A reader sent me this question:
My question is in regard to the “unforgivable sin”. What is your perspective on that particular subject? I have to say personally that I wonder if I have done that myself. And that is half the reason why I get so confused and study so much.
Which of us have not read this verse and wondered the same thing:
Matthew 12:31 (HCSB) â€” Because of this, I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
My Pastor’s Common Sense Answer
I remember the answer my pastor gave back in church during the 90’s to this question. He said that as believers seeking to serve God, “if you are worried you have committed this sin, then you have not done it.” In other words, the people who might commit this sin are the people who are enemies of God, not the ones worried about what God thinks.
This fits with the audience that the verse above was directed at, the Pharisees (Mt 12:24).Â The Pharisees were doing everything they could to contradict, undermine, and trap Jesus, a man sent by God by their own admission (John 3:2). They saw him as a threat to their position, power and glory which was their primary concern, not serving God (John 11:47-48). In fact, Jesus plainly said that they did not serve God (John 7:17-19), but followed men and their traditions (Mt 15:3-9) because Satan was their fatherÂ (John 8:44). Their evil desires and animosity for Jesus caused them to commit many intentional sins and all could be forgivenâ€”except blaspheming acts that were done by the power of the Holy Spirit.
As long as you have always been neutral or friendly towards God, you could not have possibly committed the unpardonable sin.
Understanding Accountability For Punishment
But whatÂ if in the past you were acting as an enemy of God, much like Paul while he was a Pharisee before his Road to Damascus conversion? How do you know for sure that you did not commit the unpardonable sin then, especially when you did not know enough to realize what it was?
You can know for sure you did not because God is reasonable, fair, and just. He will not damn you eternally for a sin done in ignorance. A sin of ignorance may bring an immediate penalty or curseÂ for breaking his rules (such as the many curses that Philistines suffered after they captured and touched the untouchable Ark of the Covenant in 1Samuel 5 or the curses on Abimelech for unknowingly taking Abraham’s wife in Genesis 5), but not the ultimate penalty of the Second Death. For you to be accountable for that final punishment, you must first be fully informed in advance of the behaviors that would lead to that punishment. In other words, you must know you are doing it to be accountable for it.
Therefore it’s impossible to commit the unpardonable sin and not know it. You have to consciously be opposing God to commit it and also be aware of God’s will on the subject. The Pharisees, if they really were Satan’s seed as Jesus implied (John 8:44) , were already nonredeemable and had nothing to lose and everything to gain by making a blasphemous lie about the source of power Jesus used to cast out demons.Â However, it is unlikely that any believer reading has knowingly blasphemedÂ like that.
Unpardonable Sin Impossible To Commit Today
Besides the aforementioned knowledge prerequisite, a final consideration about this sin is the question of the situation needed for it to happen. Jesus was able to do “many signs” because he was filled with the Holy Spirit. There miracles (and his ministry) began when he was baptized in water by John the Baptist followed by the spirit descending on him like a dove. This was his own private “Day of Pentecost” event, if you will, filling him with the Holy Spirit.
From that day forward, he was able to do the signs he did because of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees witnessed this power repeatedly (along with his irresistible, wise and superior teaching from God’s word). He warned them they were in danger of the unpardonable sin because they knew where his power really came from and yet continued to attribute his power to the Devil instead of God. This same power was also seen in the the apostles and others present in Jerusalem at Pentecost and those who they then laid hands on. Jesus predicted this. He said “these signs shall surely follow” and they did as we can read all about in Acts.
However, today it’s different. Today there is nobody left who had hands laid on them by someone with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. This is not to say miracles and healings do not happen still. They do, but through the fervent prayer of faith by righteous men (James 5…I have personally received divine healed three times this way). Yet, we are not presently familiar with the easy or accidental miracles like those that Acts tells us constantly surrounded those full of faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5). For example, Acts implies that healings happened by Peter’s shadow passing over the sick in the streets or by receiving a clothing that Paul had worn. That’s the difference between being filled with Holy Spirit and miracles surrounding you constantly and merely being a faithful righteous person who prays to receive miracles and gets them a small percentage of the time.
Given that you are unlikely to find a person filled with the Holy Spirit today, you are not going to see a real miracle that was clearly and obviously done by the Holy Spirit for you to blaspheme. Thus, you cannot commit the unpardonable sin today even if you wanted to.
Hebrews confirms that the presence of the Holy Spirit is a necessary prerequisite of a sin you cannot repent of:
Hebrews 6:4 (HCSB) â€” For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, became companions with the Holy Spirit
This passage is not talking about generic salvation as salvation of itself does not make you “a companion of the Holy Spirit.” The laying on of hands is what gives that gift (1Ti 4:14; 2Ti 1:6). That was the special situation of the First Century. People had “enlightenment” or the Holy Spirit as their “companion” because of the laying on of hands (Acts 19:1-6). The passage is saying that if they then fall away after tasting such a level of intimate understanding with God’s way and power (or “enlightenment”) then they were accountable for knowing better if they then abandoned that way. This differs from the accountability people have today without the spirit filling them. We are generally in confusion and doubt on even what the Bible says when we attempt to read it. Such as, for example, what the Bible teaches on what sins you can never be forgiven for =).
There is no need to worry about being guilty of the unpardonable sin and not knowing it. In Scripture God’s enemies are the ones who are in danger of it. Further, it probably has been impossible to commit this sin ever since soon after the First Century. Unlike then, the baptism of the Holy Spirit is not poured out on all believers so that you can witness many signs done by the spirit and then blaspheme it. If you still do catch yourself worrying about having committed it, then that might be the best evidence one can point to that you have not done so.