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The Unforgivable Sin
"Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"--because they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit." (Mark 3:28-30)
"And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him." (Luke 12:10)
This portion of God's word raises questions about the salvation that is in Christ. We know that Christ died for our sins, even for the sins of the whole world (1 Cor. 15:3; 1 John 2:2). He forgave the criminal on the cross (Luke 23:39-43). He forgave the many sins of a notorious woman (Luke 7:47), and even forgave Saul of Tarsus, who due to being a "blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor" toward the assembly of God, called himself the "foremost" of sinners (1 Tim. 1:13-15). If the salvation of Christ is so vast, saving even the worst of sinners, how can there be such a thing as an unforgivable sin? Let us look into this matter together so that God may grant us insight into this crucial question.
Who God Is--Who Man Is
Salvation is from God, not from man.
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph. 2:8-10)
No human effort, no pleading, no act of will, no good works, can save your soul. Only God, through His salvation in Christ Jesus, can save you. Your only need is to receive His salvation. This implies a turning away from our sinful ways, and a turning to Him. This is what repentance is (Heb. 6:1). Faith is our act of joining ourselves and entering into who Christ is and what He has done. It is our trust and confidence in His very being as the faithful, trustworthy, and able one (Heb. 11:1, 6; Rom. 4:19-22). Paul called it our "work of faith" (1 Thess. 1:3), in contrast to the works of the law which cannot save us (Rom. 3:20, 28; Gal 2:16). John described this salvation experience, which is a second birth, in this way:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
In contrast to this wonderful realm of God's saving grace, sin is the realm of man's fallen being (Rom.7:7-25). Sin is the Greek word hamartia, which basically means a missing of the mark, a falling short of God's plan and desire for your life.
Salvation, then, is our leaving of the world of sin and entering into the world of God. How specifically does God bring us into this salvation? He does this by Himself, and He is triune. God is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. To understand what the unpardonable, unforgivable sin is, we must understand God in His trinity. To fully understand the trinity is far beyond the capability of mortal man. Yet God does show us, in an experiential way, His nature though His revealed word. While our view is limited, it is sufficient to supply us with the riches of His extravagant virtues so that we might live a life that pleases Him.
Let us now ponder the trinity.
The Father--The Invisible One
The Father God is the source of salvation (Eph. 1:3-6). In a sense, we may consider the whole Old Testament age as the age of the Father. The Father God was working in many ways to bring man into the realm of faith so that we might experience His salvation. Here are a few key ways God used to bring man to Himself:
The invisible God made Himself known through His creation. In Romans, Paul described how God showed us who He is, in a general way, through the created universe:
Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.(Rom. 1:19-20)
The psalmist agrees, portraying the silent sky, with sun, moon, and stars, as actually being filled with speech:
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words;Their voice is not heard.(Psalm 19:1-3)
The invisible One, the Father, has made Himself known.
2. The Old Testament
Secondly, God made Himself known in a more specific way through what we call the Old Testament, the Jewish scriptures, which Jesus told us is basically composed of the Law, Prophets, and Psalms (Matt. 5:17; Luke 24:44). Why are there these three sections? The Law firstly shows us our need of a savior, since through the Law is the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20). Next, the Prophets show us that a savior is coming. Finally, the Psalms show us that this savior can be experienced by us. The Bible speaks to us about this invisible God and the salvation to come.
3. Your Conscience
Our conscience is a God created capacity to know right from wrong, and good from evil (Rom. 2:14-16). A good conscience should respond to the created universe and say, "Yes, there is a God." Likewise, a good conscience should respond to the Old Testament revelation and say, "Yes, I am a sinner. Yes, I know a savior is coming, and yes, I will rejoice in Him." Our conscience is thus not a separate way to know God, but through the general speaking from creation and the specific testimony of God's word, man's conscience should generate faith, testifying to us that God is real and that we need a savior.
And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Heb. 11:6)
But what if you reject God the Father and all His gracious, loving ways to reveal Himself to you? Can you still be saved? Yes, for even if you reject the Father, He still has the Son. Even Jesus noted this in a parable (Matt. 21:33-44). He said God sent His slaves, which includes the law and prophets, to His people, hoping for the fruit of repentance. Yet they rejected them. But there was still hope, for Jesus said that "afterward he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'" (v. 37) So let us now consider the second of the trinity--the Son of God.
The Son--The Visible One
In the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we see the marvelous Son of God displayed, Jesus Christ. In Christ, the infinite God entered into finite man, limiting Himself in space and time, so that He might save us. He was the visible representation of the invisible God.
He is the image of the invisible God....For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form. (Col. 1:15, 2:9)
He was God seen, God touched, and God handled.
What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life--and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us. (1 John 1:1-2)
After years of being with Jesus, and hearing Jesus speak of the Father God many times, Phillip in John 14:8 boldly asked Jesus one day to show them the Father:
Jesus said to him, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves." (John 14:9-11)
While the Father and the Son are distinct, they are inseparable. They coexist and coinhere from eternity to eternity.
But what if you reject the Son? Can you be saved? What if you speak evil of the Son, blaspheming His dear name? Can you be saved? Yes! For God still has the third of the trinity to send to you. There is still hope!
The Spirit--The Penetrating One
After Jesus died and rose from the dead, an amazing transformation took place. All that He was as the Father and the Son, including all the humanity and human experiences He had accumulated through 33 years of living, and including all that He accomplished on the cross through His death and all that He was empowered with through His resurrection and ascension, became incorporated into the Holy Spirit.
So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, "The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL " The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Cor. 15:42-45)
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Cor. 3:17-18)
"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you." (John 16:12-15)
While the Spirit, just like the Father and the Son, existed from eternity to eternity, distinct from the Father and Son and yet inseparable, elements were added to the Spirit to enable us to experience the riches of His salvation. There is a picture of this in the Old Testament. The tabernacle was God's dwelling place. It was anointed with the holy oil, which symbolized the Holy Spirit of God. Yet the oil was enriched by the addition of four basic elements:
Take also for yourself the finest of spices: of flowing myrrh five
hundred shekels, and of fragrant cinnamon half as much, two hundred and
fifty, and of fragrant cane two hundred and fifty, and of cassia five hundred, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, and of olive oil a hin. You shall make of these a holy anointing oil, a perfume mixture, the work of a perfumer; it shall be a holy anointing oil. With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony. (Exo. 30:23-26)
Today, the Holy Spirit is God the Father, embodied in the Son, enriched with all the spices of His human virtues and accomplishments, reaching man. Whatever God the Father is and whatever God the Son has done is in this Holy Spirit. This Spirit is the final stage of His triune expression. As the Spirit He comes to us and penetrates our heart, convicting us of sin and leading us into faith of Christ. Jesus spoke of the Spirit to come as a Helper, another Comforter, an advocate (Greek paracletos, someone called to one's side to render help):
But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. (John 16:7-11)
This Spirit operates mainly through His assembly, which we call the church. From the book of Acts through Revelation, the working and speaking of the Spirit is recorded through the apostles and early church. God is speaking as the Spirit today. The Book of Revelation especially emphasizes the speaking of the Spirit. He speaks to the churches in chapters 2 and 3 in the way of encouraging us to overcome. For example:
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will grant to eat of the tree of life which is in the Paradise of God. (Rev. 2:7)
The Spirit also speaks in oneness with the church at the end of Revelation, which, through the overcoming life, has become His beloved bride:
The Spirit and the bride say, "Come. " And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. (Rev. 22:17)
Blaspheming the Holy Spirit
We are living in the age of the Spirit. No longer do we grope through the age of the invisible Father (e.g. Acts 17:23-27). Neither are we in the age of the Son, who graciously walked our earth 2,000 years ago. What we have today is even better, for all that the Father is, embodied in the Son, is now the Spirit for our daily salvation. A normal meeting of the assembly of God should be filled with this speaking forth of the Spirit:
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them." (Acts 13:1-2)
Therefore if the whole church
assembles together and all speak in
tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that
you are mad? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man
enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the
secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and
worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you. What is the
outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a
teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation Let all
things be done for edification. (1 Cor. 14:23-26)
even if you, in the past, have rejected the Father, and even if you have
rejected and even blasphemed the Son, God now reaches you through the
Holy Spirit, speaking through His believers on earth today.
But what if you reject the Holy Spirit's speaking? What if you blaspheme the Holy Spirit? Can you be saved? Blasphemy is an evil speaking. It is a speaking that is against the Holy Spirit, and even degrades, discounts, mocks, or ridicules the Spirit's speaking. God the Holy Spirit is speaking, yet the blasphemer speaks back. Can such a person be saved?
are finished. You are finished because God is finished. He has given
you all that He is and you have rejected Him at every stage and at
every level. You rejected the Father. You rejected the Son. You rejected the Spirit. That is all God has.
If you are already a believer, you cannot commit
the unpardonable sin, for salvation is eternal. But if you have not
received Christ yet, you must soberly consider what you are doing.
Friend, it is not too late. The Spirit even now as you read this is
knocking at the door of your heart, pleading with you to receive Him. I
urge you to open your heart and take His salvation immediately, calling
on His name. If you feel any regret in your heart for disobeying the Holy Spirit, that is a sign that you can be saved. Do not let the Devil convince you that you have gone too far. You are still alive. It is not too late. Do not bring such a blaspheming spirit into the grave with you. That regret is the work of the Spirit. I am praying for you.
But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED." (Rom. 10:8-11)
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.