What Is The Unpardonable Sin?
It has been my experience that most believers have heard of the unpardonable sin and most have an idea as to what it is. The following are some of the more common ideas of what the unpardonable sin is.
A) It is the rejection of Christ as your Savior: The Bible tells us that for the sinner to be able to come to salvation, the Spirit of God must draw him to Christ and place within him the urgency of trusting in Christ alone. Those who hold this view believe that if a person rejects this work of salvation his rejection will never be forgiven. There are a couple of problems with this view. First of all, nowhere in Scripture does it say the rejection of salvation is a sin. If one examines salvation closely, God does not command people to be saved but rather makes it available as an offer. In other words, God has given fallen man the option to either choose eternal life or eternal damnation. Since it is a choice, whatever decision man makes is legitimate before God and not the act of sin.
As a side note, I have often heard many believers make the statement that the only sin that sends a man to hell is rejection of Christ. If one thinks about that statement, one begins to realize how false an idea that is. The Bible declares it is the sin of man that sends him to hell and even before he has had an opportunity to trust in Christ, he is already condemned to hell (Jn. 3:18; Rom. 3:23). Rejection of Christ may keep us from heaven but it does not condemn us to hell.
Secondly, the rejection of Christ is forgivable. If we were to listen to most Christians, they will share that they rejected the call to salvation several times before they finally accepted Christ as their Savior. If rejection is unpardonable sin, then after the first rejection there would be no future hope for the sinner to be saved. He would have committed the unforgivable sin and salvation would now be beyond possibility.
B) The unpardonable sin is suicide: It has always been interesting to me that we say a murderer, even a mass murderer can go to heaven if he repents of his sin and trusts in Christ as his Savior, yet someone who takes his own life will never see heaven. There are both murders. Maybe this idea got started because if I murder someone else I still have opportunity to repent of my sin but if I commit suicide, it is too late to repent.
However this got started, it is clear from the Bible that suicide is not the unpardonable sin. First of all, there are no references whatsoever that connects suicide with the unpardonable sin; not a one! Secondly, as believers are capable of murder, even so believer’s can commit this sin. That is hard for many to accept however having experienced the depths of depression as a believer, I can tell you how attractive suicide can become. When one is suffering emotion/mental pain far greater than any physical pain, he desperately wants immediate freedom from it. However, there is no immediate cure and so death begins to appear a good thing since it offers a quick and final solution. In such a state of mind, one is not capable of rational thought and thus he may consider things that otherwise would be unthinkable.
C) The unpardonable sin is apostasy: The idea of apostasy is to depart from your salvation in Christ and in the process abandon your faith to return to your lost condition. Such an individual has committed such a serious sin that God will not forgive him. However, let it be noted that apostasy is never tied to the unpardonable sin. This sin is only mentioned in three parallel passages in the gospels and the context of these passages never mentions apostasy. Likewise there are examples where some who had turned from the faith (apostasy) were turned over to the chastisement of the Lord to restore them back through repentance (1 Tim. 1:19-20)
D) The unpardonable sin is blasphemy: Blasphemy means to slander someone and normally is used in relationship to God. Along with this meaning is also the idea of seeking to inflict grievous injury to the one blasphemed. Of the suggested ideas this is the closest to the actual sin but left by itself, it is not the unpardonable sin. Let me share my point. In Matt. 12:31-32, Jesus says that every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven man and even says that those who speak against Him will be forgiven. So the unpardonable sin is not blasphemy in general, but rather a specific blasphemy, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
Now that we have identified the specific sin that is unforgivable, let us examine it in closer details.
The first thing we should cover is the reason this sin is unforgivable. What makes this sin different from all other sin that it can not be forgiven? One suggestion is that the severity of the sin is so significant that it could not be covered under the atoning work of Christ on the cross. It is clear from Scripture that this is not the case for Christ died for all the sins of man (Rom. 6:10; Heb. 7:27; 9:12; 10:10) which would include the blasphemy of the Spirit. Therefore we can conclude that the unforgiving nature of this sin is not due to an insufficiency in the atonement of Christ. Another suggestion is that due to the severity of the sin, God is unwilling to forgive it. Even though it was covered in the atonement He is either unable or unwilling to overlook it. The problem with this suggestion is the fact that it goes totally contrary to the infinite nature of God’s grace and love for mankind. God is always willing to forgive any sinner who seeks His forgiveness. This leaves only one other possibility. The reason this sin will not be forgiven is due the unwillingness of those who participate in it. The Scriptures tell us that though Christ died for the sins of the whole world, yet they remain with the sinner until he repents of them as he seeks the forgiving and saving work of Jesus Christ. Thus, if a person does not seek forgiveness of sin from God, his sins will never be forgiven. It would appear that those who commit this sin have come so far in their hatred toward God and His Messiah that they have moved beyond the ability to seek God’s forgiveness. They crossed over the line and there is now no turning back. Therefore their sins will go unforgiven not because of the willingness or ability of God but rather due to the unwillingness of sinful man (Rom. 1:18-32).
The second thing to explore is how was the sin committed? To do so let us consider the most complete account of this sin as given in Matthew 12.
A) The background to the sin (v. 1-23): It is the Sabbath day (v.1) and Jesus is about to begin a day long ministry with the people. Every step and every action that He takes will be scrutinized and attacked by the Pharisees. Their attacks will not be concerning Jesus’ violation of the Mosiac law but His violation of the “traditions” of men. We see this in the following events
i. Vs. 1-8: Jesus’ disciples are walking with the Lord and are hungry. The law of Moses made provision for the hungry to take from the fields next to them just what they need to satisfy their physical needs. The Pharisees attack Jesus and His disciples for doing this on the Sabbath. Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for not knowing the Scriptures.
ii. V. 9-14: Jesus journeys a little further into the local synagogue. There is a man there who has a withered hand and the Pharisees ask Jesus if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath with hopes to accuse Him. Jesus once again rebukes them with the Scriptures and then heals the man’s hand. The Pharisees in their anger go outside the Synagogue in order to plot a way to destroy Him.
iii. V. 15-21: Jesus, knowing that the Pharisee are plotting to murder Him, leaves the synagogue and is joined by a great multitude. Among them are many who have physical problems and Jesus heals them all. Jesus cautions them not to say anything about His miracles because He knew the reaction of the Pharisees.
iv. V. 22-23: Jesus encounters a man who was possessed by a demon who was both blind and deaf and Jesus casts out the demon and heals Him. Upon seeing this, the people begin to openly wonder if Jesus could be the promised Son of David.
B) The Circumstances of the Sin (24-32): At this point the Pharisees hating Jesus, His teaching and miracles have already begun to plot a way to murder Him that very day. Jesus, therefore, goes out to the multitude to remove all opportunity from the Pharisees to carry out their plot. When Jesus healed the demon possessed man, the people are starting to realize that these miracles point to the fact that He is the Messiah, the Son of David.
The Pharisees are well aware of the potential of this situation. If the people are accepting Jesus as their Messiah there will be no way to stop Him. Therefore they seek a means to undermine the Messianic message of the miracles of Jesus did. To change the peoples mind about who Jesus really is. They hatch a wicked plan. They charge Jesus with doing His miracles in the power of Satan (Beelzebub), the ruler of demons.
Jesus responds to their accusation by pointing out that such a charge is ridiculous. If Satan casts out Satan he has a divided Kingdom and a divided Kingdom will always fail. He then asks them if He casts out demons by Satan, does this mean their sons cast out demons by the same person. Then Jesus goes directly to the root of the Pharisees’ issue, their hardened hearts toward God and His Messiah (28). Jesus tells the Pharisees that the reason they credit His miracles to Satan is unwilling to accept the implications of saying He did them in God’s power. The Pharisees know that to acknowledge Jesus miracles are from God forces them to accept the fact He is the promised Messiah and therefore the Kingdom of God had come upon them. They had made up their minds that they would not accept Jesus as their Messiah even at the risk of loosing the Kingdom.
Jesus sums up all of this by pronouncing judgment upon the Pharisees. In saying Jesus did the miracles in the power of Satan, in essence they had slandered the one who had empowered Jesus miracles, the Holy Spirit (v. 28, 31-32). Such blasphemy voiced against the Spirit of God is evidence of hearts so hardened that they are incapable of ever asking Christ to forgive them of their sins and save them. Therefore their sin will never ever be forgiven because they will never ask to have it forgiven..
It was the Pharisees own doing that made their sin unforgivable. They chose to ignore all of the signs and evidences that Jesus was their Messiah. To accept Jesus as Messiah meant they would have to give up their man made religion of law keeping, repent of their sins and submit to the authority of Jesus. Since God’s Messiah was not to their liking they rejected Him and in doing so rejected God, His salvation, and the Kingdom of God on earth.
C) The Duration of the Sin: One further matter needs to be addressed at this point. Can the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit still be committed today. It is this writer’s opinion that it can not for three reasons. First of all, this sin is tied in directly with the Messiah and His offer of the Kingdom to Israel (v. 28). This offer of the Kingdom is later withdrawn in the early years of the church age and since the offer is not currently being offered the sin can not be committed. Secondly, it would appear that one would have to be an eye witness of Jesus working these miracles to be able to level the charge that He did it the power of Satan. Since we are not actual eye witnesses to what took place, we would not be qualified to pass judgment. Thirdly, if the sin was still a credible danger one would expect a warning in the NT epistles. However, with the exception of these three references in the gospels, there is no mention of an unpardonable sin in anywhere in the NT writings. We do not see Paul writing, “everyone can be saved who has not committed the unpardonable sin.” Rather the gospel message of the Church age is whosoever comes to Jesus for forgiveness shall be forgiven regardless of what sin they have committed.
The Bible says that often when people like the Pharisees harden their hearts continually, that sometimes God finally gives them their desires and permanently hardens their heart.. Like concrete poured in the wrong place, once it has set there is no room to change it. All that is left is to break it up and destroy it. I wonder how many who read this have been rejecting Jesus as their Savior for sometime. Like the Pharisees, they have continued to harden their heart to the work of the Holy Spirit. Though the unpardonable sin may only have been possible during the period Jesus ministered, yet in a real sense there are still many who still harden their hearts to the convicting work of the Spirit. What condition is your heart in today? Today is the best time to trust in Christ as your Savior.