We’ve often heard it said: “God is a God of second chances”. For those who have stumbled in life, they find great comfort in the idea that God allows a person the opportunity to hit the reset button and start their game over.
Like many lies, they are often built on partial truths—so it is in this case. The belief that God has made a way to grant a person forgiveness from sins, along with a promise of a new beginning, is right and true. In this sense, there is hope for an opportunity to get it right.
That hope is defined by the Cross. What Jesus did by giving up his life on our behalf, to pay for the penalty before God for our sins, created an open door for grace, through faith in his resurrection to eternal life at the right hand of God.
Those who recognize their dire condition as a sinner before a holy God, and accept what Jesus Christ did, become Christians. Such believers in God, who respond to this message of the Gospel as defined in Scripture, are granted complete forgiveness for their sins. They begin a new life, a second chance to live in right relationship with their Creator.
However, that is not how this popular phrase is often used. Biblically speaking, this is not a second chance. Grace is a first and only chance!
This distinction has to do with how God defines his own message of grace. You cannot find within God’s recorded words the phrase (or similar wording): God is a God of second chances, because that is a humanistic idea. It is a man-made concept that has an appearance of religion, but actually defies what God himself declares about grace.
Since the Fall into sin by Adam and Eve, all of humanity enters this world in a condition of sinfulness before God. We don’t start life with any chance at righteousness. We start without hope beyond this fleshly existence. Without Christ, and without his Cross, we are doomed to destruction.
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient…like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (Eph 2:1-12)
That hopeless condition didn’t have a chance, until Jesus, who was ordained to be crucified from before the world was even created. As it states in verse 4-5, within the above passage,
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
That grace is the first and only chance at true life with God. This truth is not something that many want to hear.
The common preference is to use the idea of God granting second chances to convey the belief that when they sin, God will continually give them another chance. There is no boundary in this phrase, such that a third, forth, or continual chances are promised to be granted. The idea is that there are no limits to forgiveness, or as some have repackaged it: “you can’t sin your way out of the kingdom of God”. But that is not what Scripture teaches.
Remember, the idea of having a chance with God is defined by the Cross, not by popular philosophy. For those who come to Christ and accept his grace as provided through the Cross, this is what God declares about that first chance:
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted of the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Heb 6:4-6)
Many false teachers denounce this word of God, because it clearly refutes their popular ideology. If a person actually comes to faith in Jesus, but later falls away from what God expects from their faith, they will never be granted a second opportunity. God is a God of one chance! There is only one Cross, and it can be applied only one time. This is why the Spirit of God declares: “And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” According to the Bible, there is no second chance!
Rather, what God says is to be expected, for those who have started in faith, but then turned their backs on the truth, is:
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:26-27)
In explanation of the above disturbing revelation regarding those who have been enlightened in knowing Christ, but are compared to land upon which God graciously pours out rain:
“Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned.” (Heb 6:7-8)
The idea above, that God expects a return of fruitfulness from those to whom he grants forgiveness and grace, is often rejected by popular preaching today. However, that is what God says. In fact, he makes it very clear that this grace can not only be rejected after one has initially accepted it, if a person does so, they will never be able to come back to God again. It is over, even if their physical life continues to tick toward their end.
As Paul warned several churches, “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God”. And as Jesus himself revealed, “He who puts his hand to the plow, but then looks back, is no longer fit for the kingdom of God.” They are considered by God the same as those who commit the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, for which they will never be forgiven either in this life or the next. And, as church members are again warned, “See that no one is…godless like Esau…He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears.”
Even Peter reveals this distinction regarding the limits of grace, as he applies it to ministers who are not teaching or doing what is right before God. They deceive their followers with promises of freedom from the burden of past failures, but they misrepresent the gospel in their effort to attract members to their church and readers to their books and money into their pockets—or what many would call evidences of ministerial success:
“These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them.” (2 Peter 2:17-21)
Notice that Peter identifies these preachers as having actually known Jesus as Lord and Savior. They had been given their one chance, but their teachings emphasized freedom, but not within the limits taught by God. Rather, they distorted the gospel into a license for Christians to live however they want, under the belief that God always gives second chances. They believed in Jesus, but refused to remain submissive to his teachings on grace, and in the end, they (and those who accept their teachings) are guaranteed blackest darkness.
This idea of second chances is often promoted as justification for excusing the pattern of sin in a person’s life. The belief is that God will always forgive them, if they ask for it, but that is not what the Bible reveals. As John warned Christians about how to evaluate true believers in church from false:
“No one who lives in him [Christ] keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. He who does what is sinful is of the devil…no one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God” (1 Jn 3:7-10)
The Apostle of love, is blunt. Those in the church who demonstrate a pattern of repeated sin belong to the devil, not to God. It is the evidence of their “continuing to sin”, that betrays their deception in thinking they are Christians, but are not. With their words they may want to be considered as Christians who are assured salvation, “but by their actions they deny God”, and are viewed by the Lord as detestable and unfit to enter his kingdom.
There is nothing there about second chances at sinning and getting continual do-overs with God. Christians have one shot through faith in Jesus. The Cross is a one-time application. That is what the Bible declares, even though many churches distort this truth.
God is a God of One Chance, and that chance is Jesus. He is the only door through which any human, at any point in earthly history, can find hope in eternal life beyond their penalty for sin. All hope must find its source and justification in Jesus, in his life and words as represented in the Cross.
The error that many fall into is in measuring their apparent chances according to their own successes and failures. In other words, they assume that each time they are confronted with sin, that is a new chance. They fail at marriage, so they think their second chance is found in a second marriage. They fail at raising kids to know Jesus, so they think their second chance is in leading a church youth group. They assume that each time they fall back into drug use, or pornography, or lying, or cheating, or stealing, is another chance to come back to God. They think that getting baptized, then turning away to their own interests, and then coming back to church is a second chance, but these are not right. Most who use the phrase of “a God of second chances” are speaking about their desire to get right again, but all these are self measurements.
Again, Jesus is that chance, not you or what you do. Our chance with God is not defined by our actions or choices; it is only determined by who Jesus is. He is that one door, that only chance to belong to God, to be saved. This is not to suggest that our choices have no eternal impact, as many falsely teach, but rather that they are not the determining cause of righteous standing before God. Don’t make the mistake of measuring by yourself.
When it comes to understanding this one chance, the truth is found in what it means to accept the Cross. His sacrifice is sufficient to cover for all sin, every failure of natural condition, of every past sin, of any sin we commit after having come to faith, and even over any future sins we have yet to slip upon. God does not place a limit on the number of times we can come back to him in repentance for falling into sin, but he does warn against a pattern of repetition that reveals a distorted desire to maintain our deviant behavior in defiance against “cutting off the hand that offends”. The point here is that God is very merciful and forgiving to those who genuinely hate their sin and desire to remain under the grace of Christ.
Those who come to recognize that Jesus is Lord and Savior are granted their chance at eternity with God. That is their one opportunity. It will never come back around again. Today is their day. That recognition is not the same thing, however, as acceptance. It simply means that God has spiritually opened their eyes to be able to see Jesus for who he is. That awareness will only ever happen once.
Read the parable of the soils, if you are in doubt. As Jesus declared: If you don’t understand this, how will you understand anything I say? This parable is key to understanding how it is that a person can hear the gospel, even come to accept it, but then not reach the end with entrance into the kingdom.
Not everyone who physically hears the gospel is simultaneously granted the ears to hear—that can only come from God, not from the lips of man. Not every kid that grows up in church is confronted with their one chance, even if they have gained knowledge of Jesus and have been blessed as one considered holy before God—for each person must be called by God. However, when God does grant that blessed calling, it is that singular moment of truth.
If they reject Jesus at any point thereafter, they will never be given a second chance. The Bible states that they have treated the sacrifice of Jesus as unholy and are subjecting him to repeated public disgrace and God will not allow that to ever happen again. Whether or not you like to hear this, you are not worth that—no one is worth shaming Jesus again. His suffering on the Cross was one time for all, and never again—not in history, and not in personal application.
Be warned. Do not subject Jesus to disgrace again on your behalf. Submit fully to him and never turn away from that commitment. His one-time sacrifice on that Cross is completely sufficient and powerful to take care of everything you need. The covenant he makes with such a believer is defined from that point on as covered under his eternal blood—blood that was spilled in suffering under the wrath of God, and an eternal life that is now resurrected to intervene and provide everything you need from here on out.
So what about sin after this profession of faith? The message of grace has an answer for that, but don’t be deceived by those who twist the gospel into it’s-all-good messages or sin-doesn’t-matter doctrines. Christians still stumble in sin, but that ought to be increasingly rare in one in whom the Seed of God dwells. Nevertheless, it does happen, so then what? Do we need a second chance? NO. A faithful Christian remains under the blood covering, so they don’t need to hit the start-over button. What they need to do, is cry out for forgiveness upon the basis of the eternal blood of Jesus that they remain under.
A believer comes under the Lordship of Jesus through faith as demonstrated in baptism, and even when they thereafter sin, they remain under his authority and covering of righteousness. Sin strains that relationship, but it does not automatically break it. Please be careful here, do not jump to conclusions on what this means. Sin in a believer strains, but doesn’t of itself separate. It inhibits the blessing of an open relationship, but it doesn’t immediately cause that covenant relationship to break, because our identity as believers is established on the righteousness of Christ.
If left untreated, however, it will eventually destroy that relationship. Believers are only assured to remain free from condemnation, if they remain “in him”. Those who disown him, he also will disown them—that is what God himself declares. It is not the sin itself that is the real problem—it is the refusal to repent and stay under Jesus. Those who persist in their sin, push God further and further away, until eventually he will grant them what they desire—to exist in rejection of Jesus who died for them.
“They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” (2 Pet 2:1)
Those “among you” who were bought with the blood of Jesus, but who insist on pursuing selfish agendas and twisting the words of God, eventually destroy their one chance at salvation. For those who fall from the grace they had initially been granted, the sacrifice of Jesus can only be spoken of as past tense, because his grace no longer covers their sins:
“But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Pet 1:9-11)
God alone knows whether a person has fallen from his grace. We cannot identify that line, but we are warned that it does exist. What we can somewhat measure, in order to assess where we might need to make some course corrections, is how consistent our lives conform to Jesus and his scriptural instructions. “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” And, “You will know them by their fruits.”
You don’t need a second chance. What you need is Jesus. That is who we all desperately need.
If you have put your faith in him, then never turn away. When you find yourself confronted by your own failures and sin, then be quick to repent and strive increasingly to stay away from whatever entices you. In so doing, you will remain under the protective and forgiving blood of Jesus. If you have wandered, then don’t assume you are God and can label your drifting as having “fallen away”. That is his call. Rather, repent with every fiber of your being, and throw yourself upon his mercy. According to his own divine word, those he doesn’t want to forgive, he blinds, so that they will not repent and then he would heal them.
Such is the condition of many who attend church. They have been blinded to their own desperate condition, assuming that they can live as they like with their false god of second chances. They don’t repent. They don’t even realize that they need to repent. They have been promised freedom, but remain deceived. They are the ones who have fallen from grace and can never return.
But for you, I am confident of better things—things that accompany salvation.
God is a God of Grace. He has offered one chance at grace, through faith in Jesus’ sacrifice. As soon as you have the chance, grab on tightly and never let go. When you stumble, repent and let him keep you clean before God by his healing wounds.
God is not like some shifty gambler. He only needs one chance. Through faith, so do you.