The unpardonable sin
Quotes referred to below are from a booklet entitled “The Unpardonable Sin.” The author is Herbert Lockyer. It was published in 1952. I remember seeing it lie around the house in the 60s when I was a boy.
I read it recently. (Before long it may be collectible. Like me.)
Have you ever noticed how we have the strange ability to teach the opposite of what Jesus says?
Sometimes our explanations of His words destroy the very point He is making. But this is not only an amazing slight of hand on our part. It is also unfortunate. Think about what we are pulling off by doing this. We have Jesus “lip singing” our words. But His go unheeded.
Take the following as an example.
Jesus says, “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven to men, but the blasphemy of the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever will say a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven to him; but whoever will say [or speak a word] against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this age or the one to come” (Matt. 12:31,32).
Meanwhile a Bible teacher comes along and says, “At the very outset. . .let us make it clear that any or all sins committed in this world are pardonable. There is no sin of which men may not repent and receive forgiveness through grace. Not to be forgiven does not mean that one’s treatment of the Holy Spirit cannot be pardoned.”
Is it fair to say that this man is crossing swords with Jesus? No. It’s more like crossing the Lord’s Sword with a wet noodle.
Not a wise practice.
One would even be inclined to wonder if he is just trying to make a point (has an agenda). Rather than teach the Word.
“The unpardonable sin,” as it has become known, is given to us by Jesus in Matthew 12:22-32, Mark 3:22-30, and Luke 11:14-23 and 12:10. The unpardonable sin is believed by some (e.g. Mr. Lockyer) to be a “persistent and continuous resistance,” a “constant and deliberate rejection of the Christ whom the Spirit presents.” Which leads to eternal damnation. Hence, the “unpardonable” connection. In other words. . . There will be no turning back when you’re in hell. Pardons will not be handed out there.
Given this understanding, it makes sense to say the unpardonable sin “is not a specific sin.” And that, naturally, “Those who reject forgiveness cannot be forgiven. If a person rejects the principle of faith. . .even God can do no more for that soul. God supplies food, but we must eat it. If we refuse to eat, we die of starvation. The same principle operates in the spiritual realm. God offers pardon, but if it is despised, then the sinner remains unpardoned.”
But these are obvious realities. Inevitable consequences. Like. . . after the sun comes up in the east, it will go down in the west. Tell us something we don’t know. Think about it. Is Jesus “wasting His time” stating the obvious? Is He saying blaspheming the Holy Spirit means “If you don’t believe in Me, you will perish”? It is an interesting spin, for sure. But I thought Jesus said the problem was not what we do with Him, but what we do to the Holy Spirit. After all. He is making a distinction here. Even though He is working through the power of the Spirit in Him. And is one with the Spirit. So. It turns out. We are paddling down a stream unrelated to the words given to us by Christ.
Paddle hard! If you like. Paddle all you want. (A little humor.)
Paddles abound on this river.
But these are the facts. . .
1. This sin is a specific sin. Mark says Jesus said what He said about the blasphemy of the Spirit (the unpardonable sin) “because they where saying He has an unclean Spirit” (Mark 3:32). They were attributing the work of Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, to the power of the devil (Luke 11:18). Let’s be realistic. Do unbelievers normally think they are resisting the devil when they refuse to believe in Jesus?
2. It is not a “continuous” action, a “constant and deliberate rejection of the Christ whom the Spirit presents” to the lost (as quoted above). Seeing as how Luke uses an aorist one-point-in-time verb when he says, anyone “who has blasphemed the Holy Spirit has no forgiveness” (Luke 12:10). It need only happen once. Matthew and Mark agree. “Whoever will say a word against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matt. 12:32; cf. Mark 3:24). The unpardonable sin is not based on repeated violations.
3. This is about blasphemy. Speech injurious to another’s good name. To utter a statement like the Pharisees did in Matthew 12:24: “This one [Jesus] is not casting out demons except by Beelzebub, prince of the demons” (also Matt. 9:34). It is “hate speech” in the true sense. It’s not just “resisting” or “rejecting.” But attacking! Not mere unbelief. “Blaspheming” and “saying a word” are open denunciations spoken directly against the Holy Spirit. They are not secondary in nature. That is. . . If someone refuses to believe in Jesus, the Spirit is the one being blasphemed. The Holy Spirit is in the direct line of fire. Not Jesus. Didn’t Jesus say that any blasphemy directed at Him can be forgiven?
4. But this sin cannot be forgiven. Jesus is clear on that. Even though some persist in saying, “Not to be forgiven does not mean that one’s treatment of the Holy Spirit cannot be pardoned. Any sin committed on the earth by human sinners must be among the sins for which Christ made propitiation.” Never mind what Jesus says. Why, then, does He waste His time? Why say there is no forgiveness if it can be forgiven?
So I’m going with Jesus. R.C.H. Lenski also agrees with Jesus. “Such blasphemy,” he writes, “is absolutely unpardonable” (Interpretation of Matthew, p. 483).
A consoling word
If you are troubled because you fear you may have committed the unpardonable sin, I believe you can rest assured that you have not. Anyone who has, has no concern about that. As a true child of God, your concern shows that you are sensitive to His Spirit who lives in you. Because that same Spirit is despised by those who have committed this terrible sin.
Walk with Jesus, my friend. And sup at His table (Rev. 3:20). The food is great! Feast on the words from His mouth (Luke 24).
Till next time.
Letter to Jesus:
© James Unruh, 2018 and beyond