What is the unforgivable sin?

Silhouette of a man kneeling with arms lifted up at the Cross of Jesus.

What is the “unforgivable sin” that Jesus talked about…and am I at risk of committing it?

What is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”…and how do I know if I’ve ever been a blasphemer?

What is the “sin that leads to death”…and how can I avoid that particular sin?

In Matthew 12:31-32 and 1 John 5:16 Jesus and the Apostle John talked about a particular sin that has some dire consequences against it. This sin–blasphemy against the Holy Spirit–is a deadly sin with no mercy attached to it. Jesus said that blasphemy against the Spirit was an unforgivable offense both in this present life and in the age to come.

What were they talking about? What is this blasphemous, unforgivable sin that takes its perpetrators straight to death?

First, it is helpful to know what this sin is not. In Matthew 12:31 Jesus said, “Every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven” except for blasphemy against the Spirit of God. Therefore we know that this sin is different from every other kind of sin–including both the little presumptuous ones we commit and the gigantic heinous ones too. Indeed, the Bible is replete with stories of murderers, adulterers, and idolaters who found forgiveness in the presence of God.

Jesus defined this sin for us when He called it “blasphemy.” Blasphemy refers to angry, injurious, defiant speech leveled against God and His ways. In Matthew 12 Jesus had just demonstrated undeniable evidence that He was indeed the Son of God, but rather than repenting and following Him, the religious leaders (those to whom Jesus directed the charge of blasphemy) dubbed Him a demon-possessed fool.

The reason that this level of sheer blasphemy is unforgivable is not because God is unwilling to forgive a blasphemer, but the because the blasphemer is not willing to seek forgiveness. In 1 Timothy 1:13 the Apostle Paul said he was formerly a “blasphemer” (same Greek word that Jesus used in Matthew 12 to describe blasphemy against the Holy Spirit). The difference is that Paul repented when He encountered Jesus Christ. He ran to the cross and obtained mercy before he died.

Blasphemy against the Spirit is a clenched fist, crossed arms, defiant state of heart and mind wherein the blasphemer is presented with irrefutable proof of the Lordship of Jesus Christ and yet still refuses to acknowledge Him.

We don’t have to fear this sin. We can’t accidentally commit it. Stated another way, the unforgivable sin is the sin that is never confessed. Let’s live at the cross, let’s pray for our loved ones and our world to encounter the Lord Jesus Christ, and we can live without fear of the unforgivable sin.

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