Wednesday, April 17, 2013
THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN
"31 “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come." (Matthew 12)
What is blasphemy against The Holy Spirit?
Jesus had just cast out of a man a demon that had made him blind and unable to speak. Even though the man was able to see and speak again, some Pharisees declared that Jesus only casts out demons through Beelzebub the prince of demons. (12:22-24). Jesus responded that He was casting out demons through The Spirit of God (28).
So blaspheming The Holy Spirit is attributing His work to the devil. The unpardonable sin is calling The Spirit of God Who works in and through Jesus Christ evil and an evil doer.
The Pharisees who said that Jesus cast out demons by Beelzebub committed this unforgivable sin of blaspheming The Holy Spirit.
Christians may likewise commit this unpardonable sin.
Hebrews 6:4-6 speaks of those who have been enlightened by and have become partakers in The Holy Spirit through faith, having tasted the good word of God and the heavenly gift of salvation and the power of God. The writer declares that such people, clearly meaning Christians, can fall away. When they do fall away, the author of Hebrews continues, it is impossible to restore them to repentance. Why? Because they have crucified again Jesus Christ Who made a once for all sacrifice to save them from their sins, and they have put Him to open shame.
Turning and falling away from God and His salvation in willful unbelief is blaspheming The Holy Spirit by rejecting His good work through what Christ has done as being of no good and in fact evil. Such apostasy (falling away) apparently moves one beyond the point of no return, beyond the hope of being renewed in repentance.
Jesus speaks of only one unpardonable sin. Here in Hebrews 6, I believe, is the same blasphemy and unpardonable sin of which Jesus speaks in Matthew 12.
1 John 5:16 teaches us that all sin is unrighteousness, but there are sins not leading to death, but only one sin that leads to death. We should pray for fellow Christians who have performed sins not leading to death, that they may be given life, and be restored to life in Christ. The wages of all sin is death, but the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord is life, eternal life.
But when Christians have committed the sin leading to death, their fellow Christians are not to pray that they will be given life.
Again, there is only one unforgivable sin. So the sin leading to death must be the blasphemy of The Holy Spirit of which Jesus speaks, the total rejection of the saving work of The Holy Spirit of which the author of the Book of Hebrews speaks. Since this sin appears to be beyond forgiveness or repentance, because it is said to lead to death, it seems we are not to try to lead those committing the blasphemy of The Holy Spirit to pardon, repentance and life.
Some Christians, maybe many Christians, have at some point feared that they may have blasphemed The Holy Spirit, that they were lost and without hope of ever being saved again, that they were doomed to the eternal punishment of hell. There may be some who are reading this who have such fear for themselves or for someone else.
Christians, if we are concerned that we may have carried out the unforgivable sin, it seems certain that we have not blasphemed The Holy Spirit. Our worries could only come from one of two places.
First, the devil and the forces of evil might be trying to frighten us into abandoning our faith in despair. If we have sinned, and especially if we are in some sort of habitual sinful practices, Satan the accuser will use guilt to grow in us a sense of hopelessness. This is one of many reasons why it is vital that we not get caught up in sinful lifestyles, and that we promptly repent of all sins and turn back to God.
However, why would the evil powers try to drive us to the belief that we were forever lost, unless we were indeed not forever lost? If the devil is trying to convince us that we are doomed, we not only are not doomed we are at least trying to live the Christian life.
If it is not the work of Satan, then our concerns that we might have blasphemed The Holy Spirit must come from the work of The Holy Spirit in us. The Spirit of God is working to convict us of sin so that we can turn from our sins and turn to God before we can no longer repent.
So, a Christian who is afraid they have committed the sin that leads to death has doubtless not practiced that great apostasy, that blaspheming of The Spirit.
Thus we should always pray for one another, that we might live holy lives, repent of any sin, receive Christ’s forgiveness for that sin, and recommit ourselves to being holy as He is holy (1 Peter 1:13-16).
But according to the Apostle John, when a Christian sees another Christian committing the sin leading to death, we are not to pray for God to give that person life in their sins. That would just be death, and that’s why it’s called a sin that leads to death.
Yet that doesn’t mean we are not to pray for them at all. We can pray for them to repent of the sin that is leading them to death, so that, forgiven for and freed from their deadly sin, they may have life again.
But why pray for someone to repent if they have fallen away from the faith, crucifying Christ again and putting Him to shame? Isn’t it impossible for them to repent? Aren’t they past the point of no return?
How do we know for sure that we have seen someone commit the sin which leads to death, beyond the possibility of repentance? How do we know without a doubt that someone has blasphemed The Holy Spirit, calling the work of Christ through The Spirit evil and thus perpetrating the unpardonable sin?
It seems to be possible that we could know when someone has committed the unforgivable sin. But I’m not going to be the one to make that kind of judgment call. That’s not a stone I’m ready to throw, and I doubt I ever will be ready for that. I know I don’t want to be one who gives up on someone when maybe God is still at work in them.
In fact, I wonder about any Christian who is ready to condemn someone as beyond hope, who refuses to pray for them and try to lead them back to Christ in repentance and faith. It might just be that such a condemning Christian is the one rejecting the work The Spirit of God may be doing in someone who seems forever lost. To do this is at least dangerously close to blaspheming The Holy Spirit, calling His work evil instead of good.
Do I believe a Christian could commit sin leading to death, blaspheming The Holy Spirit and rejecting God beyond a chance of repentance? Yes, these verses, as well as my understanding of salvation by grace through faith, compel me to believe that one can indeed fall away from the faith for good.
Yes, I know it is possible for someone to permanently reject their salvation. But no, I do not know when a person has reached that point.
So I believe mutual accountability for holy living and Biblical church discipline (Matthew 18:15-18) is vital to the Christian life. It is so important that we love one another in Christ and that we help each other to worship and love Christ with our whole being and love our neighbors as ourselves. We must pray for each other that we will together stand firm in and walk steadfastly in the faith as we are led by The Holy Spirit in the grace of Jesus Christ to the glory of God The Father.
Committing the unforgivable sin is not something to be feared when we are committed to worshiping, loving and serving God, and loving each other and all people in His Name.
As the Apostle John says elsewhere, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear…” (1 John 4:18).