Occasionally someone will express concern that he or she may have committed the “unpardonable sin.” This person may, in fact, be guilty of a truly grievous sin, such as murder, adultery, incest, abortion, or even something not quite so serious. Over a period of time, the person then develops an obsessive guilt, perhaps not unlike David’s when he cried out, “My sin is ever before me” (Psalm 51:3). Some people then associate this guilt with the idea that God cannot possibly forgive them for what they have done.
The inquirer’s admission that sin is present, and that it is serious, is to the advantage of the helper. With such a humble admission, the battle for the person’s soul is nearly won! There are, however, some misconceptions to be cleared up.
1. Immediately encourage the inquirer by stating that you want to help in any way you can. Point out that, in spite of what he or she may think, the Bible maintains that God, in His grace, can forgive any sin if we ask Him to.
2. Define the unpardonable sin in the light of Scripture: When Jesus cast a demon out of a blind and mute man, the people were amazed (Matthew 12:22–23). The Pharisees, however, spoke against Jesus, saying that He had cast out the demon by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons (verse 24). Jesus answered them as follows: “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men . . . either in this age or in the age to come” (verses 31–32). Ask the caller if he or she is guilty of this sin. If not, offer the assurance that no “unpardonable sin” has been committed.
3. In emphasizing this, however, take care not to minimize the seriousness of any sin which he or she may confess (Galatians 5:19–21). If such an admission of sin is made, emphasize that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). To experience God’s grace in salvation—which includes forgiveness from sin—a person must admit that he or she is a sinner. See step 2 of Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD. The next step is to confess sin as the publican did: “God be merciful to me a sinner!” (Luke 18:13). Recognizing and confessing sin is a prerequisite to all else that follows. God is in the business of forgiving sin. He sent His Son to the cross that “we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Point out that the only sin that is truly “unpardonable” is to reject Christ as Savior.
4. Present “Steps to Peace with God,” – Christian Biblical Counsel: STEPS TO PEACE WITH GOD, and urge the person to trust in Christ without delay, emphasizing that although his or her sin is serious, it is forgivable: “[He] forgives all your iniquities” (Psalm 103:3).
5. If he or she is a Christian, emphasize that a child of God is not capable of committing the “unpardonable sin.” Only unbelievers reject the Holy Spirit. Follow the procedure outlined above:
A. Define the unpardonable sin (Matthew 12:22–31).
B. Ask if he or she is guilty of the sin described by Jesus, that of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
C. In dispelling the person’s doubts, remember not to treat lightly the sin which the inquirer thinks might be unpardonable.
D. Offer the assurance that any sin, no matter how terrible, can be forgiven on the basis of repentance and confession –
Emphasize especially 1 John 1:9. It may not be easy to convince a spiritually insecure inquirer that his or her sins are all pardonable. Be persistent in reiterating God’s love, shown in the price He paid on the cross so that sin might be forgiven. If we confess, all sin will be forgiven.
6. Pray with the person that he or she might be able to see sin from God’s perspective. God hates sin but loves the sinner; He will forgive any and all sin through the person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Unpardonable Sin:
“He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the [Holy] Spirit will not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:30–31, NIV).
The Seriousness of Sin:
“The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21, NIV).
God’s Willingness to Forgive Any and All Sin:
“I waited patiently for the Lord; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—praise to our God; many will see it and fear, and will trust in the Lord. Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust, and does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works which You have done; and Your thoughts which are toward us cannot be recounted to You in order; if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (Psalm 40:1–5).
“Who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases. . . . As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:3, 12).
“He who covers his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
The Billy Graham Christian Worker’s Handbook; World Wide Publications, 1984, 1996