Is There a Sin God Does Not Forgive?
no. 16 - Dr. Charlie Bing
The fear of unforgiveness
Both believers and unbelievers sometimes express fear that they have committed a sin that is
unforgivable. This steals the joy of their salvation, the assurance of their salvation, or with unbelievers,
the hope of ever being saved. They may even think they have committed the so-called “unpardonable
sin,” or more biblically, “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”
It is very clear that Jesus died for all sins (Col. 2:13). This would include sins committed before
belief as well as those committed after, and even those which are still future. God will not be surprised
by future sins such that He will regret giving eternal life and therefore take it back. Once saved, a
believer is secure forever.
It is also clear that even what many consider the most terrible sins are covered by God’s provision
through Christ. Fornication, adultery, and homosexuality are among those sins the Corinthians had
committed when the apostle Paul reminded them “And such were some of you. But you were washed,
but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our
(1 Cor. 6:11). King David was forgiven for committing adultery and murder (2 Sam. 12:13).
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
Jesus said of one—and only one—sin that whoever does it “never has forgiveness”
But the nature of that sin is not so clear.
Though called “the unpardonable sin,” Jesus actually said, “but blasphemy against the Spirit
will not be forgiven men”
and “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him,
either in this age or in the age to come”
(Matt. 12:31-32). Every sin is pardonable through Christ, but
anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never experience that pardon.
“Blasphemy” means to speak evil or injuriously of someone. But even blasphemies against Jesus
Christ can be forgiven (Matt.12:32; cf. Mark 3:28). So there must be a difference between blasphemy
against Jesus Christ and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
There are several interpretations of this difficult warning:
Can it be committed today?
- It is Israel’s national rejection of the Messiah. In this view it can only be committed by
the nation of Israel at the time of Christ’s presentation of Himself to them as King. Therefore, it can not
be committed by individuals, and it can not be committed today. It is true that in Matthew’s account
Christ seems to be presenting Himself as Israel’s King who will bring in the kingdom. In the context
that follows, Christ calls His generation an “evil generation” which deserved condemnation because of
their rejection of the King (Matt. 12:39, 41-42). But some doubt this interpretation because Jesus said
this warning applies to “anyone,” which denotes individuals. It also clearly a sin that involves speech:
“anyone who speaks a word against…“ (Matt. 12:32).
- It is accusing Christ of satanic allegiance. In this view someone verbally accuses Christ
of satanic origin. The scribes said of Jesus, “He has Beelzebub” and “By the ruler of the demons He
casts out demons” (Mark 3:22). Some would counter that if this was spoken out of ignorance, it would
be a slander against Christ which could be forgiven (Matt. 12:32; Mark 3:28). When Mark 12:30 explains
that this warning is “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit,’” it may imply that Christ is warning
them that by slandering Him they are close to committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, though
they have not yet done so.
- It is disbelief in the gospel. Of course someone who does not believe the promise of the
gospel can not be forgiven in their unbelief. Also, this view of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
allows it to be committed today by any and all unbelievers. One problem with this view is that the
warning seems more specific and serious than this. If this view were true, why not simply call the sin
unbelief? But it is also a sin that involves speech and not just a rejection of Christ, but a rejection of the
Holy Spirit’s testimony. Besides, unbelief can be forgiven.
- It is a willful and slanderous rejection of the Holy Spirit’s testimony about Christ.
This is a sin that reveals itself in the perverse verbal accusation that Jesus Christ is in league with the
devil. The Father witnesses to the Son both through prophecy and His verbal approval at Christ’s
baptism. The Son witnesses through His own words and works. These witnesses are external. But the
Holy Spirit witnesses through His convicting ministry (John 16:7-11). This witness is internal. When
the Spirit convinces an unbeliever who Jesus Christ is, and that person nevertheless accuses Him of
being satanic, he has committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Matthew’s discussion that follows
this warning emphasizes that one’s words reveal one’s heart condition so that “by your words you will
be condemned” (Matt. 12:33-37). The accusation that Jesus is of the devil reveals the moral blindness
of a person who would call light darkness. It displays a heart hardened beyond hope of forgiveness,
because there is nothing left to appeal to the conscience when the Holy Spirit’s testimony is rejected
According to the last three interpretations, this sin could be committed today. The last and
perhaps most convincing interpretation would say that this sin could be committed by someone who
knowingly and maliciously rejects and slanders the Holy Spirit’s convicting ministry about the person
of Christ. It would be hard to know when someone knowingly rejects the Holy Spirit’s testimony and is
not doing it out of ignorance, but God knows.
Interpreting the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not easy. We would do well to focus on
what is clearly taught in these passages. It is clear that Christ’s warning was to unbelievers. Blasphemy
against the Holy Spirit can not be committed by believers. In fact, if a believer worries that he has
committed this sin, this is a good argument that he hasn’t because he evidences a conscience.
God’s grace covers every sin, but that grace must be appropriated. God can and will forgive any
and every sin, but an unbeliever who blasphemes the Holy Spirit is morally blind to the degree that his
heart is hardened by his conscious rejection of Jesus to the point that he will never appropriate His
grace of forgiveness. Any unbeliever who believes will be saved. But any unbeliever who blasphemes
the Holy Spirit demonstrates a spiritual condition that precludes a receptive attitude toward the gospel.
Dr. Charlie Bing, GraceLife Ministries
To download this article in adobe pdf format, select the pdf icon at the top right of this page or right click the icon and select "Save Target As".
If you do not have a pdf viewer you may click here
to download a free version.