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Christian Life

What Is the “Unforgivable Sin”?

In Mark chapter 3, Jesus makes a statement that has been confusing modern Christians for years; you can also find this in Matthew chapter 12:

Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin. —Mark 3:28-29, NASB

Jesus has just finished casting a demon out of a man. The Pharisees are there and they start whispering to each other that Jesus casts out demons by the spirit of the ruler of the demons, Beelzebub.

In Christianity, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is known as the unforgivable sin. This is not necessarily a sin that God can’t forgive, but a sin that He won’t forgive.

Before we get too deep into this, we should define what blasphemy is. According to the Oxford American Dictionary, blasphemy is “disrespectful talk about God or sacred things.” We’re not talking about a little bit of disrespect here—we’re talking about purposeful, defiant disrespect. It’s complete refusal to accept the truth of the power of God at work by the Holy Spirit.

What happened right before Jesus made this statement? He cast out a demon and the Pharisees said that the power for Him to do that came from the evil one! You can’t be much more disrespectful to God than that. Instead of acknowledging the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’s miracles, they gave the credit to Satan. They denied the evident power of the Holy Spirit even though it was happening right in front of them.

Girls, this is part of the reason why I’m always trying to encourage you not to discount some of the more miraculous/odd things that happen among different denominations, like miraculous healings, exorcisms or speaking in tongues. We never want to deny what could be the evident power of the Holy Spirit unless we’re absolutely certain that God is saying something isn’t from Him.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is rejection of the evident power of the Holy Spirit at work in someone (Jesus) or in the world. Luke chapter 12 takes it further and includes the disciples in that category as well. I don’t think it’s too far out of line to suggest that this might apply to any followers of Jesus as well (but that’s my personal opinion).

Think of this as sort of the opposite of what the Bible says about salvation: If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth that Jesus is the Lord, you’ll be saved. Well, if you completely reject or deny in your heart the evident power of the Holy Spirit to do the will of God, and you profess this with your mouth, then you’ve blasphemed the Holy Spirit.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is usually applied to nonbelievers who reject the work of the Holy Spirit. Apostasy is the word that means someone has had a relationship with Jesus Christ, but decided to walk away and completely reject Him in his or her heart and mind. Both terms mean essentially the same thing.

Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a purposeful, hostile, continual rejection of the prompting of the Holy Spirit to trust in Christ. Prompting by the Holy Spirit can come in many forms—miracles, that little tug at your heart that tries to make you change, etc. Continued rejection of these things as the work of God’s Spirit is unforgivable.

There’s no shame in admitting that you’re not sure of something. If you encounter a work that seems like it could be from God, but you aren’t sure, that’s okay. The way to feel more secure is to pray for the Holy Spirit to give you discernment so you can tell what is from Him and what isn’t. If you have mixed feelings about certain things, then you don’t have to make a public declaration about whether or not they’re from God—you can just choose not to engage in them.

Girls, has this given you a little better understanding of the “unforgivable sin”?

And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. —Romans 5:5

More Stories Like This on Project Inspired:

Bible Study: “What’s at the Heart of Idolatry?”
Sunday School: “How Do I Start a Conversation About God?”
Bible Study: How Do YOU Recognize Jesus?

Image: iStockphoto | ThinkStock + Project Inspired

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39 Comments

  1. martial_artist_for_Jesus

    Posted by martial_artist_for_Jesus on April 3, 2016 at 14:03

    Quick question…
    So they unforgivable sin… it’s a “for-life” sin?? Like you do those 4 things you listed in the comments all the time??? :/ I’m asking because I’m really worried…. a while ago, see, there was this unbeliever who was into me, and I was crushing on him, but we didn’t do anything and I told him it won’t be right for us to start going out because of “belief differences,” but even then I feel like I was blinded by “puppy love.” The Holy Spirit was giving me like dozens of reasons why I shouldn’t have those feelings for him, but I couldn’t stop the feelings at the time, and chose to ignore Him…And since these past few months I look back and realize how truly stupid, foolish and naive I was, and that He had only been trying to help me, and if the said unbeliever and I got together we actually would’ve been probably pretty miserable; the guilt of all that now has been weighing in on my heart for over a year. And now, reading over this, I wonder if it qualifies as an “unforgivable sin,” even after I got devastated and truly remorseful after what I had done…. is it?

  2. Project Inspired

    Posted by everyoneisbeutifullanduniqueintheirownway on July 10, 2014 at 15:38

    just wondering so if u ignore the holy spitirt would that mean He would stop speaking to you

  3. Project Inspired

    Posted by everyoneisbeutifullanduniqueintheirownway on July 10, 2014 at 15:26

    when i read this i seriously felt a prompting from God and started crying thats the Holy Spirit

  4. Project Inspired

    Posted by everyoneisbeutifullanduniqueintheirownway on July 10, 2014 at 15:23

    i feel as if i fell away from the Lord then pursued Him and felt guilty for not pursuing Him before what does that mean

  5. Project Inspired

    Posted by everyoneisbeutifullanduniqueintheirownway on July 10, 2014 at 15:14

    soooo what if u can feel the spirit prompting u but u dont listen?

  6. Project Inspired

    Posted by Naomy on April 15, 2014 at 19:37

    Plz answer ..!!!!!!

  7. Project Inspired

    Posted by Naomy on April 15, 2014 at 19:01

    Ummmm what if u say “the spirit is stupid” in ur head ,but you didn’t mean it or like u felt like it was ur conscience that said it or like ur conscience says bad stuff but like u don’t want it to?!!!plzzz answer

  8. Posted by JennArman on October 31, 2013 at 10:34

    My greatest fear always in addressing this specific topic is how confusing it is and remains even once people try to explain it. Many leading theologians have trouble agreeing on the meaning of this Scripture.

    Here is a quote directly from the Tyndale New Testament Commentary on Mark by R. Alan Cole.

    “This [blasphemy of the Holy Spirit] is the sin of the willfully blind, who persistently refuse the illumination of the Spirit, oppose the Spirit’s work, and justify themselves in doing so by deliberately misrepresenting Him.”

    There are 4 things according to this that people have to do to be guilty of the unforgivable sin:

    1. Be willfully blind. This means choosing to remain blind. It would be like standing right in front of someone’s face (who can see) and having them deliberately choose to ignore or acknowledge your existence.

    2. Persistently refuse the illumination of the Spirit. Going back to the illustration of standing in front of someone, what if another person tried to help the willfully blind person acknowledge you? Persistent refusal means that no matter how the Holy Spirit tries to help you see the truth you continue to refuse to see and refuse His help.

    3. Oppose the Spirit’s work. To oppose something means to disagree with AND try to prevent; to compete or fight someone. Oppose is a verb, it’s an action. You have to actively fight against the work the Spirit is doing everywhere (in yourself, in others and in the world).

    4. Justify your actions by DELIBERATELY misrepresenting the Holy Spirit. This means that you acknowledge your actions as good and right by purposely lying about who the Holy Spirit is, what He does, etc.

    To be guilty of the unforgivable sin, you MUST actively engage in these four things; all of them.

    Having doubt is forgivable. Rejecting time with God because you’re angry is forgivable. Exploring other avenues of life or religion are forgivable. All things are forgivable as long as you do not spend your entire life (to the final breath), actively engaged in these 4 specific things.

    This is Scripture as well as we’re able to explain it girls. Jesus clearly said “but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29, NASB).

    Just because we don’t like it, doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t say it. As far as it’s perfect meaning, that’s something we may never fully and unmistakeably understand until we’re reunited with Jesus face to face.

    • dancingonhappyclouds

      Posted by dancingonhappyclouds on November 13, 2013 at 17:07

      Wow! this actually helped more than the article for me. Thank you so much!

    • AllisonGrace

      Posted by AllisonGrace on October 31, 2013 at 12:58

      This did help a lot 🙂 Thank you for clarifying, I appreciate all the thought and wisdom you put into your responses <3

  9. Marissarulz

    Posted by Marissarulz on October 31, 2013 at 04:14

    From what I can tell, blasphemy is being a satanist.

  10. iam_priceless

    Posted by iam_priceless on October 30, 2013 at 20:25

    So, is saying the abbreviation OMG a blaspheme against God?

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by jtjc767 on November 4, 2013 at 17:54

      @Iam_priceless, I’m not sure I would call that blasphemy (though some may disagree); I place that under the category of using God’s name in vain. But that’s just my opinion 😀

    • Marissarulz

      Posted by Marissarulz on October 31, 2013 at 04:09

      Read the article again, but more carefully…

  11. Lovely Mistakes

    Posted by Lovely Mistakes on October 30, 2013 at 15:19

    This helped me soooo much!

  12. supergirl55

    Posted by supergirl55 on October 30, 2013 at 14:15

    God WON’T forgive you? If you ask will he?

    • AllisonGrace

      Posted by AllisonGrace on October 30, 2013 at 17:22

      Yes, God WILL forgive this sin. I can’t believe how messed up this article is. Ladies, if Jesus is in your heart, there is nothing that can separate you.

      • Project Inspired

        Posted by jtjc767 on November 4, 2013 at 17:43

        @AllisonGrace, you said, “Yes, God WILL forgive this sin…Ladies, if Jesus is in your heart, there is nothing that can separate you.” A Christian/believer can NEVER commit the unforgivable sin. Idk what your denomination is, but I’m Baptist and we believe that once you’re saved, you’re always saved. Thus, Christians cannot commit the unforgivable sin. The unforgivable sin (or Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit) occurs when an unbeliever dies an unbeliever. Then, there is no confession/repentance for them and they are eternally separated from God. Hope this cleared things up! 🙂

      • Posted by JennArman on October 31, 2013 at 10:36

        AllisonGrace, I’m very sorry that this article seems to have offended/upset you so much. I hope that my further explanation in the comments helps you understand my intended meaning more clearly. <3

  13. jmadisonk

    Posted by jmadisonk on October 30, 2013 at 06:42

    Thank you so much for this post. It really helped me understand that subject better!

  14. Project Inspired

    Posted by wazowskimug on October 29, 2013 at 23:53

    This is really informing and interesting! So basically, are atheists committing blasphemy? Because it’s a belief that God does not exist, not just someone not necessarily believing in God.

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by jtjc767 on November 4, 2013 at 17:52

      @wazowskimug, you asked “when u say an unbeliever, upon death, cannot repent for the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, are u saying non believers can repent for their sins after they die and enter heaven?” No, after death, there is no repentance. If you die a Christian, you go to heaven; otherwise, you don’t :-/ I was just saying that the reason why Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable is because it only occurs once an unbeliever dies. If at any point in time BEFORE death, a person comes to know and believe in Christ, they cannot commit the unforgivable sin. Let me know if this cleared things up! 🙂

    • mkay77

      Posted by mkay77 on October 30, 2013 at 15:30

      Okay, so long story short, for the ones that STILL are confused about Atheism being an “unforgivable sin” (I don’t blame you guys, this confused me for a LOOOONG time until a friend’s sister’s husband clarified it to me), think about it this way: Heaven is the presence of God and His forgiveness. Now think of it this way: imagine you are having a fight with your friend, and imagine she is wrong, but she is convinced you are wrong. You can be as loving and forgiving as you possibly want, but if she won’t accept it, she’ll live bitterly and in pain. God is holding out love and forgiveness, but Atheists turn their back on Him. It doesn’t matter how much forgiveness and love God gives…Atheists aren’t going to accept it. Does that kinda-sorta make sense?

      -M-

  15. ciaociara@yahoo.com

    Posted by ciaociara@yahoo.com on October 29, 2013 at 20:57

    I used to struggle so much with the concept of anything God would deem “unforgivable”. To me, the fact that the Pharisees were saying Jesus did miracles by the devils hand, meant that they were rejecting Him as a Savior, and as God’s son. By it’s very nature it is unforgivable. I tend to believe that any persons who are truly repentant and longing for salvation through Jesus Christ, may receive that. How can you be forgiven for something you don’t want forgiveness from? I like that you are addressing this topic, but I don’t care for the article’s explanation…

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by jtjc767 on November 4, 2013 at 17:48

      @Ciara, you said, “I used to struggle so much with the concept of anything God would deem “unforgivable.”” The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the ONLY sin that God will/can not forgive. Basically, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit occurs when an unbeliever/Non-Christian dies an unbeliever. Thus, the unbeliever becomes separated from God eternally (i.e., after death there is no confession of/repentance from sins as the person has in essence made their ‘choice’). Hope this helps clear up any confusion 🙂

  16. AllisonGrace

    Posted by AllisonGrace on October 29, 2013 at 19:34

    This makes no sense. It goes against what Jesus teaches about forgiveness. All sin is equal in God’s eyes. My boyfriend’s brother used to walk in a Christian lifestyle. Now he’s gay, parties constantly, and denies God. Are you saying his “continual rejection” means he’s going to hell? Also, even if it IS for unbelievers, aren’t we forgiven of our sin when we come to faith? I hope I misread something here. This should not be taught to impressionable girls.

    • Rose of Emerlandia

      Posted by Rose of Emerlandia on November 8, 2013 at 20:04

      The passage about the unforgivable sin came straight from Jesus’ mouth. Ditto the other comments about dying an unbeliever. I think. Very difficult to interpret, but that makes the most sense with the context of the rest of the Bible.

  17. nonnie

    Posted by nonnie on October 29, 2013 at 17:39

    jtjc767 you said it alot better than me. sorry i didnt see your comment before i posted mine

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by jtjc767 on November 4, 2013 at 17:35

      @nonnie, no worries! i enjoyed reading what you had to say 🙂

  18. MonkeyButt

    Posted by MonkeyButt on October 29, 2013 at 17:38

    Yep, I have better understanding of it now. Thanks!

  19. nonnie

    Posted by nonnie on October 29, 2013 at 17:21

    @belladoesntsuck i think that what she meant was more like not that it wouldnt be forgiven in that situation but that since salvation and the ”unforgiveable” sin are like opposites its more like the ”unforgiveable” sin is when you manage to actively resist and defy God’s call throughout your life. if you accept Him thats salvation and everyone has times when we stray from the Father. did that help?

  20. belladoesntsuck

    Posted by belladoesntsuck on October 29, 2013 at 16:03

    I’m still not sure, does this mean that God will not forgive you if you blaspheme even if you come to Him later and repent?

    Another thing, I’m still not sure exactly what “speaking in tongues” is….

    Any answers to my questions would be greatly appreciated!

    • Marissarulz

      Posted by Marissarulz on October 31, 2013 at 22:18

      @Wazimoskimug
      After you die, then you can’t repent anymore. You only have this life. Also, only those who have repented can go to Heaven. You see, after death, you’ve gotta go somewhere. But the ones who have never given their lives to God have to go to Hell, because God can’t be around those who haven’t been forgiven, the ones who still have sin.

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by jtjc767 on October 29, 2013 at 17:13

      @bella, “blasphemy” and “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” are two completely different things. Though the first is forgivable, the second is not. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit occurs when one rejects Christ; thus, anyone who is not a born-again Christian, and DIES an unbeliever has committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Upon death, one cannot repent (this is why it’s considered THE unforgivable sin as after you’ve died an unbeliever there’s only one outcome).

      With regards to speaking in tongues, different denominations have different views. I’m Baptist and we believe that the “speaking in tongues” referred to in the Bible indicated that the disciples were able to speak multiple languages (that they had never learned) through the power of the Holy Spirit in order to reach people who did not speak Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, etc. Thus, everyone who was there heard the gospel in their own language. Hope this helps! 🙂

      • Project Inspired

        Posted by wazowskimug on October 29, 2013 at 23:56

        @jtjc767 when u say an unbeliever, upon death, cannot repent for the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, are u saying non believers can repent for their sins after they die and enter heaven?

      • soccersk8r14

        Posted by soccersk8r14 on October 29, 2013 at 19:31

        So if you come back and repent to God before death you are saves right? I rejected Him once out of anger because of doubting going on.

      • raspberryre

        Posted by raspberryre on October 29, 2013 at 17:27

        Oh my goodness. Thank you so much. I was so confused until I read your reply! Haha. I was beginning to panic myself that I had once mentally rejected God years ago and that I would never be forgiven until I read your explanation. Thank you!

  21. Project Inspired

    Posted by on October 29, 2013 at 10:20

    You totally cleared this up for me! I had never thought of it quiet that way before! Thanks!!

  22. lizzie-97

    Posted by lizzie-97 on October 29, 2013 at 09:09

    This is cool that you posted this today! My dad is our pastor and he’s been talking about this on Sunday morning’s! Thanks for sharing! (: