A Question about the Unforgivable Sin

Originally posted on the Bibles for America Blog.

We received the comment and questions below from someone who read our post, “Can You Lose Your Salvation?”:

“I am so glad that I was able to find this article. I know that God’s decisions cannot be changed and that He holds us in His hands. Yet I still feel insecure about my salvation. Can you please answer these questions: Is the unforgivable sin not accepting Jesus as Savior? Can a Christian commit the ‘unforgivable sin’ talked about in Mark 3:28-29?”

We thought our reply might be helpful to others who have these questions, so we’re posting it here on the blog.

Dear Reader,

Thank you for your comment asking us about the unforgivable sin and referencing Mark 3:28-29:

“Truly I say to you that all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they blaspheme, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit has no forgiveness forever, but is guilty of an everlasting sin.”

Let’s also look at Matthew 12:31-32, a related passage in the Word that gives us more detail:

“Therefore I say to you, Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, neither in this age nor in the one to come.”

First, you asked whether the unforgivable sin is not accepting Jesus as Savior. That is not the unforgivable sin, since the verses themselves tell us that the unforgiveable sin is to blaspheme the Spirit.

To get further help, let’s read the first note on Matthew 12:32 in the Recovery Version:

“In the economy of the Triune God, the Father conceived the plan of redemption (Eph. 1:5, 9), the Son accomplished redemption according to the Father’s plan (1 Pet. 2:24; Gal. 1:4), and the Spirit reaches sinners to apply the redemption accomplished by the Son (1 Cor. 6:11; 1 Pet. 1:2). If a sinner blasphemes the Son, as Saul of Tarsus did, the Spirit will still have the ground to work on him and cause him to repent and believe in the Son that he may be forgiven (see 1 Tim. 1:13-16). But if a sinner blasphemes the Spirit, the Spirit will have no ground to work on him, and there will be no one left to cause him to repent and believe. Hence, it is impossible for such a person to be forgiven. This is not only logical according to reason but also governmental according to God’s administrative principle, as revealed here by the Lord’s word.”

The background here is that the Lord Jesus had healed a demon-possessed man, casting the demon out of him by the Spirit of God. But the Pharisees and scribes accused the Lord Jesus of casting out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons. By saying this, they blasphemed the Spirit. Jesus strongly told them that to blaspheme the Spirit was an everlasting sin. Since it’s the Spirit who works on people to bring them to repentance and salvation, if one were to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, the Spirit has no way to work on that person to cause him to be saved and forgiven.

However, though it’s not the unforgivable sin, not accepting Jesus as the Savior has dire consequences. Only by believing in Jesus as the Savior and Redeemer can anyone be forgiven and saved from eternal judgment. God is not only loving but also long-suffering. As long as a person is living, even for one who had previously rejected Christ, the opportunity to be saved and forgiven continues to be available.

In fact, many who had previously rejected Jesus and even cursed His name eventually came to repent, believe in Him, and love Him. We can see a clear example of this in the life of the apostle Paul, who before his conversion not only himself didn’t believe in Jesus but also persecuted those who did.

All of us believers at one time were those who had not accepted Jesus as their Savior. But through the preaching of the gospel, the Spirit convicted us of our sins and brought us to repentance and faith in Christ. We were forgiven and saved!

However, if an unbeliever continues to reject Christ and His salvation and then dies in unbelief, he loses the opportunity to be forgiven and saved. Oh, may the Lord help us to pray for our unsaved friends and relatives and to preach the gospel to them a timely way!

Second, you asked whether a Christian can commit the unforgivable sin mentioned in Mark 3. By carefully reading the context of the above passages in Matthew and Mark, we see that the Lord spoke this word concerning the unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Spirit to the unbelieving religious Pharisees and scribes, not to His disciples, who already believed in Him. A Christian is one who has believed in and accepted Jesus as the Savior. When anyone does this, he is saved eternally, and his salvation is irrevocable; it can never be undone.

Let’s now discuss when a Christian commits a sin after being saved. Although we have believed in Christ, we do still sin. But the fact that we still sin doesn’t mean we aren’t saved or that we’ll become unsaved. We discussed this in our post, “Can You Lose Your Salvation?”.

When we repented and believed in Jesus, we were reborn in our spirit with the life of God. But the problem is that, even though we now have God’s life, we still also have our fallen soul and our sinful flesh, which cause us to sin.

So what should we do when we sin? We need to confess our sins to the Lord so we can be forgiven and cleansed of those sins (see 1 John 1:9). This confessing of sins after we’re saved isn’t for us to secure our salvation—our salvation is already eternally secure. We don’t lose our salvation when we sin, but we do lose our joy and peace with the Lord Jesus. For peace to be restored between us and the Lord, we need to confess to Him any sins we become conscious of.

We don’t need to hunt for or wonder what possible sins we may have committed. The Lord Jesus lives in our spirit, and a major part of our spirit is our conscience, which makes us aware of the sins we commit. As we spend time opening our hearts to the Lord in prayer and in the Word, we give Him the way to shine in us. Then when He shines on a particular sin we’ve committed, enlightening us concerning that sin, we should confess it and ask for His forgiveness. His Word tells us that He is faithful to forgive us and cleanse us. Practicing to confess our sins quickly keeps us spiritually healthy.

Thank the Lord for this simple way to be forgiven and cleansed by Him! However, though we’re forgiven and cleansed by confessing our sins, we shouldn’t have a loose attitude about sin. The Lord’s forgiveness doesn’t give us a “license” to sin. Offending Him isn’t without consequences. When we disobey the Lord or sin against Him, we grieve Him. And being careless about sin damages our relationship with Him.

The Lord Jesus dwelling in our spirit is our new life, new person, and even new living. Our intention should be to maintain our fellowship with the Lord all the time and to build up a life of walking in our spirit. When we are actively one with the Lord in our daily life, His sin-overcoming life can be lived out of us. But we will have failures, and when we do, we should confess to the Lord so we can be forgiven and restored in our fellowship with Him.

We’d like to reiterate, once you receive the Lord Jesus as your Savior, you can never lose your salvation. Romans 10:9 says, “That if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” This is God’s sure word to us. The security of our salvation isn’t determined by whether we feel saved but by God’s trustworthy Word, and God cannot lie.

We hope you find this reply helpful. May the Word of God be your solid foundation.

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