Oh no!! I think I may have committed the unforgivable sin!! Have I lost my salvation forever!! In my years of pastoral ministry, I have been faced with this question many times. Just exactly how does the Bible define the unforgivable sin?
In the gospel of Mark, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for their hardness of heart and for their blind audacity to attribute Jesus’ miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit to the work of Satan himself. They accused Jesus of being possessed by Satan and that His miracles were empowered by the prince of darkness. In light of these accusations, Jesus utters these amazing words in Mark 3:28-29: “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”. From the lips of Jesus, we discover the unforgivable sin—blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Just what exactly is this?
First of all, notice Jesus’ words that all sins will be forgiven. God is a God of immense forgiveness. He is patient, loving, compassionate and will forgive grievous sins. We might think that murder or adultery are such heinous sins that are beyond forgiveness, but may I remind you of some the greatest saints in the Bible. Abraham was a liar, Noah was a drunk, and Peter denied Christ three times and all three of these men have been saved by grace and are in heaven today. Paul was a blasphemer before Christ saved him according to his own words in 1 Timothy 1:13-14. King David committed adultery and murder but God forgave Him by grace and pardoned him with forgiveness and eternal life in heaven.
So the unforgivable sin is not some heinous sin such as murder or adultery, but it is the willful, conscious, deliberate, persistent rejection of Christ that is evidenced by a hardness of heart. John Piper defines it this way: “The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance with belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that He withdraws forever with His convicting power so that a person is never able to repent and thus be forgiven.”
Does a sinner experience God’s forgiveness automatically? Or are there some conditions that must be met before God grants forgiveness? The Bible teaches that sinners must repent of their sins and then trust Christ and on the basis of the merits of Christ’s work on the cross, they by faith are forgiven. How can a sinner repent and trust? No one can come to the Father unless the Holy Spirit does an overpowering work of conviction and regeneration causing the new birth. Sinners are granted new birth and given the gifts of repentance and faith. We cannot experience forgiveness unless the Holy Spirit does a sovereign work of making us alive in Christ. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a perpetual state of hardness where a sinner has placed himself beyond the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and where the Spirit says “No more!”
The Bible uses another term for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—apostasy. The Scripture is very clear that a genuine born again believer CANNOT lose his or her salvation but is preserved to the end by God’s saving and sustaining grace. Yet the Bible teaches a category of person who were visible or external members of the church, confessed Christ, and enjoyed the benefits of being around God’s people, but were never saved and then at a later point in time decidedly rejected everything they “believed” and stood for beforehand. Thus a true believer can never commit the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit or apostasy. Only false converts who made a “profession” of faith, but never had true “possession” of faith can commit this unforgivable sin.
The writer of Hebrews clearly articulates this in 6:4-6 which states, “ For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” The writer lists five benefits that come with being around Christians, but demonstrate that these people were never saved in the first place. Notice carefully that none of the Biblical words normally associated with salvation are used to describe these people such as regeneration, justification, adoption, etc.
The first benefit is that they were enlightened. That is they know the facts of the Bible with head knowledge, but are never genuinely saved by grace. They also tasted the heavenly gift. They only sampled it. They didn’t consume or ingest or totally swallow Jesus. It wasn’t true salvation. They had an “association” with the Holy Spirit. The Greek is very clear here that these people were “associated” with the Spirit. The Bible speaks of true Christians, not as having an association with the Spirit, but as being indwelt and sealed by the Spirit. They tasted the word of God and the powers of the age to come. In other words, they heard good preaching and saw evidences of God’s working but were never saved.
What was their sin? They decidedly and deliberately fell away or rejected what they embraced before. They were false converts who were never saved. It is impossible for these people to ever get saved. They are beyond hope. We have Biblical evidence of people who committed this sin—Demas (2 Timothy 4:10), Simon Magus (Acts 8) and Judas Iscariot.
Many Christians have tender consciences and wonder if they’ve committed the unforgivable sin and are very concerned and in anguish. This is certain proof that you haven’t committed the sin because you are grieved and bothered and seek forgiveness. The person who commits this sin doesn’t care and are so hardened to the truth. We must never stand in judgment of another person and pronounce them as guilty of having committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We as humans cannot look into another person’s heart and make that judgment.
Yet we must also feel the weight of these verses and realized that they are meant to terrify the socks of those who are playing around with being a Christian but have never truly and genuinely been saved by grace through Jesus Christ. Just because you’ve been baptized, gone through confirmation, been to church all your life, went forward at a revival, know the Bible stories, or are a good person does not mean that you are saved. Salvation comes in repenting of sin, trusting in Christ alone, and submitting to Him as Lord, Savior, and Treasure. Examine yourselves today and make your calling and election sure. You are never guaranteed another breath or tomorrow.