The Unpardonable Sin

In Mark 3:22-30, teachers of the Law came from Jerusalem to accuse Jesus of being possessed by Beelzebul, whose name means “lord of the flies.” The teachers thought Jesus was driving out demons through the power of this prince of demons who dwelt within Him. Jesus answered this absurd charge by saying, “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” (verses 23-26). Obviously, Satan’s kingdom of darkness continues to function.

Jesus then gave an argument related to the strong man’s house. Satan is the strong man, and his house is the realm of sin, sickness and death. His possessions are the people he holds captive to do his will. No one can enter his realm and plunder his possessions unless they first bind the strong man – in other words, have greater power and authority. Jesus can bind the strong man, rob the realm and release the captives. Jesus demonstrated His superiority over Satan when He was tempted and by His ability to cast out demons.

Many believers struggle with the false belief that they have committed the unpardonable sin by blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Those who are tormented by this fear usually suffer in silence. Jesus said, “People can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin” (verses 28-29). Matthew adds to this statement: “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come” (12:32).

Why can we blaspheme one member of the Trinity and not another? It has to do with the unique works of Christ and the Holy Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is to draw all people to Christ. If you reject that witness, then you will never come to Christ and experience salvation. The work of Christ is to forgive all who come to Him by faith. Those who do come to Christ are children of God, and their sins and blasphemies are forgiven because they are in Christ. If you reject the witness of God’s Spirit, then you never come to Christ in the first place.

This is why Christians cannot commit the unpardonable sin – because they are already pardoned. The only unpardonable sin is the sin of unbelief. The Jewish leaders were committing the unpardonable sin by ascribing the spiritual power of Christ to Beelzebul. Christians who question the work of the Holy Spirit in people or ministries are not committing the unpardonable sin. They may be wisely testing the spirit, or wrongly quenching or grieving the Spirit, but neither of these is unpardonable.

An 81-year-old retired missionary widow invested her life in reaching female prisoners in the city of Manila in the Philippines. She had a burden for training Christian prisoners to evangelize and lead other prisoners through the Steps to Freedom in Christ. They have been successful with mental patients, restoring them from a life of being inactive in their beds to having Christ as their personal savior. Read her story of binding the strong man on the following page.

Dr. Neil

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