Ask Father Paul
Answers to your questions about life, religion and the Bible
Pastors get some of the most interesting questions from people they meet and people in their congregations. Here are a few that I have gotten during my years of ministry and for this column.
Dear Father Paul: I am a Christian, but am concerned that I might have committed “the unpardonable sin.” What is the unpardonable sin, and what danger is there that I did, indeed, commit it?
Thank you. — No name please.
Dear No Name: Pastors get this question a lot, especially from Christians who worry that they might have committed a sin for which they can’t be forgiven.
The fact is that there is, indeed, according to Jesus himself, a sin that is unpardonable. This is difficult for many to fathom because God’s grace in the forgiveness of sin is unlimited. After all wasn’t King David forgiven even though he committed adultery and murder? Wasn’t Saint Paul forgiven even though he assisted in the killing of Saint Stephen? Wasn’t Saint Peter forgiven even though he betrayed Jesus three times?
Jesus tells us about the “unpardonable sin” in Matthew 12 and again in Mark 3. In the Matthew 12:31-32 passage Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees who have just a few verses earlier accused him of casting out demons by the power of Satan. Jesus says this: “And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the (Holy) Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man (Jesus) will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (New International Version)
It is clear from these words of Jesus that the Pharisees had just earlier attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan and were thus blaspheming (speaking untruth and contempt) about the Holy Spirit and his works. Not only were they doing this, but they were rejecting the Holy Spirit’s work in their own lives as well. The Holy Spirit was saying to these men, “What you have just seen in your very presence is the work of the Holy Spirit (God) … this Jesus standing right in front of you is God’s son.” But the Pharisees were saying, “This is not God. This is Satan’s agent.”
Obviously merely saying an unkind thing about the Holy Spirit, bad as that is, is not an unpardonable sin. But the Pharisees went much, much further than just that. They called the Holy Spirit of God Satan, and they attributed the Holy Spirit’s work to the works of Satan. That is the point at which their words became unforgivable.
All of us thus need to be careful about what we say. For example, much of the work of the Holy Spirit today, especially the working of the nine “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” found in 1 Corinthians 12, is seriously misunderstood by many believers. That is understood and forgiven by God. But I recently heard a first hand report about a pastor who stood in his pulpit and called one of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit “Hog Wash.” It literally broke my heart to hear this. I am not sure what seminary this gentleman graduated from or from what Bible he got that idea. Moreover, I certainly am not God, so it is not my place to judge him. He is probably a very fine gentleman and pastor, and I don’t think he has committed the unpardonable sin, but he came awfully, awfully close, at least for my comfort level.
All of which proves the wisdom in the old saying that, “If you don’t know what you are talking about, you should just keep quiet.”
If you (or anyone) truly loves God, hates sin and wants to obey God’s commands, then it is very unlikely that you have committed the unpardonable sin. If a person today has committed the unpardonable sin it is likely that he has become an enemy of God, has reviled and mocked the works of God (the Holy Spirit) and has become so depraved that he has knowingly and purposefully attributed the works of God to Satan.
Do you have a question? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to answer your question in the paper.
Father Paul Massey is pastor of Church of the Holy Cross Charismatic Episcopal Church in Fayetteville, Georgia…”The Ancient, New Testament Church For Today’s Generation.” More information, service times, directions and downloads of Father Paul’s Sunday messages are available at www.
holycrosschurch.wordpress.com You are cordially invited to worship with us this coming Sunday.