“ ‘Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’—for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’ “ Mark 3:28-30 There is another mention of the “unpardonable sin,” in Luke 12:10, “And every one who speaks a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
To understand what is going on in Mark 3 we need to understand the context of the statement. Jesus had healed a man with a withered hand, but He had done it on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6) and this stirred up the Pharisees who began to plot how to destroy Him. (v. 6) The Pharisees believed healing was work and since work was forbidden on the Sabbath, Jesus was guilty of breaking the Sabbath and should be condemned.
A little later Jesus finds himself mobbed by people from Galilee, Judea, Jerusalem, and Idumea as well as people from the great cities of Tyre and Sidon. They had heard of the miracles He performed and came seeking Him out to know more about Him as well as find healing for their own illnesses.
In verse 11 we are told, “And whenever the unclean spirits beheld Him, they fell down before Him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God.’ “ Even evil spirits were overwhelmed by being in the presence of Jesus and could not keep themselves from crying out that He was the “Son of God”.
“Then He went home” and that is where the trouble began. First of all according to verse 20 so many people showed up at His home that He and His disciples couldn’t eat. Then His family heard about what was happening and they came to “seize Him” because they were embarrassed since people were saying, “He is beside Himself”. (v. 21)
Finally the scribes came down from Jerusalem and pronounced, “He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons He casts out the demons.” (v. 32) Their charge was that He was possessed and through that possession by Satan He was casting out demons.
Jesus answers the foolishness of the argument by giving them a parable, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.” Mark 3:23-27
Jesus next words are the ones He spoke regarding the unpardonable sin (v. 28-30) so what are we to make from all this? From the context we see that the Scribes are attributing the work of God to Satan and therefore equating Jesus with Satan. We could say that the unpardonable sin is to attribute the work of God to Satan.
The reason that it is considered unpardonable is because we can only come to repentance, acceptance and the cross through the wooing of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts us of grace and God’s mercy. He works upon our hearts to motivate us towards the saving substitutionary grace of God.
When we contribute the workings, leadings, and pleadings of God to Satan then we cut ourselves off from the only avenue we have to know God. Notice verse 28 tells us, “All sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter.”
The fact that we sin and do wrong can all be forgiven when we honestly repent of those sins. But that is the point. People who, like the Scribes, think good is evil don’t repent because they have blocked out the work of the Holy Spirit in their life by associating Him with Satan.
Jesus is telling the Scribes as long as you attribute the grace of God to Satan (v. 30) you will never come to repentance because you wouldn’t know the work of the Holy Spirit if you fell over Him.
The reason I wrote this post is because so many Christians think the unpardonable sin is something they do. They believe that if they can’t stop a particular sin, that is the unpardonable sin, or if they do something that is really bad, that is the unpardonable sin.
One Christian believed that her depression was the unpardonable sin because she couldn’t shake it. Way too many Christians confuse physical problems with spiritual issues and end up in a strange concoction of mixing emotions, illness, and spirituality into a cauldron of total discouragement and despair.
Any sin you commit, regardless of how bad, can be forgiven when you have the desire to repent of it. The note on Mark 3:29 in the Harper Study Bible hits the nail on the head. “The only way you can commit the unpardonable sin is to consciously, persistently, deliberately and maliciously reject the testimony of the Spirit to the deity and saving power of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen to that!
The unpardonable sin is simply the turning away from the promptings of the Holy Spirit to such a degree that eventually you no longer hear His voice calling you to repentance. These people end up like the Scribes believing that the good gifts of God are actually evil or the work of Satan.
Let me close by saying this. I grew up in a Christian tradition that believed spirituality was always manifested certain ways. Other churches, traditions, or Christians who believed differently from us or practiced and believed different points of Scripture from how we understood them were somehow fooled or believed lies. We had a bit of a superior view of our faith and sometimes came to believe that what others believed was not only false but also from an evil source, and I’m sure other Christians often thought that about us.
Over the years I think that way of thinking has changed and we as Christians aren’t quite as quick to see evil as the underlying source of why people believe differently, spiritually speaking. I have the privilege of studying the Bible with dozens of Christians from all different backgrounds and through my association with them I have learned so much about the leadings and directions of God. I have realized how easy it is to attribute what we don’t understand or haven’t experienced to Satan when instead, we are actually witnessing or experiencing the work of God.
As Christians we must never leave our intellect and caution at home but we must also never be too quick to condemn others because they worship differently or believe God is actively at work in the world through miracles, healings, and the casting out of demons.
The unpardonable sin is to close our eyes to the gracious work of God and instead, judge that work as evil thus rejecting the Holy Spirit’s intervention and ministry in the lives of others as well as our own lives.
On a positive note no one who is open to God and His love, regardless of their background and sinful past, has committed the unpardonable sin. Grace always calls our name and we simply need to listen.
* The persecution of Christians has not stopped. If anything it’s increased. The main stream media doesn’t talk about it much anymore but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening. Pray and stay informed and inform others. Please take the time to read some of their stories at http://thebeggardanced.com/nine-oclock-club/ there is much more on the internet…