One Thing That It Isn’t Is ‘Painless’
Vol: 93 Issue: 25 Thursday, June 25, 2009
Of all the doctrinal issues and questions out there, the most difficult question for me personally revolves around the issue of suicide and whether or not God can forgive a sin for which it is not possible to ask forgiveness.
There are many good and logical arguments for both positions. The Bible says “Thou shalt not kill” and suicide is the act of killing oneself. But that is an oversimplification of both the Scripture and the act itself.
The Scripture actually says “Thou shalt do no murder” — and clearly there are times when God condones killing. In terms of blood and death, few books can equal the carnage described by the Old Testament. Including many suicides.
King Abimelech was attacking a tower in Thebez when a woman dropped a piece of a millstone on his head. Believing himself mortally wounded, he ordered his armor-bearer to run him through lest it be said he was killed by a woman. (Judges 9:52-54)
Samson violated his oath to God as a Nazarene and as a result, he was captured and blinded by the Philistines, who then chained him between two pillars of their temple. Humiliated and wanting revenge, he pulled them down, bringing down the house on himself and his captors.
King Saul, having lost his three sons in battle, asked his armor bearer to kill him. 1st Samuel 31:4-6 says that when the armor bearer refused, Saul fell on his sword, killing himself. Afterwards, the armor-bearer also killed himself by falling on his sword.
In 2nd Samuel 17:1-29 Ahithophel hanged himself when his offer to take 12,000 men in pursuit of King David was refused.
1st Kings 16:15-20 tells the story of Zimri, King of Tirzah, who was so overcome with guilt for his sins that resulted in his city being taken that he committed suicide by burning down his palace around himself.
Then, there is Judas Iscariot, who hanged himself in despair after betraying the Lord.
Altogether, of the seven people that committed suicide in the Bible; five of them were wicked men — and one, (Samson) was stupid. (We don’t know enough about the armor-bearer to form an opinion.)
Suicide is almost never morally justifiable. For the most part, excepting situations involving terminal disease, suicide is a permanent ‘solution’ to a temporary problem. It is the ultimate expression of selfishness. It expresses a total lack of trust in God or His promises and a transfer of faith away from God.
The Scriptures say “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and He shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6) For the Christian, committing suicide is not giving up on yourself. It is giving up on God.
I’ve lost a number of friends to suicide. A guy I knew committed suicide last week. He was the second member of that family to die by his own hand — his brother committed suicide ten years ago.
Whether one is a believer or an unbeliever, suicide is the ultimate act of cowardice. It is running away in the face of the enemy. Granted, despair, depression, pain, loneliness, disappointment, uncertainty, loss and misery are powerful motivators and this life is anything but easy.
And as Christians, we know that to die is gain.
Philippians 1:20-26 has Paul contemplating life and death. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” Paul writes. “But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.”
Paul seems unsure if he prefers life with labor or death with gain. He chooses life; “Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you,” not because it is his preference, but because it is his duty.
For a Christian to take himself out of the battle permanently by suicide is to shirk that Christian duty. Suicide is unique in that it is the only sin for which we can’t go back and beg forgiveness after the fact.
1st John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
That little word “if” seems to make this a conditional promise; IF we confess our sins, THEN He will forgive them.
It would seem to logically follow that IF we don’t, then neither will He. By definition, the very last act committed on this earth by a suicide is a deadly sin.
Does that also mean that it is an unforgivable sin?
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” (Matthew 12:31)
I’ve heard it argued that the unforgivable sin is suicide. That suicide, (the act of taking an authority over your life that rightly belongs to God) IS the ultimate blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It is the sin for which you cannot be forgiven, because by definition, you can’t be sorry for it after the fact.
Or so the argument goes.
That argument sounds logical, but it has all the theological depth of a puddle in a parking lot. One isn’t saved or condemned based on the last act one commits in one’s own life.
One is saved by the last act committed in the earthly life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. (Or rather, by one’s faith in that act and that God accepts it as sufficient payment for sin.)
How one ends one’s life is not the determining factor in where one spends eternity.
Here is one of the more interesting paradoxes of Christianity. One doesn’t enter into eternity until one dies. Eternity exists outside of time and space whereas we exist inside of time and space.
I am not in eternity now, since all the clocks are working. However, I already have eternal life. There is a distinction — and in this context, it makes a difference.
The Scriptures make it clear that, in the final analysis, the determining factor on whether we stand before the Bema Seat after the Rapture or before the Great White Throne at the end of the Millennium is not how or when we died. Where we spend eternity depends on whether we trusted in Christ or in our own works for our salvation.
The problem with believing in ‘faith plus works’ is that works cuts two ways. If good works can save you, then bad works can condemn you. Whether or not you go to heaven is therefore conditional, not on your life, but the last thing you did before you left it.
There is also the logic problem to deal with. When a person ‘gets saved’, what are they ‘saved’ from? They are saved from a Christless eternity in hell. But they get saved here on earth. Suppose a person gets saved and goes on to live an exemplary Christian life but sins just before he dies by committing suicide? Is he still saved?
Back when he was saved, before his suicide, was he saved by his exemplary Christian life? Or was he saved by faith in Christ? When is a person actually saved? When he first trusts Christ? Or when he dies?
If one suffers a temporary loss of faith, does that mean that person is lost again? Can he be saved again? Actually, if one is saved and then loses one’s salvation by his own sin, the Bible says it is impossible for such a one to come back to the Lord and ask for salvation a second time.
“For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame.” (Hebrews 6:4-6)
Does the Scripture really mean “will be saved” rather than saved now? If so, then a Christian who later commits suicide has no hope of heaven. And neither does any Christian who has ever fallen away after having been saved, for any reason.
On the other hand, if one is saved now, rather than being saved later when we die, and since it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance, it follows that once saved, one cannot undo it.
Hebrews says that a person can only be saved ONCE because the Son of God can only be crucified for sin ONCE. Or every one of us would have undone it already and Heaven would be as empty as a Baptist church on Wednesday night.
Suicide does not disqualify one from entrance to heaven. God does not have a sliding scale for severity of sin anymore than He has a sliding scale of forgiveness. Sin is sin. Forgiveness is forgiveness.
Does that mean that, as the MASH theme song implies, that suicide is painless? I hardly think so. Suicide is the ultimate in spiritual cowardice. One can forgive a coward, but that doesn’t make him a hero. He’s still a coward who ran away in the face of the enemy. Only in the case of suicide, one is a coward for eternity.
Suicide isn’t the soul-killer some believe it is. But it is anything but painless.