What is the Unpardonable Sin?
Written by Charles Bedwell
What exactly is the "unpardonable sin" of which has received so much talk and conversation in the professing Christian community? Many speculate that it "could" be murdering someone, or committing suicide, or cursing and swearing, or taking God's name in vain. Of course, many say, "Well, scripture says blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the unpardonable sin. Scripture says this." This is true. Scripture DOES say this. In fact, let's go to scripture to portray these exact words. But we will need to go a little further than that to fully identify this description of sin.
Matthew 12:31-32 ...'Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.'
This seems to fully imply that there is "ONE TYPE" of sin that will not be forgiven, no matter how much someone may choose to repent of and confess it. But what does John say that God's nature towards forgiveness is?
1 John 1 8-9 ...'If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.'
1 John 2:1-2 ...'My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.'
Therefore I ask: Is scripture giving a two-sided approach to sin, or is there a little more to this than meets the eye?
John clearly says that if we CONFESS our sins. If we repent of our sins and turn away from them. If we fervently and humbly seek forgiveness for our wickedness, He not only FORGIVES us of our sins, but CLEANSES us from all of our unrighteousness. Well, if there is no one sin that God won't forgive, and Jesus says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, then what exactly leads to a state of not being forgiven?? This is utterly important to understand! Friend, there is no double message being given here. What has to be done at this point is to convey WHAT type of work the Holy Spirit does for us.
John 16:7-15 ...'Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.'
In this passage we already see 4 major things the Holy Spirit does for the entire world:
1. He reproves (convicts) the world of sin.
2. He unveils righteousness.
3. He warns of the coming judgment.
4. He guides a thirsty, fervent heart into ALL truth.
Paul also mentions the Holy Spirit on many occasions. Most notably, he gives one important warning in reference to the Holy Spirit. A warning which will HELP us tremendously in further understanding what Jesus said in Matthew 12 about the unpardonable sin.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 ...'Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. Quench NOT the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.'
What is Paul saying here? He connects abiding in righteousness with NOT quenching the Holy Spirit. Well what does it mean to "quench" something?
Quench: "To put out, to extinguish".
Also, my favorite definition of this word in relation to the Holy Spirit is from Merriam-Webster - "To bring (something immaterial) to an end, typically by satisfying, damping, cooling, or decreasing." ... Paul says "Do not resist the Holy Spirit! Do not ignore His plea. Do not close your ears to his warnings." ... And again he says in Ephesians 4:30 ...'And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.'
I thank God with all diligence that He is a God of mercy and forgiveness, of abundant grace! Even the very men we admire from scripture, the men who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write down these wonderful words, had all done different forms of abominable wickedness in their lives at some time, and yet God transformed these men into vessels of righteousness! Praise God! Think of Peter, being one of the most loved of disciples of Jesus, he still denied Jesus THREE times on the night of Jesus' court hearing before the priests and scribes. Not only did Peter deny Jesus, but he actually cursed and screamed words of profanity, doing everything in his power to avoid any certain persecution! Oh how God must have been hurt by this! Peter himself knew this after the fact, and wept bitterly when his eyes met Jesus' eyes just after his steady denial of His Savior.
So what exactly is the unpardonable sin? Friend, it is not any one general sin in and of itself. It is the continual, unrelenting resistance and quenching of God's Spirit!
I heard a parable from a preacher about a little boy who owned a dove. This helps to convey this truth even more. This little boy had a dove whom he loved and cared for. Every morning he would let the dove come out of its cage and fly around the house, getting in his morning exercise. Out of love, the boy would reach into a bag close by, where he stored plenty of food for the dove. He would reach his hand into the bag and grab a liberal handful of food, holding his hand wide open for the dove to come and feed for his breakfast. One day the boy changed his pattern. He replicated the same process, only this time when the dove would swoop down to eat some food, the boy clasped his hand shut at the last moment, basically playing a trick on the dove, not allowing him to feed at all. The dove was very patient with the boy, though. When his first attempt failed, he would fly around the room for a little while and try to come down again. Again though, the boy unfortunately played the same trick on the poor dove. This dove had a great love for this boy, and was patient time and time and time again for quite some time, to no avail. Eventually, this dove moved on. He no longer would come to the boy and flew away.
The more we resist God's Spirit, the more difficult it is for Him to reach through to us. Eventually, we reach a state (the unpardonable sin) where the Holy Spirit will move on.
Hebrews 10:26-27 ...'For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.'
This "certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation" comes to those who constantly resist the Holy Spirit, even passing endlessly through God's abundant mercy and grace. There is also something else connected with allowing the Holy Spirit to commune with us ..
John 14:15-18 ...'If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.'
This actually goes back to John 16:13 where Jesus said that the Spirit of Truth would guide us "into ALL truth." Jesus says above in John 14 that if we Keep His Commandments, He will THEN pray that the Father send us the Helper, the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit. Out of love we are obedient to God, and want to live Jesus' example. And this faithful obedience leads to Jesus sending us the Holy Spirit for even further strength! Notice that abiding in God's Spirit also coincides with "Keeping the Commandments." There is no way to get around this.
Thus, is there any one particular sin that can keep us from receiving redemption and forgiveness? Of course not. If we truly desire to change, to "let the dove feed", God is faithful and just to forgive us - to cleanse us completely. The key here is that a converted heart will lovingly appreciate the wonderful free gift of grace, and will constantly seek to move forward, to draw closer to Jesus, to turn away from sin. Remember, continually living in sin is giving victory to the enemy over you, and it is also quenching the Spirit. The worst thing anyone can do is to spitefully reject a free, wonderful gift. If a stranger comes to you on the street and lovingly offers you something, are you going to smite his hand away from you, or will you appreciate what you have been given?
There are many today who are in danger of committing the unpardonable sin, because they are resisting the promptings of the Holy Spirit of God to turn away from sin. Instead they are cherishing certain sins and worldliness and turn the grace of God into a cheap and common thing (Hebrews 10:29, Jude 1:4). The Holy Spirit attempts to speak to all. So it is my fervent prayer that we all allow Jesus to change our hearts.
Revelation 3:20-21 ...'Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.'