Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 15, 1962
NUMBER 40, PAGE 5,10b-11a

Faith Of Our Fathers,

Jesse M. Kelley

The Presumptuous Sin

David Lipscomb (Gospel Advocate, September, 1896)

In the Old Testament there was the sin of ignorance (not knowing it was sin), the sin of weakness (knowing it was sin), and the presumptuous sin. The sin of ignorance was the violation of the law of God, not knowing the law; the sin of weakness was that, when they knew the law, through some temptation to the flesh they were led to violate the law, despite their knowledge and against the Spirit; the presumptuous sin was presuming to be able to improve on the will of God, to know a better way, and so deliberately to go some other way than God's way. We have the sin of ignorance defined in Num. 15:22; and that of presumption, in Num. 15:30, 31: "The soul that doeth aught presumptuously, whether he be born in the land or a stranger, the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among the people. Because he bath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him." "Presumptuous" means bold and confident to excess, overconfident, irreverent with reference to sacred things. A man that is over-confident in his own wisdom and lacking in reverence for God's ways would naturally substitute the ways that seem good to himself for those commanded by God. He who does this reproaches God by showing that he esteems his own ways preferable to the way of God. This is also to lightly esteem or look down upon or despise the ways of God. For this there was no pardon.

God gives us many examples of this sin. Nadab and Abihu committed it in burning incense with strange fire. (Lev. 10:1) They showed a lack of reverence for God in not using the fire from the altar as he had commanded, and a high degree of self-confidence in using what their own judgment approved. An example of the presumptuous sin is given in Numbers 14:40-45. The children of Israel had become discouraged by the reports that the spies brought back from Canaan, the promised land, and wished to choose a leader to lead them back to Egypt, murmuring at Moses and Aaron. God sent a pestilence upon them, and slew many. They then, in a rebellious spirit, determined to go forward without waiting for the ark of God to go before them. Moses told them, "Go not up, for the Lord is not among you....But they presumed to go up unto the hilltop." (Num. 14:4244) This going up the hill without the direction of God was a presumptuous sin. Not to go one day was a presumptuous sin; to go the next day was the same. God commanded one day to go; the next day, not to go.

Deut. 17:12, 13 says: "And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously." The priest and the judge acted under the law of God, and to refuse to listen to them was to act presumptuously and fall under the penalty of the presumptuous sin. Moses prophesied of Jesus as the coming prophet. Deut. 18:18-20: "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not harken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die."

To fail to hear Jesus will be a presumptuous sin, and for a prophet to speak a word as of God not given him by God is presumptuous sin; to consciously offer salvation on terms not offered by God is a presumptuous sin.

Again, Saul forced himself and "made a burnt offering" when Samuel failed to come to make it. (I Sam. 13:8-14) For this God rejected him and his family, that they should not rule over Israel, and chose David in his place. He again committed a presumptuous sin in bringing the fatlings of the oxen and the sheep back to sacrifice them in Gilgal, instead of destroying them in the land of Amalek as God had told him. (1 Sam. 15) This was a deliberate conclusion that he could bring more honor to God in going his own way than in doing what God commanded. He was moved to this seemingly by a zeal to bring greater honor to God, but he reproached God in thinking that he could bring him more honor than in doing his will. Although he professed to repent, "Samuel came no more to see Saul unto the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that he had made Saul king over Israel." There were no immoralities in those sins, but they were unpardonable; they were presumptions. They set aside God's laws and ways with the wisdom of man. This is to exalt man above God.

David committed adultery, and in his efforts to conceal it he committed murder. God punished him severely. He acknowledged his sin, repented of it grievously, and God forgave him. For the presumptuous sin there was no forgiveness. To displace God's order with the inventions of man is a presumptuous sin.

Jesus Christ said: "Wherefore I say unto you. All manner of sin and Blasphemy shall be forgiven, unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." (Matt. 12:31, 32) After Christ had completed his work, the Holy Spirit would come and bear his testimony to Jesus. Some who refused to hear and obey Jesus would and did hear and obey the Holy Spirit, and were forgiven; but after the Spirit had completed his work, no further testimony would be given; and those who should refuse to hear and obey the Holy Spirit would never find forgiveness, neither in this world not in the world to come.

The Holy Spirit, in the letter to the Hebrews, said: "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the power of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." These are they who know the gospel and the sacred promises, yet deliberately turn from it and go back to Judaism. This is deliberately, willfully setting aside the law of God. Heb. 10:26-30: "For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden underfoot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of Grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again The Lord shall judge his people." Here he calls it willful sin. The conscious determination on the part of the Jewish Christians to turn back to Judaism, after they knew the gospel of Christ, was the sin in this instance. To turn back deliberately, and purposely to any course of ungodliness and rebellion is as great a sin as it was for these Jews to turn back from Christ. To be tempted to sin and violate the law of God is one thing; to throw off that law to follow another law is a greater sin. It is treason against God; it is the presumptuous sin for which there is no forgiveness. To refuse to obey God or to turn from his commands to something they thought better in the days of Moses was to reproach God, was to despise His word. (Num. 15:30) To so treat the law of the Son of God is a much greater sin, as much greater as the blood of Jesus is greater than the blood of animals. He who set aside the law of Moses for what seemed to him a better way trod Moses under foot; he who used the unsanctified, unpurified vessels of service instead of those that were sealed by the blood of purification, in so doing counted the blood of the covenant unholy, of no value. Just so he who puts his own judgment as to what is best above the law given by Jesus Christ rejects that law and tramples under foot Jesus Christ and his authority. He who teaches service not commanded by God, not sealed by the blood of Jesus, as effective in saving men as that commanded by Jesus, and so sealed by his blood, counts the blood of no value, unholy, and profane.

'If, then, the Man who despised the law of Moses by setting it aside for what he thought better died without mercy, of how much sorer punishment shall God think him worthy who sets aside the law of Jesus Christ and so counts his blood unholy and tramples his authority under foot? What eternal horrors must remain for such! Introducing an appointment or service unto the work or worship not ordained by God partakes of the nature of the presumptuous sin.