Saturday, September 29, 2007

The "Unpardonable" Sin: Part 1

A friend recently wrote me and asked me about the “sin unto death” and the “unpardonable sin.” It seems he had become involved in a discussion with another individual and wasn’t sure how to interpret the biblical passages on those matters. It seems that his friend thought that a believer could blaspheme the Holy Spirit, thus committing the “unpardonable sin” or “sin unto death,” and thereby lose his salvation.

So after some consideration, I have decided to share with you what I wrote back to my friend so that he could give sound biblical instruction to his friend. Because of the length of the subject, I will divide it into two posts with a few days in between each; so before you start disagreeing with me, wait until both posts are up and running because you might find that the second one answers the burning questions you might have from the first one.

There has been a great deal of misunderstanding about the “unpardonable” sin and the “sin unto death” among the evangelical Christian community. The two passages of Scripture which deal with these matters are Matthew 12:31-32 and 1 John 5:16-17. Let’s begin with the Matthew 12 passage, and save the 1 John passage for the second post.

Few passages of Scripture have been more misinterpreted and misunderstood than Matthew 12:31-32. Because the content of Jesus’ statement in these verses carries such an extreme result, it is critical that we interpret and understand them correctly. First of all, put these verses in their context. Jesus is addressing the Pharisees who had just accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan. They were, in effect, saying, “This man is not God; His power comes from Satan.”

Jesus first stated that “any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men.” Although blasphemy is a sin, in these verses, sin and blasphemy are treated separately, with blasphemy being portrayed as the most extreme form of sin. Sin is seen as the whole range of immoral and ungodly thoughts and actions, but blasphemy is seen as the conscious denouncing and rejection of God. Blasphemy is defiant irreverence, the uniquely terrible sin of intentionally and openly speaking evil against holy God or defaming and mocking Him.

But Jesus said that even blasphemy is a forgivable sin, just as any other sin is forgiven when it is confessed and repented of. An unbeliever who blasphemes God can be forgiven. The apostle Paul stated in 1 Timothy 1:13-14, that even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor…I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.” Even a believer can blaspheme, since any thought or word that disgraces or demeans the Lord’s name constitutes blasphemy. To question God’s goodness, wisdom, fairness, truthfulness, love, or faithfulness is a form of blasphemy. All of that is forgivable by grace (1 John 1:9).

But Jesus said that there is one exception: “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven.” Even the person who blasphemes Jesus, who dares to “speak a word against the Son of Man…shall be forgiven.” The title “Son of Man” refers to Jesus’ humanity, and if a person fails to see Jesus as anything more than just another man, such a word against Him can be forgiven. When a person rejects Christ with LESS than full exposure to the evidence of His deity, he may yet be forgiven of that sin, if after gaining fuller light, he then believes.

But blasphemy against the Spirit was something more serious and rendered the subject unredeemable. It reflected not only unbelief, but determined unbelief; that is, the refusal, after having seen all the evidence necessary to gain complete understanding, to the point that one should consider believing in Christ. This was blasphemy against Jesus in His deity. It was against the Spirit of God who uniquely indwelt and empowered Him. It reflected determined rejection of Jesus as the Messiah against every evidence and argument. They had seen the Truth incarnate, but knowingly chose to reject Him and condemn Him. Thus, it demonstrated an absolute and permanent refusal to believe, which resulted in the loss of all opportunity to ever be forgiven. Thus, those who blasphemed the Holy Spirit were those who saw His divine power working in and through Jesus but willfully refused to accept the implications of that revelation and, in some cases, attributed that power to Satan.

So then, blasphemy in Matthew 12 has NOTHING to do with losing one’s salvation. First of all, the Pharisees were never saved to begin with. Anyone who rejects Jesus Christ as God and attributes His power to Satan is not a believer. And no true believer would ever do that. Scripture is very clear that we cannot lose our salvation (cf. Rom. 8:38-39, John 10:28-30), primarily because our salvation does not depend on our ability, but on God’s ability. No human is capable of keeping themselves saved. Everyone would fail miserably. But our salvation is based wholly and entirely on God’s power and action to save us (cf. Ephesians 2:1-9), so those who are truly saved are kept by Him and Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (John 6:37).

Therefore, because we are kept in the state of grace and redemption by Christ, we cannot lose our salvation for any reason. Even when we blaspheme God by doubting or questioning His grace, mercy, love, or faithfulness to us, He will forgive us. And a true believer will never accuse Jesus of being satanic in nature. If a person claims to be a believer, but seemingly turns away to a life of sin and degradation and completely rejects Jesus as being God, that is the evidence that that person was never a true believer in the first place.

Next time, we’ll deal with the “sin unto death” in 1 John 5:16-17.


Unknown said...

Hello Brother,
I am a memeber of FCPO 207 in Michigan. May I share something I have learned as I walk with Jesus. Lets look at what the mission of the Holy Spirit is. John 16:8 says And when he is come , he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of the judgement. Just like in secular court a person must be convicted, and found guilty before being pardoned, so it is in God's Kingdom. You must be willing to be honest with yourself, to be convicted, and found wanten... To refuse to allow the Holy Spirit to convict your conscience of sin, so that you can be found guilty, and receive God's pardon through His Son Jesus Christ that is my understanding of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The bible even tells us in the last days God will pour out His spirit upon all flesh. We know that His Spirit is the Holy Spirit and its being poured out on all flesh...That means everyone. We know what the mission of the Holy Spirit is because its written in His word. Does it make sense that this pouring out of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin of righteousness and judgement?? That blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is your deliberate refusal to have your conscience convicted. Remember conviction is a blessing!! If God didn't first convict us of our sin, our eyes could never be opened as to why we need Jesus as our Sacrifice. Remember don't just believe me, nothing is more dangerous than a man with a microphone. but check it out in the Word for yourself, remember your responsible for yourself and pray for revelation of the truth...God knows how to give good gifts, doesn't it stand to reason that understanding His word is a GOOD GIFT?

Unknown said...

Hi Bruce. Great insight on parts 1 and 2 of this post. This is a topic that is very complex, and if not articulated properly, very confusing. I found it interesting to note that so many attribute "the unpardonable sin" to the "sin leading to death", even though this cannot be confirmed. I appreciated Walt's thoughts, but they don't seem to be on-point.