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What Is the Unpardonable Sin?

Perhaps one of the more frightening things that came from the lips of Jesus Christ is his comment on what has become known as the “unpardonable sin.”

As Jesus declares, there is indeed one sin that cannot be forgiven. “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31 NIV).

Lurking in the back of many sensitive minds is the fear that perhaps they have committed this “unforgiveable sin.” However, it’s important to understand the context in which Jesus makes this startling statement.

Prior to making this statement, Jesus healed a man with a shriveled hand. Because Jesus healed this man on the Sabbath—the Jewish day of rest where they were prohibited from working—the Jewish religious leaders (Pharisees) confronted Jesus. How dare he do a work like this on the Sabbath?

It was at this point that the Pharisees determined they would find a way to kill Jesus because he appeared to disregard one of their most sacred laws (Matthew 12:14).

A little later, Jesus healed a demon-possessed man, and while we aren’t specifically told in the passage, it was most likely on the same Sabbath day. The Pharisees, filled with hatred in their hearts for Jesus, claimed that Jesus performed this miracle by the power of Beelzebul, a common Hebrew name for Satan, or the devil (Matthew 12:24).

Jesus then pointed out to the Pharisees how foolish their idea was. If Satan was in the business of driving out demons, then Satan’s kingdom was “divided against itself” (v.25 NIV).

But what the Pharisees had done in light of Jesus’ great miracle of healing was far worse than simple foolishness. They had seen God’s power with their own eyes. Yet, instead of embracing Jesus as God’s anointed one, they claimed Jesus was a fraud—worse yet, on the side of the devil himself.

Jesus, though, declared that this miracle was performed by the power of the Holy Spirit. “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (v.28).

Now we begin to see why Jesus speaks about an unforgivable sin against the Spirit. Jesus addresses the crowd and tells them that they have a choice to make. Are they in agreement with the Pharisees or with him? They cannot remain neutral. “Whoever is not with me is against me,” (v.30) he says. Then comes Jesus’ comment about blasphemy against the Spirit.

So have you committed this sin today? Because the historical circumstances are now different, this sin cannot be reproduced in the exact same way. But we are warned in Hebrews 10:29 that the heart attitude is still possible: a heart that finally, willfully rejects Jesus Christ, even though the Holy Spirit has helped them understand that he is God come to deliver them from their sins, and has proven God’s power to them.

When this point is reached—someone knows the truth about Jesus Christ and rejects him, or worse yet, says he’s of the devil—is not within the sphere of human knowledge. Only God knows each individual heart with certainty.

It is safe to say, though, that if a person is worried about having possibly committed this sin, that person has most definitely not committed it, because were you to outright blaspheme the Holy Spirit, you would not be concerned that you had done so.