For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.
The “holy commandment,” according to the previous verse, is “the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” This is not talking about turning from your mom’s doctrine, or your pastor’s, or your church’s teachings. It’s talking about knowing the facts of Jesus Christ and the Gospel and then rejecting them.
I find this verse to be very intriguing. What all is meant by this? What are the practical implications? I don’t know what all to do with it, but here are a smattering of thoughts on the passage:
- It seems to be saying that ignorance of the Gospel is better than knowing it and rejecting it. If that is the case, should we be teaching all these kids about Jesus? Many statistics say that somewhere in the neighborhood of 80% of kids who grow up around Christianity reject their faith as adults. As we force feed kids Jesus, are we just making their rebellion worse? I don’t know. I just wonder what our children’s ministry would look like if we believed this verse
- What about missions? Should we take the Gospel to places no one knows it? Isn’t it better for them to be ignorant than to be given the Gospel and then reject it? Or perhaps it’s the very rejection of knowing the Gospel that makes hell necessary. I doubt highly excusing our non-evangelism with “well I didn’t want them to reject it” would fly on Judgment Day.
- Perhaps this verse is one of the reasons why Jesus seemed to shew people away when they came to Him with questions. When a guy says, “What must I do to be saved?” One would think is a prime opening for a Gospel presentation. Instead, Jesus tells him to give all his stuff to the poor! Perhaps, by getting the guy to reject charitable giving, Jesus kept him from rejecting the Messiah.
- Perhaps this verse is also why, when someone proclaimed clearly who Christ was, Jesus told them to be quiet. Jesus repeatedly told His disciples to keep spectacular proofs of who He was quiet. Why so much secrecy? Was this simply to keep the Jews hardened to bring about the crucifixion, or was He thinking of the principle in this verse?
- Jesus often spoke in parables, even explaining in Matthew 13 that this was to purposely keep the plain truth hidden. Again, was this to keep them ignorant, knowing they wouldn’t believe in Him anyway? Knowing this, by not clearly explaining the Gospel, perhaps they wouldn’t respond so harshly to the clearer Gospel presentation to come after His resurrection, or at least maybe their judgment would be lighter.
- Acts 17:30 says about the pre-Gospel live out days, “the times of this ignorance God winked at.” God lets people who are ignorant get away with more stuff!
- I doubt ignorance of the Gospel equals salvation. Paul, in Romans 1, says there remains no excuse to miss God simply by observing creation. Perhaps more the idea is that a guy who knows the Gospel and then completely rejects it is going to go more hog wild into sin than someone who just moved along never considering it in the first place. There is a determination to prove a point of rejecting a Gospel that has been force-fed, rather than one that was sought out. Along the lines of casting pearls to swine.
In the end, don’t burn me at the stake for any of these thoughts. I’m merely thinking out loud. Wondering what the implications are of this verse for us. It’s not a verse that gets much air time in the church. Mostly because it brings up the uncomfortable subject of possibly losing your salvation.
These are just thoughts in my head. Theories developed on this verse. I am not stating anything one way or another! This verse creates questions for me that have, so far, produced very few answers.