15 December 2007

Is Unbelief a Sin?

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "The Sin of Unbelief," a sermon on 2 Kings 7:19. Spurgeon originally preached it on 14 January 1855 at New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

nbelief hath more phases than the moon, and more colors than the chameleon. Common people say of the devil, that he is seen sometimes in one shape, and sometimes in another. I am sure this is true of Satan's first-born child—unbelief, for its forms are legion.

At one time I see unbelief dressed out as an angel of light. It calls itself humility, and it saith, "I would not be presumptuous; I dare not think that God would pardon me; I am too great a sinner." We call that humility, and thank God that our friend is in so good a condition. I do not thank God for any such delusion. It is the devil dressed as an angel of light; it is unbelief after all.

At other times we detect unbelief in the shape of a doubt of God's immutability: "The Lord has loved me, but perhaps he will cast me off to-morrow. He helped me yesterday, and under the shadows of his wings I trust; but perhaps I shall receive no help in the next affliction. He may have cast me off; he may be unmindful of his covenant, and forget to be gracious." Sometimes this infidelity is embodied in a doubt of God's power. We see every day new straits, we are involved in a net of difficulties, and we think "surely the Lord cannot deliver us." We strive to get rid of our burden, and finding that we cannot do it, we think God's arm is as short as ours, and his power as little as human might.

A fearful form of unbelief is that doubt which keeps men from coming to Christ; which leads the sinner to distrust the ability of Christ to save him, to doubt the willingness of Jesus to accept so great a transgressor. But the most hideous of all is the traitor, in its true colors, blaspheming God, and madly denying his existence.

Infidelity, deism, and atheism are the ripe fruits of this pernicious tree; they are the most terrific eruptions of the volcano of unbelief. Unbelief hath become of full stature when quitting the mask and laying aside disguise, it profanely stalks the earth, uttering the rebellious cry, "No God," striving in vain to shake the throne of the divinity, by lifting up its arm against Jehovah, and in its arrogance would

"Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Re-judge his justice—be the god of God."

Then truly unbelief has come to its full perfection, and then you see what it really is, for the least unbelief is of the same nature as the greatest.

I am astonished, and I am sure you will be, when I tell you that there are some strange people in the world who do not believe that unbelief is a sin. Strange people I must call them, because they are sound in their faith in every other respect; only, to make the articles of their creed consistent, as they imagine, they deny that unbelief is sinful.

I remember a young man going into a circle of friends and ministers, who were disputing whether it was a sin in men that they did not believe the gospel. Whilst they were discussing it, he said, "Gentlemen am I in the presence of Christians? Are you believers in the Bible, or are you not?"

They said, "We are Christians of course."

"Then," said he, "does not the Scripture say, 'of sin, because they believed not on me?' And is it not the damning sin of sinners, that they do not believe on Christ?"

I could not have thought that persons should be so fool-hardy as to venture to assert that "it is no sin for a sinner not to believe on Christ." I thought that, however far they might wish to push their sentiments, they would not tell a lie to uphold the truth, and, in my opinion this is what such men are really doing.

Truth is a strong tower and never requires to be buttressed with error. God's Word will stand against all man's devices. I would never invent a sophism to prove that it is no sin on the part of the ungodly not to believe, for I am sure it is, when I am taught in the Scriptures that, "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light," and when I read, "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he believeth not on the Son of God," I affirm, and the Word declares it, unbelief is a sin.

Surely with rational and unprejudiced persons, it cannot require any reasoning to prove it. Is it not a sin for a creature to doubt the word of its Maker? Is it not a crime and an insult to the Divinity, for me, an atom, a particle of dust, to dare to deny his words? Is it not the very summit of arrogance and extremity of pride for a son of Adam to say, even in his heart, "God I doubt thy grace; God I doubt thy love; God I doubt thy power?"

Oh! sirs believe me, could ye roll all sins into one mass,—could you take murder, and blasphemy, and lust, adultery, and fornication, and everything that is vile and unite them all into one vast globe of black corruption, they would not equal even then the sin of unbelief. This is the monarch sin, the quintessence of guilt; the mixture of the venom of all crimes; the dregs of the wine of Gomorrah; it is the A1 sin, the masterpiece of Satan, the chief work of the devil.

C. H. Spurgeon


Preson said...

I would have to say that Spurgeon took John 16:9 completely out of context there. It is abundantly clear that he was saying that people were to be "Judged in regard to sin". Just because the verse seperates there, and just because we stuck a 9 in the middle of the sentence, doesn't mean that we change the intent of the author.

Here, let's all read the complete thought from John:

"8When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: 9in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; 10in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned."

I love spurgeon, but I think he didn't have it right here.

polycarp said...

Ahh...what refreshing and accurate words by the prince of preachers! Thank you for this Phil, as it is timely indeed! After reading this, I'm glad I used the capital letters for SIN in my response to Dan's post yesterday....for our EC friends who don't often hear much of this in their neck of the woods.

Beal said...

This of course has relevance to the idea of particular redemption...

If Christ died for ALL humanity's sins, then they would all go to heaven. But the non-5-pointer would say, "He died for all their sins, but they have to believe He did."

But I always ask, "Isn't unbelief a sin?" This is where the question is relevant. It is clearly a sin. And if Christ died for all human sins, then He died for unbelief and ALL HUMANS would go to heaven.

Hence, particular redemption.

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."(John 10:11)

For who.....?

Sorry for the long comment, I just get riled up after reading Charlie.

polycarp said...

St. Brianstien:

Correct me if I'm wrong in assessing what you've wrote, but in all due respect you seem to have isolated the essence of what Spurgeon has said on this matter of unbelief being sin to the matter of redemption alone. You are correct in recognizing that sin is indeed a sin and that our Savior has died for ALL of our sins. Amen. Indeed we are sinful sheep for whom the Savior gave his life. Amen to this as well. But what of our lives as followers of Christ? Accepting of this sin and not others? Cerainly not. Spurgeon here, and Dan yesterday for that matter, are addressing the issue of tolerance, allowance, accommodation, even indulgance (as the ECers demonstrate to us) of this most vile of sins.

Chris H said...

I would ask Charles whether he is classifying even the asking, "Am I sure that God's Word says this as opposed to that," as sin, or whether he is simply asserting that the persistent doubt that the Word as a whole is worth believing is the sin.

He seems to be suggesting that asking too many questions, even for the purpose of learning and discerning, skirts the line.

Alysa said...

I've been reading your blog for a while, but this is the first time I've commented. Thank you so much for all the great posts... it's great to see people that actually believe God's Word in fullness, rather than the modern compromising approach!

I'm far from being a theology student, so am often a little scared to share my point of view, as I don't know all the big words and terminology, but one thing I do know is that I love God, and love His Word.

This topic instantly caught my attention. I think on it quite often, and didn't know Spurgeon had spoken on this. I have to say... I agree wholeheartedly! He was definitely one anointed preacher.

Now, I'm going to take it one step further, even tho some may disagree with me.

Unbelief is sin. You could say it is the only sin.

John 3:18 "He that believeth not is condemned already", Hebrews 3:17-19, etc.

Murder, adultery, gambling, etc, aren't sin in themselves. They are attributes of sin. People do that because they don't believe. If a person believed, and fully accepted Christ as their saviour, they would have no more conscience of sins, and no more desire to commit these things. (Hebrews 10:2)

This may be a little different from the usual line of thinking, but the main point is, I agree that unbelief is the primary sin, because once the enemy gets us to disbelieve anything God has spoken, it is no longer faith. And it is by faith we are saved.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Dear Alysa,

Thanks for your comment. It is good and worthy.

Please continue to comment and contribute to the discussion.

Pax in the Advent Season.

pastorbrianculver said...

And just what is "unbelief?" To the modern world, it is to come out an verbally say the words, "I do not believe." But I think the main issue is dealt with what shows as a result of our belief. If we are not being obedient to God's Word, if we are not repenting of our sins, then do we truly believe what God says? Today's "Christians" say they believe in God but they bear no fruit to show they truly believe and put their trust and faith in Him! Great post, thanks!

Mike Riccardi said...


I think you're right on. In fact, you're not the first one to have those ideas! Piper's sermon series turned into a book and Bible study, Battling Unbelief has changed my life in regards to the way I view my sanctification and sin. His argument is basically the same as yours. If you haven't heard it -- in fact, if any of you all haven't heard it -- I invite you to download these messages and listen to them over the next week. It's the heart of the Gospel, the fruit and nuts for the believer's life.

Now for one comment on the post, Spurgeon said: Surely with rational and unprejudiced persons, it cannot require any reasoning to prove it.

I think this is a huge point. And we who defend against the crowd (largely comprised of EC'ers and their friends) must hold it in the forefront of our minds as we interact with them, because it is the issue and not another. Those who want to hold that unbelief or doubt is not a sin do so because they need to make room for their own unbelief or doubt. I mean it's fairly obvious to state that (a la John 3:19-21), but I think it needs to be highlighted. Men love darkness, and they run from the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.

Think about it. Why else would you call that which is light (i.e., the Scriptures, cf. Ps. 119:105, 130; Ps. 19:8b) darkness? The answer is because you love your sin.

Solameanie said...


You near stole the words from my keyboard. As Phil so ably pointed out earlier this week, the EC puts doubt on a pedestal and near worships it. They seem to want to glorify doubt and yes, unbelief in sanctified clothes. They have then begun a trip up the escalation ladder, with the first rung being the enemy's deception.

1. Deception
2. Doubt
3. Disbelief
4. Disobedience
5. Death

I stole the term "escalation ladder" from a NATO exercise where they would try to predict the likely steps toward a final nuclear exchange between the Warsaw Pact and NATO. It's a useful way to diagram how one thing leads to another, The Fixx aside.

Strong Tower said...

And they stumble in the dark but do not know what they stumble over. Is it something in the dark, or is it the darkness that causes the stumbling?

Scripture says that it is the darkness. Those who love darkness, will not believe that it is. They say that they are not blind. It therefore cannot be they who are the thing in darkness that they are stumbling over. The eye is the light of the body, but if the eye is evil, then how great a darkness is that light?

What kind of fool does it take to say "I see" when he is blind? Doesn't the blindness remain, no matter how we claim it doesn't? There is no rationality that can explain this kind of unbelief, it is unfathomable, there is no wisdom that is understandable to God in this. Among these, unbelief becomes a virtue by majority assent. The basic value is axiomatic: "I do not know, so no one can know."

This kind of doubt is far from that which see the facts and cannot comprehend them and so doubts where they lead. This kind of unbelief sees the facts and denies where they lead, or claims facts that have not been revealed and says to those who would follow come this way. Strangly, people in the first category would rather follow the second than admit they are wrong, and the second is committed to proclamation of falsehood for the same reason; they do not want to admit that the facts, nor that they need help to know where they lead.

Tolerance for error forces intolerance for absolutes. When it is said by Paul, that there is enough light in creation to condemn, then how much more when the Word of God is preached.

Though this CHS piece doesn't seem to be about particular sins, it by extension is. What a convenient excuse to read the Word of God the way I want to.

As djp has put it, "I wish people who wanted to sin would just be honest about it...Sin gets what it gets by saying it is what it isn't, and isn't what it is...Poor saps. Honesty is like truth, and truth has nothing to do with sin."

Mike Riccardi said...

What kind of fool does it take to say "I see" when he is blind? Doesn't the blindness remain, no matter how we claim it doesn't?

And this is really interesting, because this is the type of thing that the EC'ers would accuse us of. "You all keep claiming that you see! But I'm humble enough to acknowledge that I'm blind!" And they'd probably twist John 9 out of context and apply that hear.

But here's the thing. Those saved by grace aren't blind. We do see. And not in some Pharisaical, John 9 type of way. We admit that in our ignorance and unbelief we were indeed blind, but now because of Christ we have the Holy Spirit who searches all things, including the mind of God and reveals it to us such that it can be said of us, "We have the mind of Christ" (1 Cor 2).

So getting back... what type of person is it who consistently says, "I'm blind!" Well, I'd say it's one who has not been so illuminated by the Holy Spirit and given the mind of Christ. It makes all the sense in the world for these Emerging/Emergent/Postmodern folks to say they just don't have a clue, because they're not saved! I mean, what other conclusion can we come to?

Twitchell balks at those who are blind claiming to see, and rightly so. I say take it a step further and marvel at the folly of those who claim to be among those who see (i.e., Christians), but then go on about -- and even celebrate -- the ignorance they claim to be saved out of.

DErifter said...

"The Fixx aside." That was smoooth!

Carl said...

I come here looking for some information and suggestions concerning Charles Spurgeon's sermons and writings.

I am looking for the most complete collection of Spurgeon's sermons and writings on either CD-Rom or DVD-Rom. I've seen some that have only a small portion of Spurgeon's materials but I'm looking for a complete or mostly complete collection to use on my computer.

Any suggestions?

Solameanie said...


I don't think Spurgeon is talking about people who are unknowing or who have honest doubts asking genuine questions. However, there are many about today who "ask questions" for the very purpose of ginning up doubt and uncertainty. If you notice, many in the EC crowd love asking questions and never giving any answers. More than that, they insult those who do give answers by calling them "arrogant.'

It all gets pretty tiresome after a while. If I could deport them all to Singapore for a good bamboo caning, I would.

Anonymous said...

On the opposite side of Solameanie, it gets pretty tiresome to hear that someone has ALL the answers and knows the heart off God better than all the people before and probably (infering here, by what I have read before)all the theologians who will come after.

bassicallymike said...

Volumn 6 of the Christian Library Series avialible from www.ageslibrary.com claims to be the most complete collection of Spurgeon's writtings. It should keep you busy for awhile. LOL

Solameanie said...


Who said they ALL have the answers? Unfortunately, the EC crowd likes to create doubt on things that have been largely settled doctrine for eons, or they take areas in Scripture that are as clear as crystal and try to throw pitch into the well. Homosexuality is a good example. The Bible couldn't be any more clear on a subject, and yet His Holiness McLaren says the church needs a moratorium on the subject until it can figure out what it thinks.

Go ahead and imbibe out of that septic tank if you like, but no thanks for me.

Chris H said...


And see, that's where I am with this whole thing too. I have questions every so often - any thinking person has to have a question when engaging the Word of God, I should say - but doubt that God is truth has no place in the walk of a Christian.

A scientist friend of mine told me that most of his colleagues are among the first to say, "I don't know, but the answer is out there" and I think that's a useful response for Christians at times. "I don't know, but I'm positive that God's Word is true. This nugget might not be too lofty for me to figure out, but I just haven't been able to." I think that's a huge difference from saying, "I don't know and you're arrogant for thinking you do," as we see in many EC folk.

John Haller said...

Rev. 21:8

“But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Solameanie said...


I appreciate your comments very much.

One thing I often tell people when they encounter genuinely difficult passages in Scripture is to give the Bible the benefit of the doubt. Time after time, there have been areas where "scholars" have thrown up doubts over something the Bible says only to have the Bible vindicated in the long run. The Hittite Empire is a good example. The "experts" pooh-poohed Scripture and said there was no such people group, only to have archeology confirm there was indeed a Hittite Empire.

There are probably other examples I could give, but I think you get the idea.

Carl said...

bassicallymike, thank you for the suggestion. I think the local Lifeway Christian store (the only Christian bookstore in this area nowadays) has this brand. I'll have to check when I'm on that side of town whether they have the Spurgeon edition. That's exactly what I'm looking for. If I have enough "fun money" I might get one or two others as well.

Carl said...

SolaMeanie, I have a couple of pretty good books on Bible difficulties that have aided me. However I've encounter people on Christian Usenet newsgroups who absolutely hate God and hate Christians & Christianity who cling to the "no one has explained THIS Bible contradiction." For the benefit of others, I respond with sources cited. The unbeliever of whom I was responding predictably responds with "no, they didn't explain it" which usually means they never read any of the sources and if they did they cling to their unbelief because the source shakes their little erroneous worldview. I don't waste my time arguing with the attacking unbeliever (Titus 3:9) but I will post a general response with specific information and cites in case someone else reads the accusation made and may wish to actually read the sources I cite. I'd like to think that maybe, one person might actually strengthen their faith because of something benefecial I post there even though I constantly am attacked over it.

Unknown said...

I think the reason Spurgeon's words here bother me so much is because I'm used to thinking of "sin" as certain wrong choices I make. However, ultimately, you don't have much control over what you believe (you can't *choose* to believe something just because you want to.)

This really shows me that sin is often involuntary, committed by a person who is a slave to it, and is all the more reason why we need Jesus.

philness said...

Everything that does not come by faith is sin. Romans 14:23b

pastorbrianculver said...

Carl, You are lucky to have a good Christian book store in your town. The one in my town is very supportive of Purpose Driven stuff. I think to them it is all about the almighty dollar, not about the ALMIGHTY GOD! It is sad when they show their belief system in worldly things and not in spiritual things.

Unknown said...

If Christ is not (literally) risen, faith in him is useless, and preaching him is useless...

But now Christ is risen.

- Paul the Apostle
(1Cor. 15:14, 20)