What is the Unpardonable Sin?

Today’s reading:  Matthew 12

This is a challenging chapter.  On one hand you have many folks who assume they know what the unpardonable sin is.  Perhaps they do but if so, apparently they aren’t speaking about it enough because there are many more it seems who have no idea what it is, even those who have gone to church a good long while.  So we’re going to talk about that because it is mentioned in our reading today (12:31-32).  Keep in mind the context of the chapter as we do, as I believe this will be important in helping us to gain a fuller understanding.

What is the essence of holiness but doing the will of God?  Many have redefined grace to assume God is so eager to get people into Heaven that He is willing to compromise His holiness.  But what is the will of God, you may ask?  When do I know?  We all have a tendency to assume that God’s will equals God’s will for me.  There is a difference.

The Pharisees, for example, believed they were doing the will and the work of God.  What was Jesus’ opinion of the attitude and work of the Pharisees?  Well, it wasn’t very high.  Let’s explore a few of the reasons why.

As we read through the chapter we discover the Pharisees had just witnessed several things:

  • The Disciples picking and eating heads of grain on the Sabbath (vs 1)
  • The healing of the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath (vs 10-13)
  • The exorcism of the demoniac who was blind and dumb (vs 22)

Each time the Pharisees were critical (vs 2), without compassion (vs 7), and divisive (vs 26-30).  Each time Jesus rebuked them, but they continued to refuse to listen.

Some may think the stumbling of the Pharisees was out of ignorance and implied prejudice, but what Jesus says next in verses 31-32 implies way more:

“So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come” (emphasis mine).

Let’s take a closer look at definitions and/or word studies for both the Greek words “blasphemy” (vs 31) and “against” (vs 32):

  • Blasphemy (blasphemia) – word study: “switches” right for wrong (wrong for right), calls what God disapproves “right”, exchanging the truth of God for a lie.  Literally, slow (sluggish) to call something good (that is really good) – and slow to identify what is truly bad (that really is evil).
  • Against (kata) – definition: over against, among, daily, day-by-day, each day, according to, by way of.

This supports teachings I have heard on this subject in the past that defines the unpardonable sin as a willful, repetitive choice of an individual to reject the gift of faith given to us by the Holy Spirit to believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior, our Redeemer, and the only path to God the Father and eternal life.  As a result of this blasphemy against, those who commit such condemn themselves both in this world and in the world to come.

The work of salvation in the heart of an individual is the work of the Holy Spirit, but He will not force Himself on us.  We must invite, be open, and yielded to His work in us and to His gifting of faith.

What the accumulation of the criticism of the Pharisees amounted to was a warning from Jesus that they were in danger of committing the unpardonable sin, in that their character and continuous choice against what was good displayed no opening for repentance.  There is a point in time that crosses the line, and those who cross that line, their conscience becomes seared, closed out, dead to the Holy Spirit’s prompting.

Here is the good news:

‘The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. ‘ 2 Peter 3:9

Some people reading Matthew 12 might think the chapter ends on a strange note about who is Jesus’ mother, brother, or sister (vs. 46-49).  I used to be one of them.  As a matter of fact, I used to not like these verses because I didn’t fully understand them and to me it sounded like Jesus was slighting his family.  But this is not the case, and in reality this portion sums up the chapter very nicely.

In my desire to gain a fuller understanding, I see now Jesus’ statement in verse 48 was not meant as a slight against his mother and brothers.  Family members across time and around the world have traditionally been held in higher esteem than friends or others, hence the saying “blood is thicker than water”.  So if you study this closely you will see that Jesus is saying to those around Him who have just witnessed the Pharisee’s criticism and actions, as well as to us now, that if you do the will of the Father in Heaven, you are held in esteem and love as a member of His family.  In other words, He might have been saying “If you want this instead of that, then here’s how…”.

Want to know the will of God?  Seek to know Him!  Press hard after Him! Immerse yourself in scripture.  The bible is full of definitions and examples of the will of God.   You will find this not only reveals His will, but also that intimacy in relationship will  reveal His will for you.

Food for thought:

‘Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? ‘ Hebrews 10:28-29 NASB

2 thoughts on “What is the Unpardonable Sin?

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