Have you ever wondered if you’ve committed the unforgivable sin? The Bible tells us that there is only one sin God does not forgive. What sin is it and why it is important to know what it is?
What is the unforgivable sin? The unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It is rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit and ascribing His work to the work of the devil. This sin is committed by people whose hearts are hard and callous toward God. They do not acknowledge the inner workings of the Holy Spirit and deny the truth of who Jesus is, remaining unrepentant for their sins.
In this blog, we will look at what the unforgivable sin is, what Jesus says about it, and why it matters so much to God.
Definition of the “Unforgiveable Sin”
What is the unforgivable sin?
The unforgivable sin is the rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit and attributing His work to the work of the devil. It is a heart that knows the truth of who Jesus is but ultimately rejects Him and turns away from Him completely, thus denying the Holy Spirit.
Jesus addresses the unforgivable sin in Matthew 12, Mark 3, and Luke 12:10.
To understand why Jesus is so serious about the unforgivable sin, it is important to understand what was happening in the context surrounding these passages.
Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to Him, and He healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”Matthew 12:22-23 ESV
When the scribes and religious leaders from Jerusalem heard about this, they went to where Jesus was and began to try to discredit Him by telling people that He was possessed by a demon named Beelzebul, also known as Satan.
However, Jesus turned to the scribes and said to them,
“How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”Mark 3:23-30 ESV
Matthew also records a similar response to that of Mark’s gospel.
Knowing their thoughts, He said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?
And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.
Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.Matthew 12:25-32 ESV
Why It’s Important to Understand the Unforgiveable Sin
Jesus performed his miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the scribes say that Jesus is casting out demons by the devil, He hears an attack on the Holy Spirit, not Himself.
It is the power of the Spirit that was working through Him to heal these people and set those oppressed by demons free.
In Jesus’s day, the scribes were teachers of the law who were supposed to teach people about God and lead them to Him. However, in this situation, they were doing the opposite and drawing them away from truth.
The scribes disliked Jesus with a passion because He claimed to be God. They disliked Him even more because they could not deny the signs and miracles He was performing was of God, and the Jews were recognizing that He preached with more authority than the scribes or Pharisees ever did.
The scribes had seen the power of God displayed through Jesus Christ. They saw with their own eyes how He cast out demons and healed the sick.
Yet they were saying that the work of the Holy Spirit was the work of Satan.
God had been preparing the Israelites for the coming of the Messiah for a long time. They should have known when He would have come and how He was to come.
But they ignored these fulfilled prophesies that the Lord had revealed to them through the person of Jesus Christ and remained unrepentant.
Instead of having tender hearts toward the Lord and His work, the scribes’ response to Jesus casting a demon out of a person shows their stubborn and unbelieving hearts.
Thus, Jesus’ response is a strong warning to the scribes to be careful of attributing the work of the Spirit of God to the work of the devil, for God does not forgive their unrepentant and unbelieving hearts even though they know the truth.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is the third person in the Trinity. He is in constant communion with God the Father and God the Son.
The Holy Spirit was sent by the Father to the world upon the request of Christ so that we may have conviction in the hearts of sin and turn in repentance to God.
Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. And when He comes, He will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see Me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.John 16:7-11 ESV
God did not leave us alone without a Helper to help guide us back to Jesus. We are not left to our own devices unless the Lord gives us up to them (Romans 1).
The Holy Spirit also reveals to us the revelation of Jesus Christ. He helps us understand who Jesus is and what He has done to purchase our salvation so that we can live in perfect relationship with God forever.
And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you…But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.John 14:16-17, 26 ESV
Through the Holy Spirit, we have received power and authority from on high to cast out demons and heal the sick in the name of Jesus, and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ to all the ends of the earth.
This can never be done on our own strength, and can never be done in any other name but Jesus.
And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”Mark 16:15-18 ESV
When someone denies the Holy Spirit’s work in their lives or others, they are offending Him. His job is to work in people’s hearts to bring them to Christ by revealing the truth of who He is to them.
Once you have experienced the power of God and encountered Jesus, there is no turning back. We cannot know the truth and reject it. You know what you have seen and cannot deny that you did not experience Him.
If you make an enemy with the Holy Spirit, then there is no one left to bring you back to God, because He is the one that leads you to Him.
We are not to grieve the Holy Spirit by letting our hearts grow cold and bitter toward the Lord.
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”Ephesians 4:30 ESV
How many times do we so easily forget what God has done for us and how He has delivered us from so many consequences of sin?
God has given us His Spirit so that we can know about Christ and be convicted of our sin so that we are always seeking Him out in repentance. This is the kindness of God.
Why It Matters
Knowing the context of the unforgivable sin, how does this apply to us today?
The Jewish scribes saw Jesus and the signs that He did and accused Him of operating by a demon. Today, however, we cannot see Jesus physically on earth performing miracles, but instead, we see those who believe in Him healing people and casting out demons.
The term “unforgivable sin” is only found in the synoptic gospels, however, there are similar warnings in Ephesians and Hebrews for Christians to be aware of in regard to the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit convicts people of their sin, bringing righteousness and judgment (John 16:8).
If people ignore the work of the Holy Spirit and continue in their state of disbelief and do not repent from their sins before they die, they will not be forgiven.
“For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”Hebrews 10:26-31 ESV
How Do You Know If You Have Committed the Unforgivable Sin?
If you are worried about whether or not you have committed the unforgivable sin, that is evidence that you have not done it.
The unforgivable sin can only be committed by those who have an unbelieving and unrepentant heart toward the Lord. These people cannot receive forgiveness because they are in denial of the truth of the work of the Spirit through Jesus Christ.
Usually, an unregenerate person will not be worrying about whether or not they have committed the unforgivable sin because they are indifferent to God. They know the truth but have turned their backs on Him.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, God gives us hope by showing us that He forgives all of those who have a repentant heart.
However, for others, there may be a point when the heart is so utterly turned away from God and unrepentant even while knowing the truth that when there is a day when they may try to seek repentance but will not find it because it is not true repentance.
The writer of Hebrews warns believers to be careful to not be like Esau who sold his birthright for one meal and then sought out the blessing that was his with tears but was rejected because he found no chance to repent (Hebrews 12:16-17).
This is because Esau’s heart had grown so hard that he was not able to genuinely repent and come to full repentance where he could receive forgiveness.
True repentance is out of sorrow for sinning against God. It is a heart that is grieved by the separation caused by sin between God and man.
Jesus has promised that all sins will be forgiven. There is only one unforgivable sin. This is good news for us because that means no sin you have committed is too big for God to handle.
God does not consider one sin bigger than the other and sees all sin just as bad.
There are different consequences for different sins, however, there are not levels of sin such as we make it out in our head to be.
The only unforgivable sin is denying the work of the Holy Spirit.
If you are afraid that you have committed the unforgivable sin, or that your heart is hard toward the Lord, then that is a sign that you most likely have not committed the unforgivable sin.
People who have committed unforgivable sin do not worry about having a hard heart toward Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
As followers of Jesus, we should not be afraid that every time we sin we have committed something unforgivable for which we can never receive any forgiveness.
These are people that do not seek out forgiveness. Their heart has grown so cold toward the Lord has rejected the Spirit that they are no longer able to have true repentance.
It is not up to us to judge who has committed the unforgivable sin, for no one knows the heart of man but God. However, our job as Christians is to warn people not to let bitterness and coldness take root in the heart so that they will develop a hardness of heart toward the Lord.
They need to go to the Lord daily, moment by moment, and ask Him to give them a tender heart. Draw up your cold heart beside His warm fire and let Him soften you.
If you feel bitterness or hardness in your heart today toward the Lord, take it seriously.
For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness.Psalm 95:7-8 ESV
Stop and pray for Him to give you a tender heart toward Him. Come before Him humbly and ask for His forgiveness. Ask Him to help you be sensitive to the Holy Spirit working in your heart and life.
Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wildernessHebrews 3:7-8 ESV
Don’t let your heart grow hard towards the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. It is never too late to repent and ask God for His forgiveness.
Today is the day of repentance.