The Unforgivable Sin

Bible Book: Matthew  12 : 22-31
Subject: Sin, Unforgivable; Forgiveness; Salvation

The Unforgivable Sin

J. Mike Minnix

Matthew 9:22-31

Sin has a way of catching up with us, no matter how hard we try to outrun it. A good example comes from two college chemistry students. They had done quite well on their quizzes, midterms and labs, so they didn't give much thought to the uncoming final exam. They were so confident they decided to go up to the University of Virginia and party with some friends on the weekend before their final exam, which was to take place on Monday. Due to their hangovers they overslept all day Sunday and didn't make it back to Duke until early Monday morning.

Rather than taking the final at that time, they decided to find their professor after the final and explain to him why they missed the exam. They told him that they went up to UVA for the weekend, and had planned to come back in time to study, but that they had a flat tire on the way back and didn't have a spare. They explained that they couldn't get help for such a long time that they were necessarily late getting back to campus. The professor thought this over and agreed that they could make up the final on the following day. The two guys were elated and relieved. So, they studied that night and went in the next day at the time the professor had planned for them to take the final exam. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet and told them to begin. They looked at the first problem, which was something simple about polarity and solutions and was worth 5 points on the test. They thought that the exam was going to be easy. They did that problem and then turned the page. They were unprepared, however, for what they saw on the next page. It read: "(95 points) Which tire was flat on your car?" Their sin had found them out.

All of us have committed sins, small or large, which catch up with us at one time or another. What is difficult, is imagining a sin which God will never, ever forgive. After all, the Father sent His only Son into this world that the world through Him might be saved. Jesus died a horrible death in order to purchase our forgiveness and redemption. Yet, the Bible clearly states that there is one sin which is totally and absolutely unforgivable. If you commit this sin, there is no possibility of ever being forgiven.

I have been asked about the unforgivable sin numerous times during my ministerial life. It seems that many people are interested in it, and some are deeply troubled with the thought that they have perhaps committed this sin. Others are concerned about a loved one who may have committed the unpardonable sin and this is especially true if that person has already departed this life.

First we need to know that the idea of an unpardonable sin did not come at the suggestion of a prophet, priest or preacher. This fact came from the lips of the Son of God Himself. Look at the text with me found in Matthew 12:22 and following ...

"Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men." (NKJV)

Was Jesus actually stating that it is possible to commit a sin so hideous, so repulsive, and so awful that He cannot and will not forgive it? That is, in fact, exactly what He was saying. A thought even more sobering is that there may be someone in this very worship center today who is in danger of committing this very sin! We need to ask the question today as to whether anyone of us has or is in danger of committing the sin which God will never forgive - a sin which will doom us in eternity and keep us apart from God forever.

I. The Misery of the Unforgivable Sin

A. The Fear Associated with the Idea of an Unforgivable Sin

As I said in the introduction, through the years I have known several people who thought they had committed this sin and because of that they lived in dreadful fear about this matter. Only a person mentally deranged would want to commit an act for which there would be no forgiveness, not in time or in eternity. So, people who fear that they have committed this sin live in an awful state of anxiety. This fear is most often unfounded and misplaced, and it is based on incorrect information, poor preaching, or a misunderstanding regarding God's Word and the grace of God available in Christ.

B. The Frustration Associated with the Idea of an Unforgivable Sin

How frustrating it must be to live with the idea that you can never be forgiven for a wrong you have committed in this life. What use is there for service to God, if one can never be forgiven? What joy is there in life, if one feels that he or she will spend eternity apart from God? What purpose is there to life now, if there is nothing to look forward to when this life ends? That is certainly how many must feel who have the idea that they have committed the sin that cannot be forgiven.

There is also the danger in a person's life if he or she feels that this sin has already been committed, since such a thought or conviction of heart may lead an individual to a life of evil passion, rampant crime and deep bitterness. A person who thinks in this manner may well decide all is lost and that any good behavior is a waste of time.

I want to bring forth a clear understanding today on this subject of the unforgivable sin, because there could be someone here today who has this fear or frustration in your life right now. You need freedom and forgiveness from God, as well as the joy of salvation. You need to have peace with God. So, perhaps something shared today will help you come to grips with the fullness of the grace of God.

II. The Misunderstanding of the Unforgivable Sin

A. False Ideas about this Sin

People have mistaken ideas about what type of sin the unforgivable sin actually is. Think about some of these false notions.

1. Murder

Murder is not the unforgivable sin. Think about David for example - 2 Samuel, chapters 11-12 - God forgave him, as we note in Acts 13:22.

2. Suicide

Suicide is the sin of self-murder and while it cannot be repented of it is still covered in the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus - Matthew. 12:31; 1 John 2:1-2.

3. Lying

Abraham lied as recorded in Genesis 12:10-20 and 18:17-19. Look at Simon Peter, as recorded in Matthew 26:69-75.

3. Stealing

There are perhaps a few people who think that stealing is unpardonable, especially if what they have taken can never be returned. I once had a man in a church I pastored who had taken some money from his former employer. He did so when he was a young man and when he talked to me about it he was quite old. The employer had been dead for many years and the church member feared he could never be forgiven for his sin, since he had no means of giving the money back to the deceased employer. It turned out that the man who stolen the money had never actually been saved. He was living with the idea that his good works made heaven obtainable. Gladly, he was saved and I had the joy of baptizing him. He located the family of the man from whom he had taken money and sought to pay them what he figured he had taken, along with interest. The family were Christians and told him that his confession was enough and he owed them nothing. In fact, they said that their father woud have understood and would also have forgiven him, were he still living. The man died in peace with God a few months after his salvation and baptism. Now, he was not freed of an unforgiveable sin because he tried to pay the money back, for taking something that does not belong to you is not he unforgiveable sin. He was forgiven because he came to know Jesus as His Savior.

3. Failing as a Christian

Some people think one can lose salvation even after being saved. Dear friend, that can never happen.

Note 2 Peter 2:21.

The Disciples - Matthew 27:56 - They forsook Him and fled, yet all went on to serve Him and they went to heaven when they died.

The Christian is never free every sin simply due to his good life. You can't be good enough for God. His salvation is for your past, present and future.

4. The Sin unto Death

There is a "the sin unto death," as mentioned in I John 5:16-18. This is a terrible sin, but it is not the unforgivable sin. The sin unto death is a sin committed by Christians only and since all Christians are saved and kept by the power of God (1 Peter 1:3-5) they cannot possibly lose their salvation. The sin unto death is the climax of a Christian repeatedly resisting the convicting, chastening, and correcting power of the Lord. The Scripture clearly tells us that God has in the past and can in the future take the life of a believer in order that his soul and testimony be saved. The unpardonable sin, on the other hand, is spiritual death and is a sin committed by an unbeliever. The sin unto death is a physical death brought about by a Christian who continues to sin so greatly that the Lord removes Him from this life so that his testimony doesn't do greater damage to the kingdom. A person who experiences the sin unto death belongs to the Lord and will be with the Lord. The "unpardonable sin" is committed by unbelievers only and that keeps them out of heaven forever.

B. Fatal Idea about This Sin

It can be eternally fatal not to understand this sin. Why? Because one may think he has committed the unpardonable sin and thus give up on any chance of salvation. The second fatal problem may be that a person does not realize what this sin really is, commits it and goes merrily on his way to hell. It has been said that, "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Some people assume they are saved when the truth is that they have never actually turned from sin and trusted what Christ did at Calvary for their forgiveness.

Jesus died for the sins of the whole world. Look at John 1:29, "The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 'Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'"

We see the same truth in Colossians 2:13-14, “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”

We could look at other passages that teach us the same truth. The fact is, Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross paid for all the sins of all people for all time; however, His forgiveness is not granted till one turns from that sin through repentance and by faith places trust in Jesus for salvation. You may ask, "If Christ died for all sins, for all time, for all people, how is it possible that there is a sin which is beyond pardon?" That is what we must learn from our text. So let's proceed to the third point.

We have seen the Misery some people experience because of this text. We have observed the Misunderstanding many people have about this text. Now note,

III. The Meaning of the Unforgivable Sin

A. The WHO of the Unforgivable Sin

A Christian, the true born-again believer, cannot possibly commit the unforgivable sin, because he or she is saved through the blood sacrifice of Jesus.

Romans 8:1 states ...

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."

Those who are in Christ cannot suffer condemnation. Our salvation is not dependent upon us but upon the One who gave it to us.

There was a man in Corinth who had taken his father's wife and was thus living with his stepmother, but Paul indicates that he was still saved. Now granted, this guy was in for some real trouble - trouble with his family and with his church, but he was in even deeper trouble with God. I am sure a chastisement was about to befall him which was much greater than any pleasure he may have gained from the sinful relationship; however, he was still saved.

Not only are we saved once we accept Christ as Lord and Savior, we are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13-14 reads ...

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory.”

 All those who are saved are sealed with the precious Spirit of God. We may grieve the Spirit and we may quench the Spirit, but no believer can blaspheme the Spirit.

But let us be very clear today, an unbeliever is committing this sin. And, some who think they are saved are committing this sin because they are deluded as to their spiritual condition. I don't want to create fear today in anyone regarding your salvation, for I do not believe that is what the Lord desires. He gave us His Word to help us, not to hurt us but it is important that every person listen carefully to what I am about to say and to settle this issue once and for all in your heart.

B. The WHAT of the Unforgivable Sin

What is the unforgivable sin? We have seen what it is not, but we must know what it actually is. The passage we are studying makes it clear that this sin has to do with rejecting the witness of the Holy Spirit as to the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus said that one could be forgiven for speaking against the Father and the Son, but one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven. What is this blasphemy of the Spirit?

The Spirit of God goes forth when God's Word is presented to convict the hearer of sin, righteousness and judgment to come. He reveals to the sinner that he is a sinner. He reveals the righteousness of God in Christ, showing the sinner that no amount of human works can possibly make us right with God. Thirdly, the Spirit of God warns of the coming Day of Judgment and calls the sinner to run to Jesus for a refuge against the coming judgment. Most importantly, the Holy Spirit reveals Jesus as the Lord and Savior who took our sins in Himself at Calvary. He suffered the judgment that we were destined to suffer without Him. So, the Spirit of God warns us to turn to Christ in believing faith. The unforgivable sin is to reject the witness of the Spirit. It is a sin of blaspheming or rejecting the Spirit's witness and call to your heart. In essence, it is lining up with devil against Christ. One may not consciously be aware that he is denying devotion to the Lord, but when the Spirit of Christ is rejected that is exactly what the sinner is doing.

Stephen witnessed to the Jewish leaders in his day. They were furious at him for what he said to them. What he said is that they were in danger of committing the unforgivable sin. Look at Acts 7:51, "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always RESIST THE HOLY SPIRIT!" You see what he said to them; he said that they had resisted the Holy Spirit. They were rejecting, blaspheming the Spirit, who was telling them the truth about Jesus and about their sins. Look at what they did when they heard the words spoken by Stephen - they covered their ears! When God speaks to you, you had better not cover the ears of your heart. That puts you in danger of committing the unforgivable sin.

The people had rejected the Father when they rejected John the Baptist. They had rejected Jesus when He appeared in person. But those sins were not without forgiveness. But, to resist the Holy Spirit's witness about Jesus is to reject your final opportunity to experience salvation.

C. The WHEN of the Unforgivable Sin
  1. The Holy Spirit still testifies of Jesus, declaring Him to be all that the Scriptures say He is - John 15:26.
  2. The Holy Spirit still convicts of sin - John 16:7-10.
  3. The Unpardonable Sin is simply rejecting the Spirit's witness of the Son and, therefore, refusing to receive Him as your Personal Savior - 1 John 5:12; John 3:36.

No other sin can send you to Hell. Everything else was paid for at the Cross. But for you to be saved, you must receive the witness of the Spirit and ask Jesus to forgive you and save you - it is that simple!

Psalm 19 tells us that the heavens themselves declare the glory and existence of God. You can reject that revelation for a while but later come to know Jesus. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus Christ is the Son of God - Mat. 16:16. Yet, you can reject that for a time and later come to know the Lord in eternal salvation. You can deny all the evidence around you and refuse to believe and still not commit the unpardonable sin. But, when the Holy Spirit of God deals with your heart, and you see for yourself that the claims of the Scriptures are true and you reject that witness, you are turning away God's last call. When the Spirit shows you that Jesus really is God and that He is the only hope for sinners, and you resist that call, you are resisting the greatest force that God is ever going to apply to your heart. When you say no to the Spirit of God, then you have crossed that line! You are guilty of committing the Unpardonable Sin. That isn't to say that God won't give you 1 chance, 2 chances, 10 chances, or even dozens of chances to be saved, but it does mean that you can so harden your heart that you no longer hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. It means that you can so resist the Holy Spirit that you commit a sin - the sin of rejecting God's call to you - that you commit a sin that cannot and will not be forgiven. Saying no to the witness of the Holy Spirit is a dangerous decision - an eternally dangerous decision.

IV. The Mastery of the Unforgivable Sin

Can you overcome this issue completely? Yes!

Please note first that Jesus did not say that the Pharisees had committed the unforgivable sin; Jesus merely said that they were in danger of commiting this sin. Some Pharisees, no doubt, came to believe in Jesus and were saved later on. The unforgivable sin is to pass a deadline whereby all opportunity for salvation is gone. This can happen in one of three ways.

  1. First, death ends the chance for the Spirit of God to call you to repentance.
  2. Second, when Jesus returns it will end the opportunity to receive Christ as Savior.
  3. Third, it is possible for a person to reject the voice of the Spirit and to harden the heart against ever hearing from the Lord again.

This is the most dangerous and tragic circumstance - to be alive in this world and to have all hope lost for your salvation. Someone has said, "Where there is life there is hope." Actually, where there is hope, life is available, and there is hope for you today listening to God's Spirit speaking to your heart and calling to accept Jesus as your Savior.


You might ask if you have perhaps gone too far and now feel that you might have passed the line - the line of having turned the Spirit away too often and now you are lost forever. Actually, if you are worried about this the worry you are expressing is a sign that you have not gone too far. Those who have committed the unpardonable his sin feel no conviction, have no concern for their soul, feel safe as they are, and do not feel anything in regard to the call of the God's Spirit to the human heart. Your concern is a sign that God is still calling you. Please, do not turn Him away. Come to Jesus today. Do not wait another moment. Somewhere, there is a deadline placed by the Lord past which no person is allowed to go. Please do not go on in your sins until you cross that deadline and go out into eternity lost and having committed the Unpardonable Sin.

Remember Judas Iscariot as recorded in John 13:27 and 17:12. He deliberately sinned against the light of God given to him by the Holy Spirit. This was not a sign of ignorance, but the results of repeated and deliberate rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit.

Someone listening to my voice right now is in danger of committing this unforgivable sin by rejecting the voice of the Spirit of God down in your heart. Why are you holding back? Are you believing the lie that you have plenty of time? What is holding you back? Listen to the voice of God and come to Jesus right now. Today is the day of salvation. You don't have a promise of another day - this is your day!