THE UNPARDONABLE SIN

By

Dr. John W. McCormick

July 19:1922 - June 3, 1995

 

Matthew 12:22-32 (also Mark 3:22-30) contains the inspired record of an event which has caused much discussion among students of the WORD. It is the story of an accusation by the scribes and the Pharisees in which they blasphemously charged that Jesus performed His miraculous works by means of Satanic power.

 

In answering this slanderous accusation, Jesus pointed out the utter lack of logic involved by showing that even Satan would not be so foolish as to work against himself (verses 25-26). Then, in verses 31 and 32, He uttered the momentous words which has caused so much discussion among Bible students through the centuries:

 

“Wherefore I say unto you, ALL manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”

 

 

From the time these words were uttered to this present moment, expositors and teachers have struggled and wrestled with them in an attempt to show what they meant, and what they now mean to us. It has always been easier to show what the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not than to explain What it is; therefore, we may be accused of presumption for even venturing to discuss it in this paper. Perhaps the reader will not be convinced or satisfied with the suggestions which are recorded here, but we dare to hope that certain principles of interpretation can be employed in exegeting this passage which will help to clear away some of the wilder views which have been set forth as the “proper interpretation.”

 

I. WHAT IT IS NOT.

 

As sanely and as fairly as possible, we shall list and examine the major views concerning this problem passage.

 

A. One of the most frequent views which has been expressed concerning this passage is the one which holds that “suicide is the unpardonable sin,” because “the person who takes his own life taking something which he cannot restore.” On the basis of this they argue that since the suicide has taken something which he cannot restore, then. he has committed the unpardonable sin because he will never be able to seek for and gain forgiveness.

 

In answering this view, we need only point out the obvious fact that it has no connection whatever with the passage as a whole. The event which called forth these words from our Lord had nothing at all to do with suicide. To ignore this fact is to violate the most basic of all the principles of interpretation, namely, you must interpret a given statement in the light of the passage as a whole. These words from our Lord were not called forth as the result of any one committing suicide; they were His inspired answer to a vicious charge from His enemies concerning the source of His miracle working power. Therefore, they cannot be applied to suicide, either by interpretation or remote application.

 

Moreover, if the so-called “unpardonable sin” had any connection with suicide, why is there no clear, emphatic warning about it in any other passage of Scripture? There are thirteen suicides recorded in the Bible, and while it is a terrible and presumptuous act for one to take one’s own life, not one of the passages in which a suicide is recorded even hints that the act caused the one committing it to become guilty of the “unpardonable sin.”

 

B.         Still others have held to the view that “one who rejected Christ ‘for the last time’ has committed the unpardonable sin.”

 

To be sure it is a dangerous and terrible thing to reject the saving grace of Christ because it is impossible to be saved without exercising personal faith in Him as the Son of God (John 3:18; 5:39; 14:6; Acts 4:12; 13:38,39; I John 5:12). But the sin of rejecting Christ, grievous as it is, is simply an unadorned sin-NOT the unpardonable sin. Now some expositors might be inclined to argue that once a person dies without Christ, that person’s rejection has been sealed by his death so that, in a sense, it is unpardonable. On the one hand we must accept this conclusion; but on the other hand we reply that this is obviously not what our Lord was talking about at all. It is clearly evident that the awful words of warning which He expressed concerned the fact that the sin to which He referred was unpardonable because of the nature of the sin, not because the one who had committed it had died and so passed out of the realm of forgiveness merely by death.

 

In connection with this particular view, it would be well to bring up a frequently heard assertion made by well-meaning people who emphatically state: “The only sin that will send any one to HELL is rejecting Jesus Christ!” At first, this statement sounds perfectly orthodox, because it certainly gives honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ; but a little thoughtful meditation upon it will reveal its inaccuracy. If you accept this assertion as being true, then you are leaving an open door for another false idea which is even more dangerous and inaccurate, namely, the oft heard debate as to whether or not the “heathen” are lost. If it is true that “the only sin which will send any person to HELL is the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ,” then on what basis can we establish that the heathen are lost? How can a person be charged with rejecting Jesus Christ who has never heard of Jesus Christ? To answer this question by saying “There are many mysteries in God’s dealings with men” is not really to answer it at all. Furthermore, it ignores the clear statement of the Apostle Paul in:

 

Romans 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;

 

If the heathen are not lost, then why send missionaries to them with the news of God’s saving grace, and thus put them under the condemnation by presenting to them the Gospel? Thus, it would be more accurate to say that men are going to HELL because they are sinners with sinful, unregenerate natures, but they often add to their condemnation the awful sin of rejecting Jesus Christ. Moreover, if we can trust statistics, we are told today that there are many more people in the world who have never heard the Gospel than there are people who have heard Christ preached. We are also told that many more people are being born into the world every day than we are reaching for Christ, and that out of every twenty people who die, nineteen of them die without Christ! If these figures are true and we are convinced they are-it would seem then-there will be more people in HELL who have not rejected Christ than will be those who have turned away His saving grace.

 

In order to give the proper balance to what we have just said, and so as not to be accused of “watering down” the importance of saving faith in Jesus Christ, we hasten to say that every person who does consciously, and deliberately reject God’s saving grace as it is revealed in Christ, will most certainly be under greater condemnation than the Hottentot in Africa who has never once heard the good news of Christ. Without a doubt the Bible sets forth the fact of differing degrees of guilt on the part of lost sinners, which will be accompanied by punishment commensurate with their guilt. If in our earthly legal philosophy we attempt (theoretically at least) to fit the penalty to the crime, why should we be shocked at this principle when we encounter it in God’s dealings with men? This principle is observed in earthly jurisprudence because it is a Divine principle. If God be charged with “unrighteousness” for exercising this principle, then man will have to admit to being doubly condemned for observing it in dealing with earthly criminals. (But of course God cannot act unrighteously...)

 

The reader is now urged to “swallow his anger” because of what has just been said, and to thoughtfully and prayerfully examine the following Scriptures. If they do not teach differing degrees of guilt which will be punished accordingly, then words do not mean anything.

 

Matthew 10:14-15

14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet.

15 Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

 

Matthew 11:20-24

20 Then began he to upbraid the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not:

21 Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

22 But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

23 And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.

24 But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee.

 

Romans 2:4-6

4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

 

See also:  Psalm 62:12;  Proverbs 24:12;  Jeremiah 17:10; 32:19;  Job 34:11; Matthew 16:27; II Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12.

 

 

Before leaving this point let the reader understand that the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ will increase the weight of condemnation upon many people in the awful counsels of eternity; but while we recognize this principle as being true, we must at the same time set aside the view that rejection of Christ “for the last time” is “the unpardonable sin.”

 

C.         A third view which is sometimes sounded in commentaries and in sermons is that which warns men (on the basis of their interpretation of the very passages being considered) against “sinning away their day of grace.” Those who advocate this view picture men as resisting the efforts of the Holy Spirit to lead them to saving faith with such prolonged persistence that the Holy Spirit finally becomes disgusted and “leaves them never to return.” They usually enter into a rather involved chain of reasoning regarding the manner in which this prolonged resistence constitutes “blasphemy” against the Holy Spirit. They insist that the word “blasphemy” refers to “violent mistreatment of the Holy Spirit,” by the wicked which is so insolent and so flippant that it “blasphemes Him” simply by failing to recognize His holiness. The proponents of this view claim to see in the Scriptures certain “deadlines” which lie in the path of sinners beyond which “there is no more striving of the Holy Spirit.”

 

This vague warning is supported by the proponents of this view, not so much by Scriptures as by relating stories of people who have “sinned away their day of grace” by rejecting the “wooings” of the Holy Spirit so long and so violently that “one day the Holy Spirit left them, and He has never again convicted them.” This writer has even heard such illustrations enlarged upon to the extent that these poor hapless folks have been known to “inquire of the way of salvation with tears and broken hearts, but because they had blasphemed the Holy Spirit, they sought the Lord for years, but could not find Him!” It seems strange that the question has never occurred to any one as to what would cause a person who has been “abandoned by the Holy Spirit” to “inquire the way of salvation with tears and broken hearts.” The mere head-knowledge that one is lost, does not produce such alarm as this; it is only when the Holy Spirit brings the sinner face to face with his sins and with his Saviour that such weeping concern is ever manifested.

 

It remains now to examine the only two passages which (as a general rule) furnish the basis of the Scriptural appeal of those who hold this view. The first passage is Genesis 6:3, which is never quoted in its entirety. To give the entire verse is to become involved in the difficulty of explaining the last clause which does not harmonize too well with the idea of “Crossing deadlines” by sinners. The entire verse reads:

 

Genesis 6:3 And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

 

            It should not require any long-drawn-out discussion to show that this verse does not contain a warning “For all men at all times,” rather, it concerned the one generation of men who were living just prior to the Flood. If any one insists that the verse is a warning to all men at all times, then let him explain the “one hundred twenty years.” If the first part of the verse contains a universal warning, then by what authority do we throw out the last part of the verse as being an integral part of the same warning? If God is warning men in this verse that a prolonged rebellion against the wooings of His Spirit is likely to be punished by a withdrawal of the strivings of the Holy Spirit, then He is also saying quite clearly that each man has a probation period of one hundred twenty years! This hardly seems acceptable when few (if any) people of today even live to be one hundred!

With respect to the verse under consideration, it is much easier to show what the verse does not mean than to explain what it does teach. Any attempt to exegete this verse should be approached with a deep feeling of prayerful caution. As fully as possible, we shall put aside any preconceived views concerning the verse, and make our way towards an acceptable interpretation with extreme care. In the first place, we turn our attention to the word “strive.” This English word is a translation of a primitive Hebrew word, meaning “to judge, plead a cause, act as an umpire.” Hebrew scholars tell us that the “striving” of the Holy Spirit here is not to be understood as His divine wooing so as to lead men to salvation (this is a N.T. doctrine), but is a reference to His O.T. work of operating in the human conscience. His work in this realm was especially important in those days in view of the fact that there was no inspired record as yet through which the Holy Spirit revealed the will of God to man, thus His work to men was more direct in its operation.

 

In the second place, we are told that the word “man” in the original Hebrew is singular in number, and that it is also preceded by the definite article: hence, it should be translated as “the man.” In other words, it is a reverence to one particular man. The question now arises, Who is that man? Here again, the Hebrew scholars insist that it is a reference to Adam, not mankind in general. This view is substantiated by the internal evidence which is seen in the very fact that the book of Genesis claims to be “the book of the generations of Adam” (Genesis 5:1).

 

In the third place, we dare not ignore the last phrase of the verse which states “yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” Now some expositors have interpreted this as meaning that the life span of man, which at that time was considerable longer than the present life span (Mathuselah lived 939. years), was to be, shortened to only one hundred and twenty years immediately following the flood. But this view must be quickly rejected, because men lived much longer than one hundred years for several generations after the Flood. For example: Shem lived six hundred years (Genesis 11:10,11); Arphaxed lived four hundred thirty-eight years (Genesis 11:12, 13); Eber lived four hundred sixty-four years (Genesis 11:16,17); and Terah (the father of Abram) lived two hundred and five years (Genesis 11:32).

 

The most obvious interpretation of the “one hundred twenty years” of Genesis 6:3 is that it was a probationary period preceding the flood of one hundred twenty years in which men were given opportunity to repent, and thus to escape the terrible calamity of the coming Flood. This view is most acceptable for two reasons: first, it is the simplest and most obvious meaning of the words employed. This is one of the most basic of all the rules of interpretation, namely, that in any given passage of Scripture, the simplest and most obvious interpretation is to be preferred. But a second reason for holding this view is found in the fact that it is substantiated by the parallel passage which is found in I Peter 3:18-20. Incidentally (or is it?) we have here another basic rule of interpretation at work, which Bible scholars and exegetes have insisted upon for years that, “Scripture should be interpreted by Scripture.” It goes without saying that the Bible is its own best commentary, therefore, any given passage should be interpreted not only in the light of the immediate context, but also taking into consideration the parallel passages from other parts of the Bible. Who will deny that the passage in I Peter is the Apostle’s inspired comment on the entire Genesis record with regard to the long suffering of God as it operated in the awful days just before the Flood?

 

Now, putting all these facts together, and taking into account the last phrase of the verse (which most teachers and preachers strangely ignore), what do we have? Answer: we have a statement to the effect that Adam had become infected with the same spirit of corruption and rebellion that characterized the rest of the men of his day, and that the Holy Spirit was soon (within one hundred and twenty years) to cease His work of acting as “Judge” or “Umpire” in the conscience of Adam and in the conscience of all his generations. To be strictly fair, we should point out that it cannot be indisputably proven that Adam lived until the Flood; but on the other hand, neither can it be as emphatically demonstrated that he did not.[1]

 

            Even if the reference is not to Adam, it is certain that it was not to be understood as a warning to all mankind in every generation against “sinning away one’s day of grace” and so “crossing God’s deadline”.

 

Before leaving this passage, it would be profitable to point out that there is another view of its meaning which has considerable merit. This position concerns the fact that it is possible that the word “spirit” as used in Genesis 6:3 refers to the human spirit which God imparted to man (or Adam) in the creative act, rather than to the Holy Spirit as such. If the reader will notice the fact that the word “spirit” is not capitalized in the King James Version of the Bible, which indicates that the translators also had their doubts as to whether or not this was a reference to the Holy Spirit. At any rate, if this is the true meaning of the word “spirit” as used in this verse, it would be perfectly proper for God to refer to the human spirit as “My spirit”, since it was He Who imparted it to man in the beginning. Second, it indicates that the human spirit of man which sets him apart from the animals around him was becoming so corrupt that it would eventually be swallowed up by his depraved, animal nature. Third, it then follows that if the word “spirit” refers to man’s rational and moral nature as contrasted to his animal nature, then the entire passage becomes a prediction rather than a threatened judgment. This would also harmonize with the obvious fact that a corrupting influence was then at work in the ranks of men which was so awful as to bring the swift judgment of the Flood, thus indicating that Man’s human spirit was rapidly being reduced to such a level that the only alternative was his removal from the earth.[2]

 

But no matter which of these positions are taken, it should be clear that the verse in question is not a “blanket warning” directed towards all men in all times. The “deadline theory” needs more than this-far more-to support it before it can be accepted as the correct view of the unpardonable sin.

 

But another passage in the N.T. demands our attention, since it is another favorite which is often used to strengthen the idea that sinners are in grave danger of crossing “deadlines”.

 

Hebrews 12:16-17

16 Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright.

17 For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.

 

The last phrase of this verse is usually stressed heavily in order to show how Esau plead with God for forgiveness, but “God turned a deaf ear to his cry, and spurned his petition.” Then the idea that Esau “crossed a deadline over which there was no return,” is developed to great lengths. It hardly seems possible that more violence could be done to a passage than that which has been heaped upon this one by such a careless treatment.

 

The reader is now urged to open the Bible to the Genesis account of Esau and Jacob, as recorded in Chapters twenty-five and twenty-seven.

 

The story of Esau’s light view of his birthright is almost too well known to require a detailed treatment, but we will note a few facts in order to establish the full continuity of the narrative as it stands recorded. The birthright to which frequent reference is made needs to be clearly understood in this connection before a correct interpretation can be found. This birthright concerned the ancient practice of passing the family authority down from generation to generation from the father to the oldest son. As most of our readers will know, Esau and Jacob were twins: but since Esau was born first, he was the oldest son of Isaac and Rebekah, and hence, was entitled to all the birthright privileges. These privileges were not to be treated lightly, since they included three great advantages: First, the father’s blessing and authority. The blessing was always delivered in exalted language, and promised great material prosperity. The interesting thing is, these promises were carried out, provided that the son upon whom they were bestowed walked humbly with God. (The reader needs only to read Genesis 27:27-29 to verify this.). But the blessings were accompanied with all the family authority, which was no small honor. Second, the birthright brought to the oldest son a double portion (or “the lion’s share”) of the father’s wealth. In Isaac’s case, this wealth meant great material gains would have been bestowed upon Esau. Third, the birthright brought to the eldest son the Domestic Priesthood which he then exercised on behalf of his whole family.

 

             Right here, it would be well to enlarge upon the Domestic Priesthood. It is clearly revealed in the Bible that, before there was any Aaronic Priesthood extablished in Israel, there was a Domestic Priesthood which preserved and maintained constant fellowship with God on behalf of every pious family in which it was exercised.

 

        Whatever else may be said about worship in those ancient days, one thing is quite clear, namely, those who did walk with God were Divinely instructed in some way to appear before Him with sacrificial  animals, whose blood was poured out upon the family alter for every member of the family. The priest who offered these sacrifices was the Patriarchal head of each family (see Job 1:5), or the eldest son. Thus, this Domestic Priesthood prefigured that greater Priesthood which was yet to be established by a bleeding Man of Galilee, Who would one day cry “It is finished!” and forever seal His own for the courts of Heaven.

 

In the light of all that was involved in the birthright privileges it can be rightly said that Esau’s light view of that birthright was crass indifference. But we must also point out that the birthright in no way affected Esau’s relationship to God; and the fact that he despised it so much that he was willing to barter it away for a hot meal did not mean that he sealed his destiny for Hell. It is indeed strange to note that some of the most trusted Commentators have fallen into the trap of interpreting Hebrews 12:17, as showing that Esau later repented of his sin, and went to God in tears, but God rejected him and he died lost.

 

The whole problem in such interpretations of this verse revolves around a mistaken concept regarding the word “repentance.” When Hebrews 12:17 says “he found no place of repentance,” many readers and commentators assume without thinking the matter through that the word is to be understood in a theological sense. The Greek word here is the word metanoia, and means “a change of mind.” It is true that this is the word which is commonly used for our English word “repentance,” but the word does not always signify repentance in the theological sense of the sinner repenting from sin and turning to God for salvation. If the change of mind is directed toward God, then it is understood as signifying repentance as we customarily think of that term, but sometimes this word is used of a change of mind with regard to the feelings of one person towards another person. This is the obvious meaning of the word as it is used in Hebrews 12:17.

 

Moreover, if the reader will now turn to Genesis 27:30-40, and will read this section even casually, he will see that Esau did not cry out unto God for salvation, he went to Isaac and vainly tried to persuade his father to reverse the blessing which he had already pronounced upon his wily brother Jacob. But it was too late, for once the Patriarchal blessing had been pronounced, even in the case where trickery was involved, it could not be withdrawn or reversed.

 

Therefore, when Hebrews 12:17 says “he (Esau) found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears,” it does not mean that Esau prayed to God for salvation from sin, but was not granted “repentance unto life”; rather it obviously means that he found no place (or possibility) of a change of mind on the part of his father, Isaac. Furthermore, the tears which Esau shed were not poured out because he was sorry for his past actions or his past sins; they were tears of regret because he had lost the material blessings of the birthright (Genesis 27:34,38)!  He was rejected, for he found no place for a change of mind in his father, though he sought it diligently with tears.

 

Thus it seems perfectly clear that to commit the unpardonable sin is not to “cross a deadline” from which one is never granted repentance. This very idea would contradict the latter part of John 6:37, where our Lord Himself states:   . . .and him that cometh to me, I will in no wise case out.” Every sinner can rest assured of the fact that if he lays hold on genuine concern for salvation, and as a result turns to Christ for that salvation, he will not be denied![3]

 

II   WHAT IT IS

 

We beg the reader’s indulgence long enough to turn our attention to the positive side of this “knotty” question. We have gone to some length in discussing what the unpardonable sin is not; it remains now to carefully approach the subject with a view to determining what it is, and whether or not it is observable today.

 

In settling upon an interpretation of any passage of Scripture, the most important rule of all is that which holds that we must interpret a verse or group of verses in the light of the immediate context. Failure to observe this rule leaves an open door for every conceivable kind of “stray interpretation” imaginable to enter freely and without opposition. It should not require any labored argument to establish the fact that, whatever our Lord meant to convey to us by the warning against blaspheming the Holy Spirit, it had an inseparable connection with the attitude-and actions of those to whom the words were directed at the time they were spoken.


As we turn back to the Gospel record of the event which called forth these words from our Lord (Matthew 12:22-32), we encounter no difficulty whatever in seeking to determine the exact issue which was involved. Our Lord had exercised His Divine Sovereignty in the casting out of a demon from one who was before both blind and speechless. When the news of what had happened reached the ears of the Pharisees, with their usual hastiness, they passed their “exalted” judgment as to how the miracle had been accomplished, saying: “This fellow doth not cast out devils (demons), but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.” In His reply to this preposterous charge, our Lord’s usual calmness prevailed, but underneath it was the razor-sharp edge of suppressed anger. As we pointed out in the beginning of this paper, Jesus first showed the absolute absurdity of this accusation by arguing that even Satan would not be so stupid as to work against himself. To argue that Satan would direct demons to possess a person, and then reverse himself and cast out the very demons which he had before commanded to enter that individual would be manifest imbecility! Jesus then followed this line of argument with the awful warning which has caused such controversy and in some cases, such wild “exposition.” These unfounded interpretations would have been avoided if the expositors had carefully read the entire passage, and especially if they had given any attention to the inspired explanation of the meaning of our Lord’s words as it is recorded in Mark 3:30. In this brief verse, Mark gives us the reason for the awful warning against blaspheming the Holy Spirit in clear and simple words:

 

“Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.”

 

Therefore, the unpardonable sin was-and is-in ascribing the works of the Holy Spirit through Christ to Satan. How could it consist of any thing else? This interpretation is the one given us by the inspired writer John Mark: and those of us who accept the fact of the total inspiration of the Bible insist that even the comments and explanations of the writers are authoritative. Thus, since John Mark tells us why Jesus uttered the warning against blaspheming the Holy Spirit, he is in effect telling us what the unpardonable sin (so-called) is! Why then should we wander all over the Bible in order to ascertain the meaning of Jesus’ words? Why must those simple words be used as an occasion for airing personal and private beliefs of various expositors and preachers?

 

III WHAT IT MEANS TO US

 

To discuss the proper interpretation of the words of Christ in this passage would be of no value at all unless we make a prayerful attempt to discover whether or not they have any significance to believers today. In laying the groundwork for this phase of our discussion we begin by pointing out that this was not the first time our Lord had been charged with other than what He claimed to be. The frequent accusation by the people; “Thou hast a demon” (John 7:20; 8:48,52; 10:20), was “a stone thrown at random” (Trench); but this barb by the Pharisees was delivered with deadly maliciousness. It actually charged Him with being in willing and conscious alliance with the prince of evil! How horrible! What vicious blasphemy! It sealed them for HELL!

 

The question now arises as to whether any one is now in danger of committing this awful sin, and some have even raised the question as to the possibility of born-again believers falling into this damning transgression. The latter part of this question we dismiss immediately on the Scriptural ground of the eternal safety of all those who are in Christ (John 5:24; 6:35,37,39,50,54,58; 10:27-30; Romans 8:34-39). Moreover, Paul makes it clear and emphatic that no believer would ever speak of the Lord Jesus in a disparaging manner to any degree, let alone to charge Him with being in alliance with Satan (I Corinthians 12:3).

 

But the question as to whether sinners are still in danger of committing the unpardonable sin is not so easily settled. Some expositors have taken the position that this sin was “a dispensational sin,” which means that it was possible only while our Lord was upon the earth in the flesh. They say that since He has gone back to be with the Father, it is no longer possible for any one to fall into this grave sin. For a time this writer was inclined to accept this view, for it seems to explain the silence of the Book of Acts and of the Epistles with regard to this sin. At first glance it does seem strange there is no further warning regarding this sin in other portions of the New Testament. If the possibility of committing this sin existed after the Ascension of Christ, why are the New Testament Epistles so strangely silent about it? Why are they not filled with warnings about this matter?

 

On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that an argument needs more to support it than the mere silence of Scripture. We might even reply by asking the question: How many times does the Bible have to record a thing before it becomes true? If a warning is sounded only once in Scripture it then takes its validity from the fact that it is recorded on those sacred pages, and not because it is sounded over and over again.

 

Moreover, there are some other considerations which must not be put aside in our attempt to establish an answer to this rather moot question. First, our Lord’s use of the general term “men” in His warning seems to embrace all succeeding generations, not just the generation living while He was here on earth. Second, Luke records the same warning from our Lord, but apparently in a different connection altogether. To put it another way, Luke does not record it as following any direct accusation against our Lord; but includes it in a general discourse of Jesus in which He delivers a series of warnings including the warning against blaspheming the Holy Spirit. As recorded by Luke the rest of the warnings were obviously directed to all succeeding generations; thus, it follows that the warning against blaspheming the Holy Spirit must be understood as being as broad in scope as all the others.

 

A third fact should be examined, which has more weight than either of the others, and which taken along with the others presents a strong case. The danger involved in the unpardonable sin revolves around the fact of being an offence against the Holy Spirit, rather than Christ. As a matter of fact, our Lord Himself states that men may blaspheme Him and receive forgiveness, provided of course they seek that remission. But it is evident that the nature of this sin is that of accusing the Holy Spirit of being the pawn of Satan. It must never be forgotten that the Bible makes clear the fact that every miracle performed by Jesus, and every word uttered by Him was effected by the immediate agency and power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1, 14, 18). Therefore, to accuse Him of performing His miracles by the power of Satan was to blaspheme the Holy Spirit Who was operating through the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

In view of the fact that this sin has to do with blaspheming the Holy Spirit, it seems evident that those who attribute miraculous works of the Holy Spirit to Satan would certainly stand in danger of committing the act of eternally offending Him. But it should also be emphasized that merely making the statement that a certain miracle was performed by Satanic power does not necessarily constitute blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The Bible is quite clear about the fact that Satan’s “ministers” are often capable of demonstrating supernatural power in the performance of certain “signs” which the unsuspecting and gullible often mistake as being proof of their theological orthodoxy (Matthew 7:21-23; II Corinthians 11:13-15). Thus the mere fact that a “Preacher” or “Faith Healer” often performs feats which are above the normal does not necessarily prove they are true representatives and ambassadors of Christ. The real test  of any ministry is its point of emphasis. If that ministry exalts the Lordship of Christ according to all the Biblical facts, and if it exhorts sinners to come to Him for forgiveness of sins, then it has certainly “passed the acid test” of true orthodoxy. On the other hand, if that ministry concerns itself only with physical healing of bodily ailments, and if it at the same time ignores the fact of the sinner’s moral and spiritual guilt, then it is strangely unlike the New Testament ministry of the Apostles and Prophets. Therefore, we have very right to question whether or not it is of God.

 

In summarizing the whole range of this discussion, Iet4t be understood that the unpardonable sin is a transgression in which the offending person deliberately choses to ignore indisputable evidence that a certain work has been performed by the Holy Spirit, by crediting the work to Satan or to Satanic forces. It has nothing to do with resisting the Gospel call to repentance and faith, nor with “crossing” any sort of “deadline” by which the sinner is then “sealed to damnation.” On the other hand, let no reader assume for one moment that we have minimized the grave danger involved in resisting the Gospel call. We have simply attempted to clear away some of the “fuzzy” thinking which has surrounded these great passages of Scripture, in order that we might know the truth contained therein. The awful consequences of a persistent rejection of the call of the Gospel is perfectly stated by our Lord Himself in Luke 13:5:

 

.except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

 

Here is God’s warning to every sinner, sent forth into all the earth. It states in crystal-clear words the indisputable, inescapable fact that the call to repentance and faith- is no off-handed invitation extended by a disinterested God. It is a heavenly call by a Sovereign King who will not tolerate a single degree of levity or frivolity. If any person reads this paper who is saved, let him go forth to witness and win every one he can possible persuade to embrace Jesus Christ. If one reads this who is not saved, it is the earnest prayer of the writer that the Holy Spirit will use the Scriptures which are quoted as His omnipotent sword to slay all opposition to the Gospel call in the heart of that reader. Furthermore, let that reader know that Jesus Christ is not a luxury, He is a necessity. If a person has Jesus Christ he lacks nothing; if a person lacks Jesus Christ he has nothing!

 

 



    [1] See the article entitled "Adam” in Unger’s Bible Dictionary. pp 19, 20.

 

[2] ‘For a fuller treatment of the nature and scope of the corrupting influence which was taking such a terrible toll in those pre-flood days, the reader is referred to the writer’s booklet, THE SONS of GOD and the DAUGHTERS of MEN.

 

[3] It must also be noted that on the basis of the first part of John 6:37, along with verse 44 of the same chapter, that no man will come to Christ apart from a divine compulsion.

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