Will God forgive any sin or is there one sin that He considers unpardonable? Good question. In Matthew 12:22-32, the Bible gives us the record of an incident in which a group of Jewish Pharisees attributed Christ’s miracle-working power to the power of the devil. In the context of this story, Jesus gave the following warning:
“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 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.” (New King James translation)
Some students of the Bible contend that the sin of which Christ spoke (the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit) cannot be committed today because it specifically involved attributing an obvious miracle of Jesus to the power of Satan. According to this view, since Jesus is no longer personally on the earth working miracles today, the “unpardonable sin” no longer comes into play. As Dr. Harry Ironside wrote,
“The unpardonable sin of Israel at Christ’s first coming was the rejection of the Spirit’s witness to His Messiahship.”
However, with that said, I agree with Dr. J. Vernon McGee who wrote:
“The Holy Spirit came into the world to make real the salvation of Christ to the hearts of men. If you resist the working of the Spirit of God when He speaks to you, my friend, there is no forgiveness, of course.”
Along the same lines, the previously mentioned Dr. Ironside also wrote:
“…if they speak against the Holy Spirit, that is, in the sense, of course, of utterly rejecting His testimony, then there can be no forgiveness, for it is only through the Spirit’s testimony that the Son of Man is made known.”
You see, to rightly understand this whole subject, it is vital that we understand the role that God the Holy Spirit plays in salvation. First, the Spirit convicts the lost sinner concerning the sinner’s sin (John 16:8). Second, He (the Spirit is not an “it”) strives with the sinner over the sinner’s need for forgiveness and salvation (Genesis 6:3). Third, He works to convince the sinner of the sinner’s need to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior (John 15:26, 16:14). Fourth, at the moment the sinner chooses to believe in Christ as Savior, the Spirit comes to indwell the sinner’s body (Romans 8:9-11, 1 Corinthians 6:19, Titus 3:5). It is this indwelling of God the Holy Spirit that creates the “born again” experience in the person (John 3:1-8).
But what if a lost sinner time and time again refuses the Holy Spirit’s convicting, striving, and convincing? Well, that is where the issue of blaspheming the Holy Spirit comes into play, and at some point the Holy Spirit will simply stop working on that lost sinner. And it is then that the lost sinner will have committed the unpardonable sin. I think that Dr. John R. Rice described the potential situation perfectly when he wrote:
“The unpardonable sin is a complete and final rejection of Christ so definite and blasphemous that it insults and drives away the Holy Spirit forever. Then He no longer moves the heart, brings conviction or arouses desire for salvation.”
Let me close with an illustration that I trust will help. Let’s say that you have a life-threatening disease, but your doctor knows about a cure and tries repeatedly to tell you about it. But, for whatever reason, you refuse to hear his words. When he walks in to see you, you get up and leave. When he calls on the phone, you hang up. When he sends you a letter, you throw it away without opening it. When he sends you an email or a text, you immediately delete it. And so what happens? Well, finally, after his best efforts have been repeatedly rebuffed, the doctor says, “Alright, if you want to die, go ahead because I’m through trying to help you.” And so you die. But what killed you? Was it the disease? Yes, in a sense. But in another sense it was your refusal to heed the doctor who was trying to point you to the cure, to say nothing, of course, of your lack of the cure. Now let’s put it all together. Your fatal disease is sin. The doctor who is trying to help you is God the Holy Spirit, and the cure He is trying to get you to take advantage of is Jesus Christ. Now do you understand? That is how one commits the unpardonable sin today.