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Question #144

Have I committed the unforgivable sin?

I believe that I have thought bad thinks about the Holy Spirit of truth in my mind and cursed the Spirit in my mind. Am I now eternally lost?

The Answer:

The following answer also applies to Question # 150.

There are two passages (and parallels) that generally arise in discussions of what is commonly referred to as the unpardonable sin – Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:22-30, and 1 John 5:16-17. Neither passage uses the term “unpardonable sin.” Matthew speaks of a sin that “shall not be forgiven,” Mark uses the expression “never hath forgiveness” and John speaks of “a sin unto death.”

Let’s look first at John’s record. First, John is speaking to Christians. He says that if “any man see his brother sinning a sin that is not unto death.” Thus, the expression “any man” does not refer to all men, but to one who has a brother in Christ. John is writing to Christians and the passage does not apply to those outside of Christ. Second, in the immediately preceding verse John had spoken of the Christians ability to “know” that he has eternal life, 1 John 5:13-15, which gives rise to confidence that if we ask anything according to His will He hears us and that we have the petitions that we have asked of him. An example of this is that if a brother sees a brother sin a sin not unto death and asks forgiveness for the erring brother, God will give the brother life. Third, several matters are clear from these verses: 1) a child of God can sin; 2) there is a sin “not unto death”; 3) we are to pray for those who sin “not unto death”; 4) God will hear and answer our prayers; 5) there is a sin “unto death”; 5) John does not say that we are to pray for the brother who sins “unto death.”

What is the sin that is “unto death”? Note that John says that a brother may “see” the sin unto death. That expression is most likely, if not certainly, figurative. It does not literally require that such a sin be “seen.” In fact, it is probable that such a sin will not be sin. Most Christians who live ungodly lives put on their Sunday conduct like they do their Sunday suit – they clean up their act when in the presence of brethren. Seldom do Christians observe overt sins on the part of their brethren. The “death” in view by John is not physical death, but spiritual death, or separation from God. This reinforces that it is the sin of a brother; those already dead in their trespasses cannot sin unto death because they are already dead. Very important is the conclusion that a Christian must be able to tell the difference between the sin “not unto death” and the sin that is “unto death.” How else can he know whether he should pray for a brother?

In the earlier chapters of his first general epistle, John wrote much about the Christian and sin. All sin. 1 John 1:8-10. Sin originates with Satan. 1 John 3:8. Jesus died in order that our sins might be forgiven. 1 John 3:16. When we sin Jesus is our Advocate who intercedes for us. 1 John 2:1. If we walk in the light as He is in the light His blood cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7. If we confess our sin he is faithful and just to forgive our sin. 1 John 1:8.

Putting all of these passages together we may conclude that the Lord will forgive every sin which a penitent brother confesses. A forgiven sin cannot be a sin that is “unto death” because forgiven sins are not laid to our charge. Does it not follow that the “sin unto death” is a sin of which one has not repented and which has not been confessed? There is no forgiveness for the sin of a hardened impenitent brother who will not confess his transgressions.

This is also the concept that the Hebrew writer had in mind when he wrote: “1 Wherefore leaving the doctrine of the first principles of Christ, let us press on unto perfection; not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, 2 of the teaching of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3 And this will we do, if God permit. 4 For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Hebrews 6:1-6.

Next, let us examine what is taught by Matthew’s and Mark’s description of a sin that “never hath forgiveness” or “shall never be forgiven.” Though their expressions are slightly different, it is obvious that they both have reference to the same thing because they come from the same time and teaching. In context, Jesus had just cast out a demon and restored sight to a blind man. The Pharisees attributed Jesus’ miracles to Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Although the sin under review is sometimes called a “sin of speech,” it is more than that. It is a sin of the heart because it is “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.” Matthew 12:34. Some believe and teach that this sin cannot be committed today because we no longer observe Jesus’ performing miracles to attribute them one way or the other. This, however, seems to be an oversimplification. In Matthew’s record he specifically said that “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come.” Matthew 12:32. Certainly it is still possible to read the scripture and wrongly attribute the miracles of Jesus to a source other than the supernatural intervention of deity through the Holy Spirit in the lives and events of man.

But can such individuals not become baptized penitent believers and be saved? The answer seems to be “yes” and “no.” Jews who rejected and crucifed Jesus were certainly saved on the day of Pentecost when they became baptized penitent believers. All blasphemies, even against Jesus, the Son of Man, can and will be forgiven upon the obedience of faith except for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. If men rejected Jesus they still had opportunity when the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, came and guided the apostles into all the truth. That is precisely what happened on the day of Pentecost. But if a person rejects the truth revealed by the Holy Spirit there is no further revelation and no additional sacrifice for sin. Without the sacrifice, without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness. Hebrews 9:22. The person who rejects the guidance of the Holy Spirit as revealed in the Word of God has no hope. Hebrews 10:26; Acts 4:12. For such there will be no forgiveness either in this world or in the world to come.

But cannot a person reject the Spirit inspired message of salvation and attribute it to Satan in one period of his life and accept it in another? J. W. McGarvey answers the question well in his commentary on Matthew and Mark:

Why is it more certainly fatal to speak against the Holy Spirit than against the Son of Man, may be in part beyond our powers of comprehension; but this much we know, that one who speaks against the latter may subsequently be convinced by the testimony of the Holy Spirit, and become a believer. But if he reject the evidence given by the Holy Spirit and ascribe it to Satan, he rejects the only evidence on which faith can be based; and without faith there is no forgiveness. If it be answered that a man might do this at one period of his life and subsequently be convinced and repent, we reply that this is precisely what the Savior, in effect, says he can not do; and we therefore suppose that one who is so desperately wicked as to be guilty of this sin, is already beyond the reach of redemption. Such was the condition of some of the Pharisees. ([Matthew] xxiii.33; John viii. 21.)

As for Question 144, there is no indication of what is meant by cursing the Holy Spirit in one’s mind, but it should be clear that since the Questioner is concerned about his status with the Lord and he has not taken the step that hardens to the point that there is no return.

The same thing can be said for the Questioner in Question 150.

Both, however, need to repent and confess their sin and seek the help of brethren who love them and of the Holy Spirit through the word of God. The words of the Hebrew writer speak loudly to these Questioners and to us all: “4 For as touching those who were once enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.” Hebrews 6:4-6.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)