The Unpardonable Sin
THE UNPARDONABLE SIN
Sermon by Shane Harper
Well brethren, today I'd like to talk about a subject that's been on my mind for a while. And just a couple of weeks ago Mr. Bickell had mentioned some topics that perhaps the men could talk about. Ironically enough I had two topics in mind and he mentioned this one, so perhaps it was meant to be. It's a very important topic so we want to begin by reviewing some scriptures that should be considered with great caution and humility. The scriptures we want to look at should be considered and viewed with great caution and humility; scriptures concerning the subject of the unpardonable sin, and that's what we want to talk about today, the unpardonable sin; because these scriptures cause some to feel uncomfortable, perhaps fearful, some may avoid the topic with an out of sight, out of mind viewpoint. There are a few scriptures in the Bible that maybe some don't want to look at, or they just read over quickly, maybe their stomach sinks to their feet when they read it. Is that the way it should be? Or maybe the discomfort or fear is due to a misunderstanding of the scriptures in question.
So what we want to do is begin by turning to Hebrews 10:26-31
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. Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.'' And again, "The Lord will judge His people.'' It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
Now if you would turn back a couple of chapters to Hebrews 6:4-8
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. For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briars, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
And one more, if you would please turn to Mark 3:28-29, this is Christ speaking: "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; "but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.''
Brethren, it is clear that these scriptures reveal that there is something that a man can do which forces God to withhold His mercy, there is something that a man can do which forces God to withhold His mercy. But what is it?
Certainly we all have had that feeling deep down inside at one time or another, that we have disappointed God to the point that He is no longer interested in working with us. I'm sure every one of us has felt that way at one point or another. You ask the question, why do you even consider working with me at this point? I've been a waste of time to you! So perhaps things like the unpardonable sin come to mind. We think that perhaps we're at the end of a rope and there's nothing left to do but wrap it around our necks and kick the chair away. Every day we stumble and fall and fail to do what is right. We always seem to be missing the mark at ever turn. In the Christian struggle, which is made up of peaks and valleys, we often appear to be in the valleys looking up at the peaks, which look as if they are beyond reach; we can't even see the top of the peaks, much less find ourselves standing on them!
Are these scriptures ultimately the destiny of some of us if we stumble? Do you think that it is God's will to drive fear into us to “scare us into getting with the program?” Is that God's intention? And is that what motivates us to stay on the straight and narrow? Is that how God intended His elect to go about their physical lives? To be afraid and always worried that He is waiting to either punish us or slam the door on us when we make a mistake?
Before we answer these question lets turn to Matthew 12:22-32, and I want to read yet another example.
Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, "Could this be the Son of David?'' But when the Pharisees heard it they said, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.'' But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. "And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? "And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. "Or else how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
In my Bible the heading of this section is “The Unpardonable Sin.” We understand there is no forgiveness for such an act under certain conditions, yet we sin again and again and again, and more often than not brethren, we sin knowing what we are doing is wrong! What does it mean?
First notice this, Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” All have sinned! Now with that in mind, look at what is said in I John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” So we read in Romans that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and here in I John 1:8-10 it says:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
Now look at chapter 2:1, “My little children, these things I write to you, that you may not sin. . .” That is you try to avoid sin, that you overcome sin. However, notice, “And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
So brethren, what the Bible is telling us here, what God is telling us here is that we all sin and miss the mark. To say that we don't is a lie and calls God a liar. The key word here is confessing our sins, and we'll look more into that a little later. But there's not a day that goes by without us doing something we know is wrong, and if I was to ask for a show of hands I'm sure everybody would raise their hands. We all want to do the right thing but we end up falling flat on our faces, because we all do things that we know are wrong of which God would not approve. And we all fall short because of our own actions, because of the things we choose to do. Is this the unpardonable sin? Or could it become the unpardonable sin? Not necessarily.
Let's look at an example of one of the servants of God who sinned and knew that what he was doing was wrong. Romans 7:14-15, this is Paul speaking: “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 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.” In other words, Paul, the things he hates, he acknowledging that's what he does!
“If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me” (Rom. 7:16-17). So Paul understood that there was sin in him, it was his nature.
“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:18-24).
So Paul is explaining here, “I know that I'm doing wrong!” Personally, I find myself nodding my head in agreement every time I read these scriptures. I relate with the inner conflict Paul is talking about here, and I'm sure you do as well. Paul knowingly sinned time after time. He knew what he was doing was wrong, yet he did it anyway; and keep in mind, this was written some twenty years after his conversion!
Notice too what Paul says in Galatians 5:17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” But now notice what Paul says in verse 16, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.”
And that is key to understand.
Listen how this is translated in the Amplified version, beginning in verse 17:
For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do.
Now up to verse 16, in the Amplified Version, “But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).”
So there's advice from Paul, even though he understood that he sinned time and time again,he was aware of how to fix the problem; and that takes us back to Romans 7:25 where he answers the question he asked in verses 24-25, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.”
Understand, Paul doesn't stop with his sinful nature, he doesn't just sin time and time again and just decide to tell us about it then go on his merry way; he knows there's an answer, a way of escape from the way of life that leads to death. He speaks of this in Galatians 6:7-8, where he tells us, “Do not be deceived, . . . for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.”
Paul made many mistakes in his life, yet he understood and was determined to continue to fight against himself because he recognized and called upon the source to help him make it through and overcome. Although it is clear Paul struggled mightily, he didn't commit the unpardonable sin because he had an attitude of submission, seeking something better than himself, that being the Creator of the universe.
To submit, which is what Paul did, is to offer oneself of one's free will, to offer for consideration, examination, decision, etc. So Paul submitted himself to God, to be considered by God, to be examined by God, and for God to ultimately make a decision. Submission is the act of yielding or surrendering, humble obedience with meekness. Let's turn to Philippians 3:7-8, and I'm going to read again from the Amplified Version of the Bible: “But whatever former things I had that might have been gains to me, I have come to consider as [one combined] loss for Christ's sake.” So all the things that Paul had gained for himself, he had come to consider as “one combined loss for Christ's sake.”
Yes, furthermore, I count everything as loss compared to the possession of the priceless privilege (the overwhelming preciousness, the surpassing worth, and supreme advantage) of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord and of progressively becoming more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him [of perceiving and recognizing and understanding Him more fully and clearly]. For His sake I have lost everything and consider it all to be mere rubbish (refuse, dregs), in order that I may win (gain) Christ (the Anointed One) (Phil. 3:8).
Remember Paul's words in Romans 8:14, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
To be led means you have to be willing to follow. Paul believed that God's law was holy, just and good (Rom. 7:12); he was also aware that the carnal mind was hostile toward that law (Rom. 8:7). So Paul understood these things, and brethren, that's the difference. He didn't live in sin, though he sinned daily and recognized it and knew that he was sinning.
Let's turn back to Romans 7, and we will read verses 14-15, “For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. 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.”
So we read where Paul said he was carnal, sold under sin. He said that what he wanted to do he did not practice, but what he hated to do that he did. Let's again look at the Amplified Bible translation here.
We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am a creature of the flesh [carnal, unspiritual], having been sold into slavery under [the control of] sin. For I do not understand my own actions [I am baffled, bewildered]. I do not practice or accomplish what I wish, but I do the very thing that I loathe [which my moral instinct condemns] (Rom. 7:14-15).
The Moffat translation says, “I do not act as I desire to act, on the contrary I do what I detest.” Remember, Paul was not talking about his former life before Christ began working with him; he was speaking in the present tense. This was Paul's struggle with sin, and he hated these failures when fighting his nature. Yet he said, “the evil that I would not, that I do!” Paul sinned knowingly, consciously; his mind gave in and for the moment consented to his human nature. Paul was a man, brethren, to think that he was anything greater than that is a form of idolatry. We always look at some of these men of the Bible as being so great that they never had any failures; well I was reading an article by Mr. Armstrong where he was talking about the ministry, and that we need to pray for the ministry because there's so much pressure on them. But some people put the ministry on a pedestal as though they don't do any wrong! Mr. Armstrong said that's idolatry. So what's written here in Romans 7, is God showing us that Paul was a man; he had all the struggles that we have.
But here's what we need to understand, notice verse 19: “For the good that I will to do . . .” The Moffat says, “the evil which I would not;” the Amplified version says, “the good deeds that I desire to do;” the Philips says, “the good that I set out to do.” Paul's attitude, intention and desire was to do the right thing. What he was telling us here is there are times when he was overpowered therefore his mind yielded to the pulls of the flesh. Paul hated it and looked to Christ to give him the strength to counter his weakness and help him to resist his nature. Paul genuinely looked to Christ for help. Did Paul commit the unpardonable sin? The answer can be found in Romans 8:1 “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” There is no condemnation for those who are seeking Christ. The Living Bible says, “. . . there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus.” And the Philips version says there is no condemnation hanging over the heads of those. This means there is no condemnation on those who live and walk not after the dictates of the flesh but after the dictates of the Spirit, and that's what Paul did.
Notice John 3:18a, this is Christ speaking, He says: “He who believes in Him is not condemned;” Now we know that believing encompasses everything, not just believing that He existed at one time, but believing what He said and following what He said. Christ says here the believer is not condemned, and yet we know that all have sinned and fallen short. You see there is not a contradiction in the Bible. Christ said you are not condemned if you believe Me and do as I say; yet all have sinned and have fallen short and to say that you don't sin is to make God a liar!
Let's go up to verse 16, and again I'm going to read from the Amplified Version of the Bible.
For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) [that's a promise] but have eternal (everlasting) life. For God did not send [His] Son into the world in order to judge (to reject, to condemn, to pass sentence on) the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him. He who believes in Him [who clings to, trusts in, relies on Him] is not judged [he who trusts in Him never comes up for judgment; for him there is no rejection, no condemnation - he incurs no damnation] . . . (Jn. 3:16-18).
So Christ is saying, this individual is not judged in that way. Remember Paul said, I delight in the law of God after the inward man, he had God's Holy Spirit and it helped him to first understand the struggle, and second enabled him to resist and want to overcome. Paul had the right attitude, not one of rebellion, but one of repentance. He was a slave to sin looking for a way out; seeking power from on high that could help him escape from the bondage of sin that held him captive. That was the mindset of Paul. It's a great study!
Let's look at another example, that of King David.
Did David commit the unpardonable sin? He knowingly allowed himself to be caught up in passion and lust with Bathsheba that overpowered his better judgment. He continued this mindset trying to cover up his sin by having her husband, Uriah, killed. Here is a perfect example of what we read in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; . . .”
David and trusted and believed in God dearly, yet this happened. Why? How? The answer is that the drives and pull of human nature and the deceit of human reasoning set a trap that David knowingly fell into. David knew it was wrong yet he did it anyway.
Think about it brethren, he was the one responsible for seeing that God's laws were enforced in the land! Did he commit the unpardonable sin? First there is no indication that David deliberately hardened his heart towards God. Now he knew what he was doing was wrong, but there was no indication in the Bible that he hardened his heart towards God. There's no indication that he wanted nothing more to do with his Creator. What is clear is this, after he realized the full impact of his mistakes, he was crushed to the heart with guilt and begged for mercy and forgiveness. David displayed a heart of repentance so impressive in fact that God saw to it that it would be on record for all to see.
Psalms 51:1-4 “Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions.” He says blot out my rebellion for what I have done! “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin.” Cleanse me from missing the mark, the mark that at one time I was heading towards. “For I acknowledge my transgressions, . . .”; and that's key, brethren, to understand. “. . . And my sin is ever before me.” Just like Paul said, it's right there. “Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight . . .”
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness, That the bones which You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me (Ps. 51:7-11).
Do you pray like that when you sin? David understood that if we neglect to stay close to God it won't take long for us to wander off the path. Notice what he wrote in Psalm 119:10. You see he was a living example of wandering off the path until Nathan came around and straightened him up. “With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!”
Wander came to mean to step aside either in ignorance or willfully. Remember that word we read in Hebrews 10, he who “willfully” sins, or sins willfully. This word “wander” means to step aside in ignorance or willfully. God tells Christians in II Timothy 1:6 to stir up the spirit of God which is in them. The words “stir up” are in the context of rekindling embers, fanning the flame and keeping it burning. Stir up that inner fire within you, that being God's Spirit. Cross reference that with I Timothy 4:14 that uses the words do not neglect the gift that is in you. This means the fire of God's Spirit in you can go out.
So brethren, what we need to look at here is this: What is the unpardonable sin? Because it does exist.
Now I would like to read Mr. Armstrong's writing on the subject. He says, “The converted Christian can lose the presence of God's Spirit by CONTINUED NEGLECT.” So here's number one brethren, neglect.
Neglect of prayer, neglect of Bible study, neglect of spiritual fellowship with God's people. Or, by continuing too close a friendship with unconverted people -- letting participation with them in material interests, pleasures, sports, entertainments, cause NEGLECT of spiritual interests. Don't misunderstand. A certain amount of diversion can be healthy. And you cannot avoid all contact with unconverted people. But never let it DOMINATE in your interest and heart.
To the Colossians, God says through Paul: "Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1). That is, instead of seeking an interest in television shows, or popular materialistic interests, actively seek more knowledge of Christ -- more of the UNDERSTANDING that comes from GOD, in the Bible. Make this your MAIN interest. Never let occasional diversion compete with it as your overall interest.
The passage continues: "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth" (verse 2). Make the SPIRITUAL things your dominant all-absorbing BIG interest -- until you LOVE the receiving of new spiritual knowledge, and set your affection on it. Digging out new spiritual TRUTH in the Bible is the most exciting interest there can be in life. It's not dry, dull, uninteresting, boring. It's exciting, thrilling -- and also profitable and uplifting!
Mr. Armstrong's letter also adds:
Now is this God-given righteousness required for salvation?
Notice this illustration of Jesus, in the 15th chapter of John.
Jesus says "I am the Vine, and my Father is the Husband man" -- that is, the owner and cultivator of the vineyard (John 15:1). Next verse: "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit He taketh away." Further, "He that abideth in me, and I in him" (Christ abiding, or dwelling IN YOU through the Holy Spirit) "the same bringeth forth much fruit ... If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (verses 5, 6).
In other words, the fruit of God's righteousness MUST be produced in the Christian life. And what is "righteousness"? God says, "All thy Commandments are righteousness" (Psalm 119:172). This does not necessarily mean God will cut you off immediately, the first day or week or month you might let go by without producing active and positive fruit. There is, however, a limit somewhere along life's way where, unless you are definitely growing spiritually, that God's Spirit will no longer "dwell in you," and if you let that time come, you shall, like a dead grape branch, be ultimately cast into the final "gehenna fire."
But be sure of this: It is a DANGEROUS thing for a truly converted Christian to grow lukewarm and careless, and become a "passive" Christian. Perhaps most have temporary lapses in spiritual progress. But as soon as you "wake up" to such a lapse, repent immediately and seek God with your whole heart, for a CLOSER, more active spiritual walk with Him.
. . . it is important you realize that God's Spirit will not remain dormant within you. You can't put a cork over it and bottle it up.
So brethren, neglect of proper Bible study, prayer, fasting, meditation and service to one another can cause God's Spirit to diminish in power to the point that it will run dry!
Notice Hebrews 2:1-3,
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.
Notice those words brethren, “lest we drift away,” and “how shall we escape if we neglect.”
Brethren, there's another way that can bring about the unpardonable sin, another way that can prove fatal, and that is when we rebel against what we've been given, or just give up. By deliberate choice one decides he or she no longer wants to be led by God. So we have neglect and you can add to that rebellion or just giving up.
Let me read what Mr. Armstrong says about this particular possibility. He says that rebellion or giving up “may come from wrong reasoning; from wrong desire thought out to a final fixed, permanent decision as to [a] WAY OF LIFE; or, from allowing resentment in [one's] heart toward either God or some person who may have wronged [them].” Remember, Mr. Elliott has mentioned to us that our problems here won't be in doctrine so much as they will be in personalities. That's what could kill you! We don't have time for that! Mr. Armstrong points it out here that you could become resentful because someone may have wronged you. He says, “To allow resentment to embitter [you, to the point where you come] to change [your] whole life course, turning from God.” He says,
I cannot put too much emphasis on guarding against harboring resentment. It is spiritual POISON -- deadly spiritual poison. If ever you begin to feel resentment against some injustice, go PRAY, asking God to remove it QUICKLY. Do not let it well up inside you -- never harbor it. If you do, you will become as "hooked" with it as a dope addict becomes "hooked" with heroin! It is that serious!
God warns you, "Follow PEACE with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled" (Heb. 12:14-15). Your bitterness may not harm the other fellow -- but it may destroy YOU!
Well brethren, this brings us back then full circle to the scriptures that pertain to the subject called the unpardonable sin. Lets go back now and look at them with the understanding we now have. Lets go back to Hebrews 10. So brethren, we understand that neglect and that resentment or giving up could prove fatal. I'm going to read Hebrews 10:26 again, “For if we sin willfully,” this word means deliberately, denoting voluntary action. This term carries the idea of deliberate intention, that is habitual rather than an isolated act. The context is that of actions opposed to or not the same as sins committed inconsiderately and from ignorance or from weakness. Please understand the context here is that of actions opposed to or not the same as sins committed inconsiderately and from ignorance or from weakness. Did you notice that, our Creator is telling us that missing the mark here is not from sins we commit either by a mistake or by not knowing or even by sins committed by weakness? This refers to sins committed by one whose mindset is no longer interested in God's gift; because notice it says, “after [they] have received the knowledge of the truth.” God tells us that there no longer remains a sacrifice for that type of sin, for turning away from the sacrifice leaves the Christian with no saving alternative. After we have received the knowledge of the truth, if we turn from that, we have no saving alternative, but that attitude does bring about “a certain fearful expectation of judgment.” The word means a decision or tribunal for or against. It is derived from the Greek word from which we get the English word crisis. God says a “fiery indignation” is sure and “will devour” all “adversaries” or those who oppose or believe contrary. In other words, those with an unrepentant attitude towards God's way of life. It is this unrepentant attitude that causes the sin to go unpardoned.
Now lets go to Hebrews 6:4, “For it is impossible” this is the same Greek word used in the Bible when talking about our inability to please God, without faith it's impossible to please God, it's the same word. It's also the same word used to make it clear that it is impossible for God to lie. So we're talking a pretty extreme word here. The word means absolutely unable. “For it is impossible for those [notice] who were once enlightened” and we just read about that in chapter 10, after receiving the knowledge of the truth; well here is different terminology talking about the same thing. “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened,” this means those who were made to see spiritually with saving knowledge, those who “have tasted the heavenly gift” that is who have experienced God's goodness or “have become partakers” or sharers of God's Spirit, “and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away” slip away, fall aside, deviate or fall away, that's what that word means, slip away, fall aside, deviate or fall away. Notice it doesn't mean if you slip or fall down, and that happens to us every day. We slip and fall down every day. This refers to those who slip away from the path. The gift of repentance is impossible for this type of person because they have rejected the gift of repentance and also the sacrifice of Christ and have put him to an open shame, thus making a mockery of God's plan. The fact that king David, who we looked at earlier, repented, proves that he did not commit the unpardonable sin. To repeat, the fact that he repented proves that he did not commit the unpardonable sin. When one is guilty of willful sin he can never again come to repentance because he has willed, that is he has set his will, or hardened his heart, not to repent. We read here in verse 6, that it is impossible again for them to find repentance or gain repentance, O.K., yet we know that David repented. So David did not commit the unpardonable sin. For this type of individual it is impossible for that person to repent, at a certain point. Repentance comes as a result of God's Spirit at work in one's life, one who hardens their heart rejects God's influence and refuses to respond. By choice, then, the person refuses to respond, but David responded.
Now quickly, Mark 3:28-29, that we looked at earlier, "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.”
What does this mean? Well understand that the Pharisees and Scribes were making accusations against Christ, you can read that in verse 22, “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, `He has Beelzebub,' ' and, `By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.'”
And we read about this account in Matthew. Now brethren, understand what's happening here in Mark, and what we read in Matthew, pertaining to the same story; is this a case of God not showing mercy? Or does the answer lie in the attitude of the Pharisees? These men were accusing Christ of being Satan-possessed in an attempt to discredit Him in the eyes of the people. They were rejecting the very work of the Almighty! They knew their accusations were a lie. Remember in John 3:2, Nicodemus once confided with Christ, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God.” He said we know You are, “for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” And now here they are later saying, it's through Satan that He's doing these things! In verse 29 the word “blasphemy” means to vilify or speak impiously, it is an intentional indignity offered of God or sacred things; slanderous speech that causes injury to another's good name or divine majesty. The Pharisees knew that what they were doing was wrong. They could not deny the reality of what the Holy Spirit had done through Christ so they attributed to Satan a work they knew was of God! What does Mr. Armstrong say concerning this? Lets read it, “To say a thing like this in ignorance of the true facts, or impulsively in emotional anger without thinking, would be different.” O.K. he's talking about what the Pharisees and scribes were saying to Christ here. “To say a thing like this in ignorance of the true facts, or impulsively in emotional anger without thinking, would be different. But these religious leaders knew their accusation was false! Their blasphemy was deliberate, premeditated, intentional.” The Amplified Bible puts these scriptures this way,
Truly and solemnly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever abusive and blasphemous things they utter; But whoever speaks abusively against or maliciously misrepresents the Holy Spirit can never get forgiveness, but is guilty of and is in the grasp of an everlasting trespass (Mk. 3:28-29).
“Whoever speaks abusively against or maliciously misrepresents. . . is in the grasp of an everlasting trespass.” To speak against God's Spirit is to speak against God's agent of forgiveness. This would automatically cut one off from God because one has rejected and severed himself, placing himself beyond God's influence and apart from the only method by which God deals with man, and that is through His Holy Spirit; it is the very mind of God in action and thought; and through it whatever God wills is carried out.
You see brethren, Satan has led man to believe that God is the cause and the reason for all the world's ills, “why does God allow these things to happen?” “why does He do this to us?” “Why doesn't He help us?” Satan has also led us to believe that God is a harsh God, more apt to punish than to forgive. We always hear about the God of the Old Testament, that mean old God of the Old Testament; that's why people don't want to read the Old Testament today! But you need to understand, we all need to understand that God never refuses to forgive a repentant sinner. He never refuses to forgive a repentant sinner! It is an unrepentant attitude that causes God to hold back His mercy, therefore it is the person who is to blame!
You see brethren, you read these scriptures about the unpardonable sin, and people get scared, they get nervous. Why? Because you think that God's just going to pound you with His hammer? He's just going to slam it down on you? That's not the God that we worship! We worship a God of love! But that's what Satan has done, he wants us to fear God in the negative fear, not in positive respect, but in negative fear. Isaiah 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way,” this is repentance defined brethren, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” That's what He's sitting up there waiting to do.
But, understand, shall we go on sinning? Certainly not for to be carnally minded is death because it is hostile to God and cannot remain. God has made that clear. There will not be any sinners in the kingdom of God. And God has already had to deal with spiritual beings who have rejected His laws and authority; He's not going to let that happen again!
Shall we go on sinning? No. There are definite conditions we all must meet before God will forgive sin, but many times we focus our attention on the act, rather than the attitude. Understand that God does not forgive based upon the seriousness of the offence; we sometimes lose sight believing that the attitude of one having committed the sin becomes secondary in importance. Don't misunderstand, to God all acts of sin are bad and have to be overcome, but it is the attitude of you the sinner that will ultimately decide your fate. Your fate will ultimately be decided by your attitude. Nehemiah 9:17 says that God is “ready to pardon;” He's ready to pardon! It is a reflection of His character and His tremendous love for us.
Lets turn to Psalms 103:10-12, this is the God we worship, brethren: “He has not dealt with us according to our sin, . . .” If that were the case, brethren, there would be nobody on this planet! “. . . Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.”
That is the result of repentance; that's what happens, it's the law of cause and effect. We repent of our sins, and then these scriptures take place. “As far as east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Write in your notes Isaiah 43:25, where God points out that He not only forgives our sins but He forgets them. You see, in God's mind the sin isn't the most important thing, it's the attitude! If you repent of the sin, God forgets about it. But if your attitude remains unrepentant there's nothing He can do for you except ultimately put you out of your misery. Remember He has the power to forget.
But we have to keep fighting, wide is the gate, and broad is the path that leads to death and many walk in it, but straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few fight to stay on that track. We have to strive to enter the straight gate; we're going to fall down on the path, but God will help us again and again and again and again if we keep our eyes focused on the goal. Would God be any less forgiving than He expects us to be?
If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive. Confession of sin does not give us license to sin, nor is it necessary to list every individual sin when asking for forgiveness, or we'd praying for hours on end! Forgive me for this, forgive me for that, you know, start with “a” and go to “z”. What it means by if we confess our sins that God is faithful and just to forgive it is the recognition and acknowledgment that we are all sinners and that we do sin and are in need of God's power to overcome and survive. That's just an acknowledgment that you make to God the Father and Jesus Christ that “I need help! And I'm sorry that I do the things that I do.”
Understand, brethren, that God's Spirit will never push nor force us, but it will lead us if we display an attitude that is submissive to it. So does this mean that once you have come to the knowledge of the truth, and you sin, even though you know better-in other words, you go ahead and do it anyway-- is this willful sinning? Again, not necessarily. I'll let Mr. Armstrong once again answer the question. He says:
If, through former HABIT, or being overcome by temptation of the PULL of the flesh -- of his human nature -- or other cause, [the Christian] encounters an INCIDENT of committing a sin, for which he is afterward truly sorry -- and for which he REPENTS -- all the while his INNER Spirit-begotten MIND still in the ATTITUDE of DESIRING to continue on GOD'S WAY, then he has an advocate with the Father -- Jesus Christ our High Priest -- to FORGIVE that sin.
THAT IS NOT AN UNPARDONABLE SIN!
Even though, in that incident, under temptation or neglect of prayer and Bible study, he does yield KNOWINGLY, his mind, for the time being, ASSENTING to the deed. This is doing it, for the moment, WILLINGLY, but it is NOT willful sin.
He does it willingly, but it is not willful sin. He says as long as one, in his heart, has the real desire to walk God's way with Him, is deeply sorry and repents when he commits the occasional sin, and is seeking to overcome sin and to make God's way his habitual way of life, he will stumble on occasion, but if he confesses it and repents, he will be forgiven. If he is diligent in his Christian way of life, his occasional stumbling will become less and less, he will be making progress, overcoming, growing spiritually and in righteous godly character.
So brethren, what Mr. Armstrong is saying is if we are fighting the good fight, we need not fear for our God understands that we need His help, and He is ever ready to pardon our mistakes. God looks on the heart, the attitude and the intent. It is only the defiant ones that need dread and fear our God.
To the faithful Christian there is no room for fear, as it says in Isaiah, “The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.”
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The Unpardonable Sin
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