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.
Thank you, Jeff.
It was an email from you, much like this one, several years ago that broke the heavy chains off my neck and let me free myself from the shame and guilt of the false teachings of the church.
I was being crushed under the knowledge that after nearly 30 years of praying and scripture study this abusive husband was worse than ever, more evil, more cruel, more abusive.
I knew he could never be saved and only escape could save me and my kids, but fear, and rebuke from church friends, and false hope because of “God can save anyone” was keeping me trapped in sins unto death.
No, wives, do not feel guilt that you can not win him over with your meek and quiet spirit when God can not even win that man over. You are not more powerful than God.
You were not created to die for your husband’s sins that he might be saved. He has rejected the Christ that came to save his soul.
Seeing your suffering will not soften his heart and convict him to repent. Evil men love to see suffering.
God will not save him. But God wants to save the abuse victim who is staying thinking she is somehow pleasing her God.
Thank you a million times, Jeff, you have changed the generations of my family with your bold truth telling.
We are grateful more than you can ever know.
Wingingit- so great to hear this. Thankyou!!!
“Seeing your suffering will not soften his heart and convict him to repent.”
So true! How many times can a wife say, “That was hurtful”, only to be met with a void of understanding? If a person is unable to see how they inflict pain, they see no cause for remorse or repentence.
Yep. When Eli rebuked his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, the bible says that they didn’t listen, because they were so wicked that God would delight in killing them (1 Sam. 2:25). They were the priests of God!
For those with tender consciences who fear that God might have cast them off, though, those whom the Bible says God HAS cast off NEVER have the twinge of conscience or the desire to humble themselves before God in repentance, although they are good at pretending. Even in hell, they are gnashing their teeth in anger, for in hell all pretense is taken away.
Thank you Sam. Excellent example.
God reveals Himself to us in countless ways, but He does not impose Himself upon us, as we see in Luke 10 and elsewhere.
The wicked choose for themselves – every minute of every day – but there are natural and supernatural consequences that come with those choices.
We have both a right and an obligation to allow them to reap what they have sown.
So true — I agree with all that has been said on this post. I prayed and prayed for the evil abuser phony youth minister to change—to listen to the god he professed to believe in. I prayed for the ministry team (fake friends) that he used as his allies against me to open their eyes repent and see the truth. I thank God I’ve been free from abuse for many years. But still None of that fake ministry group of wolves have ever repented and it’s been years. They are still in church leadership positions. Still conning people. The abuser himself has gotten worse. He is now a white collar criminal committing crimes just under the radar of law enforcement. Do the fake ministry team members know? Of course they have to know. And they secretly support the abuser criminal. They truly get worse. My prayers for their repentance were not answered and never will be because they are reprobates. They will never repent and be saved. They will continue to be used by the devil to bring harm to the remnant the true church. It’s disgusting!!!
What you describe IS disgusting. But nothing escapes God’s notice. He sees it all, and those people will one day be exposed for who they really are. It’s sad on the one hand, but God gives such pretenders every opportunity to repent and do the right thing.
They may never change or come clean with you or anyone else in this life, but they will one day give an account before the One they foolishly believe is blind to their wickedness.
I am more than sure my anti-husband will be one of the ones gnashing his teeth in hell, and most likely shaking his fist at God and yelling at his creator. I have always believed 2Thess. will apply to him. He received not the love of the truth to be saved. When the final trumpet blows, he will be deluded and believe what is false. The Antichrist he will bow down to! He actually told me years ago that he did not care if he goes to hell. This is a man who sat in church every Sunday and partook in water baptism. He saw many of God’s miracles in situations in his life and still wants nothing of the free gift of salvation. He has become more wicked with each year that has gone by. I truly believe that there is more hope for a fool than him.
Yes God can change anyone… that is… **IF they genuinely repent before God and those they offended**. This second part is missing in that statement. Why? Because churches have a distorted view of God and His holy character. They’ve twisted the teachings of salvation, of love and justice into their own liking thus fabricated an idol.
For instance, they use the parable of “the wheat and the tares” to forbid you from any attempt of discerning between true and false brothers, teachers, prophets, etc. that the apostle Paul did warn us about!
I was told by a pastor that it was “my calling” to suffer in my marriage and my duty to hold the fort for the salvation of my husband. All the while the narcissic fake Christian was left on the loose, on his rampage at home, but charming everybody outside. Never mind I was being crushed bit by bit and murdered every day .
1. My abuser has never changed, only getting worse.
2. My marriage to the abuser didn’t need to be fixed, praise God who ended it!
Hard to hear, but so many of us need it to be stated so clearly.
I pray for the ability to truly and completely accept this truth. I believe it is key to moving forward and healing.
Thank you for standing firmly on God’s Word.
One of the issues I see with the subject is the idea that “nothing is impossible for God”, and “that if you had enough faith you could move mountains”, so, and I’ve heard it, “it is God promise to restore every marriage”, and “it is your duty to pray with faith for the conversion of that sinner”, and eventually no matter how much time passes that person is going to change, because “that is God’s promise”. Or the idea that if God can forgive your sins, who are you to not forgive the sins of others, like I read it from a Christian fellow, “God has the authority to be unforgiving, but we should always forgive even if the other person never repents”. Those are some of the ideas I’ve seen held in relation with these subjects.
Pastor Jeff, your site and understanding of these matters are like fresh air. Thank you for your love and work in the body of Christ.
Justme – These are perfect examples of the twisted things people put the spin on and confuse us with. Thank you.