David Jeremiah — Is There a Sin God Cannot Forgive?
10 Questions Christians Are Asking
01. How can I be sure of my salvation?
02. How can I overcome temptation?
03. How can I get victory over worry?
04. How can I find forgiveness?
05. Is there only one way to God?
06. Why do Christians have so many problems?
07. Why don't my prayers get answered?
08. Is there a sin God cannot forgive?
09. What is faith?
10. What is the greatest commandment?
Is there a sin that God cannot forgive? This is a serious question that troubles many people today. For if fear and doubt cause us to question God's ability to forgive, we are in a losing situation, leaving us with no peace of mind or hope for the future. Hello, I'm David Jeremiah, and welcome to "Turning Point". We are currently in a series of messages called "Ten Questions Christians Are Asking". And one question many Christians worry about is whether there is a sin that is unforgivable. That is the title of today's message, "Is There a Sin God Cannot Forgive"? As with all ten of the questions in this series, we are looking to the Bible for our answers, and that is where we will look together if you will join me for today's edition of Turning Point.
One of the questions I have been asked over the years that I've been doing what I do is this, "Pastor, can I commit a sin that God cannot forgive"? Quite often, this question is asked in the past tense, like, "I think I've done something that God will not forgive. I've tried to get God to forgive me, but I don't feel like he has forgiven me, and I can't forgive myself. Pastor, I think I may have committed the unpardonable sin". Now, this question usually comes from someone who has an overwhelming sense of guilt for something that they have done in the past. And it is usually a reference to the passage of Scripture that we're going to study today. For here in Mark, and again in a more fleshed-out way in Matthew's account of this event, we are told that there is something which a person can do for which there is no forgiveness, in this age or even in the age to come. I'm not making that up, that's what the Scripture says.
Our context today is the story about a man who was possessed of a demon. And in the story, our Lord confronts this demon, and the demon is cast out, and the man is completely healed. But the result of what Jesus did is another confrontation with the religious people of his day. These people are not impressed by what Jesus is doing. They are actually convicted by it. And as we're going to see in the story, out of what Jesus did that day come the three most prominent opinions that people have today about who Jesus Christ really is. Who is Jesus Christ? Well, in the 20th verse of the third chapter, we discover, first of all that, to his family, Jesus was demented. Now, I'm not saying that to get your attention, it's just true. Verse 20 and 21 of Mark 3 reads like this, "Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. And when his own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.'"
The Bible says the crowd has become intense, the pressure has become intense, and the word about it gets back to Nazareth where Jesus lived. And his family, his own, more than likely his brothers, come to Capernaum. And the Bible says they come, and we would call this to perform an intervention. We can relax a little bit about that because no doubt they were doing it out of their love for him. They're concerned for his safety, they're concerned. I mean, the man's not eating. "We got to get him out of this situation. We got to get him where we can take care of him". So I'm certain that some of it was motivated out of love, but the other side of it is that I think they were kind of embarrassed. "We got to get Jesus home, he's embarrassing us. He's acting in a fanatical, insane manner". Jesus' brothers thought he was crazy. They said, "He is out of his mind". That's biblical for crazy.
How many of you know that, if you're a follower of Christ, sooner or later somebody's going to think you're crazy? The very best thing they were saying about Jesus in the language of today is that Jesus had become a radical. So I want to confess to you, congregation, I am a radical, I am a radical. To be a radical is to stand for the truth, to stand against those who want to tear you away from the truth, or tear the truth away from you. And so, in that respect, Jesus surely was a radical. But he was not insane. To his family, Jesus was demented. But it gets worse. To his foes, he was demonic. Read with me again from verse 22. The accusation of the scribes, who said he was possessed by a demon, "And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, 'He,'" Jesus, "has Beelzebub".
Now, here's what happened. The ministry of Jesus in Capernaum had come to the attention of the religious establishment in Jerusalem. They heard what Jesus was doing, that he was healing the sick, that he was casting out demons, that people were flocking to him by the droves. And they came to Capernaum to check it out. And the scribes got to Capernaum just in time to watch Jesus cast the demon out of this man. And the scribes acknowledged that Jesus performed unusual miracles, and that he did it by some supernatural power, but without any question they accused Jesus himself of being possessed not just by a demon, but being possessed by Beelzebub, the lord of the flies, or the word that is used to describe Satan. "Then one was brought to Jesus who was demon possessed," now, watch carefully. He was blind and mute. "And Jesus healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and they said, 'Could this be the son of David?' And when the Pharisees heard it they said, 'This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.'"
The healing of this man by the Lord Jesus, when he cast the demon out of him, was so outstanding, was so incredible, nothing like this has happened up to this point. And the people were amazed, and they said, rightly so, "Could this be the son of David"? In other words, "Is this the Messiah we've been looking for"? Because the Old Testament prophesied that when the Messiah came, he would do marvelous deeds, as Jesus had just done, and they had never seen anything like this before in Israel. "Surely this must be the son of David. Surely this must be the Messiah". And when the scribes heard this, they went ballistic. They said, "It's true, we saw a miracle. It's true, it was an unusual and astounding miracle. But this cannot be explained as a miracle of the son of David. This is a miracle that was done in the power of Beelzebub, in the power of Satan". The accusation of the scribes.
Now, I want you to notice how Jesus deals with this issue. Have you ever played this game, I'm not sure this is a legitimate game to play in your mind, but once in a while it's okay to do it, I think. Do you ever think what you would do if you were Jesus? I mean, here's these religious dudes come down from Jerusalem, they see you do the greatest miracle you've done up to this point, and then they say you're powered by a demon? And you're Jesus, and you have all the power available to you that comes from Almighty God? You know, I'm thinking, "You want to see somebody cast out? Watch this. I'll cast you all out. I'll show you something you can't deny". You know what Jesus did? It's amazing to me, there's no sense that he even got upset. He just presented his argument. And I want you to see how he goes about this, the answer of the Savior.
First of all, he asks a question. And that's always a good way to get involved with somebody who's spoken against you without making an accusation. You ask a question, you have an inquiry. "He called them to himself and he said to them in parables, 'How can Satan cast out Satan?'" And the question really has no answer. And Jesus is about to prove it, and he goes through three lines of proof to demonstrate his point. First of all, his first illustration is a secular one. He says, "You're saying that Satan casts out Satan". He said, "Let me just give you an illustration from the secular world". Jesus said, "A kingdom divided against itself can't stand". Okay, I got that one. And then he goes from the secular world to the social world, and he says a house divided against itself cannot stand. That house cannot stand.
So, a secular illustration, a kingdom. A social illustration, a family. Now, he gives a spiritual illustration, and he says, "And if Satan has risen up against himself, and he is divided, he can't stand either, he has an end". In other words, he's finished. So Jesus makes his point, "You're saying to me that I'm casting out Satan by Satan. That doesn't make any sense in the secular world, in the social world, or in the spiritual world. That doesn't work". And then his final argument is this really incredible insight. He says, "No one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder or steal his goods". Now, watch what Jesus is saying. Entering Satan's house, Jesus bound Satan, and he freed his captive. Jesus appeals to the logical argument to answer the scribes' accusations. And instead of getting angry with them, he quietly, logically reasons with them, and he leaves them speechless, with nothing to say.
By the way, what Jesus is saying by this illustration should give great hope to all of us in the world in which we live. Even the most ferocious demon flees at the Word of Jesus. That could only mean that he's stronger than Satan, and he's stronger than all of his demons put together. Jesus bound the strong man, he rendered him impotent. And in doing so, he draws a straight line to one of my favorite verses in the New Testament, 1 John 4:4, "He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world". Ladies and gentlemen, you have nothing to fear from Satan or his demons if you are in league with Jesus because the one you have is greater than the one who's out there. So, to his family, Jesus was demented. And to his foes, he was demonic.
Now, we come to this part of the story that I started with at the beginning. To his followers, he was divine. What Jesus is going to prove now is that in order for you to be a follower of Jesus, there are certain things you must believe. You must believe that Jesus is God. You must believe that Jesus is the Son of God. And notice how he goes about this as he addresses the scribes who have come against him with these accusations. Verse 28, "'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,' because they said, 'He has an unclean spirit.'"
This final paragraph of our lesson today is the source of some of the greatest misunderstanding in all of Christendom, and it has been mis-taught many times to the suffering of untold people. The last phrase in this verse tells us why Jesus said what he said. He said it because they were accusing him of being filled with an unclean spirit. And so, he says to them, "There is a sin which you are on the verge of committing. And be careful now, you're on the verge of committing this sin, that if you commit it, there is no forgiveness available".
So let me just stop now and let's do a little theological short session. What is the unpardonable sin? The way I'd like to start that is by telling you, first of all, what it is not. Let's take some things off the list. The unpardonable sin is not cursing Jesus. I've heard people say that, "Don't curse Jesus, you're committing the unpardonable sin". The unpardonable sin is not adultery or sexual perversion. The unpardonable sin is not murder, or multiple murders, or genocide. The unpardonable sin is not suicide or taking one's own life. I've heard that more than any other, "My brother, my father, my uncle, my sister, they took their own life, Pastor. Is that the unpardonable sin? Does that mean they won't go to heaven"? No, it doesn't mean they won't go to heaven. That is not the unpardonable sin. By the way, I would suggest you not do that. Because the first person you're going to meet on the other side is the Lord Jesus, and he's going to say to you, "Why did you do that"?
Now, whatever you do, don't go home and say, "I went to church today and Dr. Jeremiah said that cursing and sexual perversion and murder and taking your own life is okay". I'm not saying that. These are not okay. These are sins, these are serious sins. But they're not sins that are unforgivable by Almighty God, as most people will say. And maybe you've heard them say that to you, or you've heard them say it about somebody you know. What is the unpardonable sin? I want to take you through just a few things so we can see it completely. First of all, I need to tell you that the unpardonable sin is very rare. It's very rare. In fact, in all of the Bible, there is only one instance of the Lord Jesus saying anything like he says here. It's in the other gospels, but it's about this event, it's just one occasion. It doesn't occur any place else in the Scripture.
Number two, as you study this in the context in which it is given to us, it's not only a rare sin, it's a rehearsed sin. The scribes who came down from Jerusalem didn't just do this on a whim. They just didn't show up without any preparation whatsoever, and they see Jesus doing that and they say, "Oh, that's satanic". No, if you follow the book of Mark, and you follow the religious leaders in the book of Mark, they've been on a journey. When you first meet them, they're full of curiosity about all that Jesus is doing. They're seeing Jesus do these things, and they have question marks. And then their questions become indifferent, and then their indifference begins to metastasize into a malicious attitude that become so hateful and vengeful that it ultimately nails Jesus Christ to the cross. These religious leaders who have come down to accuse Jesus of this terrible thing, they didn't become the way they were in a moment. They've been on a long journey of hardheartedness toward the Messiah. It was a rare sin, it was rehearsed.
Let me tell you another thing about it, it was repeated. In the language of the New Testament, this phrase, "They say it," is in the imperfect tense. Don't let me lose you on that thought. The imperfect tense simply means it is an event that keeps on happening. You could translate it by saying it this way, "When they came down and they saw what Jesus had done, they kept on saying". Now, they didn't just say it once, they kept on saying, "This is the work of Satan, this is the work of Satan. Jesus is doing this in the work of Satan, did you hear me? He's doing it in the work of Satan. This is satanic".
They kept on saying it over and over again. The Bible says that we can come to the place of repentance, and reject it, and reject it, and reject it, and become so hardhearted about it, that when the repentance is necessary, we have put ourselves in a situation where we have no longer the ability to respond. Calluses grow on our hearts. Our ears can't receive the truth. We become hardened in our consciences. And while the grace of God is still there, and he's still willing to receive us, and he's still willing to forgive us, we put ourselves in an unforgivable situation. This was a rare sin, this was a rehearsed sin, this was a repeated sin.
And number four, it was a religious sin. Listen to me carefully, these religious people, who had every reason to know that the Son of God was coming as the Messiah, who knew what the Old Testament prophets said about the signs of his coming, that he would come with great miracles and great power. They had copied that and continued to copy it, and that was their daily routine. And this sin was committed or was about to be committed by the most religious people of the day. How many of you know that you become hardened to spiritual truth by actually living in the middle of it? You can go to church so much that church no longer makes any difference. You can read the Bible until it becomes like a blank stare, and the words no longer register with you. The scribes had come to the place where they were so familiar with religious things that when the Son of God showed up, they didn't know who he was, and thought he was from Satan. This was a religious sin.
You see, what Jesus wants us to know is this. By ascribing the miracles of Jesus to Satan, the religious leaders were denying the deity of Jesus Christ. They were saying that he could not be God, and yet, it was by his miracles that he was showing himself that he was God. Because only God could do what he had done. His followers had to believe in his deity. And how many of you know that it is the Holy Spirit who witnesses to the deity of Christ in our world today? So when you refuse to accept the ministry of the Holy Spirit, or you ascribe his ministry to Satan, you give up the final opportunity you have to believe in Jesus as the Son of God.
Now, I know that the thought of an unforgivable sin has haunted sensitive people in every Christian century, and maybe it has haunted you. So I want to be very clear before we finish this up today to say to you that if you're bothered in your spirit that you may have committed the sin that God will not forgive, the very fact that you have anxiety over that is proof positive that you have not committed the sin. And the reason for that is if you've committed the unpardonable sin, you've come to the place where you deny the power of God, in essence, anywhere. You deny that he has any power to do anything, so if he's still working in your heart and you know that there's something wrong in your heart, don't say that's the unforgivable sin because it's not. The very fact that you still care about it is a proof positive that you haven't committed that sin.
So what is the unforgivable sin today? The unforgivable sin today is to harden your heart against God, being under the teaching of the Word of God as you are in this church every week, walk away from it and say, "I know that's probably true, but I'm not going to deal with it. I know I should become a Christian, but I'm not going to mess with it. I'll wait until some other later time," and you continue to do that, and you continue to do it, and you build up calluses on your soul. Until, after a while, the Spirit of God no longer is bringing conviction to your heart. And then you go through your life, and over a period of time, you become hardened, so it's just like water off a duck's back. You hear the Word of God and it makes no impact on you, and then you continue like that. And if you die in that condition, there is no forgiveness for you available.
The unforgivable sin today for any of us here in this room has not yet been committed, but if you go through your life and you don't receive Jesus Christ before you die, you have committed the unpardonable sin. There's no forgiveness in this life or the next for the rejection of Jesus Christ as your Savior. So what I want to say to you is that don't worry that you have committed, but be concerned that you might. You don't have to worry about this in the past. You have to worry about this in the future. If you do not know for certain that you are a Christian, that you have invited Jesus Christ to come into your life, and you walk out of this building today and you get hit by a truck, or you have a heart attack, you then have committed the unpardonable sin. You can't be forgiven. You don't get a second chance after death. Death is it, it's final. Whatever you do concerning Christ you do in this life. Jesus is who he claims to be. He is the Son of God. He is our redeemer. He is the one who came to receive us into his glory. And you can count on it, you can bet on it, you can bet eternity on it!