The Unforgivable Sin

Read: Mark 3

“I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” (Mark 3:28-29)

Jesus revealed unlimited forgiveness through his death on the cross. By his atoning sacrifice, God’s great grace covers all our sin—with the exception of one: Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. That sin has been called unforgivable.

These three words—the unforgivable sin—have caused untold anguish to many who have misunderstood their meaning and thought they had committed this grievous sin of all sins. Maybe they had become angry in a time of bitter disappointment or loss and let their rage fly, cursing God. Perhaps they fell into a sin they had vowed to God never to commit again. Maybe they had toyed with something Satanic, or mocked the work of the Spirit in a church service only then to be hit with the terrifying thought that they had insulted and blasphemed the Holy Spirit.  Whatever the case, based on this passage, there are those who wonder if they are hopelessly and eternally damned.

One of the chief problems with this passage, however, is that the wrong people are usually the ones obsessing over it. It is usually those who have a high degree of moral sensitivity and care deeply about their relationship with God, or those who suffer the religious symptoms of an emotional imbalance who live under such guilt and fear.  In both cases, a misunderstanding of the passage has created unnecessary pain.

The context of this confrontational encounter gives us a better understanding. Jesus had been performing many outstanding miracles (Mark 3:10-11, see also Matthew 12:22-30 and Luke 11:14-28), plainly evident for all to see. Most of the people were astounded by Jesus’ power over disease, demons and death, but out of sheer jealous and condescending elitism, the religious leaders scorned Jesus’ ministry as the work of the devil. So Jesus’ declaration of this unforgivable sin here is clearly a response to the sin of these few. It is not the sin of blurting out some momentary profanity or sacrilege against the Spirit of God. It’s the much more sinister offense of looking into the very face of Truth and calling it a lie. The teachers of the law were seeing the undeniable healing imprint of God’s Spirit and still deliberately calling it a work of Satan.

We need to understand that these leaders were not simply ignorant or perhaps confused in this matter; they knew exactly what they were doing. It is worth noting that verse 30 doesn’t translate very well from the Greek text in most English versions. An imperfect tense is used which suggests that theirs was a chronic attitude. In other words, they were continually declaring that Jesus had an evil spirit. This was not simply a spur-of-the-moment declaration, but an ongoing fixation.

Why couldn’t they be forgiven? Not because God’s grace was withheld from them, but because with each denial, they became increasingly incapable of responding to the Spirit of Grace.

Now here is the real danger in this—and the message for us who read this sobering text: When we deliberately choose a lie when confronted with God’s Truth, it is not that God then withholds his Truth—or his love and redemption for that matter—but that with each such deliberate choice, we become less able to respond to these graces.

So this brings us to the correct definition of the unforgivable sin: It is the steadfast refusal to be forgiven! The only sin that cannot be forgiven is un-repentance.  However, when we bring to God a soft and sorrowful heart, we find as King David did, that “a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:17)

“God has promised forgiveness to your repentance, but He has not promised tomorrow to your procrastination.” ~Augustine

What If God Took Over

Keep in mind this prayer of the forgivable sinner: “Father, create in me a tender heart.  Keep me sensitive to the convicting work of your Spirit and cause me to be quick to repent.”

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One thought on “The Unforgivable Sin

  1. Is not the root of the unforgivable sin unbelief?
    For who is it that calls the Holy Spirit, which is the Spirit of Truth, a devil, is a lying spirit?
    Are they not those whom the devil has blinded through unbelief? These are blind to not only the gospel but to all truths, everything which has not been proven. This is why there shall be a great diversity of opinion until all things are proven through observation and science.
    And who is forewarned: “Whosoever says, You fool! shall be in danger of hellfire?”
    Are they not those whom the warning should be heeded: “Be careful how you listen?”
    “But why do the heathen rage?”
    They cannot help it. The truth is an affront to them. They know not why. Yet the spirit which is in them is offended when they hear all manner of truth. The only time it is not offended is when this spirit himself is the only who chooses to reveal it through observation and science, which are the gods of this world; but like Satan, it only shows half truths, factoids, if you will, and never the complete truth. Any complete truth is too dangerous to his kingdom for him to allow. Yet the only reason he even allows these factoids to be known is to show the world that they do not need God or his spirit to satisfy their lust for knowledge and wisdom. The adversary knows us well.
    You can’t handle the truth! was Jack Nicholson’s famous line.
    Was he right?
    “Cast not your pearls before swine.”
    The swine are those who cannot patiently listen and truly consider in their hearts what is spoken. Why should they, after all? They already think they know. They will take what they like of your words but will cast the true pearls to the ground. These they cannot receive, because they think they come from a lying spirit. This is particularly dangerous when they believe the lying spirit in them is the spirit of God. That spirit will spur them on to do great evils in the name of God. History is the proof of this. “They do these things because they have not known me or my Father.”
    Are not these the very ones whom never have forgiveness?