inasmuch as you have turned back from following the Lord.  And the Lord will not be with you.”  But they went up heedlessly to the ridge of the hill country; neither the ark of the covenant of the Lord nor Moses left the camp.  Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in the hill country came down, and struck them and beat them down as far as Hormah (for the people found no place for repentance, though they sought for it with tears.)
Numbers 14:1-4,26-35,39-45

The Israelite’s Example A Warning to Christians

O!  Let us heed the warnings of Scripture and learn from the example of those who so put the Lord to the test.  For as Paul reminds us, “These things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, 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; and all ate the same spiritual food (as we eat), and all drank the same spiritual drink (as we drink), for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and that rock was Christ.  Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness.  Now these things happened as examples for us, that we should not crave evil things, as they also craved.
1 Corinthians 10:1-6

Now I desire to remind you, though you know all things once for all, that the Lord, after saving a people out of the land of Egypt (as a type of our salvation from the bondage of sin), subsequently destroyed those who did not believe (and let us recall what it means to believe).
Jude 5

Take care, brethren (who believe that you are saved), lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sinFor we have become partakers of Christ if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end.  As has just been said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”  For who provoked Him when they had heard?  Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses (again, those who were saved from their bondage in Egypt and who typify us who are saved from our bondage to sin)?  And with whom was He angry for forty years?  Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did He swear that they should not enter His rest (which typifies our salvation into the kingdom of God), but to those who were disobedient?  And so we see that they were not able to enter (God’s rest) because of unbelief (for disobedience is equivalent to unbelief).

Therefore, let us fear lest, while a promise remains of entering His rest, any one of you (who believe you are saved) should seem to have come short of it.  For indeed we have had the gospel preached to us, just as they also; but the word they heard did not profit them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith (the faith of Abraham that is obedient to God’s law, cf. Gen 26:3-5.  According to the NIV textnote many manuscripts read “because they did not share in the faith of those who obeyed”.)
Hebrews 3:12-4:2

The Dire Consequences Of Turning Back

If then an entire generation of people had the gospel preached to them and was delivered from their bondage to drink from the spiritual rock of Christ, and yet was destroyed for their persistent rebellion, how shall we not be judged even more severely since we now have their example as a warning?  O, let us not be deceived to look back toward that spiritual land of Egypt but have faith to follow our Lord into His kingdom along that narrow way called the Highway of Holiness.  For as we continue to see, we are not without warning of the dire consequences of turning back after having put our hand to the plow:

For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.  For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.  (For in such case they can find no place for repentance, even though they seek for it with tears).  It has happened to them according to the proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.”
2 Peter 2:20-22

Remember Lot’s wife!
Luke 17:32

Make sure there is no man or woman, or family or tribe among you today, whose heart turns away from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations (which the children of Israel passed through in the wilderness when the Lord delivered them from their bondage in Egypt.  The gods of those nations are the powers of darkness who in the same way today tempt us to serve them in rebellion to God); make sure there is no root among you that produces such bitter poison.  And it shall be when he hears the words of this curse, that he will boast, saying, “I have peace though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart in order to destroy the watered land with the dry” (i.e., in order that the righteous should be destroyed along with the wicked because of the root of bitterness that springs up on account of such a one to defile many; cf. the Septuagint, and cf. again Heb12:15 above).  The Lord shall never be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and His jealousy will burn against that man, and every curse which is written in this book will rest on him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven (his name will be removed from the Lamb’s book of life).  Then the Lord will single him out for evil from all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant which are written in this book of the law.
Deut 29:18-21, NIV, NASB

Rediscovering The Fear of God

O!  Let us not think lightly of the riches of God’s kindness and forbearance and patience, but understand that His kindness leads us to repentance.  For because of our stubbornness and unrepentant heart we are storing up wrath for ourselves in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Rom 2:4-5).  And as we have already seen from the example of Esau and those whom Moses led out of the land of Egypt, we know not what further resistance, what seemingly insignificant transgression will make us complete as a vessel fit only for destruction and irrevocably bring that day of His wrath upon us.  O, let us learn what it means to fear the Lord!  For as C.S. Lewis articulated so aptly,

Nearly they stood who fall;
Themselves as they look back
See always in the track
The one false step, where all
Even yet, by lightest swerve
Of foot not yet enslaved,
By smallest tremor of the smallest nerve,
Might have been saved.

Nearly they fell who stand,
And with cold after fear
Look back to mark how near
They grazed the Siren’s land,
Wondering that subtle fate,
By threads so spidery fine,
The choice of ways so small, the event so great,
Should thus entwine.

Therefore oh, man, have fear
Lest oldest fears be true,
Lest thou too far pursue
The road that seems so clear,
And step, secure, a hair’s
Breadth past the hair-breadth bourne,
Which, being once crossed forever unawares,
Denies return.

The Example of The House of Eli

Now the sons of Eli (the priest under whom Samuel ministered as a boy at Shiloh) were worthless men (sons of Belial); they did not know the Lord and the custom of the priests with the people (although they served the Lord in pretense).  When any man was offering a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come while the meat was boiling, with a three-pronged fork in his hand.  Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the fork brought up the priest would take for himself.  Thus they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there.  Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who was sacrificing, “Give the priest meat for roasting, as he will not take boiled meat from you, only raw.”  And if the man said to him, “They must surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as you desire,” then he would say, “No, but you shall give it to me now; and if not, I will take it by force.”  (In like manner does the kingdom of heaven suffer violence and violent men take it by force, Mat 11:12.  But as Jesus warned, not one stroke of a letter of the law shall fail so that all shall receive the just recompense of their deeds done in the flesh, according to the righteous judgment of God, Luk 16:16-17, Rom 2:5-6.)  Thus the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for the men despised the offering of the Lord (and did not treat as a holy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them; indeed, consider here and in the following verses that the men despised their birthright as the sons of Aaron as a type of those today who in the same way despise their birthright as a royal priesthood in the kingdom of God by treating as an unholy thing the offering of their Lord Jesus Christ.)….

Then a man of God came to Eli and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Did I not indeed reveal Myself to the house of your father when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh’s house?  And did I not choose them from all the tribes of Israel to be My priests, to go up to My altar, to burn incense, to carry an ephod before Me; and did I not give to the house of your father all the fire offerings of the sons of Israel?  Why do you kick at My sacrifice and at My offering which I have commanded in my dwelling (and so trample it underfoot), and honor your sons above Me, by making yourself fat with the choicest of every offering of My people Israel?  (Consider how so many of the religious leaders of our own day feed their flesh and make themselves fat with the offerings of God’s people.)…

Then the Lord came and stood and called as at other times, “Samuel!  Samuel!”  And Samuel said, “Speak, for Thy servant is listening.”  And the Lord said to Samuel, “Behold, I am about to do a thing in Israel at which both ears of everyone who hears it will tingle.  In that day I will carry out against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  For I have told him that I am about to judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knew, because his sons brought a curse on themselves[2] (cf. again Deuteronomy 29:18-21 above) and he did not rebuke them.  And therefore I have sworn to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be atoned for by sacrifice or offering forever.”
1 Sam 2:12-17,27-29, 3:10-14

No Repentance For The House Of Eli, Nor For Christians Who Follow Its Example

For in despising the Lord’s sacrifice by their actions and not treating as a holy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, Eli’s house committed the sin unto death for which no sacrifice could atone.  Like Esau and those whom Moses led out of the land of Egypt, they could find no place for repentance even if they sought for it with tears.

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.  For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled (good fruit), receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles (bad fruit), it is worthless (reprobate) and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.
Hebrews 6:4-8

For we understand that Christ paid the ransom once.  If one is once redeemed from the bondage of sin and then goes back to serve his old taskmaster, there is no longer any sacrifice for sins left; to be redeemed again would be to crucify the Son of God all over again.

For 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 underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted (blasphemed) the (Holy) Spirit of grace?…It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Hebrews 10:26-29,31, NIV

The Blasphemy Against The Holy Spirit

Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit (by deliberately continuing in sin as He would lead us in holiness) never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.
Mark 3:28-29

For 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.  Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be on him (it will not be forgiven him, though he seeks to repent even with tears).
Numbers 15:30-31

A Fearful Expectation of Judgment

O!  Let us heed the warning given us by the example of those in the house of Eli!  For having treated as an unholy thing the offering of the Lord they had only a fearful expectation of that judgment and raging fire that consumes the enemies of God:

Now Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped beside Ebenezer while the Philistines camped in Aphek.  And the Philistines drew up in battle array to meet Israel.  When the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines who killed about four thousand men on the battlefield.  When the people came into the camp, the elders of Israel said, “Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines?  Let us take to ourselves from Shiloh the ark of the covenant of the Lord, that it may come among us and deliver us from the power of our enemies.”  (The people had a false security that they held God in their religious box and they could make Him do their will and save them from their enemies in spite of all their sins.  But God had forsaken their temple polluted by sin and was not with them, so that…) the Philistines fought and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent, and the slaughter was very great; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.  And the ark of God (the object of their false security) was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died….

And it came about when he (a messenger relating news of the battle) mentioned the ark of God that Eli fell off the seat backward beside the gate, and his neck was broken and he died, for he was old and heavy (for he had fed only his flesh and made it fat with the offerings of God’s people)….Now his daughter-in-law, Phinehas’ wife, was pregnant and about to give birth; and when she heard the news that the ark of God was taken and that her father-in-law and her husband had died, she kneeled down and gave birth, for her pains came upon her.  And about the time of her death the women who stood by her said to her, “Do not be afraid, for you have given birth to a son.”  But she did not answer or pay attention.  And she called the boy Ichabod (which means “no glory”), saying, “The glory has departed from Israel,” because the ark of God was taken and because of her father-in-law and her husband.  And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God was taken.”
1 Samuel 4:1-3,10-11,18-22

O!  Let us not stop our ears from hearing the repeated warnings of God’s word.  For “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” (Heb 2:3).  As a final example, let us now take heed from the warning offered us by,

The Example of Saul

Then the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, “I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not carried out My commands….”

And Samuel came to Saul, and Saul said to him, “Blessed are you of the Lord!  I have carried out the command of the Lord.”  (Like so many today, Saul was deceived that he had obeyed God when he had not.)  But Samuel said, “What then is this bleating of the sheep in my ears, and the lowing of the oxen which I hear?”  And Saul said, “They have brought them from the Amalekites (whom he was to completely and utterly destroy), for the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God; but the rest we have utterly destroyed.”  (Notice the form of godliness by which Saul was deceived that he was serving God.)  Then Samuel said to Saul, “Wait, and let me tell you what the Lord said to me last night.”  And he said to him, “Speak!”

And Samuel said, “Is it not true, though your were little in your own eyes, you were made the head of the tribes of Israel?  And the Lord anointed you king over Israel (and thus gave him a birthright in His kingdom), and the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are exterminated.’  (Saul’s birthright had both rights and responsibilities.)  Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord, but rushed upon the spoil and did what was evil in the sight of the Lord?”  (By his unwillingness to fulfill the command of the Lord and completely remove from the promised land of inheritance every contagion of sin, Saul despised his birthright.)

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.  But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal.”  (Saul was blind to his disobedience, and like so many religious leaders today sought to justify his rebellion as service to God.)  And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as the iniquity of idolatry.  Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He has also rejected you from being king.”

Then Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice.  Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the Lord.”  (Saul finally confesses his sin and wants to repent, but he has stepped, secure, the “hair’s breadth past the hair-breadth borne, which, being once crossed forever unawares, denies return”, so that he can now find no place for repentance even though he seeks for it with tears.  Thus…)  Samuel said to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.”  And as Samuel turned to go, Saul seized the edge of his robe, and it tore.  So Samuel said to him, “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today, and has given it to your neighbor who is better than you.  And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or change His mind; for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”…
Then Samuel went to Ramah, but Saul went up to his house at Gibeah of Saul.  And Samuel did not see Saul again until the day of his death; for Samuel grieved over Saul.  And the Lord regretted that He had made Saul king over Israel.
1 Samuel 15:10,13-29,34-35

God’s Spirit Will Certainly Forsake Those Temples Polluted With Sin

Now the Lord said to Samuel, “How long will you grieve over Saul, since I have rejected him from being king over Israel?  Fill your horn with oil, and go; I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have selected a king for Myself among his sons.”…Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed David in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.  And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.  Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him.
1 Samuel 16:1,13-14

O dear saints!  As we come now to the conclusion of our study may we clearly understand that contrary to the arrogant words of vanity by which so many today would entice by fleshly desires, the Holy Spirit of God will indeed forsake those temples polluted with sin, as we have seen that He did at Shiloh in the days of Eli, and as we have just seen that He did with Saul (cf. also Jer 7:12 and Ez 10:18,19, 11:22,23).  As the Scriptures plainly declare, a believer may through unrepentant sin and continual resistance to the Holy Spirit of God commit the sin unto spiritual death for which there is no repentance even if sought after with tears.

Our Walk of Faith

And yet let us not despair and wonder, “Who then can be saved?”  For surely while this is impossible with men, with God all things are possible.  Let us have faith that He who began a good work in us will be faithful to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6).  As we have been saved by grace through faith, let us have faith that we shall also be kept by that same grace.  For how will He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, not also with Him freely give us all things (Rom 8:32) which are necessary for the attaining of life and godliness through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence?  For as Peter reminds us, by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them we might become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust (2 Pet 1:3-4).  Let us then entrust ourselves to Him who is able to keep us from stumbling and to make us stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy (Jude 24).  In such time as we are dragged away and enticed by our own lusts, before such lust is conceived lest it give birth to sin, and sin being accomplished it bring forth death (James 1:14-15), let us approach the throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:15-16).  Thus the apostle Paul exhorts us with a fitting summary to our study:

Whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.
Romans 15:4

Now these things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.  Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (on account of sin).  (For) no temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it (and not sin).
1 Corinthians 10:11-13 NIV, NASB

1. As our study progresses we shall see that this is indeed the case, but let the reader here consider that even the apostle Paul was concerned lest he should be a cast-away, 1 Cor 9:27.  Consider too that Balaam, who understood and prophesied that Israel was blessed by God and so could not be harmed, nevertheless, out of greed to help Balak, counseled him to lead Israel into sin so that God Himself would destroy them, which counsel proved true; cf. Numbers 22-25, esp 25:1-9,17-18, and also 31:16 and Rev 2:14.

2. According to the NIV text note, an ancient Hebrew scribal tradition and the Septuagint read that his sons “blasphemed God”.

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