An Unforgivable Sin…?
A dear friend recently asked about Jesus’ statement in Luke 12:10:
“Yet those who speak against the Son of Man may be forgiven, but anyone who speaks blasphemies against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.”
I guess I always thought that ALL sins were forgiven on the Cross. I didn’t realize there was an exception. Thoughts?
Thanks for bringing up this important topic, my friend!
Jesus does reveal that there is one “unpardonable/unforgiveable sin” (no, it’s not suicide!): when we look at the context of Luke 12:10 (the verses before and after it) by looking at Matthew 12:22-37 (Scripture needs to be used to interpret other parts of Scripture, just as high-powered microscopes are used to create prescription reading glasses), we see that the “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” was when some of the religious officials accused Jesus of driving out Satan/demons by the power of Satan.
Thus, the unforgiveable sin is to believe that the Holy Spirit’s power is from Satan.
Many years ago I was absolutely terrified that I had somehow committed this sin and not realized it; a wise friend told me that if I had committed this sin I wouldn’t feel any regret/sorrow/repentance over it. I simply wouldn’t care.
Recently, some friends of mine wisely pointed out that the only sin that cannot be forgiven is when a person rejects Jesus throughout their whole life and decides NOT to accept His free gift of forgiveness. Since one of the Holy Spirit’s roles is to testify/be a witness to Jesus’ identity as God and Savior, by rejecting Jesus a person is rejecting the Holy Spirit’s witness and therefore blaspheming Him. Now there is always hope that a person can receive Jesus as Savior, no matter what terrible things they have done and how long they have run away from God. But if a person’s earthly life ends with them refusing Jesus, then they can’t possibly be forced into heaven and God’s family against their will.
My friend’s response
Gotcha. This raises another issue: I know that we cannot lose our salvation, but what kind of impact would this have on a follower of Jesus who once believed in Him but who hardened his/her heart over time through sin? How would such unfaithfulness affect their experience in heaven?
Truthfully, I’m not totally sure that a true believer in Jesus could even commit this sin nowadays—it might have been a specific sin for those who actually saw Jesus in the flesh during His earthly ministry circa 4 B.C.-30 A.D. Not certain about that but just speculating.
However, I do think the Bible is clear that saved people (those who have accepted the forgiveness of Jesus Christ) can harden their hearts and thus face the following consequences (please click on Scripture passages below to read the actual Bible verses):
- Lose certain privileges/blessings/positions of authority (Daniel 5:19-21) (though this particular passage speaks of a non-believer, Nebuchadnezzar);
- Cause general problems/suffering (Proverbs 28:14);
- Make it more difficult for us to hear/obey God (Ezekiel 3:7);
- Make it more difficult to respect/worship God (Isaiah 63:17);
- Not be able to understand certain spiritual Truth (Mark 6:51-52)(Mark 8:14-21)
- Make it difficult to truly repent to the LORD (this is regarding non-believers)(John 12:40);
- Foolish actions/general ignorance (Ephesians 4:18);
- God will stop listening to our prayers (Isaiah 1:5-20, esp. verse 15).
Though Christians with hard hearts can and will enter heaven, I agree with you—I do think it will affect their rewards in heaven
Lots of people have lots of different opinions.
The theory that resonates with me best is by Millard Erickson—he speculates that God’s reward in heaven (not to get us into heaven, however—entrance is purely a free gift of God through faith in Jesus!)—which are determined by the faithfulness of each Christ-follower while on earth—will be a heightened internal ability to appreciate/notice/experience the joys/details/wonders of heaven, just as different people sitting at a symphony will experience different levels of ability to understand the nuances of the individual musicians/composer.
But here’s what I focus on with regards to the times when I as a born-again believer sin/have a hard heart:
- When I genuinely repent, God promises to forgive me and soften my heart over time (1 John 1:9);
- No sin I can commit can separate me from God’s love (His love is even more special/important than His blessings!)(Romans 8:34-39);
- God uses even my sins and will bring good out of them (He is skilled at bringing diamonds out of coal!)(Genesis 50:20)(Romans 8:28).
- Regardless of the rewards I get or don’t get in heaven, it will be a place beyond my wildest dreams because I will see Him face-to-face forever (1 Corinthians 2:9)(1 Corinthians 13:12).