The most fateful words ever spoken by Jesus had to do with the fearful possibility of committing the unpardonable sin. He said, "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men" (Matthew 12:31).
No one can misconstrue the clear message of these verses. There is a sin unto death. A man or woman may pass over a line which separates God's mercy and His wrath and not be able to come back. These chilling words of our Lord stand in stark contrast to His usually benevolent utterances. For this reason, if for no other, they should be examined with great care.
What is this sin which heaven regards with such abhorrence and loathing? Why will God deal so severely with those who are guilty of this sin? To the human mind a great number of depraved and cruel acts might fall into such a category, but which one of them would God count so heinous and horrible that it could never be forgiven?
Occasionally, one meets an individual who wonders if he has committed this sin. His prayers seem to bounce back from the ceiling, and he feels no hope of God's favor or forgiveness. Yet he can't identify any particular act of sin that severed him from the hope of salvation. How can he tell if he has actually committed the unpardonable sin? Can a person really know?
Before answering all the troubling questions people ask about the unpardonable sin, a glorious truth needs to be recognized. We serve a God of infinite love and compassion. It is not His will that anyone should be lost. He has made provision in His Word for every soul to be cleansed and sanctified. The incredible promise of 1 John 1:9 applies to every man, woman, or child in the world today: "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
On the condition of sincere confession, God promises to forgive any sin, regardless of its nature. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18).
What a special assurance for those who have violated every law of God and man in their wild plunge into degradation. God loves them still! There is no guilt too great for Him to cleanse away. He waits with outstretched arms to receive any who take the first step toward His forgiveness and mercy.
Such a picture of God seems totally at odds with the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:31, 32. If the Father is so willing to forgive and save, why should there be such a thing as an unpardonable sin? The answer is simple. This sin is never forgiven because it is never confessed. It is never repented of. God will not force His pardon upon sinners. They must repent and confess. Even the beautiful promise of 1 John 1:9 contains that significant little word "if "—"if we confess our sins .." On the authority of God's Word, we can be assured that every sin will be forgiven if confessed in faith and repentance.
Various opinions have been put forth as to why this one sin is never confessed. Some believe it to be suicide; others, that it must be some dreadful immorality or cursing of the Holy Spirit.
One thing is certain—it is a sin! That is a good starting point, because the Bible gives a simple definition of that ugly little word "sin." "Whosoever committeth sin trans-gresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4). Paul enlarges on that statement by declaring that sin is the breaking of the Ten-Commandment law. "I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet" (Romans 7:7).
Not only does the unpardonable sin have something to do with the breaking of God's great moral law, but it also is an offense against the Holy Spirit. The nature of that offense is tied closely to the primary functions of the Spirit. Jesus said, "But the Comforter which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26).
Besides teaching us all things, Jesus indicated that the Spirit will also "guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). Every searching student of the Word has probably experienced this teaching, guiding influence of the Holy Spirit. There can be no true insight into biblical truth without the enlightenment of this Spirit of God.
The third mission of the Holy Spirit is to convict of sin. Jesus said: "It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:7, 8).
It is the special work of the Spirit to reprove or convict us of sin. When wrongs are committed, the conscience is pricked with a sense of guilt. Please take note that as long as we allow the Holy Spirit to teach, guide, and convict, we could never be guilty of committing the unpardonable sin. But suppose we refuse to acknowledge these three offices of the Spirit in our own personal experience with God? That is when people approach the deadly parameters of the worst sin on record.
It is intriguing to study the actual incidence of this sin in the Bible record. At one time practically everyone in the world passed over that point of no return. "And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years" (Genesis 6:3).
Here God speaks of the antediluvian world which perished in the flood. For over a hundred years the Holy Spirit pleaded with that wicked generation through the preaching of Noah. Although the very imagination of their hearts was evil continually, a small remnant of eight responded to the Spirit and entered the ark. All the rest were swept away in the raging waters which covered every inch of the earth's surface. After years of patient striving, the Spirit withdrew to leave the stubborn resisters to their chosen fate.
Could the same thing happen again? There is an amazing parallel between the days of Noah and today. Jesus said, "As it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man" (Luke 17:26). The very same gross excesses are being committed right now in all the great cities of the world. Perversions of the worst degree still mark the carnal course of every nation under the sun.
Why did the vast majority of pre-flood people refuse to enter the ark of safety? Many of them actually helped Noah in the construction of the huge boat. The Holy Spirit deeply stirred them with conviction, but they would not move out to obey the message. Finally, God said, "Let them alone. My Spirit will no longer strive with them."
Is there going to be another flood? Indeed so. But it will be a flood of fire, utterly destroying this planet and its contents. How is the world responding to the call of God to enter the ark of protection and safety? The same Spirit pleads today; a similar message of separation and revival is being sounded; and the Spirit of God is being treated exactly as in Noah's day.
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