If a Christian commits sin after his conversion, can he be forgiven for these sins? Many today assume he can and will. Doesn’t the Apostle John, for example, say that very thing (1 John 1:8-9)? However, John also wrote, “No one born of God commits sin; for God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God,” (1 John 3:9). In fact, a curious reader will find long discussions of this issue, and the implications of sinless perfectionism, in any responsible commentary on 1 John.
In this excerpt from The Shepherd of Hermas, the anonymous author explains (via Hermas’ “shepherd”) that a man cannot be forgiven after his baptism. This book was quite popular in the post-apostolic era. It may be a compilation of two (or more) independent documents, written at different times, which reached their final form in the Shepherd as we now have it. Regardless, its final form likely dates from sometime in the mid-2nd century (or perhaps earlier).
There are at least two interesting things to note: