This post is going to be quite long, so I have divided it into as many digestible sections as possible, and there will also be an audio version at the end of the post for listening to, podcast-style.

It has been a tragic week for the body. A pastor who claimed Christ, proclaimed His gospel, and loved the church he was given and the family he had, took his own life – mere days after giving a baptism, and the day after officiating a funeral for a woman who committed the same act.

I was hit by this news. Hard. I have been struggling through depressive episodes myself for quite some time – since I was 12, now 25 as I write this – and was spiraling deeper into one with suicidal ideations when I was told about Jarrid’s death by a friend over the phone. I was shocked at the intensity my own response, as I had perhaps only heard this pastor’s name once or twice through Twitter. I was suppressing tears, I felt nausea sweep me over, grief overcame me as I considered a man who experienced such alienation and was robbed of hope to such an extent that he lost sight of all he had to live for in this life.

And I considered, as I had many times before, “Am I doomed to the same end?” But this time it was different. In the past, I quickly dismissed the question as nonsense – I had been spared before, I had deeper convictions now, I would of course never be in danger of such an end. This time, however, the question was unavoidable, and I even voiced it for the first time over the speakerphone: “What if a time comes when I’m not strong enough?”

(I am in a much better place now, after surrounding myself with conversations and meditation on the Word, and after being transparent about my state with trusted friends.)

In these past few days, I witnessed the conversation unfold on social media that both disturbed and encouraged me – disturbed, because anti-gospel claims were made surrounding suicide and believers; encouraged, because I saw so many speaking against these claims and speaking up for the hope we have in Christ.

I felt compelled to flush out completely the arguments against these anti-gospel claims, in hopes of edifying and encouraging believers who have lost believing loved ones to suicide, and to point the suicidal believers to the life that Christ provides.

The Claims

The claims made against the salvation of Christians who commit suicide are as follows:

  1. Suicide is the unforgivable sin: blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
  2. Suicide is an unforgivable sin because you cannot repent of it after committing it, therefore you die in sin, rendering yourself under the judgment of God.
  3. Suicide is a definitive sign of apostasy.
    This list of claims is going to be a general outline of all that is to follow.

Claim 1: Suicide is the unforgivable sin: blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

This claim is being made based off of the following passage:

“‘Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’ — for they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’”

Mark 3:28-30

The claim being made is that suicide is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. But this passage was never meant to say the specific, singular sin we need to avoid is suicide, guaranteeing we have no grace.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a state of being; specifically, a state of sin and rebellion that is ongoing. In this passage, Jesus had been casting out demons as the Son of God, and the Pharisees denied it by saying that clearly He was a child of Satan casting out demons by Satan’s power. Jesus describes this unforgivable sin in response to the Pharisees insistently attributing to Satan a work that was actually done by God, even after having seen Him perform many other signs and wonders that proved Jesus was the Christ.

So here we see that Jesus uses the examples of the Pharisees to communicate a really simple truth: a sinner that is unrepentant (and even/therefore actively rebellious), even though faced with the realities of God and the gospel, remains unforgiven.

Does suicide fall under this category? Suicide may indicate this state of being, but in and of itself? No; since suicide is not necessarily motivated by an active, hateful rebellion to suppress the truth that has been received, suicide cannot be, of its own power, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

Claim 2: Suicide is an unforgivable sin because you cannot repent of it after committing it

The main question we have to answer here is, if you sin and die before you have opportunity to repent after a lifetime of confessing Christ, are you saved?

First, to make the distinction clear, an unbeliever who dies stands in condemnation. I do not want any unbelievers who come across this post to mishear me and think that suicide is an excusable sin that grants you a pass into heaven out of pity. Nor do I want you to think, if you are an unbeliever, that you can commit suicide and, in the moments before death, utter some insincere phrases of repentance and get into heaven. That is not how salvation works.

A believer who dies, though still having sinned after coming to belief, is clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and therefore stands blameless before God. I would like to emphasize that Christians still sin, even after coming to Christ. The difference is we do not delight in it, we fight against it, and we cling to Christ daily as our hope of salvation from it. (Note the battle within the Apostle Paul in Romans 7:22-25 for living proof.)

This last point is extremely important: Christians still sin after salvation. This is a fact, and it bears importance here, because this claim poses a threat to all of us: if we die with any sin that is not repented of, will we be denied the promise of heaven?

The key word in that last question is “promise”. God promises His people salvation – it is a hope that is secure (John 10:28; Hebrews 6:19) – and God always fulfills His promise. If God were to break His own promise, He would be a God who changes and a God who is weak, like us, in that He is unable to be consistent with His own words. It would also render Him a liar, as an unkept promise, especially made by an all-knowing God, is a false statement. He keeps His promises because He is perfectly consistent with Himself, perfectly all-knowing and all-powerful and therefore capable of keeping all promises He makes. He keeps His promises because He is faithful to His children, but also because He is perfectly faithful to Himself.

Therefore – and praise God – we are saved not by our faithfulness, but His, and are given this clearly and beautifully in His word: “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13.)

Suicide in light of the gospel

Our salvation rests on the faithfulness of God. The Bible is clear that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, authored by and found in Christ alone. When God placed the seal of His promise upon the heads of His children in eternity past, that was it – no question, these children were to be eternally saved.

“In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

Ephesians 2:11-14

Then, when Christ died, taking the punishment His children deserved for their sin, they were justified. They were made righteous before God. As long as Christ’s death remains the perfect sacrifice before God, that justification is final – and the good news is, it is just that (Hebrews 10:12-13).

When Christ resurrected, He put death itself to death, so that not only was the curtain that prevented us from entering God’s presence torn in two, but we were granted eternal life in His presence. Until that day, God is making us into what we were originally created to be: images of Himself. Christ-like followers of His perfect ways. We are being sanctified.

This is the gospel – the good news of salvation. Why do I say all this in response to the claim that suicide is an unforgivable sin because it cannot be repented of?

Because, in light of the gospel, this claim is at best utter nonsense and, at worst, purports a false gospel.

The downfalls of the claim

This claim states first that we need what the Catholics claim we need – last rites, a final declaration of absolving of sins, so that we enter heaven with a clean slate and are not cast into hell. But this turns the security of this salvation away from the faithfulness of God, and on to the faithfulness of us. It claims that if we are not perfectly faithful in our dying moments, God will remove His faithfulness from us.

Here is the reality: we will not enter eternity perfectly faithful.

But we will enter eternity clothed in the righteousness of the perfectly faithful Savior.

Here is the reality: we will not enter eternity perfectly faithful. But we will enter eternity clothed in the righteousness of the perfectly faithful Savior. Click To Tweet

So, in response to the claim that suicide is the unforgivable sin because you cannot repent of it after committing it, and in response to any death of a true believer where there is sin that was not repented of, Christ’s past wounds and present glory declare a greater hope that is not so fickle. The gospel is good news because our salvation doesn’t rest on specific sins we may or may not commit, like this claim falsely makes. Our salvation rests on the faith granted to us by the finished, final, unwavering justification of Christ on the cross.

It is also extremely important to note that God, being sovereign over the life and death of believers and unbelievers alike, is the only one who can permit anyone to die – and that includes suicide. God is sovereign over suicide. That is, no suicide attempt will be “successful” without God’s allowance. When we say that suicide is an unforgivable sin, we are saying either that God caused that sin to occur (as it is only suicide if it is “successful”), or we are saying that we are sovereign over our own death as suicide is clearly an option that our salvation can rest upon, which is false. It also poses the question, then: are “unsuccessful” suicides unforgivable, as the qualifier for it to be labeled “suicide” is that it ended in death, which is only permitted by the Lord?

A conversation between a man and his God

Before moving on to claim 3, I want to use a biblical account of a man who, in his dying moments, recognized Jesus as the Christ.

Crucified next to Jesus was a thief. He had already been “murdered”, in a sense – he was hanging on a cross, waiting to cross that threshold from death into the next life, every breath laboring, pain searing through his body. In the sight of onlookers, he was as good as dead.

The thief turns from the mockers, wailers, and observers below and turns to Jesus.

“Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

(See Luke 23:42-43 for reference.)

In Luke 23, we are given insight into an intimate, eternity-altering conversation most do not get to witness – a conversation between a man near death and his God. Beyond this gospel account, this is a conversation we would not have heard. But we have a lot to glean from this passage.

The first one, and most often noted, is that even in dying moments after a life of unrepentant sin, all can be absolved by the mercy of our God if we recognize Him as our only hope of salvation.

Second, it shows us that works are certainly not required for salvation. This thief had no opportunity to live a life that displayed fruit of this salvation. In fact, many onlookers who did not hear this conversation probably would have thought he died just as he had lived.

In the case of Jarrid Wilson, we do not know what his dying moments held. Unfortunately, I am familiar with some methods of suicide and the time they take from initiation to death. But what it has taught me is that, minus one method I am aware of, they all permit plenty of time to not only repent of the sin of this self-murder, but even converse with God about life, death, and the life to come.

Not unlike the time between the initiation and death of this thief on the cross.

If a person dies by way of suicide, but was set apart for eternal life and professed Christ as Lord before death, not even that seemingly final sin can separate them from the love of God. If they turn to Christ, even for the first time, as they die, they are secured in the love of God.

Salvation is of the Lord.

Claim 3: Suicide is a definitive sign of apostasy

For this claim, we will be looking into Hebrews 6 and 10, specifically these passages:

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”

Hebrews 6:4-6

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
‘Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.’
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

Hebrews 10:35-39

The claims are, with the relevance of these passages being that they give signs of apostasy, that a person who commits suicide definitively has “fallen away” and “shrink back” in this final, hopeless act. And therefore, God’s “soul has no pleasure in him.”

At first glance, taken out of context, it is easy to apply these passages to support the claim. Clearly, a person who has committed suicide has fallen away from the goodness they have tasted, ceased in endurance and thus forfeited their reward, and have shrunk back to destruction.

I am so, so happy to say this is a misapplication, and a grievous, abusive one at that.

As always, we must look at the context, first of the book, then of the section we are addressing.

The author of Hebrews is writing to a persecuted group of Jewish Christians, with the main goals of edification and assurance of faith. It also contains warnings paired with promises – warnings to the consequences of those who leave the faith, and (very motivating) promises to the true believer who remains.

This passage appears at first glance to be in contradiction with other books on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints – a doctrine that states that those who are saved are always saved, held by the hand of God because of His faithfulness that we discussed earlier. But, if we read these passages as the author intended, through the lens of the rest of Scripture, we see this perceived conflict is not the case.

Hebrews 6:4-6

Let’s start with Hebrews 6:4-6. It begins with the word “For”, which can be replaced with “because”, implying that we must look at what precedes it to know what verses 4-6 actually mean. As John Piper said, “When we see a ’therefore’, we have to see what it’s there for.”

Right before the start of this chapter, the author addresses the nature of Jesus and then says, “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.” (Hebrews 5:11.) He then continues, telling them they need to go back to the basics before delving into these complicated matters. After this begins chapter 6, where he encourages them to master and move on from these elementary doctrines, the last thing he says before our passage being, “And this we will do if God permits.” (Emphasis added.) “This” refers to leaving “the elementary doctrine of Christ and going on to maturity” as found in verse 1. And as noted in 6:3, we come to hearing, accepting, believing, and growing in the gospel, only by the power and permission of God.

So, the passage essentially says this: “And [we will leave behind elementary doctrines of Christ and go on to maturity] if God permits. Because it is impossible…” Our verses, then, directly correlate somehow to maturing in faith.

It begins to make sense, then, why the author lists all these things: “been enlightened, tasted the heavenly gift, shared in the Holy Spirit, tasted the goodness of the word of God,” before saying “and have fallen away.” Those making the claim that this includes people who have committed suicide neglect to see that this list is not one of marks of a true conversion gone bad, but of an unconverted person feigning conversion. Enlightened, tasted, and shared, in the original Greek, indicate less of a true partaker and more of an observer.

Let’s sit on the word “tasted” for a bit. Within the context of the passage itself, and indicated by the original text, “tasted” is not the same as “eaten” or “consumed”. Here is our first indication that this is not referring to a group of professing believers, but a group of observers who simply took part in the benefits of a Christian culture. They were enlightened to the logistics of the gospel. They enjoyed the benefits of Christ. They shared in the gifts and unity the Holy Spirit granted believers. They took the encouragement from the word of God. Then, just like the seeds in the parable of the sower that did not fall on the good soil (Matthew 13:1-23), they fell away when trouble hit.

What is “falling away”? We are given even more to what this list of traits means and to what this term “falling away” means in the verses that come after our passage, where the author illustrates what he is trying to say with an agricultural analogy.

“For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.” (Hebrews 6:7-8.)

Here we have two groups. The soil that receives rain and produces good fruit, and the soil that receives the same rain and produces thorns. The author is trying to make it clear, falling away is not one who has truly converted, produced fruit, and lost hope, but is one who was given all the resources for conversion, and produced no fruit.

Once again: the true gospel is not one where good works save, but one where there are inevitably good works as a result of salvation. If there is no fruit, there is no root, and that is what the author of Hebrews is confirming.

Therefore, it is impossible for someone who has received all of these resources for salvation, maybe even had a fake repentance of sins, and then to have fallen away (produced thorns), to be “restored again to repentance” – because you cannot restore someone to something they never had in the first place. He is saying that restoration of this group to a true repentance is a logistical impossibility because their first “repentance” was no repentance at all. If repentance was found, it would be for the first time.

One who has truly repented, and therefore was “crucified with Christ” and “raised to life in Him”, cannot once again crucify the Son of God. But someone who has not truly repented, and thus sins daily, growing their record of guilt, and instead of “taking up their cross” continues to live in the manner that sent Jesus to His cross, “are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt.”

So, the author of Hebrews is encouraging his readers to examine and test the validity of their faith, and to persevere in growing in maturity when trials come.

After the agricultural analogy, he takes time after the severe warning about false believers to give deep, deep encouragement to his audience, who he is confident are indeed true believers. (To see for yourself, read Hebrews 6:9-12; it is beautiful.)

Hebrews 10:35-39

We now move on to Hebrews 10:35-39. Before this passage, we have rich assurances of God’s promises and the perfect, undying high priest that is Jesus Christ, who will stand forever as our intermediary, undefiled and glorious. After all of this, we reach our passage.

“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For,
‘Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.’
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”

Hebrews 10:35-39

The key phrase being plucked out is “shrink back” – does this include someone who has committed suicide? Surely, one who gave in to despair and made an attempt on their own life has abandoned the hope of living. Surely, they cannot “live” by faith if they have died.

But this is simply a surface-level application of the passage to fit a narrative. Let’s break this down.

Verse 36b says, “When you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.” This does not say, “you will receive what is promised only if you do something.” “Done” is a word indicating that the will God has for their life is complete. And, as previously established, nothing we do grants us salvation. So, it is more accurate to interpret the meaning of this sentence to be, “You will receive what is promised once the will of God for you has been completed.” That is to confirm the rest of scripture that indicates God will not allow your life to end until He has seen it to completion. This also further bolsters the statement, “For you have need of endurance.” We need endurance to maintain a confident outlook as we are brought through our life to its end.

Now, the verse in question, which states, “My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” This is being read to say, “My righteous one shall live by faith, and if my righteous one shrinks back, my soul will no longer have pleasure in him.” But in reality, this reiterates what was stated in the passage we talked about in chapter 6. First, one that is marked righteous is righteous forever by the faithfulness of God and the eternal priesthood of Christ. Second, the author is looking at two groups: the group that produces fruit and the group that produces thorns. So this statement affirms his analogy earlier in the book: there is a group that falls under God’s righteous ones, and a group that shrinks back and meets destruction.

Therefore, we should not make the horrible mistake of reading this as a conditional statement, where a person once marked righteous by God will lose His pleasure if he shrinks back. Instead, we should read it as, “You will know my righteous one because he shall live by faith. If a man shrinks back, he is one in whom my soul finds no pleasure; he is not one of my righteous ones.”

So, is one who has committed suicide one who has “shrunk back”? It is difficult to say. First, there are those who have professed Christ and have made “unsuccessful” suicide attempts. Have they shrunk back? But instead of looking at their means of death, we are told here we should look at their means of life.

Did they produce fruit in life? Did they preach and profess Christ? Did they fight against sin?

If God permitted their attempt at suicide to result in death, that is His will, but death by an attempted suicide itself is not indicative of a faithless living.

The message of a living hope to the suicidal

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, I have two messages for you.

First, this does not mean you are lost from the sight of God. He sees you, He knows you. If you have professed Christ and have lived in obedience, these are meant to be signs of the fact that you are held in His hands.

Hear these words of encouragement from 1 John 2:12-14:

“I am writing to you, little children,
because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.
I am writing to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one.
I write to you, children,
because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God abides in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.”

1 John 2:12-14

The temptation to take your own life is simply that – a temptation to sin. A sin that you should not give in to. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2.) Walk in grace, hang on a bit longer, choose life to the glory of God.

As someone who has been in your position many times, the best advice I can give is to wait two weeks. Suicide attempts are often done in a moment of impulse, a moment of weakness after a long period of fighting these fatal desires. Like a bad craving, if given time, they often pass, or at least lessen to a manageable level. In those two weeks, pray. Test your faith. Go outside and take it in; God’s creation is meant to point to His goodness and He hides beautiful reflections of His loving nature in it (see and meditate on Psalm 8 and Psalm 145). And please, seek counseling. I will include resources at the end of this post.

I cannot tell you how much possibility life holds for beauty, to experience God’s glory and riches of His mercy. There is so much I would not have seen or experienced had I lost my life to these deadly moments of despair. Lamentations, a book of laments or weeping, contains within its sorrows this verse that many have quoted time and time again for its incredible picture of hope:

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”

Lamentations 3:22-23

Tomorrow, despairing believer. Sleep, wake, and look – the new mercies are there.

A message of hope to the surviving loved ones

God laughs when Satan thinks he’s won by convincing a believer to commit the sin of a suicide attempt that results in death. This is not meant to give the living freedom to commit the sinful act, but is instead meant to comfort the living who have lost fellow believers to suicide, and further affirm that the power of Christ’s death and resurrection is fully sufficient to save from all sin.

For the living, we press on in hope toward the goal, confident in this hope we have that gives new mercies every morning. Live by faith. In the wake of tragedy, preach hope. In the aftermath of death, live with unwavering faithfulness and in service to others. Cling, heed the call of the author of Hebrews and press on towards maturity of faith which further secures your wandering mind and testifies to the One who was faithful to you.

Practical Resources

Beyond the verses offered above, here are options you can take action on.

ACBC and CCEF are two Biblical counseling organizations that I strongly recommend looking into to find a certified counselor near you (ACBC will have more options, but if you are in range of CCEF, it is also worth looking into):

https://biblicalcounseling.com/counselors/
https://www.ccef.org/counseling/main-office/

If you struggle to find one near you, here is faithful online counseling:
https://www.faithfulcounseling.com

My Twitter and Instagram handle:
@helloemilyurban

Feel free to Tweet or DM me on Instagram. I will do what I can. I cannot guarantee a lot of time consistently, but I will try to offer hope as best I can and offer resources.

Look into a local church, and if you are uncertain of which to choose, I recommend narrowing it down to ones with keywords like “reformed” or “presbyterian” in the name or somewhere on their website. Connect with people there and voice your needs. It will take some time to integrate, but keep voicing that you need hope and answers. (On the flip side, fellow believers, listen to your fellow church attendees and give of your time and energy to show love. Do not be restrictive because it is inconvenient to you. This is how the world will know us and Christ, is by our love for one another. John 13:35. Shame on us if we do not answer the call for love from a person in despair.)

I hope and pray this post, although lengthy, has communicated hope, deep love, edification, and the good news of who Christ is and the life He offers. To God be the glory.

I will end with a verse that God has used in my life to keep me alive in some of my worst seasons:

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Emily

25-year-old vagabond making my way home. I write from the midwest on the coast of Lake Michigan about life lessons, my failures, and what God reveals to me through His word and the wise people He’s placed in my life.

May 8, 2019

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