I received this excellent question from an abuse survivor recently. Many thanks to her for thinking about this. The common wrong answer we hear repeated like a mantra by professing Christians is one that keeps the innocent in bondage to the wicked so often. Here is her question and my reply –
I’ve been pondering how christians usually say that ‘God can change anyone’.
I’m fairly certain my ex husband is a sociopath, at the very least a narcissist and I do believe the bible refers to these people as the ‘wicked’ and ‘fools’.
So my question is, do you think there is a difference between what the bible calls the wicked, and ordinary ‘sinners’?
When I read in psalms etc, it seems to convey that God is very angry with the wicked and has no intention of saving them or wanting to save them.
So do you think they are in a separate class all of their own to general ‘sinners’ (those lost without Christ and leading a sinful life, loving the world etc, but not generally going out of their way to maliciously destroy people as a pattern of life).
That is an important question.
Yes, there are different classes of sinners in God’s reckoning.
Luke 10:10-14 ESV But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, (11) ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ (12) I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. (13) “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. (14) But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.
In other words, people who have received clear knowledge of Christ, knowing full well that He is the truth, who have had lots of confirming evidence right in front of their eyes, will be judged more evil and therefore deserving of more of God’s righteous justice than people, say, who have the knowledge of God from seeing His creation in nature but reject it.
Here is another that says the same thing-
Hebrews 6:4-8 ESV 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, (5) and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, (6) 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. (7) 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. (8) But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.
Such people are the ones Jesus meant when He said- (to the evil people who had just seen Him do a miracle right in front of them and yet said He did it by Satan’s power)-
Matthew 12:31-32 ESV Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (32) And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
So, it is absolutely wrong to say “God can save everyone.” Because He has resolved not to save people like this. Your ex and sociopaths like him, have heard the gospel. Most of the ones who have abused the people I try to help claim to be Christians. Many are pastors or elders or church members. They quote Bible verses. They spew theology and doctrine. And yet in spite of knowing all this, they choose to reject Christ and oppress the innocent. God cannot save such people because He WILL not save them. He cannot save them because He cannot save the unrepentant, and these kind never repent.
I have actually talked with one or two abuse victims who still cling to the insistence that “there is no one God cannot save, so I am going to keep trusting Him to save my husband.” And they got angry with me when I told them their abuser is never going to change and God is not going to save them and as long as they keep insisting on telling God what He is going to do, they are going to remain in bondage to the abuser.
1 John 5:16 ESV If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
In light of the other scriptures I have quoted above, I have no doubt that John is referring to people like your ex who know – they clearly know Christ’s truth – and yet they willfully reject it. That is the sin that leads to death and John says here that we are not to pray for such people. God cannot save them because He will not save them. They will not ever repent.
So we could say that God can save any sinner EXCEPT the sinner who sins this sin that leads to death. Such a person are just like Esau –
Hebrews 12:15-17 ESV See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; (16) that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. (17) For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Finally, as you pointed out in respect to many of the Psalms, God cannot save these evil people because He has resolved to visit His final wrath upon them. That is to say, these wicked ones have “crossed the line.” Let me show you some more examples:
Jeremiah 7:16-20 ESV “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. (17) Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? (18) The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. (19) Is it I whom they provoke? declares the LORD. Is it not themselves, to their own shame? (20) Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, my anger and my wrath will be poured out on this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruit of the ground; it will burn and not be quenched.”
Jeremiah 15:1 ESV Then the LORD said to me, “Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my heart would not turn toward this people. Send them out of my sight, and let them go!
2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 ESV Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, (12) in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Your ex is never going to repent. God cannot save him because he (your ex) will not repent. This is why I always tell abuse victims:
1. Your abuser is never going to change. Abusers never change.
2. A marriage to an abuser doesn’t need to be fixed, it needs to be ended.
I hope that helps. I have found these truths to be very, very freeing.