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Questions Asked of Us (The Unpardonable Sin)

by Carl Kitzmiller

Please discuss the unpardonable sin.

There is one sin which, Jesus declared, “shall not be forgiven … neither in this world (age) nor in that which is to come” (Matt. 12:31-32; Mk. 3:28-30;  Lk 12:10). Every other sin can be forgiven if men will accept the God-appointed means for forgiveness. Men can be forgiven of fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexual  acts and conduct, theft, covetousness, drunkenness, reveling, and extortion. We have specific mention of these as forgiven to certain of the Corinthians (1 Cor. 6:9-11).

Man can be forgiven of persecution of Christians and of murder. Saul (Paul) was. He described himself  as a chief of sinners and even as a blasphemer (1 Tim. 1: 13, 15). Even some forms of blasphemy can be forgiven then. It is evident that sins of the worst sort can be forgiven. We can find examples of converted sorcerers, forgiven cowards, cleansed sinners of the deepest dye-all in the Bible itself.

We are not forming unwarranted conclusions based on human opinion, therefore. Most of all, every person  has a share in putting Christ to death, and this can be forgiven. Even some of those who were actually involved in His death were forgiven. We say such sins “can be forgiven” because the covering of sins by Christ’s blood is not an automatic or mechanical act that has nothing to do with man’s choice. In fact, every sin of which we will not repent could be described as unpardoned sin. It is a basic truth of Christianity that Christ is potentially the Savior of all men but is in reality the Savior of those who believe (per the standards of scripture). Therefore, when we talk about the unpardonable sin we are not dealing with those sins which are not pardoned but could be. 

People are dying under condemnation all the time who needed not to have done so. “Unpardoned” is not the same as “unpardonable.” The unpardonable sin is one which, when committed, cannot under any circumstance ever be pardoned. The warning concerning the unpardonable sin has caused many people unrest –“Have I committed it?” In these periods when Christians do not feel a keen love for spiritual things, when failure has somehow dogged our steps, when our emotions are not easily stirred toward God, when some inexcusable disobedience has been committed, etc., Satan seems to be able to capitalize on our uncertainty and doubt by suggesting that we have sinned away all opportunity. When all hope of forgiveness is gone, he “has us.” After all, it is reasoned, if we cannot be saved, there is little point in resisting sin. We may just as well “eat, drink, and be merry” to whatever extent a doomed person can. Others may not have progressed so far in their loss of hope, but the possibility of such a sin is a sort of nagging doubt that takes away the joy and assurance of salvation. Surely it is important to know whether or not I have committed this sin then.

We will return to this matter. Specifically, the unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. That is a solid scriptural answer. But what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Webster defines blasphemy as “intentional indignity offered to God or sacred things, or speaking with impious irreverence.” In Mark’s account, Jesus is said to have spoken the words of warning to the Jewish audience because there were certain ones
who said concerning Him, “He hath an unclean spirit” (Mk. 3:30). They had either spoken blasphemy or had come dose to doing so in thus attributing His works to Satan rather than to the Holy Spirit.

One can imagine that a few people may be so soured on God and His work through the Holy Spirit that they might speak so vilely. But what about those today who deny the deity of Jesus and credit His works to Satan, or those who degrade the name of God in swearing and cursing? Without minimizing the sin of those things at all,  we note that it is specifically the Holy Spirit-not the Farther or the Son-who is blasphemed in the unpardonable sin. Not all blasphemous words directed toward God are unpardonable. Moreover, there seems to be an intentional purpose of speaking indignities against the Holy Spirit. As vile and terrible as some cursing is, it is not done to offend God so much as to impress man. The unpardonable sin is not mere honest error but a sort of conscious shaking one’s fist in the face of the Holy Spirit with the intention of being irreverent.

Blasphemy can be in act as well as in word. Examine such passages as 1 Tim. 6:1; Tit. 2:5; cf. Rev. 13:1; 17:3. While the primary meaning of blasphemy has to do with speech, one’s conduct can be such that it also carries a message and makes a declaration. Presumably, then, there might be conduct which could blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Some have suggested that a continued refusal of the gospel and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit is such a sin. No doubt this could be true in ‘Some cases, but that it is not always so is evident in that some very hardened and long-term resisters have turned to the Lord.

There are at least two additional passages which I believe speak of the unpardonable sin and which have much to say concerning it. Those are Heb. 6:4-8 and Heb. 10:26-31. The reason for connecting these to the unpardonable sin is that they speak of sin which cannot be forgiven. Since there is only one unpardonable sin, it follows that these passages are also speaking of blasphemy against the Spirit (with emphasis more on deeds than on words). These passages do not speak of ordinary backsliding. Sinning willfully is more than sinning  with awareness that we are doing so. Probably every Christian has sinned while knowing that he was sinning; we must distinguish between this and willful sinning. This is a determined course of action which counts the blood of Christ as unholy and does despite to the Holy Spirit. Ordinary backsliding (which the hook of Hebrews warns about elsewhere, e.g., Heb. 3: 12) if it is unchecked might develop into the kind of rejection seen in the above mentioned passages, but one great distinction must be made. The sin of Heb. 6:4-6 and 10:26-29 is such that there remains no more any sacrifice for the sin and such a one cannot be renewed unto repentance.

Now, with these thoughts in mind, we are ready for the disturbing question which seems to bother some-”Have I committed the unpardonable sin?” The mark of the person who has committed this sin is that he cannot be renewed unto repentance. This is why the sin is unpardonable, there can he no turning. Having rejected the  ministry of the Holy Spirit, the individual cannot be convicted of his sin. He cannot be made aware that he has sinned. That some do go that far is not to be doubted. God does not warn needlessly, nor does He see dangers where there are no dangers. These people are beyond hope even before physical death comes to them. Many, however, who fear the sin, have not committed it. We know, because they are still concerned about repentance and can be brought to repentance.

My questions to those who fear they might have committed the unpardonable sin are of this sort: “Do you want to repent?”  “Do you want to be right with the Lord?”  “Are you willing to repent?”  “Does it matter to you?” If the answer is “Yes,” then I can assure that person he has not committed the unpardonable sin. The very  concern is evidence against having so sinned. Those guilty of the unpardonable sin no longer care and cannot be stirred to repentance. 

Those who come to the Lord will not he cast out (John 6: 37), so the problem lies in getting people to come to Him. Indeed, in the case of the unpardonable sin, the sinner is not interested in coming. There is no sin, therefore, for which you are willing to repent and concerning which you do repent which will not be forgiven.

Reprint from Word and Work Magazine January, 1986

 




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