April 13, 2003


In Mark 3:28-29, Jesus said, "Assuredly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the Sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation." 

This is one of the most puzzling and frightening things the Lord ever said. Just what is this "unpardonable sin," and how do we know if we have committed it?

This statement of Jesus is also recorded in Matt. 12:31-32 and Luke 12:10, but Mark's account is perhaps most useful in helping us gain an understanding of Jesus' startling declaration, for it is Mark who tells us the reason Jesus said what He did -- it was because they said, "He has an unclean spirit." (Mark 3:30).

Matthew's account indicates that Jesus had just freed a man from a demon that had caused blindness and muteness, Matt. 12:22-32. The multitudes were impressed. They realized that Jesus might well be the Son of David foretold by the prophets. The scribes and Pharisees were not willing to even consider that possibility. They could not deny that a marvelous miracle had been done. They could not deny the mighty power Jesus had manifested. Since they could not deny the miracle or the power, yet were not willing to accept the implications of it, they picked the alternative of declaring that the power was evil -- that it came from Beelzebub or Satan.

Jesus knew it was hardness of heart that caused them to oppose Him and to malign His mighty power as coming from Satan. They were doing more than just speaking against Him personally. More specifically, they were blaspheming the power and Spirit of the Almighty God.

Jesus' enemies knew He lived in harmony with the will of God. Later when the opportunity came to have Him crucified, they had to seek out false witnesses in order to bring any charges against Him at all. They knew that by healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the multitudes and casting out demons, Jesus was working against the devil, not for him. Deep down in their hearts, they had to know that the power Jesus manifested was Divine. Yet they spoke against it. They blasphemed it.

Why was their sin unforgivable? Because they had so hardened their hearts against the Spirit and power of God that they could not be brought to repentance. And sin, unrepented of, cannot be forgiven, Luke 13:3.

How can we know if we have committed such a sin? As long as we are concerned about that possibility, we have not reached their state of hardness. As long as we have in us the ability to repent, we have not passed beyond the possibility of forgiveness.

--Clarence R. Johnson


 "Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy,..." Then the LORD said: "I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, …they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it " (Num.14:19-23). Did God pardon iniquity? That was Moses' request. God said he did -- "I have pardoned according to your word." However, there is a "but " following the granted petition -- "but … they certainly shall not see the land." Pardon did not eliminate all the consequence of their sin. We often assume forgiveness moves you back to square one -- erases everything as though sin never occurred. That is not necessarily so! Forgiving sin -- absolving guilt -- does not necessarily negate the consequences. 

Pardon does not rescind natural physical consequence. The drunk obeys the gospel. He is forgiven by God and his family. All rejoice over his new life -- new beginning. He is pardoned --- but drinking damage to his liver, brain, and all the rest of his body is unchanged. Pardoned -- but a physical wreck. Pardoned -- but dying of sclerosis of the liver. Pardoned -- but still addicted. A moral reprobate comes to Christ and is forgiven. Pardon does not cure sexual disease acquired in his former life. Pardon does not eliminate sinful carnal appetites. He is pardoned -- but likely to suffer all his life from consequences of his immorality. A good man gets involved in something scandalous. He is exposed, and he repents. He is pardoned -- but his reputation is soiled -- unrestored by his pardon. Natural consequences linger long after sin is pardoned.

Pardon does not recall social consequences of sin. A man abuses his wife and children year after year. He wrecks his family. Eventually, he turns to God. He begs his family for forgiveness --- and they forgive him. Shall he expect his family relationship to be as though all the abuse never happened? Unlikely! Unrealistic to expect it! Forgiveness does not include that. 

A man cheats on his wife. He sins against her and God by breaking his marriage covenant. When he finally does repent, he asks both God and his wife to forgive him. Both do. Is everything then back to square one? Not necessarily! Pardon does not resolve sin's consequences. According to scripture, his wife may divorce him. Forgiving him does not mean she wants him for a husband. Her choice. His continuing consequence? Pardoned -- with no wife . Even if she takes him back, will she trust him? Will the marriage be as it was before his affair? Absolutely not! Doubtless, the marriage is seriously compromised -- at best. He finds himself pardoned -- with a seriously damaged marriage. Sin's marks are often written in permanent ink -- untouched by forgiveness.

In anger, a man insults, defames, and otherwise injures a long time friend. Eventually, he repents, and entreats God and his friend to forgive him. He apologizes to his friend and makes every effort to correct his grievous sin. The offended friend graciously accepts his apology and forgives him -- never mentions the incident again. But -- is their relationship as though nothing ever happened? Likely not! It may never be completely restored. Full pardon -- but sin's scars still mar the friendship.

Pardon does not eliminate the penalties for sin. A man embezzles from his employer. He is found out, and he sincerely repents seeking God's forgiveness. He makes full restitution to his employer asking for his pardon. His employer forgives him -- as he should (Lk.17:4). But does forgiving require returning the finances to him again? Hardly! Pardon does not automatically restore trust that has been violated -- nor the privileges of trust.

A man robs. He is caught and convicted. In prison, he sincerely repents and turns to God. He apologizes to his victims, and asks for their forgiveness. Both God and the victims forgive him. His status? Pardoned -- but still in jail. The victims are not required to pursue his release in order to forgive him.

Forgiveness does not repair character damage. The practice of sin is not simply external acts; it imprints the nature of the inner man. Sin damages character. A man baptized into Christ -- forgiven -- rises from baptism with the same character he had before baptism. Pardon changes nothing in his character. It is in repentance that man vows to live differently -- to become a different kind of person. Lifestyle changes immediately occur. Character change, however, is the work of a life time. Both changes in life style and in character are fruits of repentance -- rather than forgiveness. Sin leaves scars on the soul -- which are untouched by forgiveness -- which are only removed slowly over long periods of time -- and which require lots of attention.

--Joe Fitch, Bible Comments


The premillenial theory insists God had not anticipated the rejection of Jesus by the Jews. They teach that one day Christ will return to this earth and the Jews will then accept Him as their Messiah. The Father in heaven knew all along how the Jews would react to Jesus. God's plan was perfect, and "when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4).

In John 6:15 we read that "when Jesus perceived that they were about to take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to a mountain by Himself alone." I have often considered this verse to be the death-knell of premillenialism. The Jews wanted to force Christ to be a king like Saul, David, or Solomon. However, Christ had no intention of setting up a physical, earthly kingdom, for as He told Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here" (John 18:36).

Have you considered what would have happened if the Jews had accepted Jesus as their Savior and King? Let's look at the consequences:

First, there would have been no crucifixion, and hence no shedding of blood. "And according to the law almost all things are purged with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Hebrews. 9:22). Animal sacrifices could never remove the guilt and consequences of sin. "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins" (Hebrews. 10:4). The Hebrew writer tells us that "Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption" (Heb. 9:11-12).

Second, the church of Christ would never have been established, since it was purchased with the blood of Christ. Paul admonished the Ephesian elders "to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28).

Third, there would be no gospel, since the foundation of it is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you -- unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He arose again the third day according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

--David A. Padfield, Gospel Power, Anderson, Alabama, 5/2/99.



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