Want a More Detailed Explanation of the Unforgivable Sin?
I recently published a book book about it called, Why You Have Not Committed the Unforgivable Sin. Click on the book cover to learn more or check out the links at the bottom of this article. The book expands greatly on the content of the post below. So if you find this post helpful, but want to learn more about the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, I recommend you get a copy of my book.
Now… on to the sermon I preached several years ago about the unforgivable sin.
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Most Christians have wondered at some point in their life if they have committed the unforgivable sin. I have personally talked with Christians who were divorced, got an abortion, or committed adultery, and thought they had committed the unforgivable sin. Others think that suicide is the unforgivable sin. If a person commits suicide, then they are going to hell. Then I have talked with some who believe that the unforgivable sin is rejecting God. They believe that if you are a Christian and you go back to living like you aren’t a Christian, or if you curse Jesus, or deny that you ever knew Him, then this is the unforgivable sin.
All Christians can Commit All Sins
But did you know that there are people in the Bible who have committed one or all of these sins whom we all expect to see in heaven? Let me show you.
Take divorce first. Did you know that God is a divorced person? We read in Jeremiah 3:8 that God divorced Israel. Yet we certainly all expect to see God in heaven.
What about abortion? They didn’t really have abortion back then the way we do now, but if you believe, as I do, that abortion is taking the life of another human being, then we can call abortion the murder of babies. Abortion is a form of infanticide. Yet we know from Ezekiel 16:21 that many of the Israelites did this as a form of idol worship. They offered their children to false idols as human sacrifices. While not all Israelites had eternal life, some of those who did this will still be in heaven.
Then there is adultery. David, the man after God’s own heart committed adultery with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11:4), as did many of the other kings and rulers of Israel. Paul sometimes writes about adultery among church members who will make it to heaven, but will lose their inheritance and reward there. Suicide is talked about too. Samson (Jdg. 16:29-30) committed suicide, and we believe he will be in heaven. King Saul also committed suicide (1 Sam. 31:4-5); 1 Chr. 10:4-5), and he will be in heaven as well. The most famous example of someone who rejected and denied Christ is Peter. He even used profanity and curses in denying any connection to Jesus Christ. Yet we know that he was forgiven and will be in heaven.
In fact, there are a whole host of other sins mentioned in the Bible that true believers have committed, yet we know from other Scriptures that these people will still be in heaven. The Bible talks about believers who commit idolatry (1 King 11:1-10). We read of others who believe only for a while and then fall away (Luke 8:13). We read of some who do not continue in the Word of Christ (John 8:31), do not abide in Christ (John 15:1-8), become disqualified in the race of the Christian life (1 Cor 9:24-27), resist God’s correction up to the point of physical death (1 Cor 11:30-32).
Others stray from the faith (1 Tim 1:5-6), shipwreck their faith (1 Tim 1:18-20), fall away from the faith (1 Tim 4:1-3), deny the faith (1 Tim 5:8), cast off initial faith to follow Satan (1 Tim. 5:12-15), stray from the faith by loving money (1 Tim. 6:9-10), stray from the faith by teaching false doctrine (1 Tim. 6:20-21), and deny Christ and live faithless lives (2 Tim 2:11-13).
We have the examples of people in the Bible who murdered and committed adultery, and yet were said to be saved (Jacob’s sons). Other men, like Solomon, Amaziah and Uzziah will most likely be in heaven, but did not live very faithfully to God during their lives. Some of them committed adultery, had multiple wives, committed murder, and fell into idolatry.
Then there is the righteous man who commits unrighteousness and dies as a result of it in Ezekiel 18, and the man in 1 Corinthians 5 who was involved in an incestuous relationship with his mother in law. Lot who committed incest with his daughters. Ananais and Sapphira in Acts 5 and so many other examples in Scripture of genuine believers who fell away.
The point of all of this is to show that the grace of God runs deeper and wider than most of us will ever know.
The ocean of God’s grace never runs dry. The limits of God’s grace never are reached. ⇦ Tweet that!
But what about when someone commits the unforgivable sin?
Is There A Sin God Does not Forgive?
We have all encountered the troubling passage in Matthew 12:31-32 which indicates that there is a sin which the grace of God does not cover.
Matthew 12:31-32 is often pointed to as proof that we can lose our salvation. The sin mentioned in this passage is often referred to as the unpardonable sin or unforgivable sin. It is said that if you commit this sin, then no matter how good of a Christian you have been up to that point and no matter how much you repent or confess afterward, you will not make it to heaven.
Let us take a closer look at Matthew 12:31-32 to see what it really says. Let’s begin with Matthew 12:31.
Matthew 12:31. Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.
We learn in Matthew 12:31 that every sin will be forgiven, except one – the blasphemy against the Spirit.
Let’s look first at this concept that every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men. We know what sin is. It is when we do something contrary to God’s character or will. When God tells us what He wants us to do, and we don’t do it, we sin. James puts it this way, “Anyone who knows the good he ought to do, and doesn’t do it, sins.”
Blasphemy is similar. The most basic definition of blasphemy is to speak evil or injuriously about God. So blasphemy is a sin of the tongue. A sin that uses words and thoughts rather than actions. So right away, all of this sins listed above that involve actions are not what Jesus is talking about. In fact, the only sin mentioned above that involves actions and thoughts is the sin of denying Christ and speaking against Him. So blasphemy against Christ is to speak evil or injuriously about Him. But jump ahead to Matthew 12:32. Look what Jesus says there. He says that speaking against the Son of Man will be forgiven.
So all of the possible sins we began with are now seen to be forgivable. Divorce, adultery, abortion, suicide all fall under the category of “every sin” and these are all forgiven. If you have committed any of these sins, you are forgiven! Jesus said it! All sins will be forgiven!
But what about blasphemies? Blasphemies will also be forgiven, even those spoken against Jesus Christ. If you have spoken a word against Jesus Christ, this too is forgiven. You have been forgiven.
It is only the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that will not be forgiven.
But what does this mean?
What is Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?
What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Matthew 12:32 helps us answer this question.
Matthew 12:32. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
The sin that will not ever be forgiven is not speaking against Jesus Christ, but speaking against the Holy Spirit.
But what is this sin, and how is it committed?
There are at least four different theories on what it means to speak against the Holy Spirit.
1. The Unforgivable Sin is Israel’s Rejection of the Messiah
The first theory is that this sin is Israel’s national rejection of the Messiah when Jesus was ministering in Israel. This theory states that this particular sin is only something that Jewish people living in the days of Jesus could commit. It is not a sin that we can commit today because Jesus is not engaged in his earthly ministry right now.
This theory is one I held for quite a while. It is a very compelling theory.
In the context, the Pharisees claim that Jesus is performing miracles by the power of Satan (Matthew 12:24). Later, Jesus calls this generation that rejected Him an “evil generation” which deserved condemnation for rejecting the Messiah (Matthew 12:39-42).
So these Jews are rejecting Jesus as the Messiah even though they know the prophecies about Him, have heard His teachings, and have seen His many miracles. Yet they still rejected Him and accused Him of being in league with Satan.
According to this view, then, the unforgivable sin is committed by these particular Jewish people. They lived in the time of Jesus and saw what He did, but attributed His work to the devil.
If this view is correct, then nobody can commit the unforgivable sin except for the Jewish people living at the time of Christ. According to this theory, since we are not Jewish and we are not living at the time of Christ, we cannot commit this sin.
This theory, by the way, is the one I was taught in Bible college. It is also held by such people as Warren Wiersbe and John MacArthur.
Though this theory has a lot going for it, I no longer hold to it because it seems this warning applies to “anyone,” not just Jewish people at the time of Christ. Furthermore, although the context does help us understand the unforgivable sin, it has to be something beyond rejection of the Messiah and speaking against the Messiah, because Jesus says that these things will be forgiven men, but not speaking against the Holy Spirit.
So while it is true that these Jewish religious leaders were in danger of committing the unforgivable sin, the context of the passage seems to indicate that the sin is something more than just Israel’s national rejection of the Messiah.
2. The Unforgivable Sin is accusing Christ of being in League with Satan
The second theory is that the unforgivable sin is committed when someone accuses Jesus of Satanic allegiance. One variation on this theory is that the unforgivable sin is committed when people attribute the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan.
One person who holds this view said this: “When we write off supernatural healings, prophetic utterances, the gift of tongues, etc. as coming from the devil, we are denying the power of the Holy Spirit. We are being disrespectful to the Holy Spirit. We are committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit!”
Of course, the behavior of some charismatic Christians goes way beyond healing and prophecy and speaking in tongues. Sometimes they get into holy laughter, barking like dogs or braying like donkeys, getting slain in the Spirit, rolling in the isles, and claiming their tooth fillings were changed to gold. Certain Christian leaders have said that these are counterfeit miracles from the devil. In response, certain charismatic leaders have said that such accusations are blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Then the finger-pointing and name-calling really begins in earnest…
But I don’t think this is the best interpretation of the passage. Scripture is very clear that not everything that appears spiritual is from the Holy Spirit. Satan can and does counterfeit the works of God. So we are supposed to test the spirits and see if they are from God (1 John 4:1). If we are convinced a certain activity is not from God, but is a counterfeit deception from the devil, it is our obligation to stand up for the truth. And we shouldn’t have to worry that we might be committing the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by denouncing something that is actually from God.
Years ago, when the holy laughter phenomenon began to spread out from Toronto into other churches around the world, there were many who were saying that this experience was not of the Holy Spirit, but was of Satan. Those who were involved in the Toronto Blessing phenomenon claimed that such statements were blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. They claimed that if God was doing something through the Holy Spirit, and other people said that these things were from the devil, then that is the unforgivable sin. They get this idea because in context, Jesus is performing miracles and casting out demons, and the Pharisees say that He does this by Beelzebub. Jesus then accuses them of having coming close to committing the unforgivable sin.
There are, however, similar ecstatic experiences cropping up in Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness churches, as well as among Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims. There are even such experiences among the pagan, animistic cults. Are we prepared to say that these also are from the Holy Spirit? I doubt very much that charismatics would be willing to say they are. Yet if they say that such experiences are from the devil, are they not also in danger of possibly attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil?
We cannot say the experiences of people in these other groups are from the devil, just in case God really is working among people in these other religions. But then, can we say these experiences are from the Holy Spirit? We cannot say that either, for we just don’t know.
The point is that this second theory becomes impossible to practically live out, because there would be no way to tell with certainty what is from the Holy Spirit and what is not. We would have to accept everything as possibly being from the Holy Spirit so that we did not accidentally commit the unforgivable sin.
So this second theory has weak evidence in context, and is impossible to live out practically.
3. The Unforgivable Sin is a Failure to Believe in Jesus
The third interpretation is one that I held for a few years, and it is the idea that the unforgivable sin is simply a failure to believe in Jesus for eternal life.
Someone who does not believe the gospel will of course not be forgiven in their unbelief. If they continue in their unbelief until death, then they will never be forgiven. This is the view of Charles Stanley and many others.
The reason I eventually rejected this view is that the warning here by Christ seems more serious than this. Jesus indicates that this sin cannot be forgiven, whereas unbelief can be. And if this sin is unbelief, why not just call it unbelief?
4. The Unforgivable Sin is Consistent and Willful Rejection of the Spirit’s Testimony about Jesus
The fourth view is the one that makes the most sense. It is kind of a mixture of all three previous views. It keeps the strengths of these other views, and avoids their weaknesses.
The fourth view is that the unforgivable sin is a willful and slanderous rejection of the Holy Spirit’s testimony about Christ.
One reason I eventually came to this conclusion is through a deeper understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit among unbelievers. The Holy Spirit is at work in the world convicting them of sin, of their need for righteousness, and the coming judgment (John 16:7-11). He also helps draw and woo people to Jesus Christ.
If a person is being convinced by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Messiah, and that person lashes out verbally at the Holy Spirit by saying something about how Jesus is of the devil or accuses the Holy Spirit of being Satanic, this could be the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
This is different than simple resistance of the Holy Spirit. When non-Christians resist the Holy Spirit, they are trying not to hear what the Holy Spirit is telling them. They try to drown out His still small voice with constant music, recreation, entertainment, sex, alcohol, and drugs.
But it is not so easy to commit the unforgivable sin. If you are reading this post, and are concerned that you have committed it, be encouraged – for there is clear evidence you have not committed this sin. Let us look at how this sin is committed.
How Does Someone Commit the Unforgivable Sin?
All unbelievers naturally resist the Spirit. But from this condition of resisting the work of the Spirit, one of three things will happen.
First, the person may stop resisting, and submit to what the Holy Spirit is saying, and as a result, will believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life. They are now and forevermore a Christian. Once a person has believed, they can no longer commit the unforgivable sin, because it is only a sin that unbelievers can commit when the Spirit is drawing them to Jesus.
Second, the non-Christian may continue to resist throughout his or her life, and will die in a state of resistance. Since they never believed in Jesus, they do not receive the benefits of eternal life. They never committed the unforgivable sin, but they also never believed in Jesus for eternal life. They simply resisted the work of the Spirit their whole life.
Thirdly, a person may get tired of always resisting what the Spirit is telling them about Jesus, and may lash out in anger against the Holy Spirit for what He is trying to tell them.
This person knowingly, maliciously, and repeatedly rejects and slanders the Holy Spirit for His efforts to bring them to Jesus. This is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
When a person commits the unforgivable sin, the Holy Spirit stops trying to convict them of sin, righteousness, and judgment. ⇦ Tweet that!
They once and for all choose to remain on their path of rebellion. The Holy Spirit will no longer convict them of their sin, of the offer of salvation, or of impending judgment. Such people have demanded to be left alone, and their request will be honored.
This view is a combination of the three first theories. The first theory was that the Jewish people had rejected the Messiah. People in our day who commit this sin also reject the Messiah, but it is more than that. The second theory is that this sin is when people attribute the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil. This happens when people say that the conviction of sin and the convincing of a need for Jesus Christ is of the devil, but again, the sin is more than that. The third theory was that this sin is nothing more than unbelief. And it is unbelief, but willful, hardened, blasphemous, and verbal rejection of Jesus Christ and especially the work that the Holy Spirit is trying to do in that person’s life.
When an unbeliever lashes out in this way, this reveals a heart hardened beyond hope of forgiveness. They will never be forgiven because there is nothing left for the Holy Spirit to appeal to. The Holy Spirit stops attempting to draw, convict, and convince people who commit the unforgivable sin. ⇦ Tweet that!
And without the Holy Spirit’s work in this way, no person will ever be saved.
Have you Committed the Unforgivable Sin?
So, how do you know if you have committed the unforgivable sin?
First, if you have believed in Jesus Christ for eternal life, then you have eternal life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47) and it is no longer possible for you to blaspheme the Holy Spirit in this way.
Since you have believed in Jesus for eternal life, the Holy Spirit has stopped working upon you as He does with non-Christians, and is now indwelling within you to mold you, shape you, and form you into Christlikeness. Yes, you can still sin against the Holy Spirit by quenching or grieving the Holy Spirit, but you cannot blaspheme the Spirit in the way Jesus talks about in Matthew 12:31-32.
So if you are a believer, don’t worry about committing the unforgivable sin. The chance to commit it is forever in your past.
If, however, you are not a Christian, and are worrying about whether you have committed this sin, be encouraged. Nobody who commits the blasphemy against the Spirit wonders if they have. ⇦ Tweet that!
People who have committed the unforgivable sin do not care that they have committed it. They do not even wonder if they have. They simply don’t care about such things anymore because the Holy Spirit has stopped convicting them of sin.
The unbeliever who commits this sin has become so morally and spiritually blind that their heart is hardened to the point that they no longer care about spiritual things and will never believe in Jesus.
So if you are worrying about whether or not you have committed this sin, be encouraged … for caring about whether or not you commit it is clear evidence you have not!
If you still worry about the unforgivable sin, then make sure you will never be able to commit it. How? Believe in Jesus for eternal life (John 3:16; 5:24; 6:47). The Holy Spirit is drawing you to Jesus, and He wants you to believe in Jesus. If you believe in Jesus, then the Spirit regenerates, indwells, baptizes, and seals you, and you can never commit the unforgivable sin. Ever. Why not? Because this sin can only be committed by those who are not yet believers and upon whom the Spirit is working to draw them to Jesus. Once they are “in the family” the work of the Spirit changes from drawing you to Jesus to conforming you into the image of Jesus. And no matter what, He will never stop doing this. Never.
Yes, you might have committed some terrible sin. You might have said something you really regret. But guess what? Whatever sin you may have committed, whatever words you may have said, you are still being convicted by it, which is good. This means the Holy Spirit is at work in your life to point this out to you. God has not abandoned you to your sin. So simply confess this sin, and abandon yourself to the love of God.
God’s grace covers over all your sin, past, present, and future.
God wants all men to be saved, and through the Holy Spirit, He draws all men to Jesus Christ. The light shines in their lives and grace calls them to Jesus.
If a person wants forgiveness and desires the love of God, God will never turn such a person away. Not ever. ⇦ Tweet that!
The person who has committed the unforgivable sin does not want forgiveness, does not desire the love of God, and does not even have a thought for God in their lives. People who blaspheme the Holy Spirit have so hardened their hearts that they do not realize the condition they are in, nor do they care. They are not crying out to God for light or help or salvation. They just live their lives without a thought for God or a care in the world for spiritual matters. The Holy Spirit has ceased to work on their hearts and they are completely given over to the darkness of their hearts and the spiritual blindness of their eyes.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a serious sin that only unbelievers can commit, and even then, only when they have resisted the Holy Spirit for many years and have come to the point that they so completely reject what He is trying to do in their life, that they openly and verbally denounce Him and Jesus Christ and the feelings of sin and guilt in their own lives as the work of Satan in their lives.
I am not sure if we can ever know if a person has committed the unforgivable sin or not in their lives, but one thing we can know – if we have believed in Jesus for eternal life, we have already responded positively to the Holy Spirit’s work in our life, and so the opportunity to commit the unforgivable sin is past.
The unforgivable sin is not a sin a Christian can commit.
At the same time, if an unbeliever fears they have committed this sin, then they clearly have not, because someone who has committed the unforgivable sin would have such a hard heart that such thoughts would not even enter their mind.
If you’re afraid you’ve committed the unpardonable sin, stop worrying. Jesus is not a liar! ⇦ Tweet that!
If you believe in Him for eternal life, then you’ve got it. It’s that simple. He guarantees it.