Sunday, July 10

What Is The "Unpardonable Sin?"

The case of the "unpardonable sin" is found in Matthew 12:22-32 as well as Mark 3:22-30, and is generally a highly misunderstood thing. It concerns blasphemy, which is essentially defiant irreverence of God, such as cursing God, utilizing the Lord's name in vain, attributing evil to the Lord, or attempting to make Him who we want Him to be, as in, "My God is the God of Love, not a Judge," which at the same time, is contradictory since it is the Bible which calls God the God of Love (1st John 4:8), but the same work also calls God a righteous judge (Revelation 20, for example, among many). But the unpardonable sin is specifically "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit." (Photo credit: Accessed 07-10-11 - from TurnBackToGod. No copyright infringement intended.)

The text in question regarding Matthew is, as noted, found in Matthew 12:22-32 which records, "Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, 'Could this be the Son of David?' But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, 'It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.' Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 'Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.'"

Verses 30-32 conclude, “'Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.'" Concerning this particular passage, we can determine that the Pharisees, having witnesses the power of God the Spirit working through God the Son, claimed that Jesus was doing all of this in the power of Beelzebul (Beelzebub), blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. The next passage in this case is found in Mark 3:22-30 which reads:

"And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, 'He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.' So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: 'How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.' He said this because they were saying, 'He has an impure spirit.'" This particular passage is what troubles people the most.
To clear up any preconceived notions, the passages indicate the following: this "unpardonable sin" does not still apply to us today. It is not that we cannot blaspheme, since man continues in sin regardless - lying, lusting, stealing, the like. It is that Jesus said this to the Pharisees "because they said, 'He has an impure spirit" (or unclean). More than once the Pharisees stated that the works of Jesus was the work of the devil (see Matthew 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15; John 7:20; 8:48, 52; 10:20), and as such, this continuous defiance against Jesus, who is God, resulted in condemnation for the Pharisees. Succinctly put, the point is this: since the Pharisees continually rejected the claims of Jesus, their unbelief resulted in their condemnation.

Credit: Turn Back to God (Holy Spirit as a Dove)
Hebrews 6:4-6 says, "...For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame." The question is not one of forgiveness, but of repentance, and with continued denial of Jesus Christ, this continued unbelief, as noted, led to their condemnation. This "unpardonable sin" was specific to a particular group of people under a particular circumstance - the Pharisees in the first century. One of the most often quoted verses in Scripture, if not the most quoted, is found in John 3:16:

"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life" (NIV). How often, however, do we read verses 17 and 18, which say, "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." This verse ought to clear up a bit concerning our understand of the concept of the "unpardonable sin" and how it relates to the Pharisees. But does a sin exist that God cannot forgive us from?

For one who has accepted Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9), there is no unforgivable sin. When Jesus said on the cross, "It is finished," He meant what He said (John 19:30). The phrase "It is finished" in Greek is rendered as "tetelistai," which, during the first century, was a word applied to a plethora of things. For example, the phrase was nailed to the door of a house of a criminal, which proved that he had paid for his crimes - the phrase was used to stamp the charges once the criminal had complete his sentence. The phrase was also utilized to stamp "paid" onto a receipt. As noted in Romans 6:10, Jesus "died to sin once for all." The only conditional in this is that mankind must come to the Father through Son. Acts 10:43 conveys that whoever does not believe in Christ, there is no forgiveness of sin. As seen in John 3:16-18, this is attested to throughout the New Testament.

"Many people fear they have committed some sin that God cannot or will not forgive, and they feel there is no hope for them, no matter what they do. Satan would like nothing better than to keep us laboring under this misconception. The truth is that if a person has this fear, he/she needs only to come before God, confess that sin, repent of it, and accept God’s promise of forgiveness. 'If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness' (1 John 1:9). This verse assures us that God is ready to forgive any sin—no matter how heinous—if we come to Him in repentance. If you are suffering under a load of guilt today, God is waiting with His arms open in love and compassion for you to come to Him. He will never disappoint or fail to pardon those who do" (GotQuestions).

Dr. Henry Morris, founder of the Institute for Creation Research, once wrote, "The unforgivable sin of speaking against the Holy Spirit has been interpreted in various ways, but the true meaning cannot contradict other Scripture. It is unequivocally clear that the one unforgivable sin is permanently rejecting Christ (John 3:18; 3:36). Thus, speaking against the Holy Spirit is equivalent to rejecting Christ with such finality that no future repentance is possible. 'My spirit shall not always strive with man,' God said long ago (Genesis 6:3). …In the context of this particular passage (Matthew 12:22-32), Jesus had performed a great miracle of creation, involving both healing and casting out a demon, but the Pharisees rejected this clear witness of the Holy Spirit. Instead they attributed His powers to Satan, thus demonstrating an attitude permanently resistant to the Spirit, and to the deity and saving Gospel of Christ."[1]

But can a Christian ever lose their salvation because of this "unforgivable sin?" "If we refuse to accept the testimony given to us by the Holy Spirit, fight off His conviction of our sin, and never accept the truth, we will never come to Christ for salvation. In Christ, all our sins are forgiven. Therefore, no Christian can commit the unpardonable sin. Only an unregenerate person who refuses to come to Christ will die in his or her sins."[2] Darrin Yeager states "…once you accept Jesus, that part of the Holy Spirit's job is complete, thus you can't blaspheme His work. Naturally, He continues to work with you, and you can be stubborn and resist Him as a Christian, but you can't blaspheme Him. Live unproductively, carnal and unspiritual, possible. But commit the unpardonable sin? It's just not possible for a true Christian. Remember what Paul said: 'There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1).'" [3]

We can therefore rightly conclude that Christians have nothing to fear when we read of the "unpardonable sin." All too often we find passages in Scripture that makes us question, doubt, as to whether or not our salvation is assured. When this feeling arises, remember two things: 1) it is nothing more than a feeling, not based in matter of spiritual fact, and 2) John wrote the book of 1st John so that believers may have assurance of salvation. Larry Richards once said, "This reference to an unforgivable sin has troubled many unnecessarily. Those who are concerned that they have done something for which Jesus will not forgive them show a very different attitude from the Pharisees, who refused to accept even the most compelling evidence that Jesus was the Son of God. The person who rejects the Spirit's message about Jesus will not be forgiven. Anyone who seeks Jesus' forgiveness certainly has not committed the unforgivable sin."[4]

Troy Hillman

[1] Morris, Henry M. The Defender's Study Bible (Iowa Falls, Iowa: World Bible Publishers, 1995. Print.
[2] Freedom in Christ. Knoxville, Tennessee:, 2002. Web.
[3] Darrin Yeager., 2002. Web.
[4] Larry Richards, 735 Baffling Bible Questions Answered (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell, 1993), pp. 241-242. Print.

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