The Unforgivable Sin


The Unforgivable Sin

(Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit)

 The Lord Jesus Christ was known for His shocking statements.  He knew the absolute seriousness of sin and the cruciality of accepting His saving authority.  Probably nothing was as shocking as His statements about a sin so serious that it could not be forgiven.  To use Christ’s own words, “Blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven” (Matt. 12:31).  He reiterated this solemn statement: “It shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (v. 32).  In another place, Jesus warned his hearers: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29).

 What is this sin that can never be forgiven?  What is this “eternal sin”?  This warning of our Lord to His Jewish opponents about a sin that would not be forgiven has given rise to much consternation over the years.  Many have been concerned that they may have committed the “unpardonable sin” and that there is no hope for them of forgiveness.  The passage has been discussed again and again, with several interpretations.

The Passages

·        Matthew 12:31-32

·        Mark 3:28-30

·        Luke 12:10 

The Text

“I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.  Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32).

“’Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’—because they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit’” (Mark 3:28-30).

“And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him” (Luke 12:10).

Comparisons 

Matthew 12:31

Mark
3:28

Luke 12:10

Therefore I say to you

Truly I say to you,

 

Any sin and blasphemy

All sins

 

Shall be forgiven people,

Shall be forgiven the sons of men

 

 

And whatever blasphemies they utter

 

But blasphemy against the Spirit

But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit

 

Shall not be forgiven.

Never has forgiveness;

 

Verse 32

 

 

Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man,

 

And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man,

It shall be forgiven him;

 

It will be forgiven him,

But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit,

 

But he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit,

It shall not be forgiven him,

 

It will not be forgiven him.

Either in this age or in the age to come.

But he is guilty of an eternal sin–

 

 

Verse 30

 

 

Because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

 

 Combination

 Truly I say to you,

Any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people,

But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven. 

Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man shall be forgiven,

But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven,

Either in this age or in the age to come;

He is guilty of an eternal sin. 

Because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” 

Observations 

1.     This passage is an assurance that all sin is able to be forgiven (other than the blasphemy mentioned).  This is an encouragement to those who are troubled by their sinful past. 

2.     Literally, “blasphemy” means “to speak against”—whether it be God or man.  When the Jews said that the miracles of the Holy Spirit wrought by Jesus were accomplished by Satan, they were “speaking against” the Spirit. 

3.     The words of Mark help us to understand specifically what is happening in this account.  Mark gives us the reason why Jesus said what He said.  He links the blasphemy with the charge by the Jews that Jesus worked miracles by Satan’s power. 

4.     If the Jews had been sinners with sensitive conscience, they would have confessed that Jesus performed the miracles by the Spirit of God—thus He was sent by God as the Messiah.  They did know that Jesus actively performed miracles, yet they closed their heart to this fact and adamantly refused to believe and repent, sinning against the Spirit by stating that Jesus was demon-possessed. 

5.     While Jesus had a local, limited, specific situation in mind, the principle is applicable today.  Apparently it is possible to sin in this way in our day. 

6.     In this situation, Jesus knew the heart of each person, thus He could infallibly know whether these Jews could repent.  Apparently they could not since their heart was hardened and closed to truth.

Views 

1.     Blasphemy is attributing the attested miracles of Christ to Satan (cf. Mark 3:30).  It is limited to that context in the early life of Jesus. 

2.     Blasphemy is the hardened heart of the Jews who rejected Christ Jesus during His public ministry. 

3.     Blasphemy is any hardened heart that rejects Christ Jesus and His truth throughout all history. 

4.     Blasphemy is a rejection of the Spirit-inspired and Spirit-revealed gospel of Christ in all ages.  It is equivalent to persistent unbelief.

 Results

    • No forgiveness at all (Matt. 12:31-32; Luke 12:10)

    • No forgiveness, an eternal sin (Mark 3:29) 

Definition 

Blasphemeo (Greek)—“to blaspheme, rail at or revile.” 

Comments 

·        “Anyone, with the evidence of the Lord’s power before His eyes, should declare it to be Satanic, exhibited a condition of heart beyond divine illumination and therefore hopeless.  Divine forgiveness would be inconsistent with the moral nature of God.  As to the Son of Man, in his state of humiliation, there might be misunderstanding, but not so with the Holy Spirit’s power demonstrated” (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary). 

·        “By accusing Jesus of being in league with Satan when he was really acting through the power of the Holy Spirit, they had blasphemed the Spirit, hardened their hearts against the Spirit’s influence. . . . There is such a thing as opposion to divine influence that is so persistent and deliberate because of continual preference of darkness to light, that repentance, and therefore forgiveness become impossible” (Dan Petty, Guardian of Truth). 

·        “Since both Christ and the Spirit are deity (Jn. 1:1; Acts 5:3,4), why should it, within this setting, appear to be more serious to dishonor the Spirit than the Savior?  We believe the emphasis here has to be on the chronological aspects of their respective functions.  Though the Jews would presently crucify their Messiah, nevertheless, with the great outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the proclamation of his message of grace, thousands of them would receive pardon (Acts 2).  If, though, that kingdom of redemption, whose introduction was divinely verified by the workings of the Spirit (cf. Mt. 12:28), was repudiated, what else was there through which men could be saved?  Absolutely nothing!  To harden oneself against the gospel plan is, therefore, blasphemy against the Spirit of God, and those who continue in such a disposition have no means of obtaining forgiveness” (Wayne Jackson, Christian Courier)

·        “The sin He was confronting was the Pharisee’s deliberate rejection of what which they knew to be of God (cf. John 11:48; Acts 4:16).  They could not deny the reality of what the Holy Spirit had done through Him, so they attributed to Satan a work that they knew was of God (v. 24; Mark 3:22). . . . Someone never exposed to Christ’s divine power and presence might reject Him in ignorance and be forgiven—assuming the unbelief gives way to genuine repentance.  Even a Pharisee such as Saul of Tarsus could be forgiven for speaking  ‘against the Son of Man’ or persecuting His followers—because his unbelief stemmed from ignorance (1 Tim. 1:13).  But those who know His claims are true and reject Him anyway sin ‘against the Holy Spirit’—because it is the Holy Spirit who testifies of Christ and makes His truth known to us (John 15:26; 16:14,15).  No forgiveness was possible for these Pharisees who witnessed His miracles first-hand, knew the truth of His claims, and still blasphemed the Holy Spirit—because they had already rejected the fullest possible revelation” (J. MacArthur). 

Further Comments 

1.     The verse before the questioned verse on the unforgivable sin states, “He who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:9, with v. 10; Matthew 10:33; 2 Tim. 2:12).  This statement of the Lord indicates that a verbal denial of Christ or speaking against Christ can also be considered unforgivable since one will be denied by Christ in the Judgment.  Thus, known, deliberate and purposeful sin cannot be forgiven since one dies without repentance (see also Hebrews 10:26-31).  

2.     Forgiveness is possible if one is willing to repent of his sins, believe in Christ Jesus, and demonstrate this by being baptized into the Lord Jesus.  This pertains to those who formerly rejected Jesus and His saving blood but are willing to change: 

·        Jews on Pentecost (Acts 2:22-41)

·        Paul (1 Timothy 1:12-16; Acts 22:16) 

3.     If one does not repent (Acts 3:19; 17:30-31; 20:21), refuses to place is faith in Christ Jesus (John 3:16-19, 36), and refuses to be baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21), he cannot be forgiven.  God will not an unrepentant, hardened, obstinate heart that is closed to the truth of God. 

4.     Furthermore, if a Christian refuses to repent of his sins (Rev. 2:4-5), confess them (1 John 1:9), turn away from them (Prov. 28:13), ask forgiveness of God and those sinned against (Matt. 6:14-15; Luke 17:3-4; 2 Cor. 2:4-9), then he cannot be forgiven.  This also reveals a hardened heart of unbelief (cf. Heb. 3:12) and unrepentance (Romans 2:4-5). 

5.     If one is willing to repent of his sin or sins, willing to forsake his sin, and willing to walk in holiness and truth, this is evidence that he has not committed unpardonable sin.  A tender, receptive, open conscience is a sign that he is not hardened and unable to repent. 

6.     There is a sin leading to death and this seems to be unforgivable (1 John 5:16-17).  But any sin can be forgiven and one can receive life, according to the context of the letter (cf. 1 John 1:7).  In the broader context (cf. 1 John 1:8-10), we know that every sin can be forgiven if repented of and forsaken, thus “the sin leading to death” in 1 John must be sin that is unconfessed, unrepented of, and unforsaken. 

Richard Hollerman

 

 

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