The Unpardonable Sin
Who has not heard of the “unpardonable sin”? Many believe it is suicide while others believe it is murder or some other heinous act, however, this is not what the Bible teaches. What it does teach is that sin is sin, regardless of what sin it is and regardless of degree (James 2:10). As we continue, we will discover that to label any sin as “unpardonable” is an error.
John wrote that “sin is the transgression” or breaking “of the law” (1st John 3:4; KJV). Since Paul wrote that “the law is spiritual” and that “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 7:14; 13:10; KJV), then sin can be further defined as a lack of love for our Maker, truth, and fellow man. To be more specific, sin is the manifestation of the inordinate love of Self and all of its worldly attachments (1st John 2:15-17).
The idea of the “unpardonable sin” is derived from Matthew 12:31-32.
Matthew 12:31-32 (NKJV)
31 "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 32 Anyone who 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, either in this age or in the age to come.
As we see, the unpardonable sin is called “blasphemy against the Spirit” of our Creator. Tradition teaches that this sin will never be forgiven, however, verse 32 shows this is clearly not the case. What did Jesus say? “Whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” I am inclined to believe that the phrase “this age” refers to the time in which Jesus lived, what we might call the “Age of Law,” based on Galatians 4:4-5, so, “the age to come” speaks of the “age” which followed, which we are in today and what I call the “Age of Grace.” If my understanding is correct, this “age” began on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:16-17). If all of this is true, then by all accounts, the phrase “unpardonable sin” is very misleading, for the blasphemy which Jesus speaks about will be forgiven in the coming age.
In Matthew 12, we are told that “anyone who 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.” In the first, the Lord appears to speak of Himself and the “Age of Law,” while in the latter, He speaks of what would follow after the Day of Pentecost during the “Age of Grace.” This perspective agrees with our phrases “this age,” and “the age to come.”
So, what is meant by the “blasphemy against the Spirit”? I believe it hides in plain sight, found in the Lord’s Prayer.
Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
Note what Jesus said. If we forgive, then God forgives us. If we don’t forgive, then our heavenly Father will not forgive us. Might this explain what Jesus meant by the blasphemy against the Spirit? So, if we choose not to forgive, then God doesn’t forgive us. But this does not mean that He will never forgive us. Rather, as Jesus taught, this applies only to the present age during our time here on earth.
My friend, search the scriptures. See if you find anything that suggests that God’s mercy and forgiveness are limited, or if there is any sin which was not done away with in Christ and His precious sacrifice on the cross. What did John the Baptist say of Jesus? “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29; NKJV) In this passage, our word “sin” is collective, indicating the very essence of lawlessness which exists in all of us; past, present, and future.
What did John write? “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1st John 2:2; NKJV). The “whole world”? Yes! In agreement, Paul records “that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation” (2nd Cor. 5:19; NKJV). Our phrase “not imputing their trespasses” refers to “the world,” so if I understand this correctly, God is not imputing sins against anyone due to the sacrifice of His Son! Ah, but here’s the kicker. Though God does not impute sin to us, when we fail to forgive others, we still reap the consequences that follow our lack of forgiveness. And by no means is this punishment from God. Rather, it is by our own doing, for in accordance with the principle of sowing and reaping, “God is not mocked,” we must reap what we sow. It cannot be otherwise for this principle is divine and universal in its scope (Gal. 6:7-10).
Since our death in Adam was not by our own choice, neither is our forgiveness in Christ. So it is that Paul wrote, “For as in Adam ALL die, EVEN SO in Christ ALL shall be made alive” (1st Cor. 15:22; NKJV). Is this statement true, or was Paul wrong in his assessment? If this statement is true, then it shows that God’s love is unconditional and not dependent upon the shaky ground of our own “confession of faith.” Friend, if God’s forgiveness is based only on my declaration, then His love for me is as fickle as any human love can be, for Jesus Himself said, “But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32; NKJV). No wonder Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8; NKJV). So you see, it matters not if we acknowledge or confess it, it is still a reality. The Lord’s love as exemplified by His death was more than sufficient to redeem every soul, past, present, and future. It is not our love for God which the Father acknowledged in His son’s death, rather, it was His son’s love for us!
What did the Lord say in regard to those who thought He was blaspheming? “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.” He did not say “Son of God” but “Son of Man,” indicating that the divine power of forgiveness is manifested through us as human beings. In keeping with what He taught in the Lord’s Prayer, we are the ones who have the power and the privilege now to forgive others.
So why is it so important for us to forgive before our heavenly Father forgives us? Might it be because when we fail to forgive, we give the impression that God won’t either? Would this not “blaspheme” the unconditional love of His Spirit? And that being said, doesn’t our religious tradition give this impression regularly by propagating the erroneous and horrendous teaching of “eternal torment”? Is it not true that the doctrine of “eternal torment” undoubtedly suggests that God runs out of love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness?
So again, it’s evident that we must forgive others their trespasses before our heavenly Father forgives us, but again, only in this age. Might this suggest that in the age to come, there will be more who will sincerely manifest this very thing?
Finally, let me end this brief study with the following story about my father. My father was a man who by so-called “Christian” standards, was not a “Christian.” When he died, I came to his bedside to see him for the final time. Standing there, I did not think of any of his sins or failures. Rather, I just felt my love for him and knew that I would miss him. As far as I was concerned, his slate was clean. So I ask you, if this was true for me, how much more so in regard to our heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? You see, my friend, when we forgive others, we are simply agreeing with the unconditional love which God has for everyone and which Christ exemplified by His death on the cross. I have no doubt that the greatest power and privilege on earth is our capacity to forgive.