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The Unpardonable Sin

By Tim Greenwood

The Word of God says that there are only two situations in which a man or woman cannot receive forgiveness. The first and most common is when they are in a state of unforgiveness. That is to say that they have been wronged (or sinned against) and they refuse to forgive the person, which we find in Mark 11:25.

The second, which is actually quite a rare occurrence, is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. It is this second situation that I would like to address in this study.

Mat. 12:31 says, “Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” But what does that mean?

Too many Christians have been stopped right in their tracks after being convinced that they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit. In all of those that we have counselled that believed or suspected that they had blasphemed the Holy Spirit, NONE of them had actually done so. The very fact that they were even concerned about it was a very good indication that they had not done so. Much of the problem has to do with misunderstands due to poor teaching and some twisted theology.

Before we get into this scripture, let me lay a little foundation concerning the Holy Spirit.

For 25 years I was taught that the Holy Spirit was a power like electricity and not the 3rd person of the Trinity. This is just not so and the scriptures bear this out. I don’t have the space to do a complete teaching on this here but the following should not only sow this as well as illustrating a few other things about the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit can be RESISTED.
Acts 7:51 Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.

The Holy Spirit can be QUENCHED.
1Th 5:19 Quench not the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit can be GREIVED.
Eph 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
What kind of things grieves the Holy Spirit? Read the next verse…
Vs. 31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

The Holy Spirit can be QUIETED.
Zech 6:8 Then cried he upon me, and spake unto me, saying, Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country.
How can one “quiet” the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is a gentleman. He will never force Himself upon you. If you continually resist Him, or “say” that you don’t want to hear what He has to say… He will back off and be quiet where you are concerned.

The Holy Spirit can be INSULTED.
Heb 10:29 Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite (Greek: to insult) the Spirit of grace?

And finally…
The Holy Spirit can be BLASPHEMED.

Which brings us to our scripture. But before we continue, I want to recap that the Holy Spirit can be: Resisted, Quenched, Grieved, Quieted and Insulted – None of these are Blasphemy! This has been part of the problem. People (all too often Pastors) have wadded all of these things together with blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Others have for the sake of emphasis, thrown a few additional real or imagined sins into the mix as well. And this has destroyed the lives of many an otherwise stable Christian.

Look, according to these scriptures, you can resist Him, grieve Him, Quiet Him and even insult Him and yet not commit the unpardonable sin by blaspheming Him.

But, the Holy Spirit can be BLASPHEMED as is shown in Mat 12:31.
Well, lets dig into this passage a little.

vs. 31 Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men:

What this is saying is that every other kind of sin and every other kind of blasphemy can be forgiven. The scripture says ALL! In the Greek language “All” is always translated as… ‘ALL’! (or every one). So what if you were an axe murderer? ALL! What if you were a child molester? ALL! What if you got divorced and remarried? (I bring up the last one because an extended family member of ours believes that somehow by committing this heinous sin of ‘divorce and remarriage’ he has blasphemed the Holy Spirit and is lost and separated from God forever. No!) ALL means ALL!

… but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

But, there IS something called “Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” So what is it?

Well here is what it is NOT:

vs. 32 And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: So it’s NOT talking against Jesus! Accusing Him of all manner of sin and crimes, calling Him a drunk and a glutton, accusing Him of healing and deliverance through the power of Satan … According to this that’s even forgivable. So even blasphemy against Jesus is forgivable.

Here is what it is…

but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.
Wow! That is rough! But what does that mean, “speaking against the Holy Spirit”?

Well it’s really pretty simple. “Blasphemy” is something slanderous and/or injurious to one’s good name. And the Greek word for “against” can mean “according to the case against” or “to the charge of” which is legal language. So what I believe this is saying is that “speaking blasphemy against” the Holy Spirit is like when someone one knowingly and deliberately as a legal witness attributes the works, operations and/or gifts of the Holy Spirit to the Devil or attributes the works, operations of the Devil to the Holy Spirit.

The Pharisees did this when Jesus was casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit. They proclaimed: “He cast out demon spirits by the power of Beelzebub!”

Jesus stopped their mouths right then and there and straightened them out.

Now Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is NOT someone that is just parroting someone else or speaking out of ignorance. Paul in 1Tim 1:12-13 said that He had even blasphemed the Holy Spirit, but that he had done this out of ignorance.

This is also NOT just something stupid that someone casually says once or twice. This is something that is said deliberately – in abundance – from the heart. How do we know that? We know that from the context of the rest of this passage.

vs. 33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit
vs. 34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth
vs. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
vs. 36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
vs. 37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.

Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy. He is not above using religion to accomplish his goals. So I don’t care WHO told you that you have committed the unpardonable sin… a “friend”, a relative, a co-worker, someone in your church, your Priest of Pastor or Satan himself… I guarantee you that you could NOT have done it accidentally (without knowing about it). You would have to knowingly and deliberately, from your heart of hearts reject and renounce the Holy Spirit and verbally slander Him and His works and character to others.

I don’t think a person like that would even be reading this article! That is why you need to realize that you have not committed this unpardonable sin. Now you may have indeed sinned. But God’s Word says that He is QUICK TO FORGIVE all other sins. So ask for His forgiveness, and believe by faith that you have received it and get on with your life.

Don’t let the Devil continue to hold you in bondage. Don’t allow the Devil to hold you back any longer from your walk with God.




The Unpardonable Sin

(...take 2)


By John MacArthur


Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come. (12:31–32)

Few passages of Scripture have been more misinterpreted and misunderstood than these two verses. Because of their extreme seriousness and finality; it is critical to understand them correctly.

Jesus first stated that any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men. Although blasphemy is a form of sin, in this passage and context the two are treated separately-with blasphemy representing the most extreme form of sin. Sin here represents the full gamut of immoral and ungodly thoughts and actions, whereas blasphemy represents conscious denouncing and rejection of God. Blasphemy is defiant irreverence, the uniquely terrible sin of intentionally and openly speaking evil against holy God or defaming or mocking Him (cf. Mark. 2:7). The Old Testament penalty for such blasphemy was death by stoning (Lev. 24:16). In the last days blasphemy will be an outstanding characteristic of those who rebelliously and insolently oppose God (Rev. 13:5–6; 16:9; 17:3).

But even blasphemy, Jesus says, is forgiven, just as any other sin is forgiven when it is confessed and repented of. An unbeliever who blasphemes God can be forgiven. Paul confessed that, “even though [he] was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor,” he was nevertheless “shown mercy, because [he] acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 1:13–14). “Christ Jesus came into the world,” the apostle continues, “to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (v. 15). Peter blasphemed Christ with curses (Mark 14:71) and was forgiven and restored.

Even a believer can blaspheme, since any thought or word that sullies or defames the Lord’s name constitutes blasphemy. To question God’s goodness, wisdom, fairness, truthfulness, love, or faithfulness is a form of blasphemy. All of that is forgivable by grace. Speaking to believers, John said, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

There is one exception, however: blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Even the person who blasphemes Jesus, who dares to speak a word against the Son of Man … shall be forgiven. Son of Man designates the Lord’s humanity, which He experienced in His time of humiliation and servitude during the incarnation. A person’s perception may not allow him to see more than the Lord’s humanity, and if he only misjudges at that level and speaks against Him in His humanness, such a word against the Son of Man can be forgiven. When a person rejects Christ with less than full exposure to the evidence of His deity, he may yet be forgiven of that sin if, after gaining fuller light, he then believes.

It was hard even for the disciples to keep clearly in mind that their Teacher was indeed the Son of God. He ate, drank, slept, and became tired just as they did. Not only that, but many of the things He did simply did not seem to reflect God’s glory and majesty. Jesus continually humbled Himself and served others. He took no earthly glory for Himself, and when others tried to thrust it on Him, He refused to receive it-as when the crowd wanted to make Him king after He miraculously fed the five thousand (John 6:15). It was even more difficult for those outside Jesus’ inner circle to appreciate His deity. Even when He performed His greatest miracles, He did so without fanfare or flare. Jesus did not always look or act like even a human lord, much less like the divine Lord.

But to misjudge, belittle, and discredit Jesus from the vantage point of incomplete revelation or inadequate perception was forgivable, wrong as it was. As already mentioned, the apostle Paul had himself been an ignorant blasphemer of the Lord Jesus Christ of the worst sort and a fierce persecutor of His church. And many of those who had denied and rejected Christ during His earthly ministry later saw the truth of who He was and asked forgiveness and were saved.

But the blasphemy against the Spirit was something more serious and irremediable. It not only reflected unbelief, but determined unbelief-the refusal, after having seen all the evidence necessary to complete understanding, even to consider believing in Christ. This was blasphemy against Jesus in His deity, against the Spirit of God who uniquely indwelt and empowered Him. It reflected determined rejection of Jesus as the Messiah against every evidence and argument. It reflected seeing the truth incarnate and then knowingly rejecting Him and condemning Him. It demonstrated an absolute and permanent refusal to believe, which resulted in loss of opportunity ever to be forgiven … either in this age, or in the age to come. Through this age (all of human history), such rejection is unforgivable. The age to come implies that through all of eternity there will be no forgiveness. In the age of human history and in the age of divine consummation, no forgiveness.

Scripture is clear that during His ministry on earth our Lord was submissive to the Father (John 4:34; 5:19–30) and empowered by the Spirit (Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1, 18; John 3:34; Acts 1:2; Rom. 1:4). Peter said that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth “with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38).

Those who spoke against the Holy Spirit were those who saw His divine power working in and through Jesus but wilfully refused to accept the implications of that revelation and, in some cases, attributed that power to Satan. Many people had heard Jesus teach and preach God’s truth, as no man had ever taught before (Matt. 7:28–29), yet they refused to believe Him. They had seen him heal every kind of disease, cast out every kind of demon, and forgive every kind of sin, yet they charged Him with deceit, falsehood, and demonism. In the face of every possible evidence of Jesus’ messiahship and deity, they said no. God could do nothing more for them, and they would therefore remain eternally unforgiven.

For penitence they substitute hardening, for confession plotting. Thus, by means of their own criminal and completely inexcusable callousness, they are dooming themselves. Their sin is unpardonable because they are unwilling to tread the path that leads to pardon. For a thief, an adulterer, and a murderer there is hope. The message of the gospel may cause him to cry out, “O God be merciful to me, the sinner.” But when a man has become hardened, so that he has made up his mind not to pay any attention to the … Spirit, … he has placed himself on the road that leads to perdition. (William Hendriksen, The Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973], p. 529)

Through Isaiah, the Lord pictured Israel as a vineyard He had carefully planted, cultivated, and tended. He built a tower in the middle of it, representing Jerusalem, and a wine vat in it, representing the sacrificial system. “Then He expected it to produce good grapes, but it produced only worthless ones.” “What more was there to do for My vineyard that I have not done in it?” God asked. “So now let Me tell you what I am going to do to My vineyard: I will remove its hedge and it will be consumed; I will break down its wall and it will become trampled ground. And I will lay it waste; it will not be pruned or hoed, but briars and thorns will come up. I will also charge the clouds to rain no rain on it” (Isa. 5:1–6). After the people had been blessed with every blessing and had every opportunity but still turned their backs on God, there was nothing left for Him to do but turn His back on them.

During Jesus’ earthly ministry, the unbelieving Pharisees and all the others who blasphemed the Spirit cut themselves off from God’s mercy, not because it was not offered but because it was abundantly offered yet rebelliously and permanently rejected and ridiculed as satanic.

Within forty years, God would destroy Jerusalem, the Temple, the priesthood, the sacrifices, and the nation of Israel. In 70 A.D. the Romans razed Jerusalem, utterly destroyed the Temple, slaughtered over a million of its inhabitants, and all but obliterated nearly a thousand other towns and villages in Judea. His own chosen people had said no to Him, and He said no to them. Until He returns and regathers a remnant of His people to Himself in the last days, except for a few faithful, they are as a nation totally apart from God.

To unsaved Jews who had heard the full gospel message and had seen its evidence in supernatural power, and to all who would come after them with similar exposure to the truth and the biblical record of miraculous evidence, the writer of the book of Hebrews gave a stern warning: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard [that is, the apostles], God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Heb. 2:3–4). Later in the letter an even more severe warning to those who reject with full revelation is given: “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God, and put Him to open shame” (Heb. 6:4–6). (For a detailed discussion of that important passage, see the author’s commentary in this series on Hebrews.)

The generation immediately after Christ was on earth was ministered to by the apostles, enlightened by their teaching, and given proof of the truth of the gospel by their miracles. That generation had evidence equivalent to that of those who heard and saw Jesus in person. They had the highest possible revelation from God, and if they refused to believe in the face of such overwhelming evidence, there was nothing more God could do for them. They did not blaspheme; they simply turned away. The guilt of the Pharisees who added blasphemy to unbelief was greater than that of those who saw the same evidence and disbelieved but did not speak against the Holy Spirit. But the rebels in both groups left themselves no future but hell.

In a similar way, people today can so totally turn their backs on God’s revelation that they permanently cut themselves off from salvation. “We must work the works of Him who sent Me, as long as it is day,” Jesus said; “night is coming, when no man can work” (John 9:4).

During World War II, an American naval force in the North Atlantic was engaged in heavy battle with enemy ships and submarines on an exceptionally dark night. Six planes took off from the carrier to search out those targets, but while they were in the air a total blackout was ordered for the carrier in order to protect it from attack. Without lights on the carrier’s deck the six planes could not possibly land, and they made a radio request for the lights to be turned on just long enough for them to come in. But because the entire carrier, with its several thousand men as well as all the other planes and equipment, would have been put in jeopardy, no lights were permitted. When the six planes ran out of fuel, they had to ditch in the freezing water and all crew members perished into eternity.

There comes a time when God turns out the lights, when further opportunity for salvation is forever lost. That is why Paul told the Corinthians, “Now is ‘the acceptable time,’ behold, now is ‘the day of salvation’ ” (2 Cor. 6:2). One who rejects full light can have no more light-and no forgiveness.


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