This is another long one. I’m not much of a deep thinker, except when it comes to Scripture. I like to study and figure things out. I’m not saying I have figured out this topic, just been thinking about it a lot since Sunday. If you think you may understand this better than me (which is very possible), or have any kind of comments or questions, please respond. A big thanks to the Reformation Study Bible ESV for helping me wrap my mind around the unpardonable sin. A lot of the information in this blog is from the commentary.
At church this past Sunday, we were studying Hebrews. We didn’t get very far into the Sunday school lesson because the Holy Spirit took us in another direction, which is always a good thing. The discussion started with Matthew 24:13, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” First, we had to grasp this verse because it’s stated backwards. Does it mean that if we don’t endure, we won’t be saved? No. It means the followers of Christ will endure hardship and they will be saved. We, as Christians, prove our faith by our perseverance. Questions were raised about people who accept Christ, then “fall away” from their beliefs. One person said she believed that she truly received the gift of salvation at age 8, then through her adolescent years she began to neglect her faith and search other religions. She mentioned the verses, Hebrews 6: 4-6, “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” Her question was, if she accepted Christ at 8, then sought other religions and neglected her faith, how is it possible that she was restored to repentance? Another question was asked about someone who, in high school, was a follower of Christ and then turned away from Him later in life and chose a lifestyle that doesn’t glorify the Lord, what would happen to that person if he/she were to die today? Maybe I can answer these questions. IF, if is the key word, IF that person was truly saved, and turns away from the Lord, He will restore them to repentance. Salvation is a gift and it seals you for Christ and NOTHING can break that seal. It is a done deal. We are told there will be difficulty in the Christian walk. And I think the word “endure” from Matthew 24: 13 doesn’t just mean that we endure hardships such as losing a family member, a car wreck, cancer, etc. It also means that we endure the times that we have unbelief and our faith is extremely weak or even non-existent. We can not judge how long a period of unbelief can last for any person. But I do know that having a bad attitude for 3 years, lying to my co-workers for 3 years, or stealing gum from Walgreens for 3 years is the same as any other sin I could commit for 3 years. (3 is just a random amount of time). For example, if a true follower of Christ goes off to college, gets in the wrong crowd, and lives a sinful life that doesn’t glorify God; that is the same as some other follower of Christ going off to college, getting in the right crowd, and lying all the time. Both situations do not glorify God. We seem to have a sin scale that adultery, drinking, gambling are the “bad” sins and lying, bad attitudes, and cheating on tests are the “ok” sins. The fact is, all sins do not glorify God. Anytime we choose to sin, we choose to turn our back on God and tell him we don’t love him enough to not commit sin, whether it’s “big” or “ok.” No matter what a person is doing at the time of death, 3 years of an affair, or 3 seconds of a bad attitude, those sins cannot and will not separate us from eternity with Christ, IF we are followers. We are not perfect, we will sin and even deny Christ (Peter!). God knows this and that is why salvation is not based on works. We could never amount to His standard. Thankfully, he offers salvation by grace through faith so we don’t have to worry about our “big” and “ok” sins. This is not a free ride to do whatever our sinful nature wants. We have to bear fruit, but we can know that we are forgiven and sealed by his grace.
Now…you’re probably wondering why I gave this blog that title. Hold on a little longer. I still wanted to know who Hebrews 6:4-6 was talking about, if it’s not those who are Christians and fall away for a time. Let me break it down:
1. “once been enlightened”–those who had the knowledge of God and publicly confessed in baptism
2. “tasted the heavenly gift”–some see this as a reference to participation in the Lord’s Supper
3. “shared in the Holy Spirit”–had some experience with the gifts of the Holy Spirit
4. “if they fall away”–this kind of falling away is irreversible. Christian salvation is final, and the decision to reject it, if made at a certain level, cannot be reversed.
People who have committed the unpardonable sin are those who have been informed and tasted the Lord’s goodness and make an educated decision to reject salvation.
Matthew 12:31-32 says, “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
My first question is, why is there a distinction between Son of Man and Holy Spirit? The Son of Man is our salvation and the Holy Spirit draws us to salvation. So, if you blaspheme the Holy Spirit, you are rejecting salvation. And, if you reject salvation, you can’t possibly be saved. Speaking against the Spirit, calling the work of the Spirit the work of Satan, involves an explicit, willful, and decisive rejection of the very Power that can bring about repentance. Anyone who has been convicted of sin by the Spirit and now believes the truth cannot possibly have committed the unpardonable sin because the Spirit does not work against itself.
Brent describes this sin as someone who has knowledge of the truth; this person has been explicitly and clearly informed and fully understands the truth and makes a consistent conscious effort to reject it as the work of the Holy Spirit and follow false teaching. This person believes a lie and knows he is believing in a lie because he knows and understands the truth. I can not imagine that. How can anyone know the truth and make an informed decision to not follow the truth, knowing that everything else to follow is a lie? I can not fathom that. Let me make this clear that this unpardonable sin depends on there being particular enlightenment and understanding from God and that is not a common, everyday matter. These people are not casual Christians, these people are not those who “believe” in God but don’t live the life, these people are not those who follow Christ but have denied him for some time. These people make a forceful, complete, and public rejection of a faith that is known and understood. And, just like salvation, it is a sealed done deal, but with a different outcome.