What Do We Say to Christians Who Fear They Have Committed the Unpardonable Sin?

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A Question in Apologetics

Lesson 117

 I received a call yesterday from a Christian gentleman who was deeply distraught over a passage of Scripture he had read in Mark 4:28-29 where Jesus says: “People will be forgiven for all sins and whatever blasphemies they may blaspheme.  But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” 

This Christian gentleman has a sensitive soul that seems to be acutely tuned into any and every sin he might commit. He has an alive and well conscience that does not hesitate to let him know when he has not just crossed the line but got a wee bit too close to the line.

Having had the privilege of serving as a pastor for most of my life, I view this Christian gentleman’s sensitivity as a good thing!  It is a sign that he has not blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. Matter of fact, with his sensitive conscience he is not likely to cross “a line in the sand” much less a highway, and certainly not a mega-interstate of infidelity called blasphemy.

I agree wholeheartedly with a note in The Apologetics Study Bible on the parallel passage in Matthew: “There is no biblical evidence that a genuine Christian can commit this sin.  Fear that one has done so is probably a good sign that one hasn’t, for full-fledged apostasy is a defiant rejection of everything Christian and lacks the tender conscience that would be worried about such an action” (p. 1425).

Eternal security of the believer is a question that perplexes many Christians.

Let’s examine the context for Jesus’ words about blasphemy. Marks sets the scene for us when he tells how “scribes who had come down from Jerusalem said, ‘He (Jesus) has Beelzebul in Him!’ and, ‘He drives out demons by the ruler of demons.’” Jesus answered their absurd argument: “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 rebels against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is finished!”

Their attack on Jesus is absolutely absurd, but it clearly reveals how they had hardened their hearts and blinded their eyes to God Who was standing right in front of them in the Person of Jesus Christ! They had refused to open their heart, soul, and mind to Jesus, slammed the door to their lives in the face of Jesus.

There had sealed themselves from the influence much less presence of God’s Spirit. They who had inoculated themselves against Jesus were truly guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit and squelching any sense of sinfulness on their part, and therefore there was no hope for repentance with resultant forgiveness. Where there is not a trace of culpability for the most outrageous there can be no mercy from the most gracious God.

Although I have met few such hardened hearted scribes and pharaoh-types in my life, I have known a considerable number of Christians with ever so tender consciences who have been troubled by these words of Jesus in not only Mark but Matthew and Luke. Biblical scholar F. F. Bruce writes how this is not an uncommon problem for Christians.  He observes how it crops up in literature:

There is the Welsh preacher Peter Williams, breaking the silence of night in George Borrow’s Lavengro with his anguished cry:  ‘Pechod Ysprydd Glan!  O pechod Ysprydd Glan!’ (‘Oh, the sin against he Holy Spirit!’) – which was persuaded he had committed.  Or there is Mr. Paget in Edmund Gosse’s Father and Son, who had thrown up his cure of souls because he became convinced that he had committed the Sin against the Holy Ghost … Everybody longed to know what the exact nature had been of that sin against the Holy Ghost which had deprived Mr. Paget of every glimmer of hope for time or for eternity.  It was whispered that even my Father himself was not precisely acquainted with the character of it.  Of course not, because the “sin” existed only in Mr. Paget’s imagination (F.F. Bruce, Hard Sayings of Jesus, pp. 88-89).

We as Christians take heart in knowing that once the Holy Spirit has convicted us of our sins and convinced us to admit our sinfulness, believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, and commit to burying our sinful, self-centered life and beginning a Christ-centered life, we have “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine, O What a Foretaste of Glory Divine, Heir of Salvation, Purchase of God.”

Once saved, always saved. There is no reason to fear that we have committed the unpardonable sin! We cannot and will not blaspheme against the Holy Spirit who has taken up residence in our lives, and enlivens our conscience and enlightens our minds! We have every reason to look forward with hope and anticipation as we are inspired and empowered by Christ to love one another as He loves us!

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