(Is There An Unforgivable Sin?) Bible Question
“In a recent sermon I heard, the preacher said there is no unforgivable sin. He quoted 1 John 1:8 – 10. But what about Matthew 12:31, 32 (where Jesus clearly says one sin will be not forgiven)? The preacher contends Matthew 12 applied only to the people to whom Jesus was speaking at the time.”
“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”
– Matthew 12:31, 32 (New American Standard Bible)
Jesus seems clear and unequivocal in His message. Anything but blasphemy against God’s Spirit will be forgiven. To reject God’s Spirit and blaspheme against the Spirit will be held to one’s account forever. Who is Jesus speaking about and does it apply to us?
It is important to put these verses in their proper context. Jesus is being accused of being in league with Satan (Matthew 12:24). His critics contend that the miracles Jesus performed were from Satan’s power. Jesus said it alright to misunderstand the work of Jesus (the Son of Man). But to attribute the work of the Spirit to Satan is blasphemy.
The Spirit’s work was designed to create faith and demonstrate the presence of God. God was clearly present in the miracles and teachings of Jesus. To not quite grasp what that meant and to stand in the way of Jesus was not unforgivable (Matthew 16:22, 23). But to attribute the clear and powerful work of the Spirit in Jesus’ ministry to Satan was an act that could not be forgiven.
The reason it was unforgivable has nothing to do with Jesus’ power to forgive. It has to do with the state of mind of the blasphemer. If a person rejects the testimony of the Spirit of God (in the life, work and teachings of Jesus and His followers), then that person has no hope of knowing God.
God is present in the form of His Spirit in the life of Jesus. To reject the presence of God is to cut oneself off from the only source of salvation. Those who reject the Spirit’s testimony by calling it evil, cannot be saved since they have rejected the one source of salvation.
That was certainly true of Jesus’ audience. The Pharisees who attacked Him had no hope of being saved until they accepted the testimony of the Spirit concerning Jesus. It is still true with those today who reject the Spirit’s testimony in the revealed Word of God. Those who call the Bible evil, who despise its teaching, will not and cannot be forgiven, until they repent and accept the message of God.
Simply put: any sin can be forgiven. But those who persist in rejecting the witness of God’s Spirit have no hope of forgiveness. They are not beyond God’s power to save, but have removed themselves from God’s reach by rejecting Him.