On your Mark
The unpardonable sin
“In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry
off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his
house. I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be
forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be
forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” He said this because they were
saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:27-30, NIV)
I was perpetually frightened as a young person that I had
committed the unpardonable sin. I wish I had understood then what the sin
Jesus clearly defines blasphemy against the Spirit. It’s
denying the Holy Spirit’s testimony to Jesus’ own identity. The teachers of the
Law attributed Jesus’ activity to an evil spirit rather than to the Holy
Spirit. If continued in, this was the unpardonable sin — for how can a
person enter heaven if they deny Jesus is Lord? And, who is it that convinces
us that Jesus is God’s Son and our Savior? The Holy Spirit (John 16:7-12)!
At this point in Jesus’ ministry, He does not say that the
teachers of the Law had already crossed that line — His statement is more
a warning than a verdict.
In the ultimate sense, the only sin that keeps people out of
heaven is a denial of the true nature of Jesus. It’s the Holy Spirit who tells
us through God’s Word and through His witness that Jesus is Lord. The Holy
Spirit recognizes no other Savior (Acts 4:12).
Therefore, the central issue related to Jesus is neither His
mighty works nor His insightful words. The issue is His identity. The Spirit
says, “Son of God, Savior, Messiah.”
The good news of this teaching of Jesus is that all other
sins may be forgiven. Furthermore, Jesus has the power to forgive sins because
through His Galilean ministry He already is demonstrating mastery over the
devil — Jesus has entered the devil’s territory, tied him up, and is now
carrying off the devil’s possessions (us!).
Look at the sins embodied in breaking the Ten Commandments:
Having other gods, worshipping idols, using the Lord’s name in vain, breaking
the Sabbath, dishonoring parents, murder, adultery, stealing, bearing false
witness and coveting. All these sins (and far more) are forgivable. Amazing!
Jesus underlines the authority in His offer of blanket
amnesty by saying, “I tell you the truth …” Jesus knows what His opponents did
not know. He knows the Father and therefore knows the grace of the Father. He
knows it is God’s desire to not hold people’s sins against them.
In this text Jesus says nothing about our need to ask for
forgiveness. That aspect is covered elsewhere (1 John 1:9). Here, the context
for Jesus’ statement lies in the charge made against Him by the teachers of the
Law, namely, that His mighty acts are done through the agency of the devil. Jesus
clearly regards that accusation as the one thing God cannot forgive; thus, to
underscore the seriousness of that sin He sets it apart from all other sins.
But, all other sins are forgivable — and that means we can be
beneficiaries of God’s grace!
A prayer of response
Lord Jesus, I may not be able to escape the stain and memory
of my sins, but You have forgiven me. It’s a grace so amazing I am at a loss to
understand it. But I rest on Your Word — even my sins are forgiven!
GEORGE O. WOOD is general superintendent of the Assemblies
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