Sincere people who already know Jesus as Lord and Savior will sometimes experience feelings of doubt and ask fearfully, “Could I have committed the unpardonable sin?” And those who do evangelism will tell you that often when witnessing to a lost person they will hear, “It’s too late for me…I think I’ve committed the unpardonable sin.”
What is the unpardonable sin? People can have some strange ideas about it. Let’s get it settled.
It’s not a moral sin.
We need to understand right off the top: the unpardonable sin is not some moral sin. It’s not rape, murder, or child molestation, as wicked as those are. Anyone who has done that can still be saved by the grace of God. Every stain that has ever come across a human soul, the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses (see 1 John 1:9).
It’s not an intellectual sin.
A person may be an atheist, an agnostic, or someone who hates God. Yet that can be forgiven, for many atheists and blasphemers have repented and come to the Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s not a verbal sin, where a person curses God to His face. Even that can be forgiven. The word blaspheme means “to speak hurtfully against.” When people take God’s name in vain, they have blasphemed. “For out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”Just as you can pray to God without saying a word out loud, you can blaspheme God without words. You can live your life in a way that silently blasphemes the Lord. Words alone are not the unpardonable sin.
The unpardonable sin is a specific blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself tells us in 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.
We must examine this closely. Specifically, the unpardonable sin is when you knowingly attribute to the devil the work of the Spirit of Almighty God. That sin can never be forgiven. It is a sin one commits willfully, with his eyes wide open, and then forever shut.
Here is the background for this warning Jesus Christ has given. In Matthew chapter 12 Jesus is in His public ministry. A demon-possessed man is brought to the Lord and He heals him. The Pharisees, religious leaders of that day, see this miracle, but they also see that the people are amazed, proclaiming, “Is not this the son of David?”—meaning, “Is He not the Messiah?” Because their political and religious power were now threatened, they hated Christ and His ministry.
They couldn’t deny the miracle because it’s obvious, so they determined to explain it away saying, “Oh, sure He performed a miracle, but let us tell you how He did it. He did it in the power of Beelzebub.” When they said “Beelzebub,” that was the most diabolical, hateful thing they could possibly have said.
You see, Beelzebub was a god the Phoenicians created. They related Beelzebub to filth—dung on the ground from which maggots might be seen to emerge. The Phoenicians said, “Out of filth and dirt there comes life. So this is some sort of a god.” They actually worshipped a god of filth and named it “Beelzebub.”
The Pharisees were saying, “Yes, Jesus casts out devils, but He’s doing it by the god of filth.” It was then that Jesus gave this teaching, to show the great wickedness of their sin.
It was a three-fold sin
They sinned against redemption.
Here was redeeming love standing before them, Jesus opening blind eyes. His great love and mastery over Satan is being poured out. The same love that delivered the blind man would have delivered them. Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost.” They sinned against redeeming love, against their Redeemer. Later on, they were the ones who helped crucify Jesus and cried out for His blood.
They sinned against reason.
Jesus said, “And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?”
Common sense tells you a house divided against itself cannot stand. How does Satan cast out Satan? Jesus is saying, “I am not in collusion with the devil; I am in collision with the devil.” No one works for the devil by casting out demons, opening blind eyes, and giving peace and joy.
These men knew better. You don’t get to be a Pharisee by being stupid. They crucified their reason in order to crucify Jesus Christ. They sinned against reason.
But sinning against redemption and reason is not the unpardonable sin. It only sets the stage for it.
They sinned against revelation.
Jesus said, “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.”
There was the king, standing in their midst, the Holy Spirit of God working through Him and testifying by those very works that He was indeed the Son of God. Jesus did what He did by the Spirit of God. Their real struggle was with the Holy Spirit.
A person may blaspheme God the Father and say “There is no God.” He may blaspheme Jesus Christ and say, “He’s a false prophet or fictitious.” But when the Holy Spirit of God comes, He pulls away the veil of darkness and opens the eyes of the human spirit so people can see and understand.
What these were doing is this: they were sinning against light. When Jesus was on the cross, He could say to those who were crucifying Him, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” But these men knew what they were doing. They were not sinning against ignorance; they were sinning against light.
The ministry of the Father is to rule the universe. The ministry of the Son, in conjunction with the Father, is to save. But the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to open our eyes to give light, to help us to understand. It’s the Holy Spirit who opens understanding. And when men and women stand before God to be judged, they’re not going to be judged primarily by the sin they committed, but by the light they rejected.
“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, but men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.” John 3:19
What is the unpardonable sin?
It is sin against the light, attributing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit when one knows better.
What are the consequences of this sin? Next we will look at the consequences of closing the door on the Holy Spirit and attributing His work to Satan when you know exactly what you are doing.
Continued in Part 2…
How do we answer the tough questions? Why do bad things happen to good people and vice versa? Why was Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross necessary for redemption? And why were there three crosses on Calvary that day? Pastor Adrian Rogers tackles these topics in his simple and profound style in the “Why” booklet collection, which includes four booklets. It will become a staple in your own faith-building library and a valuable tool as you share the true Love worth finding, Jesus Christ. Ready to get your questions answered? Start here.