“And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31).
The unforgivable sin (a.k.a. “unpardonable sin”) has stood as a peculiar riddle to bible readers for centuries. How horrible must the sin be that it absolutely cannot be forgiven? Common interpretations have sought to understand the riddle by appealing to the sacredness of the Holy Spirit, but what makes the Holy Spirit more sacred than the Father or the Son such that blaspheming either of them is forgivable but blaspheming the Holy Spirit is not? According to my interpretation, the Holy Spirit is not more sacred but rather represents something more specific. When considered in the context of another important passage, the key to unlocking the riddle becomes clear.
Proof for the Unforgivable Sin
Premise 1: Your sins are forgiven if and only if you forgive others their sins.
[Matt. 6:14-15; Matt 18:35; Mark 11:25-26; James 2:13]
Premise 2: There is only one sin that cannot be forgiven.
[Matt 12:31, 32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10]
Conclusion: Not forgiving others their sins is the only sin that cannot be forgiven.
What does it mean to sin against the Holy Spirit?
It means to refuse forgiveness. By refusing to extend mercy to others, you are refused it yourself. Immediately following his statement about the unforgivable sin, Jesus states “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” thus clarifying that if one speaks condescendingly about the holy spirit of forgiveness in word, it is evidence that one rejects mercy in one’s heart. Until one undergoes repentance, a ‘turning back’ of heart, it is impossible to be forgiven. One must learn to forgive wholeheartedly in order to be found not guilty of the unforgivable sin.
Why is it that one must forgive in order to be forgiven?
The Law of Measure
There is a law of measure that God has set into place that governs the world. The idea is similar to the Sanskrit term ‘karma’ and is depicted in the bible as “You reap what you sow” (Galatians 6:7; 2 Corinthians 9:6; Psalms 62:12). As it pertains to forgiveness, Jesus taught: “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven… for with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you” (Luke 6:37-38). Again in Matthew 7:1-2 he says: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” There is no escaping the law of measure, which is why refusal to forgive is the one thing that is unforgivable.
The Golden Rule
Based on this law of measure, of reaping what we sow, the prescribed rule of conduct is to treat others as we want to be treated, as Jesus says in Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” And again in Luke 6:31, “And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.” By treating others with love and forgiving them of their shortcomings, that love returns to us and we are likewise forgiven according to the law of measure. God’s holy kingdom comes on earth when everyone loves each other on earth as they do in the heavenly ideal. The golden rule, when coupled with the greatest commandments (to love God wholeheartedly and everyone as yourself), provides a blueprint for how to bring about this heavenly kingdom on earth. And of course love entails forgiveness.
Proof originally formulated on 4/26/2013
Discussion modified and posted on 5/28/2016