What Is the Unforgivable Sin?
What is the unforgivable sin, and what do I do if I’ve already committed it?
Is there such a thing as a sin which cannot be forgiven? The answer is yes. But what exactly does that mean? Let us see what Scripture has to say before we discuss.
In Matthew’s gospel, the 12th chapter, Jesus says “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31).
So, therein lies the answer: the unforgivable sin is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” But what exactly is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? We must look at the full context of that verse, as we always should with any passage of Scripture.
Jesus has just finished casting out a demon, to which the Pharisees were skeptical and suggested that it was in fact Satan doing the works. Jesus responded by pointing out that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. In other words, what sense does it make for Satan to cast out his own angels? Instead, Jesus adds, he casts out evil spirits by the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:28).
This context helps us understand what Jesus means by “blaspheming” the Spirit. Blasphemy is to speak with contempt about God, or to be defiantly irreverent. It is to disapprove of or reject God’s name, work, character, etc. So, to blaspheme the spirit of God is to reject his work. This is what the Pharisees were doing when they discounted the work of God’s Spirit in Jesus by casting out demons.
So the question arises: why is this the one sin that cannot be forgiven?
One reason could be that rejection of the Holy Spirit implies that we are also rejecting His gift of salvation. After all, to reject salvation is to remain in bondage to sin, and thus to die there as well. So, obviously one cannot receive redemption if he chooses not to allow God to save him.
Another way of looking at it is this: blasphemy of the spirit is the proof that we are beyond repentance. Jesus prefaces warning against the unforgivable sin by saying that all blasphemies can be forgiven. Is this a contradiction? No; what Jesus means is that if a person is at a point in their sins where they are denying the work of God’s Spirit, which is necessary for salvation, then they are beyond repentance. In other words, they are so hardened and turned off to Christ that they will most likely never choose to turn from sin.
But the question still remains: what if I have already committed the unforgivable sin and do not know it? What if I denied Christ’s atoning work in someone’s life before I was saved and did not mean it?
A couple of points need to be made on this. Blasphemy of the Spirit is not something that we do nonchalantly, as in a fit of rage, such as letting a cuss word slip out and regretting it later. Those who blaspheme the Spirit choose to, and as we already discussed, are beyond repentance because they have rejected the gift of salvation.
But even if it were the case that we could have committed the unforgivable sin and not realized it, if we are truly saved, we will still spend an eternity in heaven with God. Why? Because, according to Paul in Romans, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Romans 8:1). Our sins are covered by Christ’s blood at the cross. So, though we still sin from time to time, we are clean because of Christ’s atonement.
I used to imagine scenarios, such as someone who is a Christian who lies to his wife and then gets into a car accident and dies before he has a chance to ask God for forgiveness. Would the man therefore be sent to hell? But according to Scripture, that is not how it works. Once we are saved, we are redeemed (1 John 1:9).
So, why do we ask for forgiveness for our sins even so? If God knows what we are going to say before we verbalize it (Matthew 6:8), and if we are forgiven because of Christ, why even ask God for forgiveness when we do sin?
Without spending too much time on that topic, we ask for forgiveness as an acknowledgement of our sin, and as a means of repenting from it. It is part of the sanctification process. After all, unrepentant sin can cause barriers between us and God; though he is still present in our lives, there is a blockage between us and him. So, we ask for forgiveness for current sins because Jesus tells us to when he instructs us to pray (Matthew 6:12).
In summation, if you are worried that you have committed a sin that cannot be forgiven, you probably have not. After all, part of the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our hearts is a desire to keep God’s Commands. The fact that we are grieved by our sin is part of the proof that our hearts have turned toward Christ. So, rest in the assurance of your salvation!