Forgivable Sins and Pharisees

There is a certain level of trepidation experienced after reading Mark 3:22-30. Jesus’s ominous words directed at the scribes of his day regarding the unforgivable sin often leave sincere Christians either thinking that they may have already committed this sin or that they could commit it sometime in the future. Such concerns are simply unwarranted by those who are sincere in their faith.

Jesus’s warning regarding blaspheming “against the Holy Spirit” (Mark 3:29) was directed against the learned, self-righteous, religious elite of the day (Mark 3:22): the scribes and the Pharisees, not the sincere in heart. In numerous places in the New Testament, Jesus and his Apostles affirm that those who have genuinely put their trust in Christ will receive forgiveness of sins (Matthew 5:3; John 1:12-13, 6:37, 10:28-29; Acts 2:21 [cf. Romans 10:13]; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9). If you have truly put your trust in Christ, you need not worry about whether you have committed this sin or not.

The religious elite of Jesus’s day cared nothing about the work of the Holy Spirit, nor did they desire to rightly discern the works of Christ. As the text bears out, not only did they display indifference toward Jesus’s message, they even attributed the miraculous power of Jesus to Beelzebub and other demonic entities (Mark 3:22).

This was not a mere lapse in judgment by the scribes: Jesus’s stern response to them by way of a parable, his primary method of dealing with the unbelief of the religious elite (cf. Mark 4:10-12), reveals as much. Instead, the statements of the scribes were meant to discredit the miracles of God’s heavenly kingdom by attributing them to Beelzebub, a pagan god. The actions of the scribes were clearly perceived by Jesus as blasphemous against the Holy Spirit, to which Jesus states there is no forgiveness.

But What, Then, is the Unforgivable Sin?

Based on the context found in Mark 3:22-30, the unforgivable sin is the culpable, persistent rejection of God’s offer of salvation through his Son, Jesus Christ.  The scribes’ persistent uncooperative towards Jesus’s miraculous works (which served to authenticate his message as the Son of God) and call to repentance was an unmistakable sign of blasphemy (speaking evil) against the Holy Spirit. Such an action is the result of a hardened heart that refuses to trust in Christ. And such a mindset (the persistent rejection of the grace offered to us by the work of Christ), if carried to the grave, will never be forgiven.

But while these verses do contain solemn warning, they more importantly highlight an often forgotten and yet profound truth—all sins and blasphemies are forgivable!  There is no example given in Scripture where a person asked for forgiveness and was denied—not one! God is willing and able to forgive all manner of sins. Rather than fearing these verses because they describe an unforgivable sin, we should celebrate these verses because they reveal God’s willingness to forgive all manner of sins. We should praise and thank the Lord that all sins are forgivable!

In addition, what peace and relief comes over a weary soul with the realization that someone is willing to forgive and cleanse the guilt and pain associated with sin. So come, cast your burden of sin upon him, trust in the only Savior there is and experience the peace and joy that comes with having all your sins forgiven.