One popular view about the unforgivable sin is that it occurs when someone fails to believe in Jesus for eternal life.
The idea behind this view is that while God forgives all sin, He cannot and will not forgive a person for refusing to believe in Jesus until they actually believe in Jesus for eternal life.
In other words, if they continue in their unbelief until death, then they will never be forgiven, and will therefore be eternally separated from God. Of course, once a person believes in Jesus for eternal life, they are forgiven of this sin as well, and will spend eternity with God.
I held this view for many years, but eventually rejected it for several reasons.
Reason I Rejected this View on the Unforgivable Sin
First, in Matthew 12:31-32, Jesus says that those who commit the unforgivable sin will never be forgiven. It is not that they might be forgiven if they eventually believe in Jesus, but that once this sin is committed, it will never be forgiven. To say that it will never be forgiven as long as they don’t believe removes all the force from Jesus’ warning, and makes His argument redundantly self-evident.
Second, if Jesus was simply talking about the sin of unbelief, why didn’t He just talk about unbelief? He frequently warns people about their lack of faith, so if that was the issue here, why not make the same warning again?
Third, the big problem with this view on the unforgivable sin is that it has almost nothing to do with the Holy Spirit. The concern of Jesus in this particular text is that the unpardonable sin is against the Holy Spirit. If a particular view about this sin can be explained without ever mentioning the Holy Spirit, this is a good indication that this view is wrong.
Finally, this explanation of the unforgivable sin reveals a basic misunderstanding about forgiveness. Many wrongly assume that God does not and cannot forgive us of our sins unless we first do something to trigger His forgiveness. For example, many believe that God does not and cannot forgive us unless we first confess or repent of our sin. Those posts I linked to show that this is not true.
Similarly, some believe that God does not or cannot forgive us of our sins unless we first believe in Jesus. But this also is not true. Forgiveness is the free gift of God to all people for all their sin regardless of whether they want it, receive it, ask for it, or believe in Jesus for it. This was seen in a previous post about forgiveness.
This, of course, raises questions about how there can be an “unforgivable sin” if God freely forgives us of all our sin. That excellent question will be answered in a future post.
For now, we must reject this view of the unforgivable sin. The unforgivable sin is not a failure to believe in Jesus for everlasting life. God forgives all people freely without condition.
Of course, if you have not yet believed in Jesus for eternal life, why put it off any longer? Believe in Him today.
Do you fear that you have committed the Unforgivable Sin?
Fear not! You are forgiven. You are loved.
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Matthew Richardson says
One could argue that confessing a sin means acknowledging the wrongness of an act or motivation. We humans (modern ones at any rate) do not have perfect memories or awareness. We cannot be expected to remember every sin we have ever committed or be aware of every minor (in human terms) sin that we commit. But if we understand and accept the wrongness of these acts He is willing to forgive them.
Matthew Richardson says
I believe it was Paul (or perhaps Peter) who pointed out that doing something we believe to be wrong (scriptural or otherwise), it will be counted against us as sin. God looks not to our actions to judge us but to our hearts and our mindset.
Kristina S Roggen says
I feel like this article completely downplays the role of Jesus in the lives of Christians and their salvation. Firstly, your description of why failure to believe in Jesus is the unforgivable sin misses the mark completely in my opinion. The reason why the only unforgivable sin, according to my understanding, is this failure is because Jesus is The Way, The Truth and The Life. We already know that no man may come unto The Father except by Jesus, there for failure to believe in Him is failure to make it to Heaven. God does not stay in His word that we need to do nothing to be forgiven. It clearly states in His word that we must have a repentant heart, and furthermore that blood is required to atone for sin. Since we are not sheadjng our own blood to atone for our sin, we must plead the blood of Jesus in order to do this. We have no righteousness aside from Jesus. It is only His blood that cleanses us and makes us clean. Therefore, if we fail to recognize this we fail to utilize the pathway that brings us to God. Also, as the Holy Spirit is meant to be our spiritual Guide in our earthly bodies to the truth, we grieve the Holy Spirit by failing to believe this.