A short bit of back-story… There was a time when I was convinced I had committed the unforgivable sin mentioned in, among other places, Luke 12:10. It is difficult to find the words to express the unrelenting horror of living under such a dark and seemingly irrevocable sentence. I had no one to speak to in order to find help, but eventually I gained understanding that I had not entered into that breathtaking transgress. One can understand that I have an interest in this subject.
First, I want to share some opinions of what I believe are incorrect interpretations of those texts that deal with the unpardonable sin. I have heard and read from many that the only unforgivable sin is disbelief in Christ. I have heard others take that idea and go so far as to essentially say that unbelievers will not be judged for their sins of thought and deed, but for rejecting Christ. I understand where that comes from and agree there is a small element of truth to such statements, but such thinking falls apart, I think, when scrutinized. Perhaps I am putting too fine a point on it, but if rejecting Christ is the only unforgivable sin, then logically if follows we should stop evangelizing. To continue would place everyone who hears the Gospel in jeopardy of committing the unforgivable sin of not believing in Christ. There is also perhaps an unintended inference that there is forgiveness apart from Christ when one says the only unforgivable sin is disbelief in Christ. All sin is unforgivable apart from Christ. It is our sin, our failure to live up to God’s perfect standards of holiness, which condemns us before a just, righteous, and holy God. Unbelief by those presented the Gospel is a manifestation of our fallen, sinful nature, and belief is a gracious gift from God. However, it is a Biblical truth that those who have heard the Gospel and disbelieve will be judged more harshly than those who have not heard the Gospel, but no one, whether they have heard the Gospel or not, can stand without guilt before God apart from salvation in Christ. So, to say that disbelief in Christ is the unforgivable sin does disservice to a fully Biblical understanding of the depravity of humanity and also to the meaning of those texts regarding the unforgivable sin, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Further, one may move by the grace of the Triune God from disbelief to belief in Christ rendering the unforgivable nature of disbelief null and void. Think of Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 to those who crucified Christ and were brought to repentance and belief in Christ.
The second statement I have heard from time to time concerning unforgivable sin is that suicide is unforgivable. Actually, this has more to do with the idea that one can lose their salvation, that God may not persevere His saints, but the subject of suicide sometimes comes up in discussions over what constitutes the unforgivable sin. Ultimately, what this proclamation concerning the seemingly irredeemable nature of suicide offers is a prescription for despair. Suicide is wrong, a grievous and tragic sin. So is failing to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind and loving your neighbor as yourself. If you die failing to fulfill any point of the Law and are depending on your ability to obey the Law to gain or to keep your salvation, you die in sin. To say that suicide, as tragic and irrevocable as act that it is, constitutes an unforgivable sin means that you are depending on your obedience to the Law to save you from God’s wrath. Though you may not commit suicide, each and every one of us, though we may not be completely aware of the fact, sins enough within fifteen minutes of getting out of bed to condemn us for eternity. If you have an inappropriate thought about that attractive person jogging down the road and run into a tree and die without an opportunity to confess and repent, you have died in sin just as much as the despondent person who committed suicide. Christ is sufficient is cover all my sin, past, present, and future, and a growing understanding of His sovereign grace makes me increasingly hateful of what sin still dwells within me. This is the key: the justification of the believer wrought by Christ perfect; nothing we do or fail to do adds to or subtracts from it. The Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification in the redeemed, though, is progressive, not instantaneous. Remember, also, Romans 8:1.
Next, I think the following circumstance is what plaques some who feel they may have committed the unforgivable sin. If you tell someone they must not think about something specific for fear of grievous consequence in thinking that thought, they may try so hard not to think about it, to mentally block it, they end up thinking about it in spite of themselves. I believe this is what happens to some who sadly and erroneously think they committed the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. However, that is not the circumstances surrounding those to whom the warning is given. Let’s look at the text of Mark 3:20-30 (NIV).
“Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.”
He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.”
What we have on display by the unregenerate Pharisees, those who know Scripture intimately and are teachers of the Law, is an order of hardness of heart that is beyond redemption. What the text shows is an unrepentant, evil, informed, willful and verbal attribution by the Pharisees of the miraculous works of the Holy Spirit in Christ to Satan. It is not just that the Pharisees did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah; they essentially called the power of the Holy Spirit working through Him demonic. Though the Christian will sin daily, this is not a sin any Christian is able to commit. Further, I have heard some commentator’s state the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit cannot be committed by anyone today because Jesus Christ in now seated at the right hand of the Father, so no one can now see Christ physically perform a miracle and attribute the power behind the miracle to Satan.
Ultimately, the issue perhaps boils down to the bigger picture of one’s theology of salvation, of soteriology. If we view salvation as a monergistic work of God, of the Spirit, of God replacing a heart of stone for a heart of flesh, then we are indeed new creatures in Christ. It is Christ’s righteousness and obedience that God judicially sees when He looks upon His chosen ones, His redeemed. Salvation is completely of Christ. However, if we believe we contribute somehow to our salvation, a synergistic soteriology, then our security, our trust is to some degree, but ever so small, based in part on our effort. Our effort will always be insufficient to keep us from falling.
In closure, I would affirm that if you are concerned that you may have committed the unforgivable sin, I would say that such concern infers that you have not. If in Christ, you are eternally secure. If not yet in Christ, He offers you salvation through repentance and trust in Him for the forgiveness of sin. He is the One born of a virgin, fully human and fully divine, Who lived a sinless life and was crucified and died on the cross, taking the punishment for your sin. He rose again from the tomb on the third day defeating death. He is able save you to the utmost, and you will be eternally secure in His grip.