“Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation” (Mark 3: 28-29)
In the Gospel accounts of both Matthew and Mark, the religious leaders accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of “Beelzebub, the prince of the devils” (Matt 12: 24). Though the scribes and Pharisees had seen many infallible proofs of our Lord’s Messiahship through His miracles, they set their hearts to reject Him and the clear witness of the Holy Spirit.
Their vicious charge against Jesus – attributing His miraculous works to satanic power – brought upon them the Lord’s sharp condemnation that they had blasphemed the Holy Spirit and thus committed the unpardonable sin. The sin was unpardonable because the only avenue of forgiveness through the convicting work of the Spirit had been rejected.
Can a Christian commit the “unpardonable sin”?
The answer is an emphatic “No!” “He who has been truly regenerated by the Spirit cannot possibly fall into so horrid a crime” (John Calvin).
How then do we explain Hebrews 6: 4-8 which seems to imply that it is possible for believers to commit the unpardonable sin: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, 5 And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, 6 If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. 7 For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: 8 But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned.”
We need to understand here that the above passage pertains to professing believers and their tragic end. Seven things are highlighted about the persons discussed:
1. They “were once enlightened” – though they had received the light of the Gospel, they had not fully accepted it.
2. They had “tasted of the heavenly gift” – they had experienced the means of grace such as the communion of saints and Christian fellowship. They had also witnessed the faithful testimony of believers and the blessedness of the Christian life.
3. They “were made partakers of the Holy Ghost” – they had been brought under conviction by the Holy Spirit but they were never converted.
4. They “have tasted the good word of God” – they had been richly blessed by God’s Word.
5. They “have tasted … the powers of the world to come” – they had understood and known the power that had transformed the lives of believing friends and family members.
6. Despite all the special benefits of the Spirit’s conviction, Christian instruction and grace, they had finally and deliberately denied and rejected Jesus Christ.
7. Should these people who “were once enlightened, and have tasted” of Christian graces “fall away”, it would be as if they had crucified Christ again and publicly shown their contempt of Him. It would be impossible “to renew them again unto repentance” (v 6).
“It would bear a strong resemblance to the act by which the Lord Jesus was publicly rejected and condemned to die. The act of crucifying the Son of God was the great crime which outpeers any other deed of human guilt. It would be a public and solemn act of rejecting him. It would show that if they had been there they would have joined in the cry, ‘Crucify him, crucify him!’ Such a heinous act would render their salvation impossible” (Albert Barnes).
Like the religious leaders who had witnessed Christ’s miracles and yet rejected Him, these outward professors, by spurning Christian graces and privileges, had committed the unpardonable sin.
Such professing believers “cannot renew and bring themselves to the same state they enjoyed, and from which they fell; the offended, wronged Spirit withdraws, and will not assist or elevate theirs to act above nature again (Gen 6: 3; Isa 63: 10); but leaves them justly to themselves … They shall neither have a new principle infused into them, nor their minds or hearts changed by him to repentance, because they have undervalued his lower operations and motions on their souls, revealing Christ to them through the gospel, and have by their sinful negligence not improved them to seek from him the better and higher ones which he mentions” (Matthew Poole).
What are the consequences of committing the unpardonable sin?
The consequences are as follows (gleaned from The Life of Christ Part I – FEBC Lecture Notes by Rev Dr Jeffrey Khoo):
1. God abandons the man totally to his own destruction (Jer 7: 13-16; Heb 10: 26-27).
2. God judicially hardens or blinds the person to the truth (Matt 13: 15; Jn 12: 37-40; e.g. Pharaoh, Ex 9: 12, 10: 1, 20, 27, 14: 8, cf Rom 1: 24).
3. The sinner finds it impossible to repent (Heb 6: 6 e.g. Judas Iscariot, Matt 27: 3-5 cf. II Cor 7: 10).
We thank God for the blessed truth that a Christian can never commit the unpardonable sin. But we need to ask ourselves: “Am I truly saved?” All of us in the church have enjoyed the various means of grace – God’s Word, prayer, Christian fellowship and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. We have witnessed the joys and blessedness of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Do we take these graces lightly or despise them? We may be found in church, but do we really know the Lord or do we spurn His grace by the way we live our lives?
Let us take heed to make our calling and election sure (II Pet. 1: 10). If we are not born again, we are liable to commit the unpardonable sin. God will judicially blind and harden our wilful hearts and thereafter it will be impossible to repent. The warning is clear: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb 10: 31). May we seriously consider our need for the Lord and turn to Him while there is yet time. Amen.