We’ve gotten lots of questions over the years here at The Doctor’s Worldwide Command Center but there is one question that has been asked more than any other that The Doctor has ever received. That question is this: “Have I committed the unpardonable sin?”
People sometimes ask this question based on a passage of Scripture found in Mark 3:29 where Jesus speaks about a type of sin that can never be forgiven. People have come to refer to this particular sin as the “unpardonable sin” because it can never be “pardoned” or forgiven.
Although The Doctor has talked about this in the past, the amount of mail that he gets on this one subject leads him to think that many, many other people are asking if they may have committed this sin too. For example, here’s a sample of some e-mail that The Doctor has seen over the years from people who are concerned that they may have committed the unpardonable sin…
"I am asking for your help on the unpardonable sin. A few months ago I was going out to clubs. I knew it was wrong, but my girlfriend told me all sin is sin and not to worry. I had a strong feeling in my heart not to do it, but I ignored it...Now my heart is empty, all I feel is fear, my emotions are gone, I can't even cry, I really think I must have done this unpardonable sin."
"For a long time I feel I have committed the unpardonable sin its tearing me apart... this all started when I had this blaspheme(mous) thought about Jesus. I didn't even want to think it I just feel so bad... people tell me to confess it according to 1 John 1:9 but I'm like I don't know if Jesus will forgive me."
"I have had a hard time spiritually because I have struggled with having these same thoughts in my mind... I can recall that one night I got so frustrated and hopeless over my thoughts against Jesus that I decided to just blaspheme with my mouth the Holy Spirit even though I knew it would mean eternal damnation. I regret this so much."
"Starting the day I found out what blasphemy was, I felt almost tormented when I would lie in bed at night. After I prayed, I would get extremely disturbing thoughts, almost statements exactly what the Pharisees said to Jesus when they committed this sin."
"...for a while I've had repeated blasphemous thoughts against the (Holy Spirit), God and Jesus... but for the past few months these thoughts have been coming back and I've not been able to really rid myself of them for more than a day or so."
Perhaps one or more of these comments describes the way that you feel. If so then let’s take a few minutes to look at what Jesus meant when He mentioned this “unpardonable sin” and see if it actually applies to you. We’ll start by looking at the Scripture that sets the stage and gives us the setting where Jesus made His comments…
“Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.’
So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.
I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.’ He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit'” (Mark 3:20-30 NIV).
Ok, so Jesus defines this unpardonable sin for us as “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”. Now before we continue, let’s talk a little about what “blasphemy” actually is. The word blasphemy means to speak contemptuously of God or of sacred things. (1) It involves speaking and/or living in a way that shows total disrespect for God. A blasphemous person is someone who totally despises God in the things they say and shows contempt for Him in the way that they live.
So now that we know what blasphemy is, let’s step back and look at what was really happening when Jesus made this serious statement about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
First, did you happen to notice that it was the teachers of the law who made this comment about Jesus being “…possessed by Beelzebub“? (2) If we could duplicate this scene in our modern world today it would be like a group of respected religious leaders teaching that Jesus was possessed by the devil.
One scholar-type describes the spiritual leaders that Jesus was speaking to as educated men who served as interpreters and teachers of the Old Testament. It was their job to look at tough Biblical questions and then make decisions that were supposed to help people understand what God’s Word meant. (3) These religious authorities were the men who were supposed to truthfully represent God and His Word to the people.
With this in mind, what other observations can we make? Well, it’s clear that these religious leaders were not struggling with temptation when they made this comment to Jesus. They were not having a problem with impure thoughts. They certainly weren’t interested in living a lifestyle that was in line with Jesus’ teachings and they appeared to show no concern about referring to Jesus as Satan’s puppet (which is really what they meant by what they said).
It’s also clear that this statement to Jesus was not a mistake or an accidental slip of the tongue. These men certainly showed no regret about what they said; on the contrary, they meant every word of it! The fact is that these men were showing open, knowing and willful disrespect to the work of God- not only in thoughts but also in words by saying what they did. Remember that these guys were the religious teachers- and they should have known better.
Now this brings us back to our original question- should you be concerned that you may have committed the unpardonable sin? Well, The Doctor believes that you can answer this question simply by seeing if you match up with the people that Jesus was speaking to when He made His warning.
- Are you a religious teacher who has studied the Scriptures for years like these men?
- Have you chosen to totally reject Jesus’ teachings as these men did?
- Have you shown open disrespect to the work of God with the full knowledge of what you were doing as these leaders did?
- Have you chosen to go against your years of studying the Bible and decided to refer to the work of the Holy Spirit as the work of Satan in front of a large group of people as these men did?
Now listen carefully- unless you meet these very same standards, The Doctor believes that Jesus was not speaking to someone like you when He warned these religious leaders about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Remember that the Bible tells us that Jesus specifically “said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit'” (emphasis added). Unless you fit into the same category as “they” do then The Doctor believes that you have not committed the unpardonable sin.
So that’s the good news. But what if you are in a situation where you’ve said or thought something offensive about God the Father, Jesus or the Holy Spirit -what then? Well, saying or thinking something insulting to God is still a sin, even if it doesn’t fall into the category of the unpardonable sin. This means that you have to deal with it just like you would deal with any other sin. In a situation like this, the right thing to do is found in 1 John 1:9…
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (NIV).
Whenever you recognize and admit to God that you have done something wrong, the Bible tells you that God will forgive you and clean you up from anything that is wrong or dirty when you come to Him through Jesus. Now listen, this is not just The Doctor’s opinion- this is God’s promise to you in the Scripture seen above. You should remember this Scripture whenever you begin to feel guilty over something wrong that you may have done in the past. If you’ve confessed it, the Bible says that it’s over and done with.
But what if you’ve done this but still don’t “feel” forgiven? Well, the Bible talks about that too…
“For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things” (I John 3:20 NKJ).
Sometimes people will experience a “guilty conscience” over something that they’ve said or done in the past, sometimes even years later. The Doctor has found that it’s common for people to say, “I know that God has forgiven me but I don’t feel forgiven” or “I know that God has forgiven me but I can’t seem to forgive myself.”
If this describes you then remember that God is even greater than your feelings or your conscience. If God says you are forgiven, then you are forgiven no matter what your thoughts or feelings may tell you.
Here’s another thing to remember if you experience some blasphemous thoughts against God…
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)
If you are struggling with thoughts of blasphemy against God then you should remember the Bible’s encouragement to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. In other words, the Bible encourages you to step up and take the offensive against impure thoughts about God! One way you can do this is to simply stop and reject an offensive thought about God in the name of Jesus Christ as soon as it occurs. Jesus has given you full permission to do this by saying, “…if you stay in me and obey my commands, you may ask any request you like, and it will be granted!” (John 15:7). You can do this as often as you need to any time you happen to have a thought that is dishonoring to God.
It’s also good to replace those dishonoring thoughts about God with thoughts that do honor Him. Some of the very best advice for doing this is found in Philippians 4:8 where we’re told, “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things” (NIV).
Some more good advice is found in Psalm 119:11: “I have thought much about your words and stored them in my heart so that they would hold me back from sin.” Ask God to give you the ability to put these Scriptures into practice each day and see what happens!
Finally, The Doctor wishes to say that there are probably very few Christians who have not struggled with this issue at one time or another. This may be one reason that 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us to, “…remember this– the wrong desires that come into your life aren’t anything new and different. Many others have faced exactly the same problems before you.” In other words, every real follower of Jesus goes through similar struggles and it’s certainly not unheard of for a Christian to experience inappropriate thoughts about God or the Holy Spirit from time to time.
Remember that God knows the way you really feel and He is very gracious towards people who have made mistakes but truly desire to honor him. Anyone who truly loves God but has said or thought something inappropriate about Him should take comfort in the words of 1 Corinthians 8:3…
“…the man who loves God is known by God.” (NIV)
Do you have a question for The Doctor? Just send it to the email address above- you’ll get a personal reply and you just might see it answered here!
(1) Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words © 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers
(2) Beelzebub would be a rough equivalent to our modern-day “Satan”
(3) Definition adapted from Thayer’s Greek Lexicon © 1993