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The Unforgiveable Sin

The Unforgiveable Sin

by Dr. David Kyle Foster
Mastering Life Ministries
February 3, 2022

At one point or another, some believers wonder if they've committed the "unforgiveable" or "unpardonable" sin. For the most part, such worries are the trick of the evil one designed to engender fear, unbelief, and a distancing from God. He's trying to drown their confidence and neutralize their productivity in the Kingdom of God by filling their minds with hopelessness, self-hatred and doubts about God's goodness.

"Let My People Go"

Some believe that they've committed the sin of Pharaoh, who repeatedly and defiantly hardened his heart to the witness of the Holy Spirit. In that case, God finally declared....

I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen.
(Exodus 7:3-4a)

This idea of spiritual deafness is similar to Isaiah's prophecy, (Isaiah 6:9-10; Acts 28:26-27), repeated later by Jesus in Matthew 13:9-17.....

>I>He who has ears, let him hear.....
I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand......
But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear.......

Indeed, Pharaoh had committed the same sin that the Pharisees of Jesus' day would commit - refusing to believe that God's "signs and wonders" were from God.

Pharaoh had hardened his heart at least ten times before God took action. Having read the intents of his heart, God knew that Pharaoh's decision would never change - that he had rendered himself incapable of repentance. Of this final hardening St. Augustine wrote.....

.....(It) was the result of repeated resistance to God's commands - a refusal to bend to and agree to God's will. Pharaoh acted from motives that were already established from his own past willing.

The Sin That Dare Not Call Its Name

We see a variation on the sin of Pharaoh in Matthew 12:22-31 when the Pharisees charged Jesus with healing a demon possessed, blind, and mute man by the power of Satan. They declared........

"This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons."
Knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? ......
"Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.....
"You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.....

By attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to demonic powers, the Pharisees were also denying the validity of Jesus' ministry - in essence, charging Him with working for Satan himself. In doing so, the devil exposed a heart that was permanently hardened against God. As Jesus put it, they were speaking: out of that which fills the heart.

Dr. D. A. Carson writes......

The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit by the Pharisees was a rejection of the truth in full awareness that that is exactly what one is doing--thoughtfully, willfully, and self-consciously rejecting the work of the Spirit even though there can be no other explanation of Jesus' exorcisms than that. For such a sin there is no forgiveness.

New Testament professor Darrell L. Bock tells us:

The blasphemy of the Spirit might be regarded as the by-product of rejecting the Son of Man. The difference between blaspheming the Son of Man and blaspheming the Spirit is that blasphemy of the Son of Man is an instant rejection, while blasphemy of the Spirit is a permanent rejection.... Once the Spirit's testimony about God's work through Jesus is permanently refused, then nothing can be forgiven, since God's plan has been rejected.

The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to bear witness to the divinity of Jesus as the Son of God, Savior and Lord and to demonstrate that fact through divine miracles, signs, and wonders. In John 16:7-8, Jesus expands on this by saying that the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.

The Apostle Paul expounds even further in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5.....

My message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.

To Be Against Jesus is to Be on Satan's Side

To believe that we are irretrievably destined to hell by dint of one sin or another, (or even a multiplicity of sins, egregious as they may be), is to say that the atonement of Jesus is not sufficient to cleanse us from all sin. Thus the "unforgiveable sin" lies outside of kinds, types, degrees or numbers of sin. It lies in the hardening of one's heart to the only way that man can be saved - the forgiveness that the Son of God alone offers (Acts 4:12). It is unforgiveable because the only thing that can save a person is such faith. If we make a final and full denial of Jesus and His work, we have cut ourselves off from salvation itself. An important caveat however - only God knows when a person has reached this point, so it is important for us to share Jesus with everyone, no matter what their present behavior.

The Pharisees accused Jesus of sorcery, which was a capital offense in Judaism. Our Lord responded by pointing out that the logical conclusion to their absurd claim was that Satan was casting out Satan, thus neutralizing his own power.

In his commentary on Matthew, R.T. Price notes that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.....

..... is a deliberate refusal to acknowledge God's power. It is a totally perverted orientation - a calling of evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20).... It is failure to recognize the light, and deliberate rejection of it once recognized.... It is unforgiveable blasphemy rather than unwitting sin whose consequence extends to the age to come.

These verses have been made the ground of much unnecessary fear for over-sensitive Christians whose supposed "unforgiveable sin" bears no resemblance to the deliberate stance adopted by these Pharisees.

In his commentary on Matthew, Robert Mounce adds:

Jesus is saying to His antagonists that to attribute to Satan that which has been accomplished by the power and Spirit of God is to demonstrate a moral vision so distorted that there is no longer any hope of recovery.... Denial of this was not the result of ignorance but of a willful refusal to believe. Therefore, it is unforgiveable. The only sin that God is unable to forgive is the unwillingness to accept forgiveness. Thus the unforgiveable sin is a state of moral insensitivity caused by continuous refusal to respond to the overtures of the Spirit of God.

As Bishop Hilary of Poitiers (315-367 A.D.) said:

There is no mercy if God is denied in Christ. To forsake Christ is to forsake the nature of the Spirit of the Father residing in Him.

The "Sin Unto Death"

In 1 John 5:16, the Apostle John makes a curious statement about "a sin that leads to death".......

If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that.

Clearly, this sin is so egregious that God takes the life of the person who commits it. Whether John is referring to physical death or spiritual death is not clear though the warning is directed toward "brothers and sisters".

Alternately, it may refer to an "unpardonable sin" repeatedly and unrepentantly committed by an unbeliever.

The Mark of the Beast

Another possible understanding of the "sin unto death" is that it prophetically refers to the sin of taking the Mark of the Beast during the Tribulation period. In Revelation 14:9-11, the Holy Spirit informs us.....

If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God..... And the smoke of their torment will go up forever and ever. Those who worship the beast and his image and receives the mark of his name have no rest day and night.

and in Revelation 19:20-21.....

The beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.......
(See also Revelation 13:15-17; 16:2; 17:8)

Comfort for the Fearful

If you have a desire to repent and be forgiven by Jesus for your sins, you have NOT committed the unpardonable sin, for if you had, that witness and desire would not be there.

If you are afraid that God has permanently hardened your heart because you've repeatedly steeled yourself against the witness of the Holy Spirit, (that Jesus is Savior and Lord), there is still time to make that right!

Remember, Pharaoh's sin was to repeatedly harden his heart as an act of defiant opposition to God and as an attack against His chosen people. The Pharisee's "unforgiveable sin" was to declare that Jesus was doing miracles by the power of Satan rather than by the Holy Spirit, thus blinding the people to God's singular plan of salvation through Jesus Christ. And though the text isn't clear, the "sin unto death" is likely a variation on the sins described above or a taking of the Mark of the Beast in the last day.

It's important to understand that we currently live in an "age of grace" where the redemptive power of Jesus Christ works to woo us to surrender our lives to His love and grace - before it's too late! Though others choose darkness instead of holiness, if you still have a desire to positively respond to God's invitation, His grace is still available to you. Respond to it now and receive the gift of eternal life. In John 17:3, Jesus proclaimed for all who would listen.....

This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

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