Life, Hope & Truth

What Is the Unpardonable Sin?

Is there a sin that God won’t forgive? Are there sins that are too bad to forgive? If so, what are they? What does the Bible teach about the unpardonable sin?

The purpose of Jesus’ sacrifice is to make it possible for us to be reconciled to God—to be “holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (Colossians 1:22). Jesus paid an enormous price on our behalf to rescue us from sin.

But is it possible that there can be a sin that even the blood of Jesus Christ can’t cover? Many people worry they have committed the unpardonable sin. Have you ever asked, “Did I commit the unpardonable sin?”

Although the phrase unpardonable sin does not appear in Scripture, there are three passages in which we are warned of sin that cannot be forgiven. Understanding these passages can help prevent us from committing such a sin and at the same time give us assurance that we have not.

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

In Matthew 12:31-32 Jesus Christ warned the Pharisees that “blasphemy against the [Holy] Spirit will not be forgiven men” in this age or in the age to come. 

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

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, rather than acknowledging that He was the Savior, the Pharisees knowingly falsely accused Him of healing the man by the power of Satan (Beelzebub).

In verse 31 the Greek word translated “blasphemy” means to vilify, rail or speak evil against. Jesus said elsewhere that the sin of blasphemy came from the depths of an evil heart (Mark 7:21-23). Blasphemy is one thing, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit takes it to another level.

In Matthew 12:32 Jesus repeats the thought, stating that “anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man” can be forgiven (emphasis added throughout). That phrase speaks a word against means to be antagonistic against or in conflict with another. Most people in their ignorance initially rejected Jesus Christ, and they will have opportunity to repent.

What the Pharisees said wasn’t just a casual comment or misunderstanding. It was an intentional, outrageous and unthinkable accusation to attribute the power of God to Satan. It was this blatant, premeditated lie that Jesus labeled as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

We can be in danger of committing the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit if we know God has accomplished something through the power of His Spirit, yet intentionally attribute it to the working of Satan. The Holy Spirit is the power of God—it is how He works to accomplish His will. So to reject the working of His Spirit is to not just reject His identity, but to reject His very power, work and nature. Someone who has actually committed blasphemy against the Spirit will not desire to repent, and so cannot be forgiven.

What does “falling away” mean in the Bible?

The second passage, Hebrews 6:4-6, is a powerful warning against abandoning the understanding of God’s Word, instruction and promises. “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 repentance, understood and accepted God’s forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ, and received the gift of the Holy Spirit, but subsequently, knowingly and intentionally rejected Jesus. This is a person who, even though he knows God’s authority, has intentionally set his mind to reject the gift of God’s Holy Spirit and to reject the only One through whom repentance is possible.

Repentance means to seek God’s forgiveness for sin through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and to commit to a lifetime of obedience, forsaking a previous way of life. When we repent, we receive the gift of God’s Holy Spirit by which we have an understanding of God’s goodness and eternal promises.

The phrase fall away means “to abandon a former relationship” (Louw and Nida Greek-English Lexicon). This passage warns that there is no way to renew repentance once it is rejected. If people knowingly and intentionally reject what Jesus has done for them by His sacrifice, they “hold him up to contempt” (verse 6, Revised Standard Version). And having rejected His sacrifice, there is no other sacrifice by which they can be saved (Acts 4:12).

The sin that cannot be forgiven is a sin of which a person does not want to repent. It is the act of rejecting the sacrifice of Christ and intentionally choosing sin over repentance, forgiveness and obedience.

It’s important to note that this is not the same as stumbling or going through a time of weakness in our life. That can happen to people, but they can repent and get back on the path of God’s way of life. To “fall away” is a much more conscious rejection of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and making a conscious decision to embrace a sinful way of life. Someone who comes to this point fully understands the consequences of what he or she is doing—but simply does not care and will not change.

Willful sin

The third passage that mentions a sin that cannot be forgiven 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 has set his will (his mind) against God and knowingly chooses to reject Him. This is one who utterly refuses to comply with God’s law, even though he understands that he should. In effect, it is a person who chooses Satan over God. His character, will and desire are set against God’s will. There is no forgiveness because he rejects Jesus’ sacrifice, which is the only way that sins can be forgiven. All that is left for a person in this condition is the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

Paul also discussed this aspect of willful sin in 1 Timothy 4:1-2, where he shows that some no longer feel guilt or shame because they have allowed their conscience to be “seared with a hot iron.”

“Have I committed the unpardonable sin?”

Everyone occasionally sins out of weakness or ignorance. There are times when we labor to control or overcome deeply ingrained habits or patterns that we know are sinful, slipping back at times even though we’re trying to overcome.

If you are struggling against sin and are concerned about committing the unpardonable sin, you have not committed the unpardonable sin.Paul eloquently describes this ongoing battle in Romans 7:14-25. He writes in verse 15, “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.” He concludes the passage by acknowledging that our only hope in dealing with our nature and striving to obey is through Jesus Christ (verses 24-25).

Proverbs 24:16 says, “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again.”

Psalm 37:23-24 tells us that “the steps of a good man are ordered [established] by the LORD and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the LORD upholds him with His hand.”

In these two verses “fall” doesn’t mean abandon, but stumble or slip. In other words, even a righteous person will trip and fall. The key is to get back up and keep trying. God holds up and strengthens those who continue to strive to obey and live God’s way, even though they stumble at times.

If you are struggling against sin and are concerned about committing the unpardonable sin, you have not committed the unpardonable sin. Those who have truly committed the unpardonable sin will be so hardened in a sinful and rebellious attitude that they simply don’t care or worry about God’s forgiveness or the consequences of their attitude and way of living.

Warning and assurance

There is stern warning in Scripture about the kind of sin that cannot be forgiven. To sin in that way means to intentionally deny the power of God, to knowingly abandon God’s grace and calling or to deliberately reject the sacrifice of Jesus Christ by setting your mind, heart and will to intentionally sin rather than submit to God.

But those passages also assure us that as long as we genuinely repent of our sins, sincerely seek God’s forgiveness, and continue with a diligent effort to obey God, we can be confident that our sins are forgiven. As John reminds 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).

If you are practicing this scripture in your life—and are confessing your sins to God and seeking His forgiveness—you have not committed the unpardonable sin.

See our booklet Change Your Life! for more about repentance and becoming right with God.

About the Author

Don Henson

Don Henson

Don Henson, along with his wife, Rannie, is currently the pastor of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, congregations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Wheeling, West Virginia. He has been in the pastoral ministry since 1986, previously serving congregations in Oregon, Tennessee and Ohio.

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