What exactly is the unpardonable sin? Is it possible for a born again Christian to commit this sin?
First let’s take a look at what Jesus says about this sin. In Mark 3:22–29, we find the leaders of God’s people accusing Jesus of doing His mighty works of healing by the power of Beelzebub (Satan). Christ's reply to this charge tells the leaders that any house (organization) that works against itself can not stand. That is, if Satan works to throw himself out of his authority, how will he be able to keep his government strong? Then, Jesus gives us the first definition of the unpardonable sin: "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation-- because they said, He has an unclean spirit." (Mark 3:28-30)
What exactly is Jesus talking about? Some believe that the unpardonable sin is suicide, killing an unborn child, or some other wicked deed, but Christ plainly said that "All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men." (Matthew 12:31). If we look at this closely, we see that Christ isn't talking about one, single act of wickedness, especially when we look at other verses that promise us that God will forgive any type of sin as long as it is confessed to Him (Psalm 32:5; 1 John 1:9; Psalm 86:5).
Since Jesus said that the "unpardonable sin", as it is often called, has to do with the Holy Spirit, we need to look at what the Bible says about the Holy Spirit.
Jesus described the work of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8, "He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment". The Spirit points out sin in our lives and "will guide you into all truth" (verse 13) so that we will know right from wrong, good from bad, and understand that our sins need to be confessed to the Lord. After David had committed a great sin against God, he confessed his sin and pleaded that the Lord would not take away the Holy Spirit from him (Psalm 51:11). David realized that the Holy Spirit was essential because it was the Spirit that showed him his sin and gave him the desire to confess it God. Without the Holy Spirit, how could he maintain a healthy relationship with the Lord?
When the Holy Spirit lays a sin upon our heart and convicts us about something that is wrong in our lives, we need to make no delay in bringing that matter to God in prayer. The Bible says "He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy." (Proverbs 28:13) If you can hear the Spirit convicting you, don't resist: "Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart" (Hebrews 3:7-8, 15; 4:7) Resisting the Holy Spirit is very dangerous because it leads to a hardening of the heart, and a person becomes less and less open to the Spirit's promptings and convictions. Paul warned: "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God" (Ephesians 4:30); and he also said that some have their "conscience seared with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:2).
As a person continues to ignore the pleadings of the Holy Spirit, they begin to "quench" the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). The Bible compares the convicting power of the Holy Spirit to fire (Proverbs 25:21-22). But when someone repeatedly rejects those convictions, they are in a sense pouring water on the flames as they refuse to listen. Throughout the Bible, trouble came when God's voice was neglected (Deuteronomy 1:42-44; 2 Kings 17:13-18; Isaiah 30:9-15). This is why the Lord says: "Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not." (Proverbs 8:33).
It's pointless to set an alarm clock in a deaf man's room; He will never hear it. In the same way, when a person sets their alarm clock, but, day after day, they shut it off right away and go back to sleep, they become conditioned to ignoring the alarm. Eventually, the alarm clock doesn't even wake them up. The Holy Spirit works in a similar manner: if you keep "shutting Him off", one day the Holy Spirit will speak to you, and you won't hear His voice since you've become so accustomed to disregarding His pleadings. Take Saul for example: at one point, He was open to the Holy Spirit (1 Samuel 11:6), but because he continually rejected the God's leading and turned to sin, the Bible says that "the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul" (1 Samuel 16:14).
Since the Holy Spirit brings us conviction and leads us to repentance, we're in serious danger if we close the door on Him. In the days of Noah, God warned; "My Spirit will not always strive with man." (Genesis 6:3) In the same way that God closed the door of that ark and everyone who had rejected Noah's message was left outside, the Holy spirit will not continue to plead with a person indefinitely. Again, this is why the Bible says in more then one place, "Today if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart" (Psalm 95:7-8). As the Holy Spirit is resisted, the heart grows harder, meaning that the individual becomes more stubborn in their ways (Deuteronomy 30:17); the hearing is dulled (Hebrews 5:11). The Bible describes this condition as "hearing, but hearing not" (Matthew 13:13).
Notice what Jesus said about the Pharisees: "And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." (Matthew 13:14-15) Here Jesus says that the Pharisees were resisting the work of the Holy Spirit by rejecting Christ. As a result, their hearts were hardened and they were unable to understand His teachings, though they heard every word.
Jesus told His disciples in John 12:35 "Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going." If we receive and act upon the light (or truth) that God reveals to us, then will remain in that light and continue to receive more and more (Proverbs 4:18). On the other hand, the light from God, then we are left to stumble around in the darkness of our own choosing (Proverbs 4:19). Jesus came to enlighten everyone on this world (John 1:9; John 8:12), but the Pharisees in particular didn't care for what Jesus had to offer, preferring instead to remain in darkness (John 1:10-11; John 8:13). Jesus said, "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed." (John 3:19-20). Here we see that the Pharisees, by rejecting the light that Jesus brought, were resisting the work of the Holy Spirit, since it is the Spirit that brings conviction (John 16:18) and exposes evil deeds.
The Pharisees knew that Jesus had to be the Messiah (John 3:1-2; John 9:16; John 10:19-21), and yet they still went on to reject Him and eventually have Him killed. Even after the supernatural occurrences that took place as Jesus died on the cross (Matthew 27:45-54) and after He arose from the grave, they still refused to believe that Jesus was the Christ, though they had more then enough evidence. They went as far as to make up a false story about the resurrection and to bribe the soldiers who were eye witnesses (Matthew 28:11-15).
In Mark 3:22-29, Jesus was referring to the way that the Pharisees continued to harden their hearts and stubbornly refused to accept Him as the Savior of mankind. Here in Mark 3, they were eagerly waiting to falsely accuse Jesus (verses 1-2) and the bible says that Jesus was "grieved by the hardness of their hearts" (verse 5). And immediately, all they wanted to do was to destroy Christ (verse 6). Later on in this chapter, they openly declared that Jesus received His power to perform miracles from the devil (verse 22). Because they attributed Christ's healing work to Satan, Jesus told them that they were in the process of committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (verses 28-30). We know that God would have gladly forgiven them, but they had closed their ears to His voice and could no longer be reached. Unfortunately, this pattern continued for many of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Acts 4:13-18; Acts 5:33-40; Acts 7:57-60; Acts 4:1-3).
(note: yes it's possible for someone to pass the point of no return, but this is because that person has chosen to take that route. We have already seen that the bible teaches that God will always forgive the sinner who wants to be forgiven, but if a person decides that not to listen to the convictions of the Holy Spirit, that they would rather continue in sin and not seek forgiveness, then they are in the process of grieving away the Holy Spirit.)
From the account of the Pharisees, we can conclude each individual has to decide how they will respond to the appeals of the Holy Spirit. As God draws you into a closer bond with Jesus (John 6:44), He gives you the power to consistently respond to the Spirit in a way that is pleasing to Him (Philippians 2:13). And as you "walk in the Spirit" (Galatians 5:16), He transforms you day by day to become more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18). But, if you persistently refuse to respond, you will begin to grieve away and quench the Spirit; the result is very sobering (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12). Friends, don't ever let this happen, but take heed to the word of God and remember that God is always ready to forgive: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon." (Isaiah 55:7)
One last example of how one can so sear the conscience that they can no longer recognize the Spirit of God speaking to them: Do you remember the plagues that God brought upon Egypt? These plagues came because Pharaoh refused to let god's people go. Each plague was intended to impress the King that a power greater than any of his false gods was in control and that only by yielding to the true God could he save himself and his people. After awhile, Pharaoh admitted that his god was powerless to save them and asked Moses to seek his God for deliverance. He even entreated Moses to pray for him. The problem was that after the plague was removed, Pharaoh “hardened” his heart. What does that mean? He was slowly searing his conscience against the Spirit of God. Read Exodus chapters 4–14 sometime and review how the King seared his conscience until he could not recognize that he was turning against the very One that could save him. He drowned in the Red Sea along with his entire army. You might say, he was “cast out” of his kingdom!! The unpardonable sin is continuing to rebel against what is right until I no longer can be impressed by the Holy Spirit of my need to seek that which is right.
Can a true Christian commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
Let’s first go back and do some Bible review. Can a being that has been made perfect, holy, undefiled choose to rebel against God? Ezekiel 28:15 is a reference to Lucifer and it says that he was perfect in all his ways from the day he was created, until iniquity (sin) was found in him (Read Ezekiel 28:13-19). Here we have evidence that Satan, who loved God at one time, rebelled against the Lord because of pride, and, in the conflict, turned one third of the Holy angels against God (Revelation 12:7-9). For this, he was cast out of heaven (Isaiah 14:12). We can conclude that God did not make a mistake when He created Lucifer; instead He gave the heavenly angels freedom of choice.
Did God give man this same liberty to choose? Were Adam and Eve given the freedom to decide to rebel against God? Yes, they had a free will and did rebel by eating from the "the tree in the middle of the garden"; The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil; the one God had commanded them not even to touch (Genesis 3). They became sinners and were cast out of their perfect home, in spite of the fact that they were once perfect.
So, we see that it is possible to begin ideally and then choose to turn away from what is right. Another example is two lovers. They are truly in love and get married. They begin a beautiful family and raise children. Can they grow careless in their love and one day find they no longer have any feelings for one another? Yes, yes, sorry, but yes. As terrible as it may be, the result is divorce or separation. What about our relationship with Jesus? Paul says, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27) Paul realized that he could even be a preacher, but if he didn’t keep his connection with Christ close and personal, he could drift to the point that he would be lost.
So, how does one come to the place where they can lose their “new birth” experience? 1 Timothy 4:1-2 “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” How does one lose their way? By departing from the faith, listening to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, and continually ignoring the convictions of the Holy Spirit to the point that the conscience becomes "seared with a hot iron", which results in the Spirit being "quenched" or "grieved'.
Remember, when the Holy Spirit can no longer convince me that I am a sinner needing forgiveness; I no longer feel the need to be forgiven, and therefore do not seek forgiveness.
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