Are there sins that are too bad for God to forgive? If so, what are they? What does the Bible teach about the unpardonable sin?
There are three instances in Scripture where we are warned about sin that cannot be forgiven. All three refer to the sin of knowingly and intentionally rejecting God, either by denying the work of the Holy Spirit or the sacrifice of Jesus Christ by which sin is forgiven.
Blasphemy against the Spirit
In Matthew 12:31 Jesus Christ warns the Pharisees that “blasphemy against the [Holy] Spirit will not be forgiven men” in this age or in the age to come (verse 32). “Blasphemy” means to vilify, rail or speak evil against.
Verses 22-30 give the background for this statement. Jesus had healed a man who was possessed by a demon. The people who witnessed this miracle realized that this was evidence that Jesus was the Messiah (verse 23). But in an attempt to discredit Jesus and intentionally mislead the people, the Pharisees accused Him of healing the man by the power of Satan (Beelzebub).
Jesus warned the Pharisees that knowing that He had performed this miracle by the power of God’s Spirit yet intentionally denying it and attributing it to the power of Satan was a form of blasphemy that could not be forgiven—an unpardonable sin.
The second passage is Hebrews 6:4-6. It says, “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”
This passage describes a person who had come to understand and accept God’s forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit but subsequently knowingly and intentionally turned away from that understanding. This is a person who has become unwilling to repent, so therefore cannot be forgiven. The sin that cannot be forgiven is a sin of which a person refuses to repent—that is, the act of rejecting the sacrifice of Christ and intentionally choosing sin over repentance, forgiveness and obedience.
Sinning “willfully” is an unpardonable sin
The third passage that mentions an unpardonable sin is Hebrews 10:26-27. It says, “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.”
To sin “willfully” indicates a person who utterly refuses to comply with God’s law or to repent, even though he completely understands that he should. His character, will and desire are set; and he knowingly rejects and rebels against God. There is no sacrifice or forgiveness for the sins of one who knows God and understands he should repent and accept Jesus’ sacrifice but refuses to do so.
Those who truly repent have not committed the unpardonable sin
Everyone occasionally sins out of weakness or ignorance. Some people have habits or patterns of sin that they slip back into even though they’re trying to overcome. As long as we genuinely repent, ask for forgiveness and make diligent effort to obey God, we can be confident that our sins are forgiven. As John assures us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
See our booklet Change Your Life! for more about repentance and becoming right with God.