Why you haven't committed the Unpardonable Sin - A Close Examination of Matt 12:22-37
This is a topic that used to worry me tremendously. I knew more about Hell than anyone would likely ever want to, and I came to the terrifying conclusion that it was possible for me to commit the unpardonable blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and end up going to Hell when I die. Many other Christians have wrestled with this type of fear also.
I am no pastor. Please understand that. But I am a Christian who loves Jesus with all my heart and greatly wishes to instill encouragement on other believers, especially those who are plagued with this common yet, as I’m about to show you, pointless fear that used to all but tear apart the very fabric of my soul. So if you have found yourself concerned with these verses, this article was written just for you.
Before I proceed to the meat of this topic, I want to make something very clear to the reader regarding any fear you may have about what Jesus said in Matthew 12. Fear of this kind is not from God, and nor does it mean you’ve been abandoned by God (sometimes it can make you feel abandoned). In fact, it proves that you haven’t been abandoned by God because the fear actually originates from Satan. Realize that if you had truly been abandoned, Satan would have no reason to do anything other than make you feel the opposite – as though you have not been abandoned. Now although God never abandons anyone in this life, Satan often does convince non-Christians that they are saved. If you are saved, he has every reason to convince you that you aren’t because if you don’t believe you are in Christ, then you also fail to remember that you have power over him (him being Satan).
So why does he attack you this way? Because convincing you to be terrified for the security of your eternal soul is the absolute antithesis of the Gospel. This sort of attack serves to hinder your walk with God as it pollutes your faith in him, replacing it with fear. Faith and fear are like oil and water – they cannot mix. So when fear takes over, you begin to starve spiritually. Unfortunately this starvation reinforces the false idea that God has abandoned you, which in turn creates even more fear. It is a vicious cycle that can only be broken by taking a moment to acknowledge (preferably out loud) that God has not left you, that He loves you more than anything, and He will never let you go. You must purposefully reaffirm your faith in Him. You may have to do this often, but it will certainly result in your freedom. You might also consider reading aloud the following verses. I included who was speaking in order to give you what I believe is a beneficial perspective.
Isaiah 49:15-16(NIV) The LORD speaking: “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion for the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will never forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
John 6:37-40(NIV) Jesus speaking: “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from Heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me. And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.”
John 10:28(NIV) Jesus speaking: “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
2 Timothy 1:7(NIV) Paul’s second letter to Timothy: “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid (fear), but gives us power, love and self-discipline.”
Now let’s dive into the heart of this fear – a fear usually caused by a gross misinterpretation of Matthew 12:22-37 (addressing the blasphemy against the Spirit).
Here is a FALSE potential interpretation of this passage that many Christians, myself included at one point in time, have been led to believe by the enemy.
You read verses 31 and 32 and simply stop there. Those verses say (Jesus speaking) “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 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 in the age to come.” At first glance this is scary! You misinterpret it as saying that if you curse or talk badly about the Holy Spirit then you will go to Hell. And so it goes, one of two things happen (maybe both).
One, you fear that at some point in your past you have committed this unforgivable sin, or that one day in the future there is a reasonable chance you will. Or two, your mind begins playing tricks on you, saying precisely the things that you think qualify as speaking against the Holy Spirit. Then what follows either of these is sheer terror, destructive terror that in many Christians brings about relentless waves of torment. This might include disturbing thoughts about what it will be like to exist forever in Hell with no hope for a way out, or perhaps it will make you feel like you’ve been permanently separated from God – a feeling of utter helplessness.
When this happened to me, I spent the next two years trying to figure out these verses. I was so scared of losing my salvation that my physical life crumbled all around me. I suffered from severe anxiety attacks, especially at night. The world seemed somewhat darker all the time, and I do mean that literally. It actually seemed as if physical light wasn’t quite as prevalent or colorful as it used to be. I quickly became depressed. And then the worst thing happened after that.
Just before all this transpired, I had finished reading the entire Bible. Back then I had a habit of reading it every night before I went to sleep since it used to give me comfort. I also prayed often, which strengthened me spiritually and resulted in the most unbelievably amazing things happening in my life.
When the enemy attacked, it was as if I had been caught with my pants down. I thought I was impervious to any kind of spiritual attack on that scale, but I was very, very wrong. Once I misinterpreted Matthew 12, I also began misinterpreting other parts of the Bible as well. This scared me out of reading scripture every night, thus ending that life-giving habit. On top of that, I saw God as frightening. Being terrified of Him resulted in me rarely praying anymore, and when I did, my lack of faith in His gift of salvation made it seem as productive as talking to a wall. That, of course, bred a sensation of abandonment on a scale I had never felt before in my entire life. It almost broke me. Interestingly enough, suicide was never an issue for me since I was so afraid that if I died I’d wake up in Hell.
So now let me share with you the merciful knowledge God revealed to me that rescued me from the crucible of destruction my life had become. Here is the TRUE interpretation of these passages that I believe I came to understand with the help of the Holy Spirit.
Remember how I mentioned earlier that you likely stopped at verses 31 and 32. It is extraordinarily crucial that you pay careful attention to the entire chapter in order to gain the proper context of what Jesus was saying. Notice the setting:
Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed man who was both blind and mute. The observing crowed then began asking amongst themselves if He was the Son of David, or in other words, the Messiah (I believe this occurred with a supernatural understanding provided by the Holy Spirit as per what was later described regarding Peter in Matthew 16:16-17).
Then some Pharisees said that perhaps the miracles Jesus had been performing were being accomplished by Beelzebub (Satan). Jesus then replied that what they were saying was very dangerous because it comes from the heart (see the second sentence in vs. 34). He argues that a house divided against itself cannot stand, thus these miracles cannot be of both God and Satan – they must be of one or the other. Satan would never drive out his own demons because that would mean he would be divided against himself.
A key verse in gaining further insight into the meaning of the passage is verse 30, just before He discusses the blasphemy of the Spirit. “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Also, verse 33 says, “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” This is a clear analogy that whatever comes out of the mouth also comes from the heart. If the heart is evil, evil will emerge from it via the tongue. Jesus lamented to the Pharisees in verse 34, “You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
Finally, verse 37 says, “For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Thus, if your heart is evil and is set against Jesus, your mouth will reflect that. In contrast, if your heart is with Jesus and you love Him and see him as Lord of your life, your mouth will reflect that also. Therefore, since your mouth is a direct reflection of what’s in your heart, your words will either condemn you or acquit you. If you are saved, then your words have already acquitted you!
Roman 10:9-13 elaborates even further: “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. As the scripture says, “Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.”
So, let’s put everything we’ve looked at so far into perspective. We know from scripture that it is the Holy Spirit who reveals to us that Jesus is the Son of God and that He is Lord of all, which is what leads us to committing our lives to Christ and receiving salvation. When you disregard that particular work of the Holy Spirit, you forfeit the ability to see Jesus for whom He really is, which of course prevents you from getting saved. Thus, the blasphemy is a sin committed in the heart, and the mouth is so key because it reflects what is in the heart. When the Pharisees accused Jesus of driving out demons by the power of Satan, they were speaking against the work of the Spirit, who testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. They were affirming with their mouths that in their hearts they didn’t believe in Him. They were only reiterating what was already in their hearts.
So, then, what is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? It is not badmouthing it. Even when Jesus mentioned speaking against Himself or the Father, he wasn’t referring to someone badmouthing. He was referring to disbelief. But ignoring the Spirit prevents someone from seeing Jesus for who He is and then having the necessary faith to get saved.
Therefore, blaspheming the Holy Spirit simply means to not get saved at any point during your life. And salvation is permanent. If you are a Christian, you have already done the exact opposite of the blasphemy. Thus, if you are a Christian, it is impossible for you to blaspheme the Spirit. So don’t worry! If you are saved, you can never commit the unpardonable sin.
If you are alive, you haven’t blasphemed the Spirit. Even if you aren’t saved, if you are still breathing, there is still hope. The reasons people are alive on the Earth are this:
1. If you aren’t a Christian, the time allotted to you is meant to give you the chance to become a Christian. Any non-Christian who dies would never have given his or her heart to Jesus had they been given more time. Time on Earth is a merciful gift for the non-believer. It is a chance to enter the Kingdom.
2. If you are a Christian, the time allotted to you is meant for God to use you to further His kingdom. Any Christian who dies (or to be more precise, falls asleep) only does so because God has called them home.
So again, don’t worry! If you are reading this article, you have most definitely not blasphemed against the Spirit, and if you are a Christian, you never will. Salvation is permanent!