John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, went through a dark season of doubt and despair. In this dark season, Bunyan expressed a flood of blasphemous thoughts and language. Because of this, he was afraid he could not be forgiven. He would often come to the Scriptures but was met with what he called “those dreadful verses.” One of those dreadful verses was Mark 3:28-29… “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” Yikes. So it’s probably important for us to figure out what exactly “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” is, right? What exactly is this unpardonable sin?
Hello, Weirdos – I’m Pastor Darren – welcome to the Church of the Undead.
I’m the host of “Weird Darkness”, but here in the Church of the Undead I can share ideas not related to my other podcast – ideas which are relevant to those who suffer with depression, need some encouragement, and for those who love (or are just curious about) the God of the Bible. And it doesn’t matter if you are a Weirdo-in-Christ or just a Weirdo – everyone is welcome here at the Church of the Undead. And I use the word “undead” because here we are DEAD to sin and ALIVE in Christ! If you want to join this Weirdo congregation, just click that subscribe or follow button!
Full disclosure – I might use the term “pastor” because I’ve branded this feature as a church – but I do not have a theology degree, nor did I ever go to Bible college. I’m just a guy who gave his life to Christ in 1989 and has tried to “walk the walk” every since – and has stumbled a lot along the way – because, like everybody else, I am an imperfect, heavily-flawed human being. So please don’t take what I say as gospel; dig into God’s word yourself for confirmation, inspiration, and revelation.
That being said, welcome to the Church of the Undead.
Fear of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is quite common among believers – and that makes sense, seeing as it is the one sin that God says He will never forgive. People worry that they have done it when taking the Lord’s name in vain, using the name of Jesus as a curse word, saying something along the lines of “holy crap”, many people think it has something to do with taking the mark of the beast as described in the book of Revelation… and some are even concerned they may have accidentally committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit without even realizing it and won’t’ find out until judgement day when suddenly they are tossed into the bowels of hell.
Wow, this intense – especially for something that a lot of people don’t even know what it really is.
Pastor Mike Leake of Calvary Church in Neosho, Missouri once had a woman call his office in a panic. It was clear to Mike that she had not slept in days and was in an elevated emotional state. She trusted him with her story. She shared of a painful miscarriage. But that wasn’t the main reason for her consternation. See, she had gotten a tattoo to commemorate the child she had lost through miscarriage. But after doing a bit of research, she found out that what she had used to symbolize the children was something that, given various points of numerology, COULD be interpreted as the number 666. She was afraid that she had taken the mark of the beast and so was absolutely unforgivable.
Another young man had been coming to Pastor Leake’s church for a few months. He was really growing in the Lord. He was a voracious reader of the Scriptures and his life was changing before the eyes of his fellow parishioners. But one day, he came to the pastor, distraught. He’d picked up his Bible and was reading Matthew 12 (similar verses to Mark 3:28-29that I began this episode with) and he just knew that before he had become a Christian, he had done terrible, terrible things—he spoke horrible words of God the Father, God the Son, and worse yet the Holy Spirit. Was he now outside of the Lord’s forgiveness? Had he committed the unpardonable sin?
Mark 3:28-29 have led to much confusion for well-meaning disciples of Jesus. So let me read those verses to you again: “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
So what exactly does it mean to have committed the unpardonable sin?
Sometimes before explaining what something IS, it is helpful to remove all of the fog surrounding the question and define what it is NOT.
First… it is not sexual sin or some other grievous sin.
Verse 28 tells us that “all sins will be forgiven the children of men.” You can put anything in that word “all.” This is true because of what happens when we are in union with Christ. When we are united to Jesus, by grace through faith, we receive all of His benefits. This means that we experience full and complete forgiveness for EVERY sin we EVER committed, ARE committing, and WILL EVER commit. This is the gospel.
Second… it is not suicide.
Some (particularly specific church denominations) have thought that suicide is the unpardonable sin. The logic is that when you cannot repent for a particular sin (in this case, self-murder, because it’s impossible to ask God for forgiveness if you’re not alive to do so), then that sin will not or cannot be forgiven. But this view does not square with biblical Scripture… it’s a falsehood that has been created that some call purgatory.
What they think is that salvation is like a cup that must be filled with God’s grace. According to the scriptures, grace is given freely by God – it is a gift. There is nothing we can do to earn that grace, and there is nothing we can do to lose that grace.
But those who believe in purgatory view certain things (like sacraments) as acts where your “salvation cup” gets filled back up. And they view sin as if it empties your “salvation cup” of grace – like you’ve spilled it on the ground. If you die with at least a little grace in your cup, then they say you go to purgatory until you pay for (or pay back) the grace you lacked in your cup when you died, and your cup gets filled back up to the top… then you get to go to heaven.
But then, along with this belief in purgatory, there are some sins, “mortal sins” as they call them, which will empty your cup completely. Murder is considered one of those mortal sins. Now… repentance CAN fill your cup back up. But the problem with suicide (which they consider murder, it’s just that you’re murdering yourself).. the problem is that you can’t get that cup filled back up; and because you just ended your life with a MORTAL sin, then you’ve got an empty cup upon death… and if you’ve got an empty cup then you go to hell.
That’s a fun thought, isn’t it? Is that the loving God we’ve all been told exists? No. Because purgatory is contrary to the gospel. The gospel doesn’t teach that we’ve got a leaky cup, slowly losing our salvation with every mistake we make. The gospel… the REAL gospel.. takes that cup and throws it in the garbage, because, again, salvation is nothing we can lose or earn back. The gospel is that we are brought into union with the Lord Jesus Christ – a free gift from Him for whomever accepts it – and His righteousness (his perfection, or his overflowing, bottomless salvation-cup, is applied to us. We are united to Jesus by grace alone, which we receive through faith alone. Jesus is our salvation cup. And that cup can no sooner leak than the Lord Jesus Christ can be guilty of sin.
Suicide is awful, of course. And it’s a sin that grieves the Lord – because it’s a life being purposefully snuffed out before its time. But suicide it is not the unpardonable sin.
Third… blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not simply blasphemous words.
This point may seem strange, but consider verse 28 again: “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter…”
Jesus makes a clear difference between blasphemies of the Spirit and blasphemies which can be forgiven. If you’ve said something like, “I don’t believe in God”, or if you’ve blasphemed Jesus, or even in some sense mocked the work of the Holy Spirit – this is still not the unpardonable sin. This blasphemy, however horrible it might be, is still forgivable.
Okay then… so what IS the Unpardonable Sin?
John Piper is correct when he says, “the reason is that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit puts you beyond repentance, and therefore beyond forgiveness.”
Verse 29 states…”but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
This is not an exception to verse 28 which says, “people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter…”
Jesus is not saying, ALL blasphemies that you repent of will be forgiven except blasphemy against the Spirit. What He is saying, is all blasphemies that you repent of WILL BE FORGIVEN, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will NOT be forgiven because it puts you beyond repentance — you won’t be able to repent of it.
To rephrase… blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is refusing to accept the Holy Spirit into your life – refusing to accept Jesus as your savior and provider of grace. This is what puts you “beyond repentance” because you have an opportunity to repent (that is, turn your life around and begin to follow Christ) right up until the moment you die. But once you are dead, you are beyond repentance… you are beyond forgiveness.
Rejecting the Holy Spirit’s work, shutting yourself off from His work of convicting of sin and righteousness will put you outside of repentance. You will not repent apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, to reject the work of the Holy Spirit is to reject the possibility of repentance.
This is what the religious leaders in Jesus’ day were guilty of doing. They were in grave danger because the Spirit was clearly showing Himself through the works of Jesus and their hearts were so hardened that they believed it was by the work of a demon. Doing this, saying this, continuing to believe it, is shutting yourself and others off from any means of hope for salvation. You CANNOT be saved apart from responding to the Holy Spirit’s drawing you to Jesus – it is the holy spirit that touches your heart and conscience and urges you to accept Christ. If you continually refuse that urging from the Spirit, that is blasphemy. These religious leaders in Jesus’ day attributed his works – works he did through the Holy Spirit – to demons. That is saying the exact opposite of who Jesus is, and while making these kinds of claims it is impossible to be saved.
So how do we apply this to our lives today?
If you think you’ve committed the unpardonable sin and this is grieving you… good news – that means haven’t committed the unpardonable sin! Conviction is a work of the Spirit. If you are grieving this, if you’re feeling convicted, then, it means the Spirit is still working on you. If the Spirit is still working it is doing so to draw you to Christ. He is not cruel. If the Holy Spirit abandons you – gives up on trying to save you because you are so hardened towards God, Jesus, and the Spirit, then you will not experience an ounce of conviction, remorse, or grief anymore. You won’t feel any guilt about your negative attitude towards Christ. If you are hardened to the gospel like that, then you definitely SHOULD be concerned. GRAVELY concerned! You are on the precipice of eternal damnation and that’s where you will fall upon your final breath. But since you are hearing this, you are still called to repent, even today, regardless of what you have thought or even done in the past. Be encouraged that if you are feeling grieved about your future in the everafter, or concerned you’ve committed the unpardonable sin… then the Spirit is still at work in you – just listen to what He has to say.
There is forgiveness found in Jesus. Newton says it like this:
“The Lord is gracious to the weakness of his people; many involuntary mistakes will not interrupt their communion with him; he pities their infirmity, and teaches them to do better. But if they dispute his known will, and act against the dictates of conscience, they will surely suffer for it. This will weaken their hands, and bring distress into their hearts. Willful sin sadly perplexes and retards our progress. May the Lord keep us from it! It raises a dark cloud, and hides the Sun of Righteousness from our view; and until he is pleased freely to shine forth again, we can do nothing; and for this perhaps he will make us wait, and cry out often, ‘How long, O Lord! how long?’”
But now the question is… how long, oh soul? How long will you wait to respond to spirit of Christ? Will you repent knowing that the Lord is very merciful? Don’t wait another day. Don’t live one more day in this dark cloud, but go to the Lord knowing that He responds to everyone no matter their past, and freely offers his own perfect, continually overflowing cup of salvation to you.
If you’re feeling convicted to make a decision now, all you need to do is agree with me in this prayer…
“Father, I know that I have broken your laws and my sins have separated me from you. I am truly sorry, and now I want to turn away from my past sinful life toward you. Please forgive me, and help me avoid sinning again. I believe that your son, Jesus Christ died for my sins, was resurrected from the dead, is alive, and hears my prayer. I invite Jesus to become the Lord of my life, to rule and reign in my heart from this day forward. Please send your Holy Spirit to help me obey You, and to do Your will for the rest of my life. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
If you said that prayer to yourself in your heart and have decided to accept Christ into your life today… welcome to God’s family. If you said that prayer and meant it, go tell someone else about your new faith in Christ – or tell me by sending me an email! Spend time with God each day – it doesn’t have to be a long period of time. Just develop the daily habit of praying to Him and reading His Word. Even just a five minutes is still five minutes more than you spent with God yesterday, and that’s a huge step! When praying, ask God to increase your faith and your understanding of the Bible.
You’ll also want to find others who are followers of Jesus. You can find them at a church of course, but you might also find a group of believing friends who have been praying for you; and once you start telling people you’ve accepted Jesus as your savior, you’ll be surprised how many of those friends appear to you that you didn’t even know about.
And yes, you’ll want to find a church – it’s an opportunity to meet with others who are believers, to receive more biblical teaching that you won’t get in your own studying, and it acts as a support group to help you grow as a new Christian, and lift you up if you stumble.
And if you’re already a follower of Jesus – maybe share this message with someone who you think might need to hear it.
Thanks for listening to this week’s Church of the Undead message. If you want to get in touch with me, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find all of my social media, postal address, and other contact information, along with my daily Weird Darkness podcast full of all things creepy and macabre. You can find the sources I used for this week’s message in the show notes. I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me, Weirdos. Until next time, Jesus loves you and so do I. God bless.