“Did I commit the unforgivable sin? I feel like I’m going to Hell.” What do we do when we or someone we care about feels this way? In our ministry we are seeing more and more people who are concerned that they may have committed the unpardonable sin, and it is clear that we need to address this issue clearly. Whether you struggle with this issue yourself, or want to help someone who does, you will find practical help below.
This idea of an unforgivable sin is seen in Mat. 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-30 and Luke 12:10, where Jesus is doing miracles, leading his followers to wonder whether he was the Messiah, the One promised in the Scriptures who would display the power and authority of God. His religious opponents were accusing him of working in partnership with the devil, rather than by the Spirit of God.
Christ said in reply that if his enemies spoke against him, they could be forgiven, but speaking against the Holy Spirit (by attributing the miracles to the devil) would never be forgiven. The traditional rendering of his phrase is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” Many think that they have blasphemed, grieved or rejected the Spirit for various reasons, which we will deal with here.
The actual unforgivable sin involves a hard-hearted rejection of Christ as the one sent by the Father and anointed by the Spirit, a refusal to recognize the Holy Spirit’s workings to draw one to repentance and salvation, and into the lordship of Christ. It involves a refusal to see the Holy Spirit’s sometimes (to the natural mind) mysterious workings as pointing to Christ and the Father.
This does not refer to a person who says something harsh or ungodly, nor to some terrible sin that a person desires to repent of. If I have sinned, no matter how terribly, but I want to repent and get right with God, this is not unforgivable. If a person wants Christ and wants to repent, God will forgive any sin. You can be very sure that if you or someone you know is worried or concerned about losing their salvation, or is scared of being separated from the Father, that help is available, and spiritual peace can be restored.
Louis Berkof wisely notes about the unforgivable sin, that “we may be reasonably sure that those who fear that they have committed it and worry about this, and desire the prayers of others for them, have not committed it.”
As we have helped different people with this issue, three factors seem to be most often involved when this happens. One is usually more pronounced.
1] A tendency to tolerate ongoing patterns of sin; a person who does not deeply deal with sin can find themselves with a sin consciousness that the enemy can easily take advantage of. When we are in sin, the resulting guilt can make it can seem as though God is angry with us. Psalm 66:18 tells us that “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened…” and this experience of unanswered prayer can make it seem as though God has completely rejected us.
Persistent sin also opens us up to the enemy’s deceptions, which can include a strong, almost overpowering sense of unworthiness and failure, which can lead to a feeling that we have sinned so badly that there is no forgiveness available to us, ever. The solution is deep, complete repentance and renunciation, with permanent avoidance of any sin. Prov. 28:13 tells us whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
2] When someone is struggling with fears about the unpardonable sin, strongholds are usually operating in the mind. One particular stronghold is almost always in place, and it comes in the form of an incorrect perception of who God really is. God is seen as a distant, cruel taskmaster that would cast them into hell the moment they mess up. If this mindset is present, meditation on the Scriptures and prayer will be helpful. Here are some passages that are recommended: 1 John 3:1, Rom. 5:8, Eph. 2:4-5, Psalm 103:8-18, Lamentations 3:22-23, Rom. 8:1, John 5:24, John 6:47, Romans 8:38-39. Also see the familiar story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:11-32.
3] Another stronghold we’ve encountered is one where a person sees themselves incorrectly. They see themselves as dirty old sinners, when they ought to be seeing themselves as sons and daughters that have been washed clean with the Blood of the Lamb and made right with God (providing they have repented of their sins and turned to Jesus). Or they see themselves as not worthy of God’s love. This likewise needs to be corrected by Scripture, prayer and study. The lies of the enemy need to be strongly resisted. Scriptures can include: 1 Cor. 6:19-20, 2 Tim. 1:7, 1 John 5:18, Rom. 8:28-39, Isaiah 43:4, 1 Peter 2:9, Deut. 14:12, Eph. 2:10.
Whichever one of these is more prevalent, it is important to understand that the enemy of our souls wants to either keep us in sin, or to distort our understanding of God our ourselves. We need to keep in mind that he is endlessly creative and focused on disrupting our lives with sin or wrong thinking. As Peter reminds us, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.” 1 Peter 5:8-9
If we stay aware that the enemy is always looking to cause trouble, staying in prayer and the Word, we can stay victorious.