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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

23 July 2005

The Unforgivable Sin

Holy SpiritQ: Is there an “unforgivable sin”? If so, where is it mentioned in the Bible and can Christians commit this sin? Why or why not?

A: This is known as “the sin against the Holy Spirit.” What sin is unforgivable, then? Only that which pushes the Spirit away, that is, outright rejection of our salvation through the merits of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 4:30 warns, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”

Judas did this when he despaired of forgiveness and hanged himself. Pharaoh did this as he hardened his heart against the Lord until the Lord finally and completely hardened Pharaoh’s heart.

On the other hand, David committed adultery and murder, yet believed in God’s mercy, repented and was saved. So also Peter, who denied Jesus, and Paul, who persecuted the Church and who gave assent by his witness to the stoning of Stephen, were restored by Spirit-created repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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Anonymous Rick Ritchie said...

That was a question I struggled with for years, as an adolescent. Your answer is solid, especially for those who don't fear they committed the sin.

For those who fear they have, they likely need more. If they have wrestled with this long, they really need convincing, as they won't want to get their hopes up again that salvation is possible for them, as the idea of having that hope dashed if it turns out false is too painful.

I liked Walther's argument that explained a little more of the logic. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not unforgivable because it is a more heinous (a worse) sin than blasphemy against the Son. That wouldn't make sense, as the Son and Spirit are equal. So there has to be another reason than the "badness" of the sin that leaves those who committed it unforgiven. That's why we believe it is final rejection of grace that renders the sin unforgiven. (Funny how the Bible says "not forgiven" and we say "unforgivable." There is a difference.)

Anyway, glad you're posting on important topics.

26 July, 2005 22:12  
Blogger Keith Massey said...

The writer David Justice delightfully explores this enigmatic concept in his book Murphy on the Mount. A private investigator just happens to read about this concept of the "Unpardonable Sin" and the "Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit". He deals with growing angst over the issue as he also has to solve a mystery. Here's my discussion of the book:
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit - The Unpardonable Sin

13 August, 2011 09:50  

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