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Have I committed the unforgivable sin?

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Question:  I fear that I've committed the unforgivable sin. While I was in the midst of temptation I thought of Jesus. This should have been enough to bring me away from my temptation but apparently it wasn't. I sinned right after I thought and counted the covenant of the blood! I felt horrible. I felt disgusted at myself as I rightly should be. I later found out much about the unforgivable sin. I became frightened. I know that I will never ever do that sin again that I did but I'm still afraid. I repent but is it useless? I still want to follow Christ! I don't have anywhere else to Go!

Response:  I want you to know that God is a God of mercy - and therefore He is to be feared. It is certainly true that sin which is committed in arrogance or in a high-handed way is more serious than sins of ignorance, for example. But the "unpardonable sin" Jesus speaks about is the sin against the Holy Spirit, specifically, the sin of denying the divinity of Jesus and the efficacy of His work on the cross - i.e., it is the sin of unbelief. Here is something I have written about this previously (from "Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit"):

"Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and the unpardonable sin are the same thing: at their core they are rejection of Jesus Christ (i.e., disbelief). Jesus' reference to the "blasphemy against the Spirit" comes in the context of His detractors claiming that He did what He did by the power of the devil (read Matt.12:22-32 and note Mk.3:30: "He said this because they were saying 'He has an evil spirit'") - this "blasphemes" the Holy Spirit (who actually empowered our Lord's miracles) by falsely claiming that Jesus was not doing God's will and was not of God; at the same time it is a rejection of Jesus Himself (rejecting His work necessarily rejects Him too) so that those who say that Jesus didn't really do God's work by God's power are really rejecting Jesus and consequently will die in their sins for their lack of faith in Him (i.e., they are unbelievers). Rejecting God's solution to the problem of sin, rejecting Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for us, is unforgivable by definition, for it is unbelief - that is the unpardonable sin. The one thing we can't do and still be saved is to turn our back on the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ."

In 1st John chapter five, the "sin unto death" is something else altogether. It is very true that sin separates us from God, and consistent sinning does so consistently, and vigorous sinning does so vigorously; and it is true that if we persevere in sin that it will eventually harden our hearts against the Lord and can lead to apostasy. Here is something I have written about the "sin unto death" (from "The Sin unto Death in 1st John 5:16"):

Here my translation of 1st John 5:16:

If anyone sees his brother sinning sin (i.e., involved in sin) which is not unto death (i.e., is not "deadly"), let him ask [forgiveness on his brother's behalf], and life will be given to him (i.e., forgiveness and deliverance), that is, in those cases where those sinning are not [sinning] unto death (i.e., engaged in "deadly" sin). 1st John 5:16

It is pretty clear from the context that we are to be concerned for the welfare of our fellow believers as regards their spiritual lives, not only from the positive point of view (i.e., ministering to them to promote their spiritual health and growth), but also when it comes to helping them break free from the negatives of life. That is to say, if a fellow believer is known to us to be committing sin in such an obvious way that it has come to our attention, that person is clearly in some serious spiritual trouble. We all sin - John is clear about that in chapter one - but, even though sin is sin, from the standpoint of growth, momentum and even spiritual safety, there is a difference between occasional lapses quickly repented of and confessed to God, and a broad pattern of deliberate and arrogant sin. For the Bible does clearly make such a distinction: if we are involved in a pattern of wrong behavior that is clearly "in God's face", so to speak, such lack of fear and respect for Him is part of the problem:

Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults. Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins; Let them not rule over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be acquitted of great transgression. Psalm 19:11-14 NASB

I would venture to say that many believers at some time or the other have fallen into a pattern of this sort in respect to some area of personal weakness (we all have them, after all), and it is not only legitimate, but important that when such behavior becomes obvious that it is noticeable to other believers, they should intervene in prayer, and occasionally even in a more personal way (but with great care: cf. Jas.5:19-20; Jude 22-23).

It is important to note in this regard that censure, self-righteousness and verbal condemnation is absolutely the wrong attitude as is clear from the context of 1st John 5:16 above. Even though our brothers and sisters may be way off the mark, the right attitude for those who would help them is one of compassion and a desire to assist get them in getting back on the right track for the sake of the whole Body of Christ and for own their personal spiritual well-being and safety as well. There are many instance when it will not be possible to do more than to pray for such persons, pray for the forgiveness of their sins (for if they are "high-handedly" pursuing a wrong course, they are not in confession of such sins to their Father, of that you can be relatively sure - contrast 1Jn.5:18 where we are told that the true child of God does not persist in sin), and pray for God to bring them back to the right path.

However, there are also times when no personal intervention and no amount of personal prayer will help - John does not obligate us to pray for such situations. There are clearly cases - all too many in our own day - when the chances of a person escaping the devil's snare are nigh on impossible (sometimes all we can do for such people is to state/live the truth and hope: 2Tim.2:26). Why is this? Because once someone has rejected God long enough and deliberately enough, the conscience becomes seared, the heart hardened, and the will set against Him - this is one and the same with the death of faith, and if faith is dead, there is nothing whereby the person can be saved, because all salvation is through faith in Christ. Faith is a living plant that needs to be nourished and needs to grow; faith needs to be faithful. One cannot say "Lord, Lord", and "not do what I [Jesus] say" forever and ad nauseum without consequences (Lk.6:46-49). It is impossible to really believe in Jesus and be His believing follower, and at the same time give oneself over whole-heartedly to sin without damaging and eventually killing one's faith - not because believers can't sin, but because we who truly love Him have a consciousness of rebelling against Him when we sin, and because the prodding of the Spirit will always lead us to repentance and restoration through confession, or else to greater reaction and rebellion if we do not heed the calls to return to Him. In the latter case, this can, when taken to the extreme, bring about the complete and total death of faith, wherein the person who had once professed Christ becomes so hardened against Him in the pursuit of unconfessed and self-justified sinning that such a person no longer has any respect for Him, any concern for what He wants, any intention of following Him anywhere, or any shame or regret for their rebellion - in short, such a person is no longer a believer because any genuine love, concern, faith in or faithfulness to our Lord has long since been snuffed out by their own actions (this is also known as "apostasy": on which see in particular Peter's Epistles #21: "Perseverance of Faith" and Peter's Epistles #26: "Reactions to Personal Tribulation").

When we see someone already in this tragic condition, where the seed planted has sprouted but died, there is no point in further prayer, because that person is simple no longer a believer in Jesus Christ (and close inspection/interrogation will prove this point well enough); they have returned to their own vomit, and the end is worse than the beginning so that it truly would have been better for them never to have professed Christ in the first place (2Pet.3:22).

Jesus told us that whatever we bind on the earth will be bound in heaven and whatever we loose will be loosed in heaven (Matt.18:18). I take this to mean, among other things, that we can pray for the sins of our fellow believers and have confidence that God will take their case in hand, forgiving them (where they have been too blind to turn to Him themselves), and working for their restoration. On the other hand, there are also situations where divine intervention and restraint is needed, and, while this covers a lot of territory (the suppression of all sorts of evil), it can also mean the prayer to hinder the continued sin of wayward believers (this may involve much pain, as when Paul "handed over" a Corinthian in such a state to the devil: 1Cor.5:4-5). Once someone has passed beyond the point of any possible responsiveness, however, there is nothing much left to do besides committing that person to the grace of God and moving on. In such cases, I have always taken comfort in the fact that "nothing is impossible with God", but I do need to stress here that in this verse John is relieving us of the responsibility of excessive worry and concern in the case of individuals who have, of their own free will, placed themselves beyond the pale of grace (as far as we can discern it or are in a position to affect it, even by our prayers). It is also important to note here that John's whole thrust in this passage is to assure his listeners that all not sin is "unto death" - that is to say, we should not assume that, because we see a fellow believer involved in sin, we should therefore immediately wash our hands of him/her because we feel that they are now "lost". Scripture is clear that great circumspection is necessary in such cases (Jude 22-23), but that does not mean we should "cut loose" those whose sinfulness we notice may be something less than complete and utter apostasy and rejection of Christ.

We all need God's mercy, and can all stand to benefit from the intervening prayers of our fellow believers from time to time, but we also have to be realistic that not everyone is "of the faith" (2Thes.3:2). And there are certain behavior patterns embraced by an individual with free will which almost by definition proclaim the complete rejection of any semblance of Christianity (becoming a drug pusher or member of a criminal organization, for example). In such instances, John relieves us here of the burden of intervention.

I take great comfort and encouragement in this verse from the biblical fact that - apart from the most clear-cut cases of faith-denying sinfulness - we have the opportunity to help and intervene for our fellow followers of Christ through prayer whenever we see them in trouble (and also to have them do the same for us). Such is great mercy of our God!"

I think that it is clear from your attitude of Godly fear, concern, and true repentance, that you are not of the sort to turn back but persevere in faith in Jesus Christ. This I would urge you to continue to make your number one priority. If you do, it does not mean that He will remove the discipline for high-handed sin immediately, but it does mean that after your confession of your sin to Him He will make it a bearable experience, one meant for good even through the tears. David produced joyous Psalms and did much in the will of God even during the fourteen years of harsh discipline he received for his adultery and murder of Uriah. We add trouble to our lives whenever we fail to walk sufficiently in the fear of God, but we should also fear Him enough to be terrified of ever turning away from His mercy, for He has already forgiven all our sins in His Son Jesus Christ, and He is ever willing and ready to receive His prodigal children back into His embrace whenever they return to Him in honest repentance. Here is something I have written about confessing sin (from "Confession of Sin in 1st John 1:9"; please see also the Peter #15 lesson):

"1st John 1:9 is indeed a very important verse. If we didn't have this verse, we would still come to the conclusion from scripture that 1) it is of critical importance for believers to confess their sins to God with regularity (cf. Ps.32; 38; 51; 130:3; 143:1; Prov.28:13; Matt.6:12; Lk.11:4); and 2) that upon doing so we are forgiven on the basis of our Savior's death on the cross in our place (Acts 10:43; Eph.1:7; Col.1:14; Heb.10:19-22; 1Jn.4:10). But 1st John 1:9 certainly helps to make the point very clear. So, indeed, you are correct that it is of great importance to get it right, to understand and translate it properly. And as to your appreciation of the Greek text, you are also right that technically the hina clause is in the form of a purpose clause and that would make the construction seem a bit unusual, but this is a (precedented) "koine" usage, long recognized to be the equivalent to an infinitive (which would express purpose here). Either way, the idea is one of purpose/result (i.e., "so as to") which comes out of or follows the idea of God's righteousness and faithfulness:

If we say that we do not possess sin (i.e., a sin nature which is producing personal sins), we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just so as to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say, that we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His Word is not in us.
1st John 1:8-10

God is within His rights to forgive us: He can maintain His justice in forgiving sin because Christ paid the price for all sin. And God is reliable and dependable in His forgiveness of us when we confess: i.e., our forgiveness is not based upon whim or circumstance, or upon the intensity of our prayer - no, it is Christ's blood that covers our sin, Christ's blood which has "washed our entire bodies" free of sin's pollution and cleanses "our feet" whenever we ask the Father for forgiveness for the sins we commit though followers of His Son - for He is faithful (cf. Jn.13:5-17; cf. Heb.10:22). We all sin, even after salvation, and it is a dangerous heresy to claim that we do not, for such claims make God out to be a liar (1Jn.1:10). But it is equally dangerous to pretend that struggling against sin is unimportant (Rom.6:1-2) - believers in Jesus Christ are told to pursue sanctification "without which no will see the Lord" (Heb.12:14). Therefore our proper attitude toward confession should mirror the proper attitude toward sin: on the one hand, we need to be confident in the forgiveness which is in Christ Jesus (Col.1:13-14); and, on the other hand, we cannot afford to become lackadaisical about our personal behavior, as if it made no difference whether we sin or no (the sin's wage is death: Rom.6:23). For while it is true that we will remain imperfect as long as we remain in these mortal bodies wherein sin dwells (Rom.7:24), it is also true that in Christ we have died to sin (Rom.6:1-14; 7:4-6), and so should be seeking to put it out of our lives as much as possible (Rom.6:12-13), knowing that sin is a hindrance, a stumbling block, a problem which alienates us from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, and an occasion for punishment from Him (Heb.12:5-12). Yes it is true, that as long as we are walking with Him, confessing our sins and attempting to do what is right, we can rest assured that He is treating us as sons in His correction of us (Heb.12:5). But consider this analogy. A son who makes a mistake in the process of learning, makes several, makes many, makes the same one several times, but is truly moving forward, growing up toward the good and away from the bad, that son is a son with whom a loving father will patiently bear, confident in a positive outcome. But a son who confesses sin, merely mouthing the words, with no intention in his heart of really changing his ways is a different story all together. Why is he bothering, except to deceive his father (and perhaps himself)? So our attitude in confession is important. David was overjoyed at the forgiveness he found from the Lord (Ps.32:1-11), and we too should both be happy in the forgiveness of the sins we come to God and admit, but also reverent in that approach - God is not fooled, God is not mocked. The reason that David was reluctant to approach God immediately in some instances is that he was unwilling, even in spiritual rebellion, to make what would amount to a false confession to God, to admit that he had sinned without being both completely convinced in his mind of the wrongness of his sin and determined in his heart to stop it. Now we are all weak, and it is admittedly hard to be perfect in all this. God knows this. He is merciful, beyond our understanding. But we should take care not to approach the throne of grace in arrogance, not to give mere lip service to confession - as if there were any point in that. When our Lord calls us to "repent", to reassess what we have done and recommit to doing what is right in the future (cf. Rev.2:5), it is not mere a mental understanding of the fact that a sin has been committed that is being asked for - even the demons understand on some level that they have violated God's commands (they just don't really care). We are to care - not to throw ourselves into paroxysms of guilt and self-inflicted mental anguish (such behavior indicates a complete lack of understanding of the mercy of God and forgiveness which is in Christ), but rather to "own up" to our mistakes, to see and understand that we were wrong and did wrong, and at the very least to be disposed to doing what is right and what is acceptable to Him in the future. Are we weak? God helps our weakness (Is.40:29-31). Are we in need of understanding? God is the One who supplies all wisdom (Jas.1:5). Are we convicted by our own heart of our failures and sinfulness? God is greater than our heart (1Jn.3:20), and God knows how to "rescue sinners from temptation" (2Pet.2:9). If we are only willing to walk with Him, He has the power and the plan to pull us out of the swamp and to lead us forward. We will never attain "sinless perfection" on this earth, but there are many of us, sad to say, who are not much concerned with behavior at all, and who have not yet even begun to fight against sin (Heb.12:4; cf. 1Pet.4:1). This issue is critical in the Christian life, because resistance to negative behavior is the very important defense that is necessary before we can play a proper offense. If the devil has us bogged down in a morass of personal sinfulness where we are ever stumbling from one bad idea to the next (or the same one over and over again), between the guilt, the divine punishment, the natural consequences of wrong behavior, and our inevitable preoccupation with this issue, it will indeed be pretty hard for us to be moving ahead in Christian spiritual growth, preparing and implementing the individual ministries He has called upon each and every one of us to do (Eph.2:10). At the very least, such a pattern of lack of serious confession and continued, chronic sin will be a poor witness and a poor reflection upon those ministries. Let us even stipulate that God in His great faithfulness and infinite, unfathomable mercy forgives every confessed sin, even from those who are not in the least really repentant and have every intention of continuing in these same sins again. Does anyone really believe that chronic misbehavior can be compartmentalized - especially in the lives of believers in Christ - without having a seriously deleterious effect upon ministry, upon reputation, and, not the least of considerations by all means, upon the sense of peace we are promised and commanded to pursue (Jn.14:27; Rom.5:1; Heb.4:1)?

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just so as to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1st John 1:9

Let us therefore be quick to recognize when we have transgressed and equally quick to come to Him, acknowledging our sins in true contrition, neither depending upon any emotional effort on our part for forgiveness, nor disingenuously making such confession only by rote or for show. Proper private confession to God by ever believer of ever recognized and noted sin is a very important part of the equation of spiritual growth. And in each and every such case "He will faithfully and justly forgive us our sins". As a practical matter, we should not let this issue paralyze us - is not the Spirit in us? - does not God promise complete forgiveness if only we confess? Then we need not be overly worried about every minute action, thought and word (it is possible to go to extremes in all things). On the other hand, in addition to immediate confession of instances of clearly recognized, out-and-out willful sin, we ought to make confession a regular part of our prayer life: the "opportunities" for transgression in thought, word and deed are substantial, and we would all do well to walk humbly with our God in this respect (Micah 6:8), remembering always to maintain the same attitude of forgiveness to others which we expect to receive from our heavenly Father, for love covers a multitude of sins (1Pet.4:8):

Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors. Matthew 6:12 NIV"

I hope you find this helpful. Please do not give up on your faith and faithful following of Jesus Christ. The righteous stumble many times, but God always lifts them up again. We have all failed, but we all will win the victory in Jesus if only we hold fast to Him, faithful to the end.

You will find much more about this and important related topics at the following link:

        Bible Basics 3B: Hamartiology: The Biblical Study of Sin.

Does Hebrews 10:26 teach loss of salvation?

Does Hebrews 10:26-35 ("deliberate sinning" etc.) mean that a believer can lose his or her salvation?

Apostasy and the Sin unto Death.

Have I committed the unpardonable sin?

In the Lord of mercy who gave Himself to die for every one of our sins, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob Luginbill


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