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.”