Some very sincere and concerned Christians have expressed fear that they may have committed an unpardonable sin. Others are afraid that the sum of their sin has placed them in a position that is beyond even the possibility of forgiveness by Jesus. Is that possible? Is there a sin or a degree of sin that the blood of Jesus is not sufficient to cover? There is a great deal of confusion over this issue. Part of the reason is the wide variety of interpretations surrounding the passages that address the unpardonable sin.
Interestingly, it is Jesus who said there is an unpardonable sin. Against a backdrop of freeing men from demon possession and healing physical infirmities, Jesus was accused by the Pharisees of driving out demons by the power of Beelzebul or the prince of demons (Mark 3:22, Matthew 9:34, 12:24). Early in His ministry when the Pharisees first made this accusation, Jesus apparently ignored them (Matthew 9:32-34). As opposition from the Pharisees grew, the confrontations became more intense. Finally, after once again being accused casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul, Jesus offered an irrefutable argument demonstrating the ridiculousness of their accusation (see Matthew 12:25-37).
Jesus then said, “Because of this, I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever 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 one to come” (Matthew 12:31-34.
Mark 3:29 calls blasphemy against the Holy Spirit an “eternal sin,” meaning a sin that God will not forgive. Maybe the Pharisees had committed the unforgivable sin, maybe they hadn’t. When they saw the work of the Holy Spirit and called it the work of Satan, they were at least on the brink of never-ending guilt.
Jesus said that whoever speaks a word against Him will be forgiven but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Is Jesus elevating the Holy Spirit above Himself? No. Jesus is actually referring to the ministry of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit draws people to God. There is a point where hardness of heart will place a person beyond the ability to repent. The Gospel is clear, unless there is acceptance of Jesus as Lord and repentance of sin, there is no forgiveness. The Pharisees were in danger of finding themselves beyond repentance.
The unpardonable sin is a denial of the Spirit’s message and rejection of the Lord’s deity. Jesus made it clear that all sins can be forgiven. Adultery, murder, blasphemy, and other sins can all be forgiven; they are not unpardonable. God cannot forgive the rejection of His Son. It is the Holy Spirit who bears witness to Christ and convicts the lost sinner.
Sometimes people wonder if they have committed “the sin against the Holy Spirit.” A wise person once said, “If you’re honestly worried that you’ve committed it, you haven’t.” He meant that such concern is evidence of the Spirit’s work in a heart that is not irreversibly hardened.