Did I Commit the Unforgivable Sin by Accident?
What is the Unforgivable Sin, and Is It Possible to Commit It by Mistake?
Jesus mentions the unforgivable sin in three different Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – and in all three, he consistently says that the unforgivable sin is the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The question is, “what in the world does that mean?” By answering this question, we’ll also be able to answer the question, “is it possible for Christians to commit the unforgivable sin unknowingly?”
We’ll be using Matthew 12:27-32 as our source text (but please keep in mind that all of Matthew 12 is necessary context).
Matthew 12:27-32 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 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.
In this passage, Jesus is in the middle of a bout with the Pharisees who have accused Him of being a false teacher/prophet. It culminates with them finally accusing him of using Satan’s power to perform the miracles they’ve witnessed. Jesus’ response is epic because he not only dismantles their argument but also takes it a step further and reveals the corrupt nature of their hearts.
There are two things to keep in mind from the general context of Matthew 12:
a) Jesus is doing the works of God! And he says as much in vs. 28. But also,
b) The fact that Jesus is doing the works of God means that his works are revealing the Kingdom of God. Subsequently, what the Pharisees are rejecting is not just the power of God but the Kingdom of God itself.
We also need to point out a more subtle detail in this passage. Notice in verse 32 that Jesus references the Son of Man. He never says that he is the Son of Man, nor does he refer to himself here as the Son of God or the Messiah. He simply references the Son of Man in regard to people blaspheming him, but in a somewhat obscure way. What’s with that?
This is yet another example of Jesus veiling his identity early on in his ministry. Why not just come out and say it? Why not say, “whoever speaks a word against me, the son of God, will be forgiven”?
In the early part of Jesus’ ministry, he made a determined effort to remain incognito. Anyone who reads the Gospels regularly will pick up on this. He did not come out in the early days of his ministry saying: “Hey everyone, look at me, I am the Messiah,” at least, not publicly. But the question is, why the secrecy?
There are many reasons for this, but the most important is that the Jews of Jesus’ day expected something completely different in their messiah than what they received in Jesus. They were expecting a mighty warrior king like the legendary David who would free them from the oppressive rule of the Romans. Jesus, on the other hand, was a lowly carpenter from a poor family. He indeed came to earth “in the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:7). Nonetheless, he wanted people, no – he expected people – to recognize who he was based on his works, not based on his Davidic pedigree. According to Jesus, the works that he was doing were enough to prove that he was, in fact, the messiah sent from God (v.28).
So, what does all this add up to? In rejecting the work that Jesus was doing via the Holy Spirit, the Pharisees weren’t just rejecting Jesus, they were rejecting God and his Kingdom.
This is why when Jesus makes a claim in v.32 that, “rejecting the Son of Man is forgivable,” what he’s actually saying is this: “you may not recognize me as the Messiah because I don’t fit your expectations, but the works that I’m doing (via the Holy Spirit) are more than enough to prove who I really am.” Unfortunately, the Pharisees who were harassing Jesus in this instance did not honor or esteem the works he was doing. Consequently, they were found to be intentionally, willfully, decidedly rejecting God and His Kingdom.
With this context in view, let’s return to our question: what does it mean to “blaspheme the Holy Spirit?” What is the unforgivable sin? It is to intentionally, willfully, decidedly reject God and His Kingdom. That’s it.
Is it possible for people to commit the unforgivable sin unknowingly? Almost certainly not. People who reach the point of intentionally, willfully rejecting God and his Kingdom don’t do it by accident. The Pharisees certainly didn’t, and neither does anyone else. Sadly, those who reject God’s Kingdom have reached the point of no return, and that is not something we should wish on anyone.
The great news is this: God does not want anyone to perish but is slow to anger and desires everyone to reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9). What does that mean? It means that for the vast majority of people, if you’re still alive, there’s still time. If you have not yet accepted Jesus as your savior, if you have not made him your Lord and received his forgiveness for your sins, what are you waiting for? The greatest thing a human being could ever do is become united to their creator through his son, Jesus (there is no other way). Knowing him is the life that you were created for. It’s time to start living it.
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