May 21, 2020

Is Suicide the Unpardonable Sin?

Nathan W. Bingham & Sinclair Ferguson
Is Suicide the Unpardonable Sin?

Christians disagree about whether or not suicide is the unpardonable sin. But what does Scripture say? Today, Sinclair Ferguson brings the truth of God’s Word to bear on this serious subject.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: I'm here on the Ligonier campus with one of our teaching fellows, Dr. Sinclair Ferguson. Dr. Ferguson, is suicide the unpardonable sin?

DR. SINCLAIR FERGUSON: Nathan, that's a big question, and it's a very sensitive question for some of us because we've known people who have taken their own lives. And I think the first thing to say is, suicide is not the unpardonable sin because we know what the unpardonable sin actually is. Jesus tells us in Mark 3 in the passage beginning at verse 22 that the unpardonable sin is the rejection of Jesus Christ and responding to Him or treating Him essentially as though He were demonic. That is very clearly stated. So, suicide is not the unpardonable sin.

Second thing I think to say is sometimes people's views of this are clouded by the fact that Judas committed suicide. But Judas committed suicide out of despair of the fact that he had betrayed Jesus, because actually he had been indwelt by Satan. It's the only person in the New Testament of whom we read that Satan actually entered into him. So in many ways we might say Judas is such a unique case. He was not clean, Jesus says. Judas is such a unique case that we shouldn't explore the question through the lenses of Judas Iscariot.

I think the third thing to say is that every breach of any commandment is a sin. Our catechisms tell us that all of the breaches of the commandments are sin, and that taking our own life is a sin. But we mustn't think of suicide, although it is so serious in a sense, it is. It's irreparable from one point of view. But what if a man died when he was coveting? We might say, "Well, that's not such a serious sin," but it's still sin. And one small sin sinks us for all eternity unless there is forgiveness with God.

And so I think that helps us to understand that taking your own life does not belong entirely to a category of its own. And then I think we need to ask questions as to how is it this happens. And the reason it often happens is because people despair of getting help. And so I think if someone takes their own life, one of the questions we need to ask is actually the question, if God promises to provide a way of escape and we were supposed to be that way of escape, then we bear a huge responsibility. We might even say we bear a responsibility for our sin that we were not able to get through sufficiently to that person. That He knew that we would take all the inconveniences that were necessary to hold them up.

I think of a friend I had, a minister who was a kind of pied piper with youngsters; this would be more than forty years ago now. He took his own life. I just remember thinking, "How can it be that this man who was so loved didn't know sufficiently that he was loved enough by us, that we would hold him up?" And I think the reason was because we didn't really display that kind of love.

So I think my bottom-line answer is I believe that man is in heaven. I've known other people who have taken their lives and I don't understand fully; I have known people who have been driven to that edge, and my heart has broken for them. I have never myself been there. But I realize how dark that world is. And I also realize how the evil one can so easily cloud their minds into thinking that life will be better for everyone if they are not part of it. And since we all sin that way in lesser ways, I think we need to be profoundly sensitive to the darkness into which a saint can actually fall. And there is a question surrounding that that I cannot answer: Why does God in His sovereignty permit these things? And that's a question I think we just have to leave with the Lord.