The Unpardonable Sin

"If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that he should pray about that. All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death" (1 John 5:16-17).

There is a sin that is often referred to as the unpardonable sin. It is a sin that will result in death -- not just physical death -- but in spiritual death. There is no redemption for the person who commits the unpardonable sin.

Jesus confirmed the unpardonable sin in Matthew 12: "And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matthew 12:30-32).

Christians differ as to what actually constitutes the unpardonable sin. Three positions dominate this debate. Each agree that it involves blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, but the debate centers around what actually constitutes the blasphemy. One position holds that blasphemy against the Spirit is attributing the works of God the Holy Spirit to Satan; specifically, those works done through Jesus Christ. This camp believes the unpardonable sin could only have been committed while Christ walked the earth.

The second position holds that, once a person is sufficiently enlightened by the Holy Spirit to have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and instead rejects Christ as being demonic, then that person has committed the unpardonable sin.

The third position claims that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an ongoing rejection of Christ's offer of salvation. Any of the three positions is acceptable, and is not a reason over which to break fellowship.

Many people fear that they themselves have committed the unpardonable sin. Such a fear is proof that they have not committed it -- fear or remorse is an indication that the Spirit is still at work in their being. One who commits the unpardonable sin has heard and understood the Spirit's testimony to the extent that they are fully cognizant of their choice to blaspheme. They are incapable of repentance. This is what the writer of Hebrews was referring to when he wrote, "It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened ... who have shared in the Holy Spirit ... if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance" (Hebrews 6:4, 6).

We do not have the authority to accuse someone of having committed the unpardonable sin. To do so would be to judge the person as forever lost, without hope of redemption. Christians do not have the knowledge or authority to make such pronouncements. Only God knows who has committed the unpardonable sin.

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