Is anyone redeemable? What about Hitler, Stalin, or mass murderers?
Redeemed From What?
Redeemed or redemption essentially means to buy back something or someone. You can redeem a slave or a piece of property, so to redeem something is to recover ownership of it by paying a specified sum, like we redeem a ring from the pawn shop, so what are Christians redeemed from? The Apostle Paul wrote, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree” (Gal 3:13). Luke wrote, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people” (Luke 1:68), speaking of Christ’s birth. So what are we really saved from or redeemed from? We’re actually saved from God Himself or saved from the wrath of God that abides on all who reject Jesus (John 3:36b). God’s wrath is rightfully due every one who has not yet trusted in Christ. God’s wrath was our due at one time because we were His natural enemies, living ungodly, wicked lives (Rom 5:6-10), but we have been redeemed by the life of, the passion of, the death of, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. In short, we’ve been redeemed by the precious blood of the Lamb of God (Rev 14:4).
Is it Enough?
When people I speak with people that feel they are too far gone or have too much sin in their life to ever be forgiven, they are basically saying that Jesus’ death of the cross wasn’t enough. They feel like all they can do now is to die in their sins, but that’s not true. The only sin that cannot be forgiven is rejecting Jesus Christ, but a person who rejected Christ wouldn’t even be interested in confessing sin. That’s because sin doesn’t bother lost people, however, someone who has trusted in Christ but still feels that they’ve blown in big time and cannot ever be forgiven, doesn’t realize the power of Jesus’ cleansing blood, so the problem isn’t that the blood of Christ cannot take away their sins, but they can’t forgive themselves. That’s a huge problem. Sometimes our standard of forgiving ourselves is greater than God’s standard for forgiving us. I remind them that Jesus said, just before He died, “It is finished” (John 19:3), which in the Greek (teleō) means, “passed, paid in full,” or “completed,” so this verse shows that Jesus paid it all, not just most, and His atoning death is enough for all the sins of all humans who have ever been born, who are now living, and those who will be born into eternity. If Jesus said, it is finished, why try to resurrect it? Our sins are cleansed (1st John 1:9), so stopped fishing after them in God’s “Sea of Forgetfulness.”
The Apostle Paul
Before the Apostle Paul was named Paul, he was called Saul, which means “destroyer,” and that was a name perfectly suited to him because “Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison” (Acts 8:3). He was trying to destroy the church by destroying the members of the body of Christ. Saul certainly consented in the death of many a martyr (Acts 7:58), so how would Saul ever become a Christian? Can you imagine someone talking about trying to share the gospel with Saul? Who would be brave enough? Would it do any good anyway? Even after Saul’s conversion and later named Paul, there were members who still feared Paul because of his history of trying to destroy the church. God literally intervened in Paul’s life because he may have never been reached by a witness, but God’s Spirit moved Saul the destroyer to Paul the “small” which is what his name means. Small, in context, could also mean “humble.”
Can a person reach a point where they harden their heart so much that the Holy Spirit cannot penetrate it? It’s not so much that the Spirit of God can’t penetrate the stony human heart, but God never forces Himself on anyone and goes against human choice. Jesus never once forced Himself on anybody so that they might be saved. God does not do this. What can happen is that a person sins and sins and sins so much, and they continually suppress the voice or prompting of the Holy Spirit, that they can no longer hear His voice. Paul writes about those who have rejected the free gift of God over and over again and are only distancing themselves further and further from God. Eventually, they will feel no conviction at all over any sin, but Paul warns, it is “because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:5). By continually rejecting God, “they did not see fit to acknowledge God [so] God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Rom 1:28), and when God gives them up to their own debased mind, it’s over.
Can anyone sin so much or have a sin so great that God cannot forgive it? I don’t think so from what I read in the Bible because no one is unredeemable. Much of the problem about people not feeling forgiven is that they place more value on their feelings that what the Bible teaches. It’s feelings over facts and the truth of God takes a back seat to the person’s feelings, but I would rather have someone be sensitive about their sin than be indifferent about it, because if a person continues to sin day after day that their heart becomes harder and harder. Like a callous on the hand, the larger the callous, the less feeling the hand will feel. Sin callouses’ the heart. It may grow so hard that the Holy Spirit can no longer move the person to conviction. When there is no longer any conviction over sin, then sin can run free, and they are headed down the broad path of destruction. At this point, “God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Rom 1:28a).