Is there a sin so bad that God says, “That’s it. You’re going straight to hell”? In today’s discussion of Mark 3:22-30, Jesus mentions a sin that will never be forgiven. But, can we really fall beyond the reach of God’s grace?
What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit or unforgivable sin?
The “unpardonable sin” has been a topic of conversation in religious circles for as long as human beings have known about the concept of sin. Even under the Old Testament law, there were some sins in which the offender was commanded to offer a sacrifice in order to receive forgiveness and other sins where the death penalty was commanded. These sins requiring the death of the offender would be seen as “unpardonable” under the Mosaic covenant. Blasphemy (slandering God) was one of those major offenses to be punishable by death.
We have come over the past several weeks to understand that Jesus came to bring a new covenant in the relationship between God and his people. In Mark 3:28 Jesus makes a claim that would have been seen as shocking to anybody who lived under the old Mosaic Law.
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter”Mark 3:28
This is an incredible statement that many Christians take for granted. ALL sins will be forgiven! Only God himself could make this sort of proclamation. And Jesus Is showing over and over that he is precisely that. Only Jesus can declare forgiveness for sins.
So what about this business of an unforgivable sin in Mark 3:29?
“but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”
If God truly forgives all sins, then how can there be an eternal sin that is not forgiven? In order to understand this verse, we have to take into context the entire passage of Mark 3:22-30.
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
22 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.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 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.
28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”Mark 3:22-30
In the story of Mark, we have seen that the scribes and Pharisees are so blinded by their hatred and rejection of Jesus that they have no ability to be objective about whether or not he is telling the truth. The religious elite have made up their minds that Jesus is evil and no amount of reason or evidence will convince them otherwise.
To illustrate the depth of their irrational hatred, the scribes declared that Jesus is casting out demons because he doing the work of the prince of demons. Jesus uses two parables to make a very straightforward argument that he is doing the work of God and not the work of Satan.
This is where the question of blasphemy comes into the picture. Blasphemy had typically been the sin of the irreligious, the outsider, or the person who had no knowledge of God. But here, Jesus connects blasphemy not to the things that people say, but to the lack of belief in their hardened hearts. The scribes are exhibiting a spiritual state that, if maintained for eternity, will never receive the forgiveness that Jesus brings.
- What are some things that you grew up thinking were “unforgivable sins?”
- Do you still believe they are unpardonable?
- What Scriptures lead you to that conclusion?
- How can we be sure that God can forgive every sin?
- Why do you think the scribes would not believe Jesus’ rational defense for casting out demons?
- What is the best way to explain the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
- How can we be sure that we have not committed unpardonable sin?
- Why is faith the opposite of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
- How are you feeding your faith in Christ?