I think Ive committed the unforgivable sin--what can I do?
Don't worry--you haven't.
Concern that one has committed this sin is sadly common among Christians, and let me encourage you by pointing out that even the great Martin Luther, founder of the Protestant Reformation, was himself tormented by thoughts that he had committed this sin, freeing himself only after studying the promises of God in the Scriptures.
The sin in question is called the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. In the thousands of pages of the Bible, there are only a few portions of scripture in the New Testament that deal with this Unforgivable sin.
King James Bible
New Jerusalem Bible
Wherefore I say unto you that all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him, but whosoever speakest against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him, either in this world, neither in the world to come.
Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:
But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:
Because they (the Pharisees) said, He hath an unclean spirit.
And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.
For it is impossible for those who were one enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost,
And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,
If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he should pray for it.
--1st John 5:16
And so I tell you, every human sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And anyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but no one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven either in this world or the next.
In truth I tell you, all human sins will be forgiven, and all the blasphemies ever uttered;
but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven but is guilty of an eternal sin.
This was because they were saying, There is an unclean spirit in him.
Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but no one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven.
As for those people who were once brought into the light, and tasted the gift from Heaven, and received a share of the Holy Spirit,
and tasted the goodness of Gods message and the powers of the world to come and yet in spite of this have fallen away--it is impossible for them to be brought into the freshness of repentance a second time, since they are crucifying the Son of God again for themselves, and making a public execution of him.
-- Hebrews 6:4-6
If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that is not a deadly sin, he has only to pray, and God will give life to this brother--provided that it is not a deadly sin. There is a sin that leads to death and I am not saying that you must pray about that.
--1st John 5:16
When you come right down to it, the Bible spends almost no time on this issue and does not even clearly express what it is or how one commits it except in superficial terms. If this sin was something that Christians should be concerned about--or if there were much of a chance that it could actually be committed--then the writers of the New Testament presumably would have gone into great depth and warned against behavior that could possibly lead to it. Since they do not, let us examine what they do say and see if we can determine what the sin is, how it is committed, and why it is unforgivable.
Just what is that sin, and how is it committed?
Our first section dealing with the sin is in Matthew, where Jesus says that anyone who speakest a word against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven. Clearly, then, the sin is committed by speaking. So, lets try to define what speakest against means. In the Greek, it means to speak slanderously or insultingly. This fact causes many to worry they have committed this sin, as it seems to set up an extremely low threshold to damn one for eternity. speakest against, depending on how strictly God wanted to interpret it, could be anything from a mild criticism levied against a (legitimate) Charismatic experience someone else was undergoing (even if done in ignorance), to cursing the Holy Spirit using every profane word one knew. Many people thus worry that somehow they might have said something too bad against the Holy Spirit for God to forgive.
Therefore, we must ask the question: does the sin fall somewhere within those parameters?
Who or what is the object of this sin?
Obviously, it is the Holy Spirit who is the object of this sin. But first, what did Jesus mean by the term Holy Spirit? This may come as a shock to some, but at the point He speaks these words, Jesus Christ is the only person on the face of the earth who knows the Holy Spirit is a Person! Everyone else understands the term Holy Spirit in the classical Jewish sense--that it is the Power (or inspiration) of God. Thus, the blasphemy Jesus warns against is not a slanderous speaking against a Person, but rather the slanderous speaking against a Power! We see confirmation of this in the fact that the very incident that provokes the Pharisees is Jesus casting out demons. The Pharisees, who have already rejected Christ although they knew Him to be the Messiah, see Him doing miracles before their eyes that they cannot duplicate, and so they go one step further by pronouncing the power under which Jesus works to be an unclean spirit or Beelzebub (Satan). It is thus the source of Jesus power, and not specifically a Person, whom the Pharisees are consciously attacking.
We must next take a look at the word used for against in the text. Several Greek words are translated in the New Testament as against, but the same word here is used elsewhere by Matthew and gives us a sense as to what Jesus means when He warns of saying a word against the Holy Spirit. Here are examples:
Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him--Mat. 12:14
And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand--Mat. 12:25.
He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad--Mat. 12:30.
The against is therefore an action of active opposition and not merely an offhand, disrespectful remark or criticism. Thus, it is publicly blaspheming the power of God in conscious opposition, and with the specific intent of keeping others from responding to it, that is the Unforgivable sin.
This is why Jesus warns the Pharisees that they are in danger of blaspheming the Power of God by attributing a miracle of Gods power to Satan and opposing the work God is doing through it. So the sin is not merely verbally insulting a Personage of the Trinity. (Really, since the Holy Spirit is no more or less God than Jesus Christ is, someone who blasphemes the name of Jesus is no more or no less guilty than someone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit in name. Since Jesus says one can blaspheme Himself and obtain forgiveness, then by extension, blaspheming the Holy Spirit personally is no worse. However, blaspheming the miracle power of God and attributing it directly to Satan in hope of keeping others from responding to it, when you know it is of God, is a different matter.)
Jesus language also gives an interesting clue that may help to further define whether the sin can even be committed today when He says it will not be forgiven in this world or in the world to come. First, world is a bad translation; age is more correct. Jesus is thus saying that neither in the present age nor in the Messianic age is this sin forgivable. It is curious that He uses this language in this way, because it seems to suggest the possibility that the particular age one is living in can have a bearing on whether a sin can or cannot be forgiven. In point of fact, sin is sin and is either forgivable or not, regardless of what age one lives in.
While its possible Jesus is merely using language to stress how serious this sin is, another possibility is that He is showing the sin can only be committed if Christ Himself is physically involved! In the only instance we see this sin occurring, the religious leaders have personally witnessed God in the flesh working miracles in front of them, and then pronounced those miracles to be done under the power of the devil. No one else since the time of Christ has encountered these same exact circumstances the Pharisees found themselves in. Some may have seen a Christian do a miracle and believed the power came from the devil, but no one has seen the Son of God Himself stand before them and work a miracle on the level Jesus could, then pronounce Him and the miracle to be of the devil.
In the Messianic age, Jesus will physically reign in Jerusalem, and in contrast to what many believe, there will absolutely be sin and sinners on the earth during the Messianic age (Isaiah 65:20). It is entirely possible that there will still be those with such hard hearts that they will reject Christ as He rules upon the earth.
It may be this very hardness of heart that makes the sin unforgivable. Perhaps not so much because God wont forgive the sin, but more because He cant, for if you are blaspheming and rejecting the very power that seeks to draw you to repentance, obviously there is no way to repent and be forgiven!
This may be why so little is said about this sin in Scripture--because we are living in an age where it cant quite be committed in its fullest sense, so there is no great need to detail it. Thus, anything short of seeing Jesus Christ work a miracle, and then denying it and Him, is technically forgivable.
Even the section in the book of Hebrews that causes many people whove fallen back into sin after becoming Christians to think they are eternally lost isnt clearly understood by most people. First, the book is written specifically to Jewish Christians, not Gentile Christians, and it must be understood only in that context. It was penned to encourage the faith of Jewish believers who were under constant harassment by the majority unbelieving Jews.
The Christian Jews faced many trials in this era, sometimes losing their property, position in the community, and even their lives. Under such pressure, some of these Jewish Christians turned back to non-Christian Judaism, and animal sacrifice. It is these people chapter 6 speaks of. In the day it was written (around 65 AD), a Christian Jew who returned to Judaism was required to stand before the assembled synagogue, publicly renounce Christ, and then take a ritual baptism to return to good standing in the Jewish community. It is this sort of formal, extreme denial and renunciation of Christ that the writer says makes it impossible to repent since it exposes Christ to an open shame and crucifies the son of God afresh, and treats the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing.
Once again, we see the sin is something done in public, and not in private.
Well, I cursed out the Holy Spirit once, and Jesus says that even speaking a word against the Holy Spirit is enough to be lost! So how can God forgive that?
He can forgive what you said for the reasons Ive outlined. One may indeed have spoken, in a sense, blasphemously--but dont make the mistake of taking the Scriptures too literally and misapplying them to your particular case. For instance, John 14:13-14 says that if we ask Jesus anything in His name, He will do it! As a young believer, I found that verse, believed it exactly as written, and prayed to win a million dollars in a contest. I can tell you I prayed that prayer with 100% absolute belief, sent in the form without even the slightest doubt of failure, and waited for the car to pull up with my check.
The car never showed up, and I presumed there must have been some mistake. I thus wrote off for a list of winners, still 100% certain I had to have won it!
Well, my name wasnt on the list. My prayer wasnt answered, because, although the Scripture verses seem clear, simple, and unequivocal, theyre not--and the true understanding of those verses is that if we are Spirit-led, doing the work of God, and have a firm foundation in the Scripture, then yes, we can ask what we will in the name of Christ and He will do those things He has promised in the Scripture to do, that God may be glorified.
Contests, and the like, dont necessarily fall into that.
In the same way, simply saying something negative about the Holy Spirit, or even cursing the Holy Spirit is not blasphemy in the sense the Gospels are speaking of. While those are egregious sins, the deadly sort of blasphemy, as Ive shown, takes the form of publicly giving glory to Satan for a miracle of God with the intent of keeping others from entering into the Kingdom.
But I constantly think blasphemous thoughts about Christ or the Holy Spirit, so how can I be saved and have that happen?
If this is happening to you, youre not alone. Ive counseled many people whove experienced this. First, ask yourself--do you want to think these thoughts about the Holy Spirit? Do you hate Jesus or the Holy Spirit?
If the answer is no, I can assure you these voices are from the devil, and their purpose is to torment and intimidate you into backing away from seeking the fullness of the Spirit in your life. I cant say how you may have acquired this sort of harassment, but when Ive asked people whove faced this, most all of them can remember a specific point when these thoughts started. Often this is after some sort of sexual sin or abuse, or some sort of occult dabbling.
The cure is fourfold:
1. Confess and repent from any ongoing sin you know God is dealing with you about.
2. Command in the name of Jesus any unclean spirits and the demonic Principality behind them that may be harassing you to go, and never return.
3. Consciously and continuously pray for God to release the fullness and anointing of the Holy Spirit in your life.
4. Fill your life with the things of God such as the Scriptures, Christian TV (especially Joyce Meyer and Charles Stanley), radio and music.
If necessary, seek further deliverance and counseling from a good Spirit-filled church. Frankly, you probably wont get delivered from this sort of extreme spiritual harassment by getting prayed for at many old-line denominational churches. You need prayer by people who believe in the fullness of the Spirit in the church, and who have the faith to believe they have the authority to break demonic bondage.
Other points about the Unforgivable sin
It comes as a surprise to many, but David actually committed an unforgivable sin! Though it was under the Mosaic covenant, his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband could not be atoned for by any sacrifice, and the penalty, pure and simple, was death.
But what happened? God forgave David when he repented and cried out for mercy! This is why James says that: Mercy triumphs over judgment--James 2:13.
Thus, there is no man whose sins God will refuse to forgive if he sincerely cries out for mercy.
Im still not convinced!
If youre still unconvinced, there isnt much more I can say. But you can get an idea of how Christian sources through the ages have viewed this sin by their opinions that follow.
The Didache: To judge* (a true prophet of God) when they speak in the spirit is the unpardonable sin. The Didache, a 1st century Christian guidebook, is possibly the most valuable reference source outside the Bible regarding this sin. Written during the lifetimes of at least some of the apostles, it was widely accepted by the early church as teaching the doctrines held by the apostles. The Didache appears to take a position similar to what Ive suggested: that the Unforgivable sin is some sort of public attack against something the Holy Spirit is doing. While it indicates that it was possible to commit the sin after the time of Christ, some theologians do extend the era this sin could be committed in to the lifetime of Christ and the apostles. In any event, the Didache is not infallible, but it does show that an acceptable understanding of the sin in the 1st century was an attack against a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit.
* Meaning to condemn and to oppose.
Origen: (Mortal) sins committed after bBaptism.
John Chrysostom: believing that Jesus was doing miracles by the Holy Spirit but still attributing them to Satan.
Athanasius: Denial of Christ.
St. Augustine: The persevering hardness of an impenitent heart.
Martin Luther: Lack of faith.
John Calvin: An impenitent heart.
Billy Graham: Final rejection of the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
Pope John Paul II: Blasphemy does not properly consist in offending against the Holy Spirit in words; it consists rather in the refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps the last point that could be made about the Unforgivable sin is that one who committed it would forever be removed from any influence of the Holy Spirit in his life, and would be fully open to becoming a tool of the devil. He thus would feel absolutely no guilt over his sins, would lose any desire to have Christ in his life, and would be prompted by the devil to oppose Christ and Christianity any way possible.
Observe the Pharisees. They hated Christ, wanted to kill Him, and would stop at nothing to destroy what He was doing, and when warned they were committing an unforgivable sin, didnt believe it and didnt care. If you care, then obviously you havent committed this sin.
Remember, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not backsliding. Some of the greatest men of God have fallen away from Christ at one point or another and then recommitted themselves down the road.
Why people who doubt their salvation are their own worst enemy
For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
--Romans 8: 6-7
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit.
Although somewhat on the metaphysical side, what follows will deal with the foundation behind why many people doubt their salvation.
The basis for this work will be the verses cited above, for they are the key to understanding why some people simply cannot seem to break free of the belief theyve committed the Unforgivable sin.
To start with, we need to define the difference between what the spirit and soul of a man is.
In contemporary Christianity, theologians will usually define the spirit of a man as his immortal essence--his ghost if you will--while the soul is said to be made up of his mind, will, and emotions. This is generally as good an explanation as we can arrive at for two non-temporal subjects.
The spirit of a Christian is the place where the Holy Spirit dwells. It is the place in his thinking where the Holy Spirit manifests and empowers faith instead of doubt, obedience instead of rebellion, revelation instead of logic, love instead of hate, and peace instead of worry. It is a place the devil has no access to.
The soul is all attitudes, logic, feelings, and beliefs outside of that. It is the place empowered and influenced by both society and the devil himself. The soul, and its thoughts and feelings is the heart of the struggle the Christian has against doubt and sin in his life.
Time after time when I deal with people questioning their salvation, there is one consistent factor they all have in common: it is next to impossible to convince them they havent committed the Unforgivable sin.
Some tell me theyve E-mailed or contacted literally dozens of web sites or counselors seeking reassurance. Of these, a few--no matter what I say to them--come up with arguments against the points I make, some of which are almost brilliant in their logic.
These people have come seeking reassurance, but across the board they seem to bend over backwards to refuse the very assurance theyve come for.
The simple answer is that they come seeking assurance on an intellectual level, in a manner that will satisfy their rational mind.
Theres only one problem with that: its impossible.
The reason its impossible is that the person is approaching the subject from their soulish realm, hoping to placate and convince the soul theyre saved, because their soul has been doubting that.
The reason the soul doubts is because the soul is not truly redeemed at the cross, and since it is a part of mans body that will go down to the grave in death, a person operating out of that realm--the realm of human logic, doubt and fear--cannot be convinced he is saved because the soul itself is not saved!
Thus, a person who has come to doubt his salvation typically cannot be intellectually persuaded of his salvation, nor will his feelings consistently give him reassurance of Gods love for him. As Paul says, the carnal mind--i.e. the soulish, human part of mans thinking and feelings--is against Gods truth and cannot receive it. Again--not that it has a hard time accepting it; according to Paul, it cannot receive it.
It also cannot intellectually be satisfied.
It also cannot understand spiritual things.
It also cannot truly love God.
It also cannot truly serve God.
It cannot even hear from God, for all the things necessary for an individual to receive from God cannot come from the human part of mans thinking and emotions; they can only come from the spirit of a man which has been awakened by the Holy Spirit!
This is why the person who doubts his salvation often cannot be intellectually persuaded he hasnt committed the Unforgivable sin--hes trying to convince a carnal mind that is unsaved and cannot be saved, that it is saved!
He cant do that, and so that inability for the carnal mind to be convinced gives birth to a type of unbelief mentioned in the New Testament that is referred to by the Greek word apeithei, which means a stubborn refusal to believe.
And so our worried Christian stews in a sea of fear and doubt coming out of his soul, because his unsaved soul knows its not saved, and thus cant be persuaded that it is saved.
By focusing in on and remaining in a state of confusion coming out of the soul, the persons spirit--which is saved--thus becomes stifled in its growth.
The whole time this is going on, all the persons doubts and fears are being reinforced and empowered by the devil, who has the ability to influence thoughts and emotions in the soulish realm. It thus becomes a vicious circle of doubt + demonic thoughts = fear, and a constant worry that the person must not be saved.
Let me give an example of someone stuck in this rut who doesnt realize the difference between his soul and his spirit. Assume someone who doubts his salvation sits down with me and we have a conversation about it.
Me: So you think youve committed the Unforgivable sin. What makes you think you did that?
Worried person: Well, the Bible says (this, this, and this) and I think I....
Me: Well--deep down in your spirit, do you think you hate God and hate Jesus?
Worried person: Well, no, I think I love Jesus, but....
Everything that falls into the but comes from the soul, not the spirit. As Paul says: For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? (1 Cor. 2:11)
Only what the person knows and feels deep down inside of him, away from his surface thoughts and feelings, is what the ultimate truth is. Thus, when he tells me that deep down he wants Jesus, and may even love Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but he thinks hes committed the Unforgivable sin, I know he cant possibly have.
If his answer was that he hated Christ, hated the Holy Spirit, and so on, then I might well agree he had committed this sin.
This is why we counselors tell them that if theyre worried about it, they cant have done it--for if they had done it, both spirit and soul would reject Christ and the person would feel no remorse, but instead an absolute intellectual satisfaction with their actions. Thus, they wouldnt be trying to find a way to believe they hadnt committed the sin--they simply would be content with their decision!
Witness the Pharisees who rejected Christ and were specifically told they had committed the Unforgivable sin. There was no fear in them. No worry. No doubt. They were absolutely unconcerned about what they were doing, didnt realize it was wrong; and that very inability to see the need for repentance removed them from any chance of obtaining forgiveness for their sins! This is completely the opposite of what a Christian goes through when he worries that hes committed the Unforgivable sin.
So how does one overcome this bondage?
The answer is first to realize when one is experiencing demon-empowered soulish thoughts, and to then reject them. The devil is a liar, and if hes telling someone theyre unsaved--they obviously are saved! So the next time a wave of doubt washes over you, that blasphemous thought against the Holy Spirit arises in your head, etc.--just sit back, empty your mind of those surface thoughts, then concentrate and focus in on that part of your thinking that knows it wants God.
Thats your spirit.
Once youve banished those thoughts for a moment, just give thanks to God for His grace and the atonement of Christ for your sins. Just stay focused on that inner part of yourself thats deep down and doesnt think or want those thoughts, and take comfort in the fact thats the part of you that is saved, and does have eternal life.
So does this mean we have to walk around in continual schizophrenia?
No. Gods purpose is for mans spirit to grow to the point where, instead of mans actions being directed by his soul, his spirit directs his actions, and the soul either falls in line or else assists to the degree it can in helping the Christian follow Gods will for him. The key to this is growing in ones spirit, and ones spirit grows as it is fed with the things of God.
Start with listening to some good Christian music or teaching. I recommend a tape series by Joyce Meyer called Fickle Feelings, for one.
When youre in church, dont sit there daydreaming because youre bored (as Im certain you do), but close your eyes, empty your mind, stop thinking, and let your spirit get fed!
You will start to see changes!
Note: another great page on this from a different author is here: