Could Old Testament believers be lost and later saved, as with David (2 Samuel 11:1-27; 12:1-16; Psalm 51:11)?
This question obviously assumes that David was lost as a result of his grievous sins with Bathsheba and her husband. The inspired writer says that David had “displeased the Lord” (2Sam 11:27). God’s communication through Nathan was that David had “despised the commandment of the Lord” (12:9), done “evil in His sight” (v 9), and, most significant, had despised God Himself (v 10). No one could fairly minimize the weight of these words.
Nevertheless, when David confessed that he had “sinned against the Lord,” Nathan told him that God had put away his sin. This is clearly connected to David’s words in Psalm 32: “I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (v 5). David’s rejoicing in forgiveness (vv 1, 2) and his recounting of his misery under the burden of guilt (vv 3, 4) fit into his experience in 2 Samuel 11 and 12. Note, however, that he follows his assurance of forgiveness (Psa 32:5) by saying, “For this shall every one that is godly (pious, Strong’s) pray unto thee in a time when Thou mayest be found” (v 6). David’s experience of finding forgiveness gave the godly confidence that they, too, would find forgiveness. This was not a model for the lost, but for the godly.
Its inspired title connects Psalm 51 with this same experience in David’s life. In the psalm, David prays that God will restore the joy of his salvation (v 12), not salvation itself. He also prays that God will not cast him away from His presence or take His Holy Spirit from him. We can understand each of these requests in light of responsibilities God had given David.
Jonah, a prophet, fled from “the presence of the Lord” when he refused to give Nineveh the opportunity to repent (Jonah 1:3). When Elijah spoke to Ahab in 1 Kings 17:1, he used the expression “As the Lord God of Israel liveth, before Whom I stand.” Prophets spoke directly from the presence of the Lord. The Scriptures call David a prophet (Acts 2:29, 30). David’s request, therefore, was that he would not be removed from his responsibility as a prophet.
Regarding the second request, the description of his sin against Uriah is significant. Nathan told David he had “killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword,” then added he had “slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon” (2Sam 12:9). God entrusts the sword to rulers for the purpose of carrying out justice (Rom 13:4). That includes justice for individuals and nations. Instead of using the sword justly, David abused his office for his own sinful ends. In fact, he had used the sword of the unjust Ammonites to accomplish his purpose. When Samuel anointed David to be king, the Spirit of the Lord had come on him (1Sam 16:13). In light of David’s abuse of his office, he now requested that God would not to remove the Spirit and thus remove him from the office of king for which Samuel had anointed him.
The conclusion is that David did not lose his salvation when he sinned with Bathsheba and Uriah. His prayer for forgiveness was the prayer of a pious man, who had sinned grievously. He recognized that he deserved to lose his offices of prophet and king, and he prayed that God would graciously allow him to continue with those responsibilities.
Is the writer addressing believers in Hebrews 2:2-4?
This is the first of five warning passages in Hebrews. As the title and theme of the book indicate, the writer directs the epistle to Hebrews. The writer warns that some of these Hebrew brothers could have an evil heart of unbelief, departing from God (3:12). “An evil heart of unbelief” hardly describes a believer. The word “departing” is the same word the Lord used to describe stony ground hearers who “fell away” in time of temptation (Luke 8:13). They continued for a while, but did not produce fruit. These did not “hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end” (Heb 3:14). They were never saved. They were brothers only in a national sense (Acts 22:1), but had never become brothers in Christ.
The passage in chapter 2 likewise addresses Hebrews, both believers and unbelievers. The writer associates himself with them
(2:1-3). They had heard the Lord’s message through eyewitnesses. They had received confirmation of that testimony about Jesus (Heb 2:3) through signs, wonders, miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit (v 4). Some who initially agreed with that message (stony ground hearers) would allow the things they had heard to slip away. Difficulties (10:32, 33, 38, 39) would cause them to neglect “so great salvation” (2:3). This section does not suggest that believers would not escape damnation. Those who would not escape were never believers. They were stony ground hearers who had never produced “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Mat 3:8 ESV).
Doesn’t teaching “eternal security” give a believer license to sin?
This would be true if God had not produced an inward change in believers. Paul writes of a struggle within a believer that never existed before he was saved. By nature, “the mind of the flesh is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God” (Rom 8:7 JND). Therefore, in his unconverted days, Paul’s mind was opposed to God’s law. In chapter seven, however, Paul says his inner man delights in God’s law (7:22). God has produced an inward change in the believer. Paul agrees with God’s standard of righteousness (v 16), but finds that he is not able to fulfill what the law requires (v 18). No wonder he thanks God for deliverance from this frustration (v 25)! By the indwelling Spirit (8:9), the believer has the capability to fulfill the righteous requirements of the law (v 4). With salvation, the believer now has the desire and the capability to live righteously. He had neither before he was saved.
If a believer’s mind were still opposed to God’s righteousness, then eternal security would be license to sin. Salvation not only changes the believer’s destiny; it changes the believer. He is not sinless, but the Spirit now indwells him. This gives him a foretaste of what he will yet enjoy (v 23). He is destined to become like Christ (v 29) and nothing externally, internally, or infernally can separate that believer from God’s unchanging and loving purpose (vv 35-39). How blessed to have inward longings for righteousness and to be eternally secure in Christ!