The unforgivable sin

Matthew asked the question whether there can be forgiveness for someone having personally known Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour and then walking back into the world, can he or she receive forgiveness and be restored in Christ by the Spirit? How to deal with fear and thoughts of condemnation?

Moved by the Holy Spirit, millions of people of all age start to trust Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour every year. Too many of them walk for a time with the Lord and then seem to turn away from him again. Many of those desire to come back and to be restored again in their peace relationship with him by the Holy Spirit. Is this possible?

Hebrews 6:4–6 warns us,

4For it is impossible (Ἀδύνατον ; adynaton), in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit,

5and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come,

6and then have fallen away (παραπεσόντας ; parapesontas, participle aorist), to restore them again to repentance (πάλιν ἀνακαινίζειν εἰς μετάνοιαν ; anakainizein eis matanoias), since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.

According to Matthew 12:31 (ESV) Jesus states,

31Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

It seems that Matt 12:31 indicates that there is one sin that cannot be forgiven. That is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This seems to correspond to what Hebrews says about those that have known the Lord and then abandon him. They cannot be admitted again to repentance.

On the other hand, we have texts such as :

Romans 11:11 (ESV)

11So I ask, did they stumble in order that they might fall? By no means! Rather, through their trespass salvation has come to the Gentiles, so as to make Israel jealous.

This seems to indicate that people sin, even stumble but yet this is not the same as if they had fallen.

Revelation 2:5 (ESV) exhorts us,

5Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

According to this text, it is clearly possible to fall and then to repent and thereby be restored again.

How can we resolve these apparent contradictions?

According to Matthew 12 Jesus chased a demon from a demon-possessed man. Some Pharisees stated publicly that Jesus did this by Beelzebul, the boss of the demons. Jesus answers with the principle that the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Jesus does not precisely say that those Pharisees had already committed that sin but were at least in danger of committing it. The blasphemy against the Spirit cannot be forgiven because the heart of the person blaspheming against the Spirit is so hard that this person does not repent and will never come to a point of repentance in life. It is a condition of the heart that resists the Holy Spirit to a point that what is obviously the work of the Holy Spirit is called work of the devil. This is not by lack of recognition of the work of the Holy Spirit. It is based on the recognition of the work of the Holy Spirit being his and yet calling it the work of the devil. Jesus was quoting just before from Isaiah 61 pointing to himself thereby as the Messiah, who does the work of healing people, setting demon-possessed people free and proclaiming the good news of forgiveness and restoration. The Messiah Jesus does all of this by the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees knew this text too well and why Jesus quoted it. They did not believe that he was the Messiah, but they knew that what Jesus did was by the Holy Spirit. Yet, they called these miracles demonic works.

Hebrews 6 speaks about people who have known the Lord and then fall away definitely (the participle aorist refers the definite fact of having fallen away). The text does not say that they desire to repent and then the church refuses to accept them. The text is about “thorns and thistles near to being burned” (Hebrew 6:8). This obviously refers to the type of heart of those that have fallen away. The one that renews the mind and leads to repentance is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does this if someone has a humble heart, recognises his or her need of restoration and desires to experience the cleansing and restoring work of the Spirit in Christ. These people do not desire it. In that case it is impossible, to whom? To the Holy Spirit to renew their minds and lead them to repentance, to metanoia, to a change of thinking. Anything impossible to the Holy Spirit? Yes, to go against his own will to respect the will of those that do not want to live in peace with God.

The reason is that these people have as a process planted thistles and thorns, they have watered them carefully, cherished them on their way to curse, to condemnation, to eternal judgment. This is a deliberate process that does not speak about one sin, but a life of hardening more and more against the Holy Spirit, who is constantly at work to call people to be restored in their peace relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a wilful and constant resistance to the Holy Spirit.

Those who desire to be restored are not among them. Those who desire to be restored have nothing to fear because there is no condemnation for those that are in Jesus Christ (Rom 8:1). Don’t fear, but rejoice, because if you desire to be restored and you ask for forgiveness and you want to walk with Jesus, this is precisely because you have not blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. It is because you have not walked away to never return back to the Lord. The Holy Spirit is working in you and places this desire in your heart because Jesus loves you and desires to restore the intimate relationship with you so that you can experience love and peace that the world does not know. In this love and peace, all fear disappears, all thought of condemnation is reduced to nothing.

Just embrace fearlessly the work of the Holy Spirit and thank Jesus for such great salvation that he has purchased for us and enjoy that deep peace that only the Holy Spirit is able to give.

1 John 1:9 (ESV)

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Matthew 11:28 (ESV)

28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Isaiah 43:1–3 (ESV)

1But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

2When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.

3For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.


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