There is a sin that God cannot forgive. It is called the unpardonable sin. Why can’t God forgive it? Some have questioned whether they are redeemable. In this study we find that we can go too far. But we may also find that the scriptures are full of hope in this very important study.
- What is the sin that God cannot forgive?
“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)
Answer: The sin God cannot forgive is “blasphemy against the Spirit.” But what is “blasphemy against the Spirit”? People have many differing beliefs about this sin. Some believe it is murder; some, cursing the Holy Spirit; some, a misunderstanding of the Holy Spirit, some, committing suicide; some, killing an unborn child; some, a denial of Christ; some, a heinous, wicked act; and others, worshiping a false god. The next question will shed some helpful light on this crucial matter.
- What does the Bible say about sin and blasphemy?
“All manner of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven unto men” (Matthew 12:31).
Answer: The Bible says that all kinds of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven. So none of the sins listed in question 1 is the sin that God cannot forgive. No single act of any kind is the unpardonable sin. It may sound contradictory, but both of the following statements are true:
A. Any and every kind of sin and blasphemy will be forgiven.
B. The blasphemy or sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
Jesus Made Both Statements
Jesus made both statements in Matthew 12:31, so there is no error here. To harmonize the statements, we must discover the work of the Holy Spirit.
- What is the work of the Holy Spirit?
“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment. … He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13).
Answer: The work of the Holy Spirit is to convict us of sin and to guide us into all truth. The Holy Spirit is God’s agency for conversion. Without the Holy Spirit, no one feels sorrow for sin, nor is anyone ever converted.
- When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin, what must we do to be forgiven?
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
Answer: When convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, we must confess our sins in order to be forgiven. When we confess them, God not only forgives but He also cleanses us from all unrighteousness. God is waiting and ready to forgive you for any and every sin you could commit (Psalm 86:5), but only if you confess and forsake it.
- What happens if we do not confess our sins when convicted by the Holy Spirit?
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh [them] shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)
Answer: If we do not confess our sins, Jesus cannot forgive our sins. Thus, any sin that we do not confess is unpardonable until we confess it, because forgiveness always follows confession. It never precedes it.
Terrible Danger of Resisting the Holy Spirit
Resisting the Holy Spirit is terribly dangerous because it so easily leads to total rejection of the Holy Spirit, which is the sin God can never forgive. It is passing the point of no return. Since God convicts us by the Holy Spirit, a continual denial of the words of that spirit (John 6:63) eventually leads to the voice of God no longer being heard in the soul. (Rev 18:23), our case is thereafter hopeless. This subject is so important that God illustrates and explains it many different ways in Scripture.
6. When the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin or leads us to new truth, when should we act?
Answer: The Bible says:
A. “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments” (Psalms 119:60).
B. “Behold, now [is] the accepted time; behold, now [is] the day of salvation.)” (2 Corinthians 6:2)
C. “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16)
The Bible repeatedly states that when we are convicted of sin, we must confess it at once. And when we learn new truth, we must accept it without delay.
- What solemn warning does God give about the pleading of His Holy Spirit?
“My spirit shall not always strive with man” (Genesis 6:3).
Answer: God solemnly warns that the Holy Spirit does not indefinitely continue pleading with a person to turn from sin and obey God.
- At what point does God stop pleading with a person?
“Therefore speak I to them in parables: because… hearing they hear not” (Matthew 13:13).
Answer: The Holy Spirit stops talking to a person when that individual becomes deaf to the voice. The Bible describes it as hearing but not hearing. There is no point in setting the alarm clock in a deaf person’s room. He won’t hear it. Likewise, a person can condition himself to not hear an alarm clock ring by repeatedly shutting it off and not getting up. The day finally comes when the alarm goes off and he does not hear it.
Don’t Shut Off the Holy Spirit
So it is with the Holy Spirit. If we don’t obey the word, one day it will speak to us and we will not hear our Father’s voice anymore. When that day comes, the Spirit sadly is taken away from us because we have become deaf to His pleadings. We have passed the point of no return.
9. God, through His Holy Spirit, brings light (John 1:9) and conviction (John 16:8) to every person. What must we do when we receive this light from the Holy Spirit?
“But the path of the just [is] as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked [is] as darkness” (Proverbs 4:19).
“Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you “(John 12:35).
Answer: The Bible rule is that when the Holy Spirit brings us new light or conviction of sin, we must act at once—obey without delay. If we obey and walk in the light as we receive it, God will continue giving us light. If we refuse, even the light that we have will go out, and we will be left in darkness. The darkness that comes from a persistent and final refusal to follow light is the result of rejecting the Spirit, and it leaves us without hope.
- Can any sin become the sin against the Holy Spirit?
Answer: Yes. If we steadfastly refuse to confess and forsake any sin, we will eventually become deaf to and thus grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30) and thus pass the point of no return. Following are a few Bible examples:
A. Judas’ unpardonable sin was covetousness (John 12:6). Why? Was it because God could not forgive it? No! It became unpardonable only because Judas refused to listen to the Holy Spirit and confess and forsake his sin of covetousness. Eventually he became deaf to the Spirit’s voice.
B. Lucifer’s unpardonable sins were pride and self-exaltation (Isaiah 14:12–14). While God can forgive these sins, Lucifer refused to listen until he could no longer hear the Spirit’s voice.
C. The Pharisees’ unpardonable sin was their refusal to accept Jesus as the Messiah (Mark 3:22–30). They were convinced repeatedly with heartfelt conviction that Jesus was the Messiah—the Son of the living God. But they hardened their hearts and stubbornly refused to accept Him as Savior and Lord. Finally they grew deaf to the Spirit’s voice. Then one day, after a wonderful miracle by Jesus, the Pharisees told the multitude that Jesus received His power from the devil. Christ at once told them that attributing His miracle-working power to the devil indicated they had passed the point of no return and had blasphemed the Holy Spirit. God could have, and joyfully would have, forgiven them. But they refused until they were stone deaf to the Holy Spirit and could no longer be reached.
I Cannot Choose the Consequences
When the Spirit makes His appeal, we can choose to respond or refuse, but we cannot choose the consequences. They are fixed. If we consistently respond, we will become like Jesus. The Holy Spirit will seal, or mark, us in the forehead as a child of God (Revelation 7:2, 3), and thus assure us a place in God’s heavenly kingdom. However, if we persistently refuse to respond, we will grieve away the Holy Spirit, sealing our doom.
11. After King David had committed a terrible double sin of adultery and murder, what anguished prayer did he pray?
“And take not thy holy spirit from me” (Psalms 51:11).
Answer: He pleaded with God not to take away the Holy Spirit from him. Why? Because David knew if the Holy Spirit left him, he was doomed from that moment. He knew that only the Holy Spirit could lead him to repentance and restoration, and he trembled at the thought of becoming deaf to God’s voice. The Bible tells us in another place that God finally left Ephraim alone because he was joined to his idols (Hosea 4:17) and would not listen to the Spirit. He had become spiritually deaf. The most tragic thing that can happen to a person is for God to have to turn away and leave him alone. Don’t let it happen to you!
- What serious command did the apostle Paul give to the church in Thessalonica?
“Quench not the Spirit.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19)
Answer: The Holy Spirit’s pleading is like a fire that burns in a person’s mind and heart. Sin has the same effect on the Holy Spirit as water has upon fire. As we ignore the Holy Spirit and continue in sin, we pour water on the fire of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s weighty words to the Thessalonians also apply to us today. Don’t quench the fire of the Holy Spirit by repeatedly refusing to heed the Spirit’s voice. If the fire goes out, we have passed the point of no return!
Any Sin Can Quench the Fire
Any unconfessed or unforsaken sin can ultimately snuff out the fire of the Holy Spirit. It could be refusal to keep God’s seventh-day Sabbath. It could be use of alcohol. It could be failure to forgive one who has betrayed or otherwise injured you. It could be immorality. It could be keeping God’s tithe or some other secret sin that we might think small or come to justify in our hearts. Refusal to obey the Holy Spirit’s voice in any area pours water on the fire of the Holy Spirit. Don’t put out the fire. No greater tragedy could take place.
- What other shocking statement did Paul make to the Thessalonian believers?
“And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12)
Answer: What powerful, shocking words! God says that those who refuse to receive the truth and conviction brought by the Holy Spirit will—after the Spirit departs from them—receive a strong delusion to believe that error is truth. A sobering thought.
14. What experience will those who have been sent these strong delusions face in the judgment?
“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:22,23).
Answer: Those who are crying “Lord, Lord” will be shocked that they are shut out. They will be positive that they were saved. Jesus will then doubtless remind them of that crucial time in their lives when the Holy Spirit brought new truth and conviction. It was crystal clear it was the truth. It kept them awake at night as they wrestled over a decision. How their hearts burned within them! Finally, they said, “No!” They refused to listen further to the Holy Spirit. Then came a strong delusion that caused them to feel saved when they were lost. Is there any greater tragedy?
15. What special words of warning does Jesus give to help us avoid believing we are saved when we are actually lost?
“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21)
Answer: Jesus solemnly warned that not all who have the feeling of assurance will enter His kingdom, but rather, only those who do His will. All of us desire assurance of salvation—and God wants to save us! However, there is a false assurance sweeping Christendom today that promises people salvation while they continue living in sin and manifest no change in their lives whatsoever.
Jesus Clears the Air
Jesus said that true assurance is for those who do His Father’s will. When we accept Jesus as Lord and Ruler of our lives, our lifestyles will change. We will become a completely new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17). We will gladly keep His commandments (John 14:15), do His will, and joyously follow where He leads (1 Peter 2:21). His fantastic resurrection power (Philippians 3:10) transforms us into His image (2 Corinthians 3:18). His glorious peace floods our lives (John 14:27). With Jesus dwelling in us through His Spirit (Ephesians 3:16, 17), we “can do all things” (Philippians 4:13) and “nothing will be impossible” (Matthew 17:20).
Fabulous True Assurance Versus Counterfeit Assurance
As we follow where the Savior leads, He promises that no one can take us out of His hand (John 10:28) and that a crown of life awaits us (Revelation 2:10). What amazing, glorious, genuine security Jesus gives His followers! Assurance promised under any other conditions is counterfeit. It will lead people to heaven’s judgment bar, feeling certain they are saved when they are, in fact, lost (Proverbs 16:25)
16. What is God’s blessed promise to His faithful followers who crown Him Lord of their lives?
“He which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ. … For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure” (Philippians1:6, 2:13).
Answer: Praise God! Those who make Jesus the Lord and Ruler of their lives are promised the miracles of Jesus that will see them safely through to His eternal kingdom. Nothing could be better than that!
- What additional glorious promise does Jesus make to us all?
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
Answer: The Bible says we have “One God the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor 8:6) It also tells us that “the Lord is that Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17) Christ has told us that he wants to come into us by the Spirit and make his abode with us. (John 14:18) Jesus promises to enter our lives when we open the door to Him. It is Jesus who knocks on the door of your heart. He—King of kings and Savior of the world—. What folly that we should ever be too busy or too disinterested to form a warm, loving, lasting friendship with Jesus. Jesus’ close friends will be in no danger of being rejected on the judgment day. Jesus will personally welcome them into His kingdom (Matthew 25:34).
- Will you decide now to always open the door as Jesus knocks at your heart and be willing to follow where He leads you?
1. The Bible says that God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 9:12). That doesn’t seem fair. What does it mean?
The Holy Spirit pleads with all people, just as the sun shines upon everyone and everything (John 1:9). The same sun that hardens clay also melts wax. The Holy Spirit has a different effect upon our hearts depending on how we relate to His pleadings. If we respond, our hearts will be softened and we will be utterly changed (1 Samuel 10:6). If we resist, our hearts will be hardened (Zechariah 7:12).
Pharaoh actually hardened his own heart by resisting the Holy Spirit (Exodus 8:15, 32; 9:34). But the Bible also speaks of God hardening his heart because God’s Holy Spirit kept pleading with Pharaoh. Since Pharaoh kept resisting, his heart hardened as sun hardens clay. Had Pharaoh listened, his heart would have softened as the sun softens wax.
Judas and Peter
Christ’s disciples Judas and Peter demonstrated this same principle. Both had sinned grievously. One betrayed and the other denied Jesus. Which is worse? Who can tell? The same Holy Spirit pleaded with both. Judas steeled himself, and his heart became like stone. Peter, on the other hand, was receptive to the Spirit and his heart melted. He was truly repentant and later became one of the great preachers in the early church. Read Zechariah 7:12, 13, for God’s sobering warning about hardening our hearts against hearing and obeying His Spirit’s pleadings.
2. Is it safe to ask for “signs” from the Lord before choosing obedience?
In the New Testament, Jesus spoke against asking for signs, saying, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign” (Matthew 12:39). He was teaching truth and supporting it from the Old Testament, which was the Scriptures then available. They understood all too well what He was saying. They also saw His miracles, but they still rejected Him. Later He said, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). The Bible tells us to test everything by Scripture (Isaiah 8:19, 20). If we commit to do Jesus’ will and follow where He leads, He promises that He will help us discern truth from error (John 7:17)
3. Is there ever a time when prayer is not helpful?
Yes. If a person knowingly disobeys God (Psalm 66:18) and yet asks God to bless him though he does not plan to change, that person’s prayer not only is worthless, but God says it is an abomination (Proverbs 28:9).
4. I’m concerned that I may have rejected the Holy Spirit and cannot be forgiven. Can you help me?
You have not rejected the Holy Spirit. You can know that because you feel concerned or convicted. It is the Holy Spirit alone who brings you concern and conviction (John 16:8–13). If the Holy Spirit had left you, there would be no concern or conviction in your heart. Rejoice and praise God! Give Him your life now! And prayerfully follow and obey Him in the days ahead. He will give you victory (1 Corinthians 15:57), uphold you (Philippians 2:13), and keep you until His return (Philippians 1:6)
5. In the parable of the sower (Luke 8:5–15), what is meant by the seed that fell by the wayside and was eaten by birds?
“Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. “Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” (Luke 8:11, 12)
Jesus was pointing out that when we understand what the Holy Spirit is asking us to do regarding new light from the Scripture, we must act on it. Otherwise, the devil has the opportunity to remove that truth from our minds.
6. How can the Lord say “I never knew you” to the people He was addressing in Matthew 7:21–23? I thought God knew everybody and everything!
God is referring here to knowing someone as a personal friend. We get to know Him as a friend when we communicate with Him daily through prayer and Bible study, follow Him, and freely share with Him our joys and sorrows as with an earthly friend. Jesus said, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14).The people being addressed in Matthew chapter 7 will have rejected His Holy Spirit. They will have embraced “salvation in sin” or “salvation by works”—neither of which needs Jesus. They are a self-made people who do not take time to become acquainted with the Savior. Hence, He explained that He will have not been able to really get acquainted with them, or know them, as His personal friends.
- Any sin may become the sin that God cannot forgive. (1)
- The sin against the Holy Ghost is (1)
_____ Cursing God.
_____ Continual persistence in resisting the pleading of the Holy Spirit.
- The Holy Spirit must sometimes sadly withdraw from a sinner because (1)
_____ The Holy Spirit has other things to do.
_____ The Holy Spirit has righteous indignation over the sinner’s bad attitude.
_____ God tells Him to do something else.
_____ The sinner has become deaf to His entreaties.
- The Holy Spirit may be “quenched” by continuing in sin when you know better. (1)
- Any sin or blasphemy will be forgiven if I (1)
_____ Pray enough about it.
_____ Sincerely confess it to Jesus.
_____ Fast for several days.
_____ Witness faithfully.
- Without the Holy Spirit, no one ever feels sorrow for sin, nor is anyone ever converted. (1)
- Assurance of salvation can sometimes be counterfeit. Some people who are certain they are saved are actually lost. (1)
- Check the items that are the work of the Holy Spirit according to John 16:8, 13. (2)
_____ Teach me how to sing.
_____ Give me the gift of prophecy.
_____ Keep me happy.
_____ Convict me of sin.
_____ Lead me to truth.
- When the Holy Spirit convicts me of a new truth or points out a sin in my life, I should (1)
_____ Ask the pastor about it.
_____ Go see a psychic.
_____ Ask God for a sign.
_____ Follow the Spirit’s guidance without hesitation.
_____ Flip a coin.
- Why did David plead with God not to remove the Holy Spirit from him? (1)
_____ Because the Holy Spirit helped him play his harp.
_____ Because he was afraid the Holy Spirit might take his life.
_____ Because he knew he would be a lost man if the Spirit departed from him.
- According to Matthew 7:21-23, for a person to have worked miracles, cast out devils, prophesied in Jesus’ name, and claimed Him as Lord will not be enough in the judgment day. What else did Jesus say was absolutely essential? (1)_____ Doing a lot of witnessing.
_____ Praying often in public.
_____ Fasting often.
_____ Attending church regularly.
_____ Doing the will of the heavenly Father.
- According to 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, what will happen to those who refuse to receive the truth? (1)
_____ They will be saved anyway.
_____ God will ask them to reconsider.
_____ God will send them a strong delusion, and they will believe that a lie is the truth.
- When the Lord will say,“I never knew you” at the judgment, He will mean (1)
_____ He does not know who the person is.
_____ The face is familiar, but He has forgotten the name.
_____ The person never took the time to get acquainted with Him as a personal friend.
- Jesus, in the New Testament, taught against asking for signs. (1)
- Will you decide now to always listen to and heed Jesus as He speaks to you through His Holy Spirit?