Hope for So Great a Sinner

by | Jan 1, 2013

Question: “I am in great distress, having been pardoned and baptized with the Holy Spirit, a happy, aggressive Christian worker, then knowingly and deliberately committing sin and repeating it for months and years. Do you think there is any hope for so great a sinner?”

Answer: Your case is a very sad one, but I see one ray of hope. Your desire to be restored to the state from which you have fallen is an indication that the Holy Spirit has not left you. He who commits the irremissible sin has, we are told, no longing for restoration.

Hebrew 6:4- 8 may be quoted against our position, but this text does not apply to you because you are not “crucifying the Son of God afresh,” but rather you are earnestly seeking Him as your Savior.

Hebrews 10:26-32 has also a present tense denoting persistent sinning: “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins.”

It should also be borne in mind that the apostasy of a Christian Hebrew is the rejection of the Christian system and return to Judaism, in which such an apostate will find no effectual sacrifice for sin. But should he return to Christ, He will not cast him out:

There’s a wideness in God’s mercy


Like the wideness of the sea.

The adversary, the devil, often tempts backsliders to believe that they have committed the unpardonable sin. A dying sailor once said to me, “There is no mercy for me. I have broken all of God’s Laws.” But when I quoted the divine promises, his despair was changed into faith in Christ. He found pardon and died in peace.

My advice to you, sorrowing inquirer, is to go to Jesus saying, “If I perish I will pray and perish only there.”

Depth of mercy! Can there be


Mercy still reserved for me?


Can my God His wrath forebear?


Me the chief of sinners spare?


I have long withstood His grace,


Long provoked Him to His face.


Would not hearken to His calls,


Grieved Him by a thousand falls.


Now incline me to repent;


Let me now my sins lament,


Now my foul revolt deplore,


Weep, believe, and sin no more.


Kindled His relentings are;


Me He now delights to spare;


Cries, “How shall I give thee up?”


Lets the lifted thunder drop.


There for me the Savior stands,


Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.


God is love! I know, I feel;


Jesus weeps and loves me still.


—Charles Wesley

Dr. Daniel Steele (1824–1914) was a Methodist clergyman, author, and educator who took a prominent role in the 19th-century American holiness movement. This selection is from Steele’s Answers (Christian Witness Co., 1912), edited by Larry D. Smith. The appended hymn, “Depth of Mercy,” was written by the great Methodist hymn writer Charles Wesley.