Unbelief is actually perverted faith, for it puts its trust not in the living God but in dying men. —A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
Hermas was a church leader shortly after the book of Hebrews was written. During his ministry, he wrote his own book called The Shepherd in which he talked about life after Jesus. More specifically, he talked about sin in the life of a believer. Hermas believed in God’s grace—with limitations. He decided a believer can sin after salvation and be forgiven—once.
Another theologian, Tertullian, wasn’t so accommodating. Tertullian believed that a believer had not one chance, but zero chances. Absolutely no sin was allowed after baptism.
Others believed grace allowed for mistakes, but only if a prescribed process of confession and repentance was followed.
Why was this argument even a thing? Where did anyone get the idea that sin after salvation canceled salvation?
It stemmed from a gross misinterpretation of our text in Hebrews.
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. (Hebrews 10:26-27)
Sadly, one generation after these words were written, many leaders taught that all past sin was forgiven in Christ up until baptism. Any intentional sins committed after baptism wasn’t forgivable.
What would you do if you believed this? You’d likely look for a loophole in condemnation. Indeed, many believers postponed baptism until immediately before death. Just before their dying breath, a pastor would sprinkle them with holy water. Now they were clean for eternity. This practice became known as “last rites.”
This dying frenzy could have been avoided by answering two questions: Who deliberately sins in this passage? And what is that deliberate sin?
Discovering the answer to these questions is to discover room to stretch out into our salvation with confident rest, knowing Jesus is enough.
Lord, what I believe about Your handling of my sin after salvation greatly impacts my understanding of You. Perhaps grace is new territory; perhaps the freedom implied by such grace scares me. Prepare me to hear and receive all You have for me—unshakable belief and unending rest. Amen.