Nana Yaw Aidoo
After Jesus Christ exorcised a demon-possessed man, the multitudes who followed Him began to ask, “Is not this the son of David?” (Matt. 12:23). Out of envy and hatred for our Lord and not wanting this narrative to spread or to be held by the people, the Pharisees (Matt. 12:24) and the scribes (Mark 3:22) upon hearing this question said, “This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (Matt. 12:24). In response to this charge, Jesus Christ spoke among many other things, these words:
Wherefore I say unto you, all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. (Matt. 12:31-32).
Some years ago, in a Bible class this writer took part in, one brother asked the teacher; “how do I know I have not committed the unpardonable sin?” The teacher responded, “our brother is scared.” Who wouldn’t be, knowing that it is possible to commit a sin which “…shall not be forgiven…neither in this world, neither in the world to come?” Or is it?
The Unpardonable Sin: What is it?
This sin is made clearer when we look at Mark’s record of this incident.
Verily I say unto you, all sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: because they said, He hath an unclean spirit. (Mark 3:28-30).
Notice the use of because. It supplies the reason why Christ said all the things He said in response to the charge of the Pharisees and the scribes. By saying Jesus Christ had an unclean spirit or Beelzebub (Mark 3:22), they had ascribed the miracle He worked, which was truly the work of God’s Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:28), to Satan. By so doing, they had blasphemed or spoken against the Holy Spirit, from whom came the power to work the miracle. Friends, that is all there is to it. The unpardonable sin is not some mysterious sin that cannot be known today but the ascribing of a genuine miracle to the power of Satan.
We call attention to the fact that the charge of the Pharisees and the scribes was directed specifically at the miracle of Christ and not to His teaching (cf. Matt.12:24; Mark 3:22). In context, it was the miracle that Christ worked that was on trial and nothing else. John Wesley wrote concerning Mark 3:30:
Is it not astonishing, that men who have ever read these words, should doubt, what is the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost? Can any words declare more plainly, that it is “the ascribing those miracles to the power of the devil which Christ wrought by the power of the Holy Ghost?” (John Wesley’s Notes on the Old and New Testaments).
When a person ascribes a genuine miracle to the power of Satan, that person “…shall not be forgiven…neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
The Unpardonable Sin: Can it be Committed Today?
Those who believe that God still works miracles would answer in the affirmative. However, if we’d accept the Bible’s own testimony, the unpardonable sin cannot be committed today for the simple reason that miracles ceased two millennia ago. It is not a case of whether God can work miracles. Rather, it is a case of whether He is still working miracles. Miraculous ability was given to men for the purposes of revealing God’s Word and confirming that which was revealed. (Mark 16:20; John 5:31-47; 1 Cor. 2:6-16; Heb. 2:2-4). It was given directly to the incarnate Christ (John 3:34-35) and the apostles (Acts 1:4; 2:1-4) and later to men on whom the apostles laid hands on (Acts 8:18). The means of passing on the gifts are no longer extant (Acts 1:20-22; 10:39-41) and the purposes having been accomplished, the miraculous has passed away. (1 Cor. 13:8-13; Jam.1:25; Eph. 4:7-13; Jude 3). Therefore, since the unpardonable sin had to do with genuine miracles, then with no genuine miracle being worked today, it is impossible to commit the unpardonable sin today.
There is no sin that God will not pardon, if preceded by genuine repentance. We thus say with the apostle Paul, who years after Christ had made that statement wrote;
Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity (every lawless deed, NKJV), and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. (Titus 2:13-14).