In June of 1998, an article appeared in the Beacon Lights entitled, “Do Christians Who Commit Suicide Go To Hell?” The article was a brief answer to this question. I would like to begin this “closer look” by answering that same question.
The question, as posed, can be very easily and very quickly answered. No! Not one Christian will ever “go to hell,” regardless of the way in which he/she died. By Christian I refer to those in whom the Spirit of God has implanted faith. I cite Philippians 1:6 as an absolute assurance that God will cause all His children to persevere in faith. “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ….” God saves His people by implanting faith and completing His work in every one of His people, until “the day of Jesus Christ.” This is an assurance of perseverance in faith, not an assurance of insulation from sin, or the miseries that are attendant thereto! Many more passages could be cited which demonstrate the perseverance of the saints, I will assume that this doctrine is not under dispute and plunge forward.
That was easy to answer, but perhaps what was really intended in the original question was, “Is it possible for a Christian to commit suicide?” This question is more difficult to answer. After searching Scripture, I find no passage which would suggest that there is one particular transgression against the law from which all those in whom faith has been planted will be insulated. To commit suicide is a sin against the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” It is the sin of self-murder. If we search our own souls, we know that we ourselves have committed murder against our neighbors and against ourselves, if not in deed, then in thought and word. Is the offense of thought and word less to God? Are there degrees of transgression against His law?
If we consider the sixth commandment as the one among ten to which the believer must hold perfectly to be regenerated, we must wrestle with many, many Scripture passages. But consider now, Romans 2:1-4 “Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” Holy Writ knows nothing of the believer who has conquered any part of the law! Christ, for His people has conquered every part of the law!
We have ample evidence from Scripture that the flesh will always, on this earth, be at war with the Spirit, or the “new man.” To verify, look up Romans 7:18-25. Perhaps even more striking, we know from our own lives that the sin which “we would not, that we do.” We generally acknowledge that the “old man,” at war with the Spirit can manifest itself in outward acts of theft, false witness and adultery (and many others). We have in fact the record of King David, a man after God’s own heart, committing active, open and conscious adultery and murder. The sins of David to which I refer were not momentary, but somewhat protracted. Then came that blessed day for David; God sent the prophet Nathan. The sin David was ready to condemn in another, he now (finally) saw in himself. But then we come to another frequent argument with respect to suicide. We might say, “yes, David committed the sin of murder, but he also repented, a record of which is believed to be found in Psalm 51.” The sin of self-murder allows for no opportunity of repentance, is it then possible for such a one to be with the Lord? (Of course this begs another question: Was David unsaved during the period of time he was unrepentant?)
We must turn to Scripture and query, did Christ die only for the sins which we have verbally or consciously repented of? Or asked in another way, “Must a Christian die in a state of outward or visible repentance to realize his (supposed) salvation?” If this is so, every Christian can be assured that his salvation is not come out of Zion! Not one Christian is conscious of a fraction of those sins which he has committed. We could never say with confidence, “Christ is my Savior”. We could say, “Christ is my Savior, providing I, in my flesh, can maintain an outward or visible manifestation of repentance.” (A major work!) Scripture does not allow this. Even if we knew every sin, could we be sure that we would not die during the commission of some sin?
Consider this actual example: A teenage son, in rebellion and anger toward his parents, (ultimately toward God), broke the Sabbath by skipping church and going swimming with his “friends.” As a result of a dive off the dock, his neck was broken and he was killed immediately. Let us apply the logic often used with suicide, to this example: a) It is sin to break the Sabbath day, b) the teenage son died in the commission of that sin, c) the teenage son was unable to repent of that particular sin, d) the teenage son must have been unregenerate, e) all those who break the Sabbath, and die as a direct result thereof, are unregenerate. There is no Scripture passage that would allow us to “leap that high.” Neither the means by which death came, nor the visible evidence of repentance prove the case. (Unless of course you are a Roman Catholic and hold to the erroneous doctrine of mortal and venial sins.) The work of God, found in the heart, by God, proves the case. It is remarkable how our own sins appear so “forgivable” to us, but when they are the sins of another (different from our own), we flippantly stand in the place of God and seek to wield His Law.
The above logic is often applied to the Scriptural references to Saul and Judas, both of whom committed suicide. It is true that the Scriptures seem to indicate that both men were unregenerate. Jesus calls Judas the ‘son of perdition’. And God’s words to Samuel, about Saul, are not at all encouraging. What was the cause of their unregenerate state? Faith was never implanted in them. If Saul and Judas are in hell, it is because they were at enmity with God and His work was not found in them. To take a “hermeneutical gymnastic leap” and conclude from these two examples that all who die by suicide are unregenerate, is to presuppose that the work of grace was prohibited by the sin of suicide. Now we’ve stepped in a mine field! Scripture clearly states that all transgression is equally damning before the Law of God, we would have to conclude that the work of grace is prohibited by all sin. When God’s people are found (in spite of immeasurable sin), in heaven, it will be because God found His work in our hearts. He will find the seed of faith which He planted, watered and nurtured to the exact measure which He intended. If He planted it, He will find it, regardless of any sin which His wretched children have committed.
Repentance is not merely an act which we perform, due to the implanting of faith. We see this in the Scriptural example of the thief on the cross. His heart turned from sin, and Christ the Lord recognized that work of His own. There was no opportunity for verbal communication of repentance, much less a conscious effort to tally his sins. Normally, in the life of a believer we do hear and see outward evidence of repentance. We know, however, that God’s work of grace, in the heart, is not dependent on rational functioning of the mind, the absence of sin or the visible manifestation of repentance, to be efficacious. This can be clearly recognized by a short visit to a respected and loved saint, spending his/her later years in senility. Such a one can exhibit bizarre and uninhibited sin, be devoid of rational thought and all the while visibly (to us) unconscious of the faith long professed and lived. Is the work of grace in the heart destroyed or prohibited by the miseries and sins which are manifested in the human mind and body, due to a myriad of external and internal causes?
Thanks be to God, that in spite of the knowledge of our great sin, and diverse disease, we might say (confidently) with the Psalmist, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;” We can say this not because we have the assurance that in this life we are delivered from sin and sorrow, but because His Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are the sons of God. Some striking words are given to the Israelites as they prepare to enter Canaan. These words apply not only to Israel (the nation), but to every child of God. “Remember, and forget not, how thou provokedst the Lord thy God to wrath in the wilderness: from the day that thou didst depart out of the land of Egypt, until ye came unto this place, ye have been rebellious against the Lord,” (Deuteronomy 9:8).
I have frequently heard it said that the Word of God gives us little or no guidance on the sin of suicide. I couldn’t disagree more. The sin of murder (in any form) is clearly sin. The wages of sin is clearly death. Salvation is clearly of grace. Our Savior is clearly full of grace. The lives of God’s people will clearly be inundated with sin and disease of every kind. What more do we ask of His Word? Could it be, perhaps, that we want just ‘one little thing’ that we can bring before the judgement seat, other than Christ? “Well yes, He’s my Savior. I mean, I did skip church a few times, I lied a little, I was rebellious once, and OK, I admit it, I got drunk a few times. OK, I transgressed all the laws! But I never committed suicide!” Again, Scripture is clear, you can come with nothing but Christ.
It is possible that a child of God, either willfully, in great sin and rebellion; or unwillfully, as in disease of the mind (depression, dementia, senility, schizophrenia, etc.), would commit suicide in deed. It is probable that every child of God has committed suicide in his heart or by his word.
When we speak as if we know that all (self)murderers, (all liars, all adulterers, all thieves, etc.) are in hell, we begin to play the part of God. We do this knowing that we are equally culpable before the Law of God. We trifle with the Law of God. This sin is unforgivable. We trifle with the power of grace. Grace requires the rational or conscious exercise of the mind to be effective. We trifle with repentance. Repentance must be verbal or visible. We trifle with the judgment of God. Such sin leads straight to hell! I ask you. Which sin doesn’t lead straight to hell?
God is the judge. God knows. After all of human history has passed, and all the words have been spoken, and all the ‘dirty deeds’ are done; it won’t have been about us, and it won’t have been about the self-murderer, it was, is and always will be about Christ. What a Savior He is! ❖