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Is it an unforgivable sin to commit suicide?
Dr Alex Tang
We shall consider this statement in by searching the Bible to see what was written about suicide and an unforgivable sin. There are seven incidents of suicides in the Scriptures.
1. Suicide of Abimelech
The first chronologically mentioned is Abimelech. After capturing the city of Thebez, he attacked a fortified tower in the centre of the city. The Old Testament noted “ Abimelech went to the tower and stormed it. But as he approached the entrance to the tower to set it on fire, a woman dropped an upper millstone on his head and cracked his skull. Hurriedly he called to his armor-bearer, “Draw your sword and kill me, so that they can’t say, ‘A woman killed him’.” So his servant ran him through, and he died.” (Judges 9:52-54). Scripture neither approves nor disapproves of this act of assisted suicide. It was noted as a fitting end to an evil man. “Thus God repaid the wickedness that Abimelech has done to his father by murdering his seventy brothers.” (Judges 9:56).
2. Suicide of Samson
The next suicide though arguably as there was a good cause and with divine sanction, was that of Samson. “Then Samson reached towards the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived” (Judges 16: 29-30) Scripture passed no judgement on his act of suicide.
3. Suicide of Saul and his armour bearer
The suicide of Saul and his armour bearer elicit more comment.
‘The fighting grew fierce around Saul, and when the archers overtook him, they wounded him critically. Saul said to his armor-bearer, Draw your sword and run me through, or these uncircumcised fellows will come and run me through and abuse me”. But his armor-bearer was terrified and would not do it; so Saul took his own sword and fell on it. When the armor-bearer saw that Saul was dead, he too fell on his own sword and died with him.’ (1Samuel 31: 3-5).
Saul is condemned in 1 Chronicles 10:13-14, Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord; he did not keep the word of the Lord and even consulted a medium for guidance, and did not inquire of the Lord. So the Lord put him to death and turned the kingdom over to David son of Jesse.
Even though Saul killed himself by his own sword, the chronicler noted that God himself killed Saul for his unfaithfulness. His armor-bearer chooses to die with his king, an example of suicide by identification. There was no comment on it in the Scriptures.
4. Suicide of Ahithopel
Ahithophel was King David’s counsellor. He became Absalom’s when Absalom rebelled against his father. David prayed that God would turn Ahithphel’s counsel into foolishness (2 Samuel 15:31b). When Ahithophel found that his advice was ignored by Absalom, he hanged himself.(2 Sam 17:23). Again, there was no comment in the Scriptures about his actions.
5. Suicide of Zimri
Zimri came to the throne of Israel by assassination. The Israelites rebelled and besieged his city of Tirzah. “When Zimri saw that the city was taken, he went into the citadel of the royal palace and set the palace on fire around him. So he died, because the sins he had committed, doing evil in the eyes of the Lord and walking in the ways of Jeroboam and in the sin he has committed and had caused Israel to commit.” (1Kings 16:18-20). Here it was noted that his death was judgment for his sins.
6. Suicide of Judas Iscariot
Judas Iscariot was the only suicide mentioned in the New Testament. When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned, he was filled with remorse and tried to return the money. Then he went and hanged himself. (Matt 27:3-5) There was no further comment on Judas in the Scripture, except that his apostleship was given to Matthias (Acts 1: 23-26).
It is interesting to note that in this brief survey of the seven suicides recorded in the Scriptures; the suicides of Abimelech, Saul and Zimri were recorded as direct judgment of God on their sins, even going as far as to say God killed Saul. The Scriptures were silent on the other four suicides, although the silence of Scripture is not the basis for positive argument, especially when the ignoble context in each case speaks for themselves.
Is there so grave a sin that God cannot forgive? The Bible notes that God has forgiven all our sins--past, present, and future (Colossians 2:13-14). Paul says in Romans 8:38-39 that nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. The Bible does not use the phrase “unforgivable sin” but however there are some verses which are frequently associated with the “unforgivable sin.” These are Mark 3: 22-30, Matthew 12:31-32, Luke 12: 8-10, Hebrews 6: 4-8, and Hebrews 10: 26-29.
"And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, 'He has Beelzebub,' and, 'By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.' …'Assuredly, I [Jesus] say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation;' because they said, 'He has an unclean spirit'" (NKJV).
"Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come" (NKJV).
Note that in the above two passages and in Luke 12:8-10, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees who had set themselves against believing that Jesus is the Messiah. The driving out of demons by Jesus is a demonstration of His being the Messiah. Instead the Pharisees attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to the work of Satan!
Obviously, this “unforgivable sin” has nothing to do with committing suicide. Suicide is the last thing on these Pharisees’ minds as they planned to resist Jesus which ultimately let them to plot Jesus’ murder. So what does Jesus means when he mentions a sin that cannot be forgiven? Pastor/Theologian John Piper defines this “unforgivable sin” as “the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws for ever with his convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.” Listen or read his excellent sermon, Beyond Forgiveness: Blasphemy against the Spirit <http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/resources/beyond-forgiveness-blasphemy-against-the-spirit>here.
In summary, suicide is not the unforgivable sin. It is however a sin against God who created us in his own image. It is also sin against our spouses, families and communities because of the tremendous emotional and psychological scars a suicide leaves behind.
|05 October 2010|
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