Did You Commit the Unpardonable Sin?

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NOTE: If a small portion of the introduction seems familiar from another article, it is. But this is the extended version that digs far deeper into the subject of the unpardonable sin, the sin that leads to death, and our sinful nature. If you see the same phrase twice, like Unpardonable Sin, it is just two different sources using the same intro phrase.

Let’s begin by defining some essential terms. Then, we will follow with three important sources to help us dig deeper into our fallen condition. Genesis 6:5; 8:21 informs us that imperfect humans are mentally bent toward evil. Jeremiah 17:9 informs us that we have a treacherous unknowable heart (inner person), and the apostle Paul tells us that our natural desire is to do bad. This sounds like we are in a hopeless condition. Well, it is dire, but there is good news. All humans are born with a conscience (moral compass) that will battle against these other aspects of our fallen condition. However, if one ignores that God-given conscience or they have parents that allow children to run wild, the conscience will get calloused, that is, unfeeling. The Bible is the one tool that can strengthen the conscience to overcome our fallen condition effectively. When it is fine-tuned by the Bible, it will be strong enough to protect us from committing serious sins and living in sin. However, the sinful condition is forceful and strong, so even the strongest Christian will sin minor sins from time to time. This is where the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ comes into consideration. His ransom covers our sins committed from human imperfection, Adamic sin, but not willful unrepentant sin.—Matthew 20:28; 1 John 2:1.

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Sin: (חָטָא chata; ἁμαρτία hamartia) Any spoken word (Job 2:10; Ps 39:1), wrong action (Lev. 20:20; 2 Cor. 12:21) or failing to act when one should have (Num. 9:13; Jam. 4:17), in mind and heart (Prov. 21:4; Rom. 3:9-18; 2 Pet 2:12-15) that is contrary to God’s personality, ways, will and purposes, standards, as set out in the Scriptures. It is also a major sin to lack faith in God, doubting in mind and heart, even subtly in our actions, that he has the ability to carry out his will and purposes. (Heb. 3:12-13, 18-19). It is commonly referred to as missing the mark of perfection. In short, a sinner is a person that has a bad moral character who is often contrasted with the righteous person in the Scriptures.

  • Error: (עָוֹן awon; Gr. ἀνομία anomia; παρανομία paranomia) is found five times in the book of Lamentations. The Hebrew word awon essentially relates to the erring, acting illegally or wrongly. This aspect of sin refers to committing perverseness, wrongness, lawlessness, law-breaking, which can also include the rejection of the sovereignty of God. It is an act or a feeling that steps over the line of God’s moral standard, as something God forbids, or the person ignores carry out (doing) something that God requires, whether it be by one’s thoughts, feelings, speech, or actions. It also focuses on the liability or guilt of one’s wicked, wrongful act. This error may be deliberate or accidental; either willful deviation of what is right or unknowingly making a mistake. (Lev. 4:13-35; 5:1-6, 14-19; Num. 15:22-29; Ps 19:12-13) Of course, if it is intentional; then, the consequence is far more serious. (Num. 15:30-31) Error is in opposition to the truth, and those willfully sinning corrupt the truth, a course that only brings forth flagrant sin. (Isa 5:18-23) We can be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Ex 9:27, 34-35; Heb. 3:13-15.
  • Transgression: (עָבוּר abur or עָבֻר abur; Gr. parabasis) Sin can take the form of a “transgression.” This is an overstepping, namely, to exceed a moral limit or boundary. Biblically speaking, this would be crossing the line and saying, feeling, thinking or doing something that is contrary to God’s personality, standards, ways, will and purposes, as set out in the Scriptures. It is breaking God’s moral law. – Num. 14:41; Deut. 17:2, 3; Josh. 7:11, 15; 1 Sam 15:24; Isa 24:5; Jer. 34:18; Rom. 2:23; 4:15; 5:14; Gal. 3:19; 1 Tim. 2:14; Heb. 2:2; 9:15.
  • Transgression: (Heb. pesha) is wantonness, crime, wrongdoing. One who violates a law, a duty, or a moral principle. An action or behavior that is contrary to a standard be it a human standard or divine, with emphasis on the rebellious nature of the wrong committed.
  • Trespass: (Gr. paraptōma) This is a sin that can come in the way of some desire (lusting), some thinking (entertaining a wrongdoing) or some action (carrying out one’s desires or thoughts that he or she has been entertaining) that is beyond or overstepping God’s righteous standards, as set out in the Scriptures. It is falling or making a false step as opposed to standing or walking upright in harmony with the righteous requirements of God.–Matt. 6:14; Mark 11:25; Rom. 4:25; 5:15-20; 11:11; 2 Cor. 5:19; Gal. 6:1; Eph. 1:7; 2:1, 5; Col 2:13.
  • Sinner: (חָטָא chata ἁμαρτωλός hamartōlos) In the Scriptures “sinners” is generally used in a more specific way, that is, referring to those willfully living in sin, practicing sin, or have a reputation of sinning. – Matt. 9:10; Mark 2:15; Luke 5:30; 7:37-39; John 9:16; Rom. 3:7; Gal. 2:15; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 7:26; Jam. 4:8; 1 Pet 4:18; Jude 1:15.
  • Evil Desire, lust, coveting, craving: (ἐπιθυμία epithumia) This is an inordinate, self-indulgent craving to have what belongs to another or engage in what is morally wrong, which displaces our affection for God. – Gal. 5:16; 1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Tim. 2:22; 1 Pet. 1:14.
  • Shameless Conduct, Sensuality, Debauchery, Promiscuity, Licentiousness, Lewdness: (ἀσέλγεια aselgeia) This is one who indulges in sensual pleasure without any regard for morality. This behavior is completely lacking in moral restraint, indulgence in sensual pleasure, driven by aggressive and selfish desires, unchecked by morality, especially in sexual matters. This refers to acts of conduct that are serious sins. It reveals a shameless, condescending arrogance, i.e., disregard or even disdain for authority, laws, and standards. – Mark 7:22; Rom. 13:13; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 4:19; 1 Pet. 4:3; 2 Pet. 2:2, 7, 18; Jude 4.
  • Sexual Immorality: (Heb. זָנָה zanah; Gr. πορνεία porneia) A general term for immoral sexual acts of any kind: such as adultery, prostitution, sexual relations between people not married to each other, homosexuality, and bestiality. – Num. 25:1; Deut. 22:21; Matt. 5:32; 1 Cor. 5:1.
  • Shameful Behavior: (זִמָּה zimmah) This is wickedness, shameful behavior or conduct that is lewd, shameless regarding sexual behavior. (Lev. 18:17; 19:29; 20:14; Judges 20:6; Job 31:11; Jer. 13:27; Eze. 16:27) It can also refer to the evil thought process that one goes through in plotting their wickedness. (Ps 26:10; 119:150; Pro. 10:23; 21:27; 24:9; Isa 32:7; Hos 6:9) Finally, it can be the plans that result from thinking person’s evil desires. – Job 17:11.
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Sin, Hardened by Deceitfulness of: (Gr. sklērynthē apatē hamartias) The sense of sklērynthē is stubborn or to be hardened. One is being stubborn and obstinate when it comes to the truth. The sense of apatē is deception. A person causes another to believe something that is not true by misleading or deceptive views. The sense of hamartias is sin, failure or falling short. Hamartia is anything that is not in harmony with or contrary to God’s personality, standards, ways, and will. This can be in word, deed, or failing to do what should be done, or in mind or heart attitude. – Heb. 3:13.

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Textual Issue is No Real Issue

Mark 3:29 Philip W. Comfort

Several manuscripts, mostly Caesarean (D W Θ 1 28 565 700), omit εις τον αιωνα (“into the age”—i.e., forever). Perhaps the scribes made this excision to lessen the severity of Jesus’ statement: “whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven” versus “whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven forever.” Nonetheless, the next clause in all these same manuscripts calls this sin “an eternal sin.”—Philip W. Comfort, New Testament Text and Translation Commentary: Commentary on the Variant Readings of the Ancient New Testament Manuscripts and How They Relate to the Major English Translations (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008), 106.

3:29 Roger L. Omanson and Bruce Manning Metzger

ἁμαρτήματος (sin) {B}

The noun ἁμάρτημα (sin) occurs in the four Gospels only here and in v. 28. Elsewhere in the NT it occurs three times. In some manuscripts copyists substituted the more familiar noun ἁμαρτίας (sin). Other copyists added either κρίσεως (judgment) or κολάσεως (torment) in order to relieve the difficulty of the unusual expression “guilty of an eternal sin.”—Roger L. Omanson and Bruce Manning Metzger, A Textual Guide to the Greek New Testament: An Adaptation of Bruce M. Metzger’s Textual Commentary for the Needs of Translators (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2006), 67.

3:29 Bruce Manning Metzger

ἁμαρτήματος {B}

Either κρίσεως (“judgment”) or κολάσεως (“torment”) was introduced by copyists in order to relieve the difficulty of the unusual expression in the text, and ἁμαρτίας was substituted by others as being more familiar than ἁμαρτήματος (which occurs in the four Gospels only here and in ver. 28; elsewhere in the New Testament it occurs three times).—Bruce Manning Metzger, United Bible Societies, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, Second Edition a Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament (4th Rev. Ed.) (London; New York: United Bible Societies, 1994), 70.

Blasphemy: (βλασφημία blasphēmia) This is speaking abusively against another in such a way to harm or injure their reputation, ‘profane speech, to revile, to defame, to blaspheme, reviling, denigration, disrespect, slander.’ The term is also used for anyone who willfully and knowingly blasphemed the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit by claiming God’s powers, attributes, or rights or assigning these to themselves, another, or a thing. (Matt. 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30; Lu 12:10; Ac 12:21-22) This is referred to as the unforgivable sin. This unforgivable sin also applies to any who came to be a Christian, gained an accurate knowledge of the truth, received the Holy Spirit, and then deliberately, willfully, and knowingly turned from God’s pure worship by speaking abusively of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, the faith, and biblical truth. – Hebrews 10:26-27.

Evangelicalism’s most eminent scholars have labored to make the Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible a comprehensive and reliable tool for all who study Scripture. The encyclopedia contains more than 5,700 articles by over 175 leading evangelical scholars from around the world, including Colin Brown, Frederic Bush, Andrew Hill, Howard Marshall, Grant Osborne, Moisés Silva, Willem Van Gemeren, Gordan Wenham, Edwin Yamauchi, and Robert Yarbrough.

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit. Sin mentioned only in Mark 3:28, 29 and its parallels, Luke 12:10 and Matthew 12:31. The context in Mark portrays unbelievers reacting to Jesus’ sudden popularity and startling power in two ways: (1) His family considered him insane and tried to take him home; and (2) the religious leaders, who had already proclaimed him a blasphemer (Mk 2:1–12), attributed his success to demon possession. Matthew adds that the religious leaders were Pharisees upset by a particular healing. (Luke includes the saying in a totally different context, one of confessing Christ.) Jesus, pointing out that the charge of demon possession was illogical, also stated strongly that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven. Jesus was saying that to slander the Holy Spirit is worse even than insulting or blaspheming the Son of Man or God himself (a crime punishable by death in the OT; see Lev. 24:16). Yet Jesus said that those sins are forgivable. Many Jews believed that death forgave all sins, so when Jesus called blasphemy against the Holy Spirit “an eternal sin,” he was making it serious indeed.

The religious leaders to whom Jesus spoke had seen clear, public, and compelling evidence of the good hand of God. Jesus’ healing was not a hidden God-in-flesh or God-in-his-Word, but an open demonstration of his power. By calling that power evil or demonic they were wickedly and consciously rejecting God, his power, and his saving grace. That was willful and high-handed sin by those who had seen the truth but rejected it and slandered it to others. Hebrews 6:4–6 points out that no argument or evidence will help such a person; the problem is willful rejection, not blindness. It is called “a sin that ends in death” (1 Jn 5:16 lb). The Pharisees proved their unwillingness to repent by trying to destroy Christ and later his church.

The “unforgivable sin” is not some serious moral failure nor persistence in a particular sin nor even insulting or rejecting Jesus in blindness or a fit of rebellion. It is conscious rejection of the “good power of God.” It represents a perversion of the mind in which God and Satan are willfully confused, a free choice of evil rather than good.

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How can this sin be unforgivable if God is always willing to forgive? Because it has gone beyond the possibility of recovery on the sinner’s part and because God respects the freedom of persons. It is unrepentable, because the person, having refused so stubbornly to repent, finally becomes unable to repent; evidence is in, and such a one will still reject the truth while knowing it to be true.

From the definition it is clear that anyone who believes he or she has committed “the unforgivable sin” could not have done so; a troubled conscience and that kind of sin could never coexist. The fact that a person feels remorse proves that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has not yet been committed. On the other hand, Jesus’ teaching about it warns all who know the truth of God not to reject that truth or to abandon their faith.[1]

What is the sin that leads to death? Did you commit the unforgivable sin?

1 John 5:16-17 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will for him give life, to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.

Here is the meaning of what John meant in a nutshell. All sin leads to death, of course. However, Jesus’ ransom sacrifice can save us from sin and death. (Romans 5:12; 6:23) Thus, a “sin that leads to death” would not be covered by Christ’s ransom. A person who commits willful, knowing, unrepentant sin has a heart and mind so hardened by his imperfection. He is so deep into his sinful path that he will never see the light that can enable him to change his attitude or conduct. This sin “will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:31; Luke 12:10) If we are aware of such willful, knowing, unrepentant sin, we should not pray for the person. God is the ultimate Judge as to the heart condition of the sinner. (Jer. 7:16; Matt. 5:44; Ac 7:60) Do not think that this must be some severe type of sin. Think of King Manasseh of Judah. He set up altars to false gods, sacrificed his own sons on the altar, practiced spiritism, and put a carved image in the temple of God. In fact, the Bible says that Manasseh and the people under his influence did “evil more than the nations whom Jehovah destroyed before the sons of Israel.” (UASV) God punished King Manasseh by sending him as a captive in chains to Babylon. – 2 Kings 21:1-9; 2 Chronicles 33:1-11.

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Such a sin that leads to death is not simply a weakness of the imperfect human flesh. This sin is committed willfully, deliberately, unwaveringly, and stubbornly. It is not so much the sin itself, but rather, it is the heart attitude of the sinner that makes his sin unforgivable. This willful, deliberate, unwavering, and stubborn sin is against the Holy Spirit, and so forgiveness is impossible. (Matthew 12:22-32; Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31) Such sin leads to death, and such sinners will receive eternal destruction in “the second death.” (Revelation 21:8; Matthew 23:15) If one’s sin is in ignorance or because of his human imperfections, he can be forgiven. But for willful, deliberate, unwavering, and stubborn sin, there is no ransom sacrifice: “For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the accurate knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.” (Heb. 10:26-27, UASV) Willful, deliberate, unwavering, and stubborn sin, knowing unmistakably that the Holy Spirit was involved in one’s life, is unforgivable. It is not so much a matter of what the sin is, as it is more of what the heart’s attitude is. It is the extent of neglect and willfulness that is involved that will determine whether it is forgivable or unforgivable.

Sin unto Death. Sin mentioned in 1 John 5:16; John discourages prayer for those who sin in this way. Identifying such irremediable behavior is a complex manner. Inasmuch as all sin deserves the wrath of God, John can hardly be distinguishing between venial and mortal sin as elaborated in Roman Catholic theology. He may have in mind those sins that cause the physical death of offenders (Acts 5:1–11; 1 Cor 11:30) and thereby prohibits prayers for the dead. Perhaps he is thinking of high-handed, presumptuous sin or the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit (Nm 15:30, 31; Mt 12:32; Heb 10:26, 27). Reference may be to those who decisively turn their backs upon the truth as well as those false teachers who deceive the church (Heb 6:4–6; 2 Jn 7–9). It is doubtful that John is referring to genuine Christians when he thinks of those who sin unto death. Notwithstanding, it is certain that prayer may not be expected to bring healing grace for some types of sin.[2]

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Sin unto Death. Unpardonable sin. The precise nature of hamartia pros thanaton in 1 John 5:16 was no longer known even in patristic times but may be surmised in its exegetical context to mean some form of final impenitence, since every sin repented of is forgiven. Two major sins of impenitence are mentioned in the NT, one in connection with the invasion of the demonic realm by Jesus’ exercise of the power of the Holy Spirit, whose presence is rejected by the Pharisees and referred to Beelzebul. This constitutes the unforgivable blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:22–32). The other reference is to those who have once been enlightened by the Holy Spirit and through unbelief crucify Christ and hold him up to contempt (Heb. 6:4–6; 10:26–29). In these texts the Spirit of grace is outraged, and there is no further access to forgiveness. Behind the sin unto death is the spirit of antichrist, the source of false and counterfeit teaching in the opponents of John (1 John 2:18–23; 3:10; 4:1–3; 2 John 7–9), and of Paul (2 Cor. 11:12–15; Gal. 1:6–9).[3]

The Unpardonable Sin. Attributing the righteous work of the Holy Spirit demonstrated through Jesus Christ to Satan. The unpardonable sin is not Israel’s rebellion against God, even though this rebellion resulted in the eternal judgment of thousands and a temporary elimination of God’s blessing.

The “sin unto death” (1 Jn 5:16, 17) is not the unpardonable sin. It would be impossible for a person who has redemption and the forgiveness of sin (Eph 1:7), cleansing for present and future sin (1 Jn 1:7), and eternal life (Jn 3:16) to commit an unpardonable sin. But those who commit the “sin unto death” are all Christians. First John 5:16 says the person who commits the “sin unto death” is a “brother” in Christ.

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The unpardonable sin is not rejection of the Lord Jesus, until the rejector dies in his unbelief. Such a sin will not be forgiven throughout eternity but is not the same sin as that which Jesus condemned with the words: “It shall not be forgiven him either in this age, or in the age to come” (Mt 12:32). Numerous passages repeat the warning that unbelief in the Savior results in an eternal second death (Jn 3:18, 36; 1 Jn 5:12; Rv 20:15; 21:8), but do not include the definition of the unpardonable sin. Jesus asserted that a person could be an unbeliever in him even to the degree of speaking against him, yet not be guilty of the unpardonable sin.

The unpardonable sin must be defined by its context (Mt 12:31, 32; Mk 3:28–30). Jesus cast a demon from a blind-dumb man. Incontrovertible evidence of the power of God had occurred. The Pharisees with stubborn unbelief credited this display of God’s power to Beelzebul, the devil (Mt 12:24). Several Scriptures reveal that many Jews practiced this sin (Mt 9:34; 11:18; Lk 7:33; 11:14–20; Jn 7:20; 8:48, 52; 10:20). A group of Jews, mostly Pharisees, were guilty of attributing the righteous works of the Spirit demonstrated through the Lord Jesus, to the devil. They committed the unpardonable sin when they called the highest manifestation of holy labor by the most offensive opprobrium—the work of Beelzebul.[4]

AN ENCOURAGING THOUGHT_01

Unpardonable Sin. Christian teaching about the unpardonable sin stems from a saying of Jesus recorded in all three Synoptic Gospels. In Mark 3:28–29 Jesus remarks, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” An added difficulty comes when we compare the saying to its parallels in Luke 12:10 (which evidences an independent Q tradition) and Matthew 12:31–32 (which no doubt reflects a synthesis of Q and Mark). [Set aside this silly Q Document talk, there is no such thing. See the linked article below if you are interested in debunking the Q Document theory.] Matthew and Luke refer to forgiveness of “words against the Son of Man” (namely, Jesus) while Mark mentions “blasphemies of the sons of men.” Scholars often resolve this difficulty by suggesting that the earliest saying involved the Aramaic generic idiom for “man” (bar nāšāʾ = “son of man”). When the phrase gained titular importance for Jesus, Mark introduced the plural form to avoid any confusion (the plural “sons of men” is without parallel in any of the Gospels; elsewhere it is only in Eph. 3:5). Nevertheless, in Matthew and Luke the generic form is absent, and the saying claims that an offense to the Son of Man will be forgiven.

What Is the Synoptic Problem of Matthew, Mark, and Luke and What is the Hypothetical So-Called Q Document?

One must keep in mind that the historical setting of the saying in Mark and Matthew is the Beelzebul controversy (cf. Luke 11:14–23). Jesus’ exorcisms stirred up major discussions both during his ministry and within the apologetics of the earliest church. His opponents misrepresented his successful rulership over the demonic and implied that Jesus’ exorcisms evidenced some sort of collusion with Satan. Jesus’ response is a blunt rebuttal. His power stemmed from the Spirit of God. The saying brings a severe warning about the profound danger of attributing the good things of God to an act of Satan. “Here we see coming to clear expression Jesus’ sense of the awesomeness, the numinous quality, the eschatological power which possessed him. In him, in his action, God was present and active in a decisive and final way—to reject his ministry was to reject God and so to reject forgiveness” (J. Dunn). According to Jesus this rejection implied total rejection and spurned the divine presence (cf. a similar severe dishonoring in John 8:48–59).

But in what fashion could a sin against the Son of man be “forgivable”? In the historical setting of early Christianity, the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry was a time of ambiguity even for the disciples (Mark 9:30–31). No sin in this period fell outside the realm of forgiveness. If even the Q form of the saying incorporates the generic sense, the Evangelists may be saying that unknowing criticisms of Jesus as bar nāšāʾ (a man) were pardonable. But in the post-Easter setting, the presence of the Spirit and the presence of Jesus were rarely distinguished (2 Cor. 3:18; cf. Acts 16:7). This was a time of Spirit-inspired understanding (John 12:16; 13:7; 16:12–13; cf. 1 Cor. 2:1–16); apostasy against the Son would have similarly dire consequences (Heb. 6:4–6; 10:26–31; cf. 1 John 5:10, 14–21; Gospel of Thomas, logion 44).

The meaning of this sin in Christian thought is best viewed as a total and persistent denial of the presence of God in Christ. It reflects a complete recalcitrance of the heart. Rather than a particular act, it is a disposition of the will. “This sin is committed when a man recognizes the mission of Jesus by the Holy Spirit but defies and resists and curses it. The saying shows the seriousness of the situation. It is the last time … in which the lordship of God breaks in” (W. Grundmann).

Having said this, however, two cautions must be sounded, especially when we recall the serious pastoral problems that derive from this teaching. First, this should in no way obscure the full implications of the grace of God in Christ. The unpardonable sin refers to complete apostasy (Calvin). Whoever seeks God’s grace can be assured that he will discover it (1 John 2:1–2). It is interesting that in Luke 12 the saying is immediately followed by another Spirit text bringing reassurance (vv. 11–12). Second, this sin does not refer to a particular act for which one may later feel regret, but instead describes a blatant hostility to God and a serious rejection of Jesus after one has been exposed to the knowledge of the truth. This corrective should help avoid many traumatic problems so frequent among Christians and give reassurance that God’s forgiveness is free and gracious to all who come to him with a contrite heart.[5]

Unpardonable Sin. The fear that one has committed the unpardonable sin can be an intrusive obsession of religious people who struggle with obsessive-compulsive cognitive styles. The major DSM-IV diagnosis characterized by such obsessions is the obsessive-compulsive disorder. Persons for whom this diagnosis is appropriate frequently obsess over a fearful or disturbing thought in spite of attempts not to think about the issue. The recurring obsession tends to intensify with rehearsal rather than to subside. A true obsession operates at levels far beyond normal concern or worry.

The fear of having committed the unpardonable sin often begins when a religious person with obsessional potential reads the New Testament passage referring to the sin for which forgiveness is not available: “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29, niv). An important component of the triggering capacity of this verse centers on the use of the concept of blasphemy. Blasphemy for the religious person is extremely ego-dystonic and represents one of the most reprehensible acts a religious person could perform. Hence, a fear of having committed the unpardonable sin takes on serious, profound, and deeply troubling features.

This severe statement of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel of Mark meets all of the criteria for an issue that serves as a good obsessional trigger: exclusivity, absoluteness, ambiguity, and impossibility (Beck, 1981). In other words, the obsessional person latches on to issues that by their very nature are ambiguous and issues that nonobsessing persons have difficulty explaining. Just as the paranoid person focuses on concerns that ultimately cannot be proved or disproved, the obsessional person ruminates on issues that are vague and unanswerable.

Nonetheless, a fear that one has committed the unpardonable sin is not a harmless or tepid issue. Those obsessed with this idea can be terrorized by the recurring thought. If people have already committed an act or indulged an idea that meets the criteria for these harsh words of Jesus, their fate is settled: eternal damnation without hope of remission or assuagement.

The reference Jesus makes to the unpardonable sin is normally classified by New Testament scholars as one of the hard sayings of Jesus (Bruce, 1983). Mark and Matthew both record for their readers the setting in which this statement first occurred: A delegation of religious officials traveled from Jerusalem to Galilee on an official mission to investigate the growing popularity of Jesus of Nazareth. The thorniest issue for the threatened religious leadership of the nation swirled around the power of Jesus to perform mighty signs and wonders such as casting out demons. The official verdict of this panel of investigators was that Jesus was using the power of Satan himself to cast out demons. The only other viable explanation was that Jesus was empowered by God himself, a conclusion they were hesitant to make. Jesus replied to the illogical conclusion of these religious leaders by saying, “How can Satan drive out Satan?” (Mark 3:23, niv). Later in that same passage he describes the tragedy of committing the unpardonable sin. Those who blaspheme and sin can obtain forgiveness, but if they blaspheme against the Holy Spirit (i.e., by attributing to Satan a power that rightfully belongs to the Holy Spirit) they will find no forgiveness.

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New Testament interpreters suggest two possible ways in which we can understand this saying of Jesus. First, we can define the unpardonable sin strictly by the contextual meaning in Mark and Matthew and in Luke. This approach to identifying the specific sin that Jesus had in mind would define the unpardonable sin as refusing to give due credit to the Holy Spirit when credit is due (Mark and Matthew) and as refusing the Spirit’s help in avoiding denial of the Savior (Luke 12:10). These restricted meanings of the unforgivable sin address a very specific offense against the Holy Spirit. Second, we can define the unpardonable sin more broadly based on the whole counsel of Scripture. In this view the only sin that ultimately counts toward defining one’s eternal destiny is the sin of refusing to believe in Jesus. “Everywhere (in Scripture) to reject Him is the sin of sins, and ultimately it is the only sin that counts” (Smith, 1953, p. 182). All of our other sins and blasphemies can be forgiven; but if we die refusing to give allegiance to Jesus as Lord and Savior, that sin cannot be forgiven.[6]

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PAUL AND LUKE ON TRIAL
APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot APOSTOLIC FATHERS I AM John 8.58

CHRISTIAN APOLOGETIC EVANGELISM

The Epistle to the Hebrews
REASONING FROM THE SCRIPTURES APOLOGETICS
AN ENCOURAGING THOUGHT_01
INVESTIGATING JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES REVIEWING 2013 New World Translation
Jesus Paul THE EVANGELISM HANDBOOK
REASONING WITH OTHER RELIGIONS
APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot
REASONABLE FAITH FEARLESS-1
Satan BLESSED IN SATAN'S WORLD_02
is-the-quran-the-word-of-god UNDERSTANDING ISLAM AND TERRORISM THE GUIDE TO ANSWERING ISLAM.png
DEFENDING OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORSHIP Agabus Cover BIBLICAL CRITICISM
Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS Young Christians
THE CREATION DAYS OF GENESIS gift of prophecy

TECHNOLOGY AND THE CHRISTIAN

9798623463753 Machinehead KILLER COMPUTERS
INTO THE VOID

CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY

Homosexuality and the Christian second coming Cover Why Me_
CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY Vol. CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY Vol. II CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY Vol. III
CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY Vol. IV CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY Vol. V MIRACLES
Human Imperfection HUMILITY

CHILDREN’S BOOKS

READ ALONG WITH ME READ ALONG WITH ME READ ALONG WITH ME

HOW TO PRAY AND PRAYER LIFE

Powerful Weapon of Prayer Power Through Prayer How to Pray_Torrey_Half Cover-1

TEENS-YOUTH-ADOLESCENCE-JUVENILE

THERE IS A REBEL IN THE HOUSE thirteen-reasons-to-keep-living_021 Waging War - Heather Freeman
 
Young Christians DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTHS 40 day devotional (1)
Homosexuality and the Christian THE OUTSIDER RENEW YOUR MIND

CHRISTIAN LIVING

GODLY WISDOM SPEAKS Wives_02 HUSBANDS - Love Your Wives
 
WALK HUMBLY WITH YOUR GOD THE BATTLE FOR THE CHRISTIAN MIND (1)-1
ADULTERY 9781949586053 PROMISES OF GODS GUIDANCE
APPLYING GODS WORD-1 For As I Think In My Heart_2nd Edition Put Off the Old Person
Abortion Booklet Dying to Kill The Pilgrim’s Progress
WHY DON'T YOU BELIEVE WAITING ON GOD WORKING FOR GOD
 
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE Let God Use You to Solve Your PROBLEMS THE POWER OF GOD
HOW TO OVERCOME YOUR BAD HABITS-1 GOD WILL GET YOU THROUGH THIS A Dangerous Journey
ARTS, MEDIA, AND CULTURE Christians and Government Christians and Economics

CHRISTIAN COMMENTARIES

CHRISTIAN DEVOTIONALS

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DEVOTIONAL FOR CAREGIVERS DEVOTIONAL FOR YOUTHS DEVOTIONAL FOR TRAGEDY
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CHURCH HEALTH, GROWTH, AND HISTORY

LEARN TO DISCERN Deception In the Church FLEECING THE FLOCK_03
The Church Community_02 THE CHURCH CURE Developing Healthy Churches
FIRST TIMOTHY 2.12 EARLY CHRISTIANITY-1

Apocalyptic-Eschatology [End Times]

Explaining the Doctrine of the Last Things Identifying the AntiChrist second coming Cover
AMERICA IN BIBLE PROPHECY_ ezekiel, daniel, & revelation

CHRISTIAN FICTION

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[1] Peter H. Davids, “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 363–364.

[2] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Sin unto Death,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1970–1971.

[3] Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 1110.

[4] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Unpardonable Sin, The,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 2115–2116.

[5] Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 1108.

[6] J. R. Beck, “Unpardonable Sin,” ed. David G. Benner and Peter C. Hill, Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology & Counseling, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 1239–1240.

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