The Unpardonable Sin?

Is there really an unforgivable sin? Yes, but if you are worried that you have committed it then you haven’t.
Three of the four Gospels record these terrifying words from the lips of Jesus:

  • Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Matt 12:31–32).
  • Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin (Mark 3:28–29).
  • And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (Luke 12:10).

The setting for this pronouncement is Jesus doing powerful miracles of deliverance, which the religious leaders callously claimed to be the work of the devil. With deliberate, malicious intent, they were blaspheming the Spirit who empowered Jesus to do these wonderful things.
We will discuss this further in a moment, but many people, including many Christians, really struggle with this concept of an unpardonable sin. I even heard a pastor say once that if there was such a thing as an unpardonable sin, then that would make the power of sin stronger than the love of God. However, there was an important side of this that the pastor was overlooking. Jesus says in John 6:44 that:

No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.

We see here that the Spirit of God is the one who reveals a person’s need for salvation. We can only be saved because of His revealing our need to us and lovingly drawing us. He is also the One Who makes us new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). He indwells us (John 14:16), seals us (Ephesians 4:30), conforms us to the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18) and ultimately, will one day raise our bodies to immortality (Romans 8:11).
This same Holy Spirit (Who is a “He,” not an “it”) is the very one that these religious leaders had offended. He has personality and emotions:

  • He must be obeyed – Acts 10:19-21
  • He can be lied to – Acts 5:3
  • He can be resisted – Acts 7:51
  • He can be grieved – Ephesians 4:30
  • He can be insulted – Hebrews 10:29

So in light of these verses, we can see that if someone grieves away the Holy Spirit, there will be no one to draw the person to their need for salvation. It is not a matter of the sin being beyond God’s love or capacity to forgive. Rather it is a matter of a person’s heart being so hardened to the Truth that the Spirit has nothing to work with. We see a number of references to this in the Bible:

  • Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “‘“You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’ Matthew 13:14‭-‬15 ESV
  • They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. Ephesians 4:18 ESV
  • … do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.
    Hebrews 3:8‭-‬9 ESV

The sin in question is when this hardening goes on to its ultimate conclusion and the person has alienated him/herself to the point that they are no longer capable of hearing or responding to the Spirit’s call.

In his famous sermon God’s Three Deadlines ( which has reportedly led to the conversion of thousands of people) evangelist J. Harold Smith observed that in all of his years of ministry, he had never seen anyone commit this sin and live more than 24 hours. Sobering thought isn’t it?

In that sermon Smith describes a time when the Holy Spirit strongly laid it on his heart to witness to a certain man. He went and explained to the man that the Holy Spirit had sent him to talk to him about his eternal destiny. Tragically, the man responded “Preacher, you and the Holy Spirit can both go to hell!” That man was killed in a car accident that very same day.

So since no one can come to Jesus in the first place unless they are drawn to Him by the Father, a desire to come to Jesus is a sure sign that you haven’t committed this sin. Furthermore, you have the wonderful promise that “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out”
(John 6:37 ESV). If He promises won’t cast you out, you can be assured that He will lovingly take you in. If you have never responded to His invitation, why not do it now?
Keep It Real,
James H Boyd Gospel Ministries:
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