The Unforgivable Sin

Matthew 12:31–32 (ESV)

31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

This is a verse that has been known to cause concern among believers and can lead one to doubt their salvation. I think it’s important to take a closer look at this verse and those surrounding it. Before we do this, we must remind ourselves of a couple of points regarding the doctrine of Scripture: Authority and Inerrancy.

Authority is the power or weight Scripture possesses because it is a divine revelation given by divine inspiration: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We can rest assured the words in our Bible are divinely inspired.

Inerrancy means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind.” (Numbers 23:19).

These two attributes tell us that what Jesus said in verse 32 is absolutely true but we can also understand that what He said does not contradict any other Scripture. This is important, especially when we consider John 10:28-30: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

In this verse, Jesus speaks of our eternal security as a believer. So how can we reconcile Matthew 12:32?

The response of Jesus needs to be understood with regard to whom He was speaking. The Pharisees had just accused our Savior of using demonic powers to cast out demons – in essence attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. The reason Jesus did not condemn them for not speaking in similar manner about Him also was because He had emptied Himself of His divine nature (Philippians 2:7) to take on His role of a servant. He remained fully God, but chose to present himself as human. However, the evidence of the divine work Jesus performed and the work of the Holy Spirit cannot be mistaken and to do so was to deny God.

Those who do so and remain unrepentant condemn themselves. Thus, the unforgivable sin exists only for a person who refuses God’s forgiveness during his lifetime. Can this person change his mind, repent, and be saved? Yes, our God is faithful and just and ready to forgive (Psalm 86:5; Nehemiah 9:17; Isaiah 55:7; 1 John 1:9).

So take heart, fellow believer. The fact that you have such a concern is evidence of the Holy Spirit working in you and there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).