Chains small

The unforgivable sin

blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

Side notes

All Bible references are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

[1] Matthew 12:31-32
Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.  

[2] Mark 3:22-30
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "by the prince of demons he casts out the demons." And he called them to him and said to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"— for they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit."  

[3] Hebrews 10:26-30
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "Vengeance is mine; I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge his people."  

[4] Matthew 6:14-15
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  

[5] Ephesians 4:29-32
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  

[6] 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies,  

[7] Deuteronomy 29:18-21
Beware lest there be among you a man or woman or clan or tribe whose heart is turning away today from the Lord our God to go and serve the gods of those nations. Beware lest there be among you a root bearing poisonous and bitter fruit, one who, when he hears the words of this sworn covenant, blesses himself in his heart, saying, 'I shall be safe, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart.' This will lead to the sweeping away of moist and dry alike. The Lord will not be willing to forgive him, but rather the anger of the Lord and his jealousy will smoke against that man, and the curses written in this book will settle upon him, and the Lord will blot out his name from under heaven. And the Lord will single him out from all the tribes of Israel for calamity, in accordance with all the curses of the covenant written in this Book of the Law.  

[8] Joshua 24:19-20
But Joshua said to the people, "You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good."   

[9] Hebrews 4:15
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.  

[10] Ezekiel 28:12-15
"Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire,emerald, and carbuncle; and crafted in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you."

To be convinced of having committed an unforgivable sin against God is a cause of great despair amongst many who believe they are, or at least once were, Christians.

We don’t have to search far on the internet to find much written on the subject. Most articles communicate one or more of three theological positions:

  1. A genuine Christian can never commit an unforgivable sin because…
  2. Any speaking against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. Being a Christian makes no difference because…
  3. If one is worried about having committed the unforgivable sin, it hasn’t been committed, because…

(If you are reading this article, I will assume that you have already done an amount of research, and so I won’t fill out each ‘because…’.)


What does the Bible say?

The Bible verses which cause so much difficulty are found in two places, Matthew 12:31-32[1] and Mark 3:22-30[2]. There is a third section which is sometimes added in, Hebrews 10:26-30[3].

There are other Scriptures, however, which are generally overlooked even though they also raise the issue of unforgiveness by God:

Matthew 6:14-15[4] declares that our forgiveness from God is conditional upon our forgiveness of others. No mention of the Holy Spirit.

Ephesians 4:29-32[5] lists unwholesome talk, grieving the Holy Spirit, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour (brawling), slander, malice. Would not behaving in a way so strong as this against the Holy Spirit qualify as being unforgivable? And yet such a threat is not even mentioned here.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-20[6] warns us not to quench the Holy Spirit, nor to treat prophecies with contempt. (Remember that prophecies come through the Holy Spirit.) Yet even quenching of, and contempt towards, the Holy Spirit brings no warning of unforgivable sin.

Deuteronomy 29:18-21[7] reveals people who will never be forgiven by God, and yet the Holy Spirit is not mentioned here at all.

Joshua 24:19-20[8] raises the prospect that rebellion will not be forgiven. Yet again no mention of the Holy Spirit.


What am I saying?

I am saying that I have two problems with the debate about the unforgivable sin.

  1. The Bible mentions sins that God ‘will not forgive’ on more occasions than just the texts where blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is mentioned.
  2. When we argue over the possibility of sin being unforgivable, we inevitably slide into the muddy area of trying to ascertain which sin or degree of sin becomes the trigger point between ‘forgivable’ and ‘unforgivable’. I would suggest that such debate is a waste of time and misses the real issue.


To clarify.

To me, the real issue is to do with choices, actions and their consequences. Let me explain.

Every choice needs an action to activate that choice, and every action has a consequence.

To have a choice is not in itself sin, neither is temptation a sin. It’s what we do with the choice or temptation that defines whether or not it becomes sin. Hebrews 4:15[9]

God gives the choice of following him or not. Our action though will hopefully be to turn to him. We come to God because we have made a choice to come. God has already made the choice to accept us, provided we make the choice to come. Repentance is not an emotion, it is an action resulting from a choice. A choice needs an action to activate that choice. Repentance is the action. In the process we are confessing to God that he is in the right and we are in the wrong, AND we are going to do something about our wrong.

And so here’s the sequence of what happens…

  1. The choice: I choose God’s way.
  2. The action: I turn to him and begin to change my sinful lifestyle.
  3. The consequence: Acceptance by God through salvation.

Now, a choice always needs an action, and an action always brings a consequence. Some consequences are short-lived, others are long-term. If I steal a lolly as a child, the consequence will likely be short, but most likely painful! On the other hand, if I have sex outside of marriage and father a child, the consequence for me will last a very long time, for that child is an eternal being.

Satan made a choice didn’t he? He was perfect and blameless. God himself declared this in Ezekiel 28:12-15[10]. And yet Satan chose concerning God. His subsequent actions and resulting consequences are clearly recorded in Scripture.

The Pharisees chose concerning Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Their actions that followed this choice were to attribute the workings of the Holy Spirit to the devil, and to have Jesus crucified. The consequences of these choices and actions are also clearly recorded in Scripture.



Here’s what I believe (and be reminded that emotions have nothing to do with all this):

  1. I come to God because I genuinely choose to. I may be emotional about my choice, but it is not my emotion that saves me, it is my actions that spring out of my choice.
  2. When I become saved, God does a number of things for me; he saves me, seals me with the Holy Spirit, indwells me by the Holy Spirit, and so on. But one thing he DOES NOT DO is take away my freedom of choice.
  3. If my choice to turn to God is indeed genuine, it will spur action from me. I will now take an interest in reading the Bible, going to Church, learning what God wants for me and from me, and obeying what he requires of me. These actions will bring consequences, all of them good for me, although not all of them good to me. (A disciplinary smack may be good for me, but it sure doesn’t feel good to me!)
  4. Now, here’s the crunch point. Just as I can turn to God if I genuinely choose to, so I can turn away from God if I genuinely choose to. Satan did that, and so can I, because God gave both Satan and I the freedom of choice. If my decision to turn away is genuine, my subsequent actions will validate my choice. I will lose interest in God, I will not bother about attending Church, or reading the Bible. I will have no conviction to obey God. And more than anything else, I will not care at all about what God may think of my choice. It is extremely important to note here that most highly emotional ‘choices’ (such as yelling at God and saying stupid things in anger) are not genuine choices. They are little more than impulsive foolishness.



If this last point describes you, maybe you have indeed committed an unforgivable sin. But then, if you have, you will most likely not be reading this article, will you?

Lord bless.

This paper seeks to accurately represent the teachings of Holy Scriptures. You are free to copy or alter all or any part of this paper PROVIDED that the Holy Scriptures are not misrepresented as a result.