What Is The Unpardonable Sin?

We’ve established–by the word of Jesus as found in holy Scripture–that there is a sin which is an everlasting sin, one unto death. This sin is popularly described as ”the unpardonable sin.”

What does this mean and what is this sin? I assure you that this is a solemn teaching. Jesus Himself described His teaching in that way by beginning His message with “Truly, truly,” a phrase that indicates a solemn declaration. This phrase expresses an important, solemn fact which must be accepted and believed. Jesus spoke these words in response to the unbelief of the pharisees and the doubts of His own family. You can see a discussion of the context here.

Jesus affirmed that all sins and blasphemies can be forgiven (Mark 3:28). He means, of course, all sins of which people repent. Immediately thereafter, He said that one sin cannot be forgiven, the sin of blasphemy “against the Holy Spirit.” This is a sin which “will never be forgiven.” It is “an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29).

Of what does He refer?

In Greek, the word blasphemy can have a narrow sense as when Jesus used it the second time (the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit) and a broader sense of insolent language, defamation, or reviling (as in the first instance).

Even the narrow sin of blasphemy (a defiant irreverence) can be forgiven. Wasn’t this the sin of Simon Peter when he cursed and denied Jesus? How could Saul (Paul) have been forgiven?

Why are all other sins, even heinous sins like that of David or the prodigal son, pardonable but this one is not? What is it about one who speaks against the Holy Spirit that is unforgivable?

The context makes the answer clear. The context shows us that the scribes attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to the acts of Satan. They did this deliberately, defiantly, and willfully. While the evidence spoke to the contrary, they affirmed that Jesus cast out demons by the power of Satan.

Forgiveness demands contrition, sorrow, and repentance. The Scribes had none of these. They apparently did not want anything to do with godly sorrow. In place of sadness over sin, they substituted hardness of heart.

Their sin was unpardonable because they refused to follow the path that leads to repentance and forgiveness.

Every sin of man can be forgiven if he cries to God to be merciful to him a sinner, but there is no forgiveness for the person who refuses to heed God’s call.

The following is a passage of Scripture for all of us, a passage that looked back to the rebellion in the wilderness:

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Psalm 95:7).

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6 Comments


  1. Ed Matthew
    Mar 07, 2012

    And so it breaks our heart to see it happening, to helplessly lament, even as Jesus and Jeremiah lamented. As each must chose for their-self who is lord of life. No, it is not a short fictional work. It is a handbook giving Life, Life abundantly if one will receive it in without reservation realizing the gift, the “Body.” Wake up Body! May God make us known to our members and He make the wolves known to us. AMEN.


  2. Jeff
    Mar 07, 2012

    Hi Waylon,

    Good post. I must admit I’ve wondered if the statement in Mark 3:29 was intended as hyperbole. Jesus did use intentional exaggeration at times… and even in very solemn contexts such as Mark 10:25 (“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”… and of course, there was no small gate in the city wall called the eye of the needle like some have tried to claim). But I use this in NT classes as an example of Jesus’ teaching methods. What if Mark 3:29 was intended as hyperbole? If it was, then there is no “unpardonable sin”… but it is still a very solemn warning to the religious rulers who were viciously rejecting Jesus.

    The difficult thing about hyperbole is that it’s hard to tell when it’s being used unless there’s some good reason to notice it (such as in Mark 10:25 when it’s obvious that not all rich people are excluded from heaven).

    I think there are other possible examples of hyperbole in Mark… such as Mark 13:2… there were some stones left on top of each other… such as the Western Wall which still stands today… and Jesus made his point using intentional exaggeration, Jerusalem would be destroyed… and it was.

    Also I’ve wondered about Mark 13:32 being hyperbole… essentially stating, Don’t try to guess when the end will come, even I don’t know!” :-)

    Good post on an important subject. It’s a shame that this subject of the unpardonable sin is misused as manipulation about a variety of other things that are never indicated in this context at all. You’re exactly right when you identify that the serious sin being committed was attributing the Spirit’s work to Satan.

    Anyway, I hope all is well with you, your family, and the church in Covington. Your friend,
    –Jeff


    • Waylon
      Mar 08, 2012

      Jeff,
      I appreciate your reading–and commenting. I know that you think of the Scripture with a great deal of thoughtfulness. Thanks for adding to our discussion.
      Are you still running?


  3. pr David mugisha
    Mar 09, 2012

    am just blessed with the teachings i have found here very interesting and so much teaching, hear most of the teachers are teaching Judgment only so we shall need more teachings so that we may teach this in Africa Uganda people and the saints of God may know the real sin which Jesus was meaning the only is to blasphemy the Holy spirit other sins can be repent able. and can be forgiven. am blessed with your ministry please.
    pr David Agape ministries Uganda.


  4. Jeff
    Mar 11, 2012

    Waylon,
    I enjoy your blog posts just like I enjoyed your teaching at the seminary and preaching at the church years ago. You’ve got great insights and communicate those effectively. Yes, I’m still running. I ran a marathon just yesterday… a very hilly one across Catalina Island… and my legs are feeling it today… but it’s all good. Stay in touch and keep up the great blogging!
    –Jeff

  5. [...] “What Is the Unpardonable Sin?” by Waylon Bailey on his blog, with an exegetical answer to the unpardonable sin mentioned in Mark 3:29. [...]

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I am the senior pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington, Louisiana, a position that I have held since 1989.

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Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. — Galatians 6:2 (NIV)