The idea that there is a sin which, once
committed, can never be forgiven is terrifying, but often misunderstood. There
is a similarity but a significant difference in “sin unto death” and
“unpardonable sin.” There are a few facts and principles that must be
recognized if we are to arrive at the truth in dealing with any sin and about
the consequences of failing to deal with it properly.
THE EXPRESSIONS THE UNPARDONABLE SIN AND THE SIN UNTO DEATH ARE NOT IN
One of the most interesting (puzzling to
some) things about the Greek language is that although there is a definite
article there is no indefinite article.
In English and in most languages both definite (the) and indefinite (a,
an) articles are used. When a particular or stipulated one is intended the
article the is used to specify it and separate it from all others. When an
indefinite article is expected, the syntax of the Greek sentence just gives the
noun itself without the definite article. It is up to the translator to supply
the indefinite article or to leave it out, depending upon the context.
The definite article never appears with
regard to unpardonable sin or sin unto death. In 1 John 5:16 we read, “If
anyone sees his brother sin a (any) sin which is not unto death, he shall ask,
and He [God] shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a
sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” The ASV translates the
last part of this verse as follows: “There is a sin unto death: not concerning
this do I say that he should make request.” It makes better sense to leave out
the article in this case. Even to say a sin unto to death is to imply that
there is one, a specific one. To say “there is sin not unto death” and “sin
unto death” indicates that there is a
kind or category of sin that is forgivable and a kind that is not forgivable.
Many sins may fall into either of the categories but the category is not
limited to that or any other particular sin. In Matthew 12:31-32 (parallel in
Mark 3:28-29) we read that any and all sins and blasphemies can be forgiven
except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – that particular sin shall not be
forgiven either in the present world or the world to come, but brings eternal
THE END RESULT OF ANY AND ALL SINS IS SPIRITUAL DEATH.
There is no sin that does not lead to
spiritual death. The idea of irrelevant or unimportant sins – venial sins and
mortal sins, big sins and little sins; sins automatically forgiven and sins
that require confession and repentance for specific forgiveness – is not true.
The whole concept is invalid. The wages of any and all sins is death (Rom.
6:23). Any sin, when it is finished,
brings forth death. According to James, any temptation can lead to sin and
death (James 1:14-15). The death due to sin is spiritual – separation of the
soul from God – not physical. In fact there may be many sins that do not cause
physical death at all, ever. But any and every sin causes a separation from God
until it is acknowledged and repented, and forgiveness is obtained. The question is, how can one avoid that
result? How can one escape the death that is justly due to his own sin,
whatever it is?
THE RESULT OF SIN IS THE SAME FOR EVERYBODY,
CHRISTIAN OR NOT.
The idea that sins committed by Christians
are not counted against them is false. There is not one shred of biblical
evidence for that. Name any sin – lying, stealing, adultery, idolatry, sins of
commission or omission – all sin is sin no matter who the guilty person is. Ignorant
sin is still sin. Many sin inadvertently, not knowingly or willingly, but
because they do not know at the time that the matter is wrong.
Relationship of grace to forgiveness:
Although it is not the point of the present lesson, it must be noted that grace
covers inadvertent sin for those who are consciously striving to be faithful
but who miss some part of the standard of God without knowing or intending
it. However, when the sin becomes known
repentance and correction are required for forgiveness, just as it would be in
deliberate and willing sin (1 John 1:7-9).
ANY SIN ONE CAN AND DOES REPENT OF CAN BE FORGIVEN.
Logically, one cannot repent of anything he
does not acknowledge or confess. All manner of sins and blasphemies can be
forgiven -- if confessed; if repented, if one quits doing it. Unconfessed or
unrepented sin will not be forgiven (1 John 1:8-9, Luke 13:3, 5. Acts 2:38,
Acts 3:19). One cannot continue in a sin
and expect that it will be forgiven (1 John 3:9). It is not that a Christian
cannot sin, or that nothing a Christians does will be called sin. Sin is sin,
no matter who the guilty person is (1 John 1:8, James 5:16). The “cannot sin”
in 1 John 3:9 is a continuing action participle. It means one cannot be
forgiven if he continues in sin. Compare Rom. 6:1. How shall we who died to sin
live/continue any longer in it?
Any sin that one commits and continues in,
does not repent and receive forgiveness for, is a sin that results in spiritual
death. If sin is not forgiven during one’s life it becomes an eternal sin – it
will never be forgiven, not in this world or what comes after. When a sin is
forgiven it is no longer a sin unto death, a sin that brings spiritual death.
How can one avoid sinning a sin unto death? Confess it, repent it and pray for
forgiveness from God – fulfill all other requirements God may impose, such as
restitution in some cases. When we know one does not repent or confess a sin,
that sin is “unto death” and we cannot ask God to forgive it. Only if one
repents can we pray that God will grant spiritual life.
SPECIFIC SIN IN MATTHEW 12:31-32 AND MARK 3:28-29 THAT CANNOT BE FORGIVEN.
It is called blasphemy against the Holy
Spirit. It is not simply saying something derogatory against the Holy Spirit.
This may be done in ignorance (1 Tim. 1:12-13). It is not simply insulting or
slandering the Holy Spirit – showing disrespect or spite against the Spirit of
grace (Heb. 10:29). It is not ignorantly
or mistakenly attributing the works of the Spirit to the devil, as in the
context of both references. Nor is it attributing the works of the devil to the
Holy Spirit, which some actually do – claiming tongues and other miraculous
powers, for example. See 2 Thess. 2:8-10 (claiming a gift or power the Holy
Spirit denies is a blasphemy against the Spirit of God). As Jesus implies (notice the context
carefully), the unforgivable blasphemy is steadfastly maintaining an erroneous
charge against the Holy Spirit when one knows it is not and cannot be true. In
the context he shows them that their contention that he works for and by the
devil is illogical, unreasonable, and impossible. Note: some people never let logic or
rationality deter them from what they want to believe or practice, and an
irrational position is often the excuse for refusing to believe and accept and
do what one does not want. But even blasphemy, whether ignorant or deliberate,
can be forgiven if one can and will repent. It is possible that maintaining a
blasphemy can so harden one that he cannot repent. In that case the sin becomes permanently and
eternally unforgivable (Heb. 6:4-6). We too are admonished: Today, if you hear
his voice, harden not your heart (Heb. 3:7-8, 4:7b).
The lesson is simple: listen and learn
while you can still hear; repent while you still can; obey while you still can.
The time is coming at death and beyond, when one will want to obey and will
not be able, will not be allowed to do so. The time may come during life when
one will want to say yes, but not be able.
The time may come when one will not be able to repent and change – one
may actually be in an unsaved and unsavable condition. If you will not or
cannot repent and obey, no matter how much you know and believe of the truth of
God, then you cannot and will not be saved.
Hear the word of the Lord; believe it and confess it. If you can and do
call upon Him in obedient penitent faith, you will be saved. Rom. 10:13