By Dr. David Jeremiah
“One of the questions I’m regularly asked is, ‘Pastor, can I commit a sin that God cannot forgive?’
According to Jesus, there is one sin a person can do for which there is no forgiveness or pardon either in this age or in the age to come: blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. But what does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit?”
Dr. David Jeremiah explains how the only way to understand these words is by seeing them within the context of the whole passage.
Here are 10 things you need to know about the “unforgivable sin” or “unpardonable sin”.
1. Jesus mentions the unforgivable sin in the gospel of Mark.
Jesus addressed the topic in Mark 3:20-30, a passage that ends with these words: “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” (Mark 3:28-29).
This is the verse that gets quoted whenever Christians address this issue. But the passage doesn’t stop there.
2. To correctly understand the unforgivable sin passage, you need to look at the very last phrase.
Take a look again at Jesus’ finishing statement in verses 28-30: “‘Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation,’ because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’”
This paragraph has been the source of great misunderstandings in Christendom. To arrive at the correct interpretation, we have to begin with the last phrase, which explains why Jesus made this statement. He gave this teaching because His foes were accusing Him of having an unclean spirit (verse 22). Our Lord was telling them, in essence, “There is a sin that you are on the verge of committing. You should be very careful, because you’re about to do something for which there is no forgiveness.”
3. The unforgivable sin is not a thoughtless mistake.
Let me take a moment and say the unforgivable sin isn’t something that someone commits randomly. The scribes who came from Jerusalem didn’t just do this on a whim. If you follow the references to these scribes throughout the book of Mark you’ll see there is a progression to their unbelief. They were initially curious about Jesus and His ministry. Then they had questions. In time, they grew indifferent; but then their indifference metastasized into a malicious attitude that became so hateful and vengeful that it ultimately nailed Jesus Christ to the cross.
4. There is a Greek verb that proves it’s not an instant reaction.
In our story in Mark 3, there’s an interesting fact that’s only apparent in the Greek New Testament. According to verse 22, the scribes said, “He has Beelzebub.” The verb form for “said” is in the imperfect tense. It can be translated as, “They kept on saying.” It wasn’t just a matter of a sudden thoughtless word or an instant reaction. Their words represented a hardened attitude and an embittered and impenitent heart.
5. It shows us that progressive rejection can be the most dangerous.
When God convicts us of sin and presents us with the Gospel, it’s dangerous to neglect it, especially if our procrastination becomes chronic. We resist and resist and resist. After a while, we can become so hard-hearted and sin-hardened that we grow calloused of soul. Our ears can’t receive the truth. Our minds shake off the conviction of the Spirit. We become cynical of conscience. And although the grace of God is still available to us, we push away from it.
6. Knowing the Word of God isn’t enough.
These scribes had become Jesus-resistant because of the time-lapsed attitudes of their own evil hearts. It’s tragic, for these scribes had devoted their lives to copying the Word of God. Note the relationship between the words scribe and scribble. These men had copied and recopied the Old Testament. Every day they copied an ancient Scripture scroll by hand.
They had copied Isaiah 53, about the Suffering Servant. They had copied Psalm 22, about the death of the Messiah. They knew Micah 5 and the prophecy of our Lord’s birth. Yet their hearts had become so hardened they couldn’t receive His grace when it arrived in the person of Jesus.
7. We can be hardened to spiritual truth by living in the middle of it.
We can go to church and read the Bible so much that the words no longer register with us. The scribes had come to the place where they were so familiar with religious things that when the Son of God showed up, they didn’t know who He was and they accused Him of being from Satan.
8. The unforgivable sin is denying the deity of Christ.
By ascribing the miracles of Jesus to Satan, the religious leaders were denying the deity of Jesus Christ. They were saying He could not be God. Yet by His miracles He was showing Himself to be nothing and no one less than God. Only God Himself could do what He had done. His followers believed in His deity.
9. Rejecting the Holy Spirit and rejecting the deity of Christ are connected.
It’s the Holy Spirit who witnesses to the deity of Christ in our world today.
So when you refuse to accept the ministry of the Holy Spirit or you ascribe His ministry to Satan, you give up the final opportunity to be saved. You must believe in Jesus as the Son of God. We have to accept the witness of the Holy Spirit and act upon the conviction He brings.
10. If you’re worried that you may have committed a sin God will not forgive…you’ve likely not committed this sin.
The thought of an unforgivable sin has haunted sensitive people in every Christian century, and maybe it has haunted you. I want to be clear in saying that if you’re bothered in your spirit that you may have committed a sin God will not forgive, the very fact that you have anxiety over that is evidence you’ve not committed the sin. If He is still working in your heart, it’s not possible to have committed the unpardonable sin. The very fact that you’re reading this article is a tremendous indication you’ve not committed the unforgivable sin described in the Gospel of Mark.
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