"… the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin … If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness… "1 John 1:7-9
However, Jesus in the Gospels (Matthew 12:22-32, Luke 12:10, Mark 3:22-30) says:
… the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven…he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation..
Skeptics sometimes hold the above examples as a contradiction in the Bible, without knowing the true meaning for either verse. This article tries to explain why this is NOT a contradiction but concurrency.
By saying that "the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven", Jesus did not mean that His crucifixion and resurrection paid only for a subset of Sins and certain sins are excluded from the Grace of Calvary. The concept of 'unforgivable sin' has troubled quite a lot of people since they are concerned that, because they have rejected or blamed or grieved the Holy Spirit once, they have sinned too much to be forgiven of that sin. In fact, Unpardonable Sin does NOT mean that God is unable to pardon sin, but it signifies that one who refuses to accept the forgiveness cannot be forgiven. To understand how blasphemy of Spirit becomes unpardonable, we need to understand what "blasphemy against the Spirit" actually is.
Defiance of Holy Spirit Vs Defiance of Son of Man
It is to be noted that Jesus warned about the unforgivable sin to Pharisees who accused Jesus to be demon-possessed. (In other words, calling Holy Spirit as Demon). Who were Pharisees? The word Pharisees mean 'those who are set-apart' or 'separatists' and they were experts of God's Law (Mosaic Laws). Since they specialized in learning, interpreting, and teaching the Word of God, they were supposed to know all about the Messianic Prophesies in the scrolls and one would expect them to identify Jesus as Messiah by comparing His words/deeds with the written prophecies. In addition, Jesus did all the miracles right in front of their eyes and constantly gave clear indications that He is the fulfillment of Law and Prophecies. YET, they deliberately CHOSE to disbelieve Him thereby voluntarily elected to exclude themselves from the forgiveness of Sins they have otherwise committed since they maintained the stand that they were puritans and need NO forgiveness from God. It is to be noted that, in Matthew 12:25 it says that Jesus knew their "thoughts". With all the knowledge in the Jewish religion, they knew that the Spirit in Jesus was the Holy Spirit and not Beelzebub (since it is common sense that demons cannot cast out demons). Hence knowingly, they rejected the Holy Spirit and accused the Holy Spirit as a demon. This sin is NOT blind/chance ignorance, but WILLFUL rejection and hence IS unpardonable. Willful, defiant, irreverence with all the knowledge about the truth, is the rejection of God and hence the rejection of pardon. Hence Blasphemy against Spirit isn't a specific act, but a state of enmity and impenitence lasting unto one's end.
"Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come."Matthew 12:32
If one speaks against the human incarnation of Jesus (Son of Man), it might be because of the ignorance that He is God Himself and that sin is forgiven to them if repented. Remember while in Cross, Jesus prayed to forgive his torturers. However, those who speak against the Holy Spirit do so with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit is God and openly admits that they don't want the fellowship with God Himself. Since they defy God Himself, they defy the saving grace in Calvary and hence not covered under that forgiveness. That is how the defiance of the Holy Spirit becomes unforgivable. Since Jesus clearly knew the hearts of the Pharisees, (Matthew 12:25) He warned them that by rejecting the Holy Spirit they cannot be saved/forgiven as it is the Holy Spirit that brings about the conviction about sin, righteousness, and judgement.
As noted above, since continued disbelief, by means of final choice, does not acknowledge the Grace of God, those who die in the unbelief has no pardon, in this world (age) and are destined to Hell. So is it applicable to unbelievers only? No. Hebrews 6:4-6 says, those who once were partakers of the Holy Spirit, if they fall away, are also destined to eternal condemnation. Deliberately turning away from the pardon is thus unpardonable even if that person once was a believer. One who falls after getting the enlightenment on truth and experiencing God does so due to the hardness of their heart. That is called the sin of apostasy and is not related to the imprudent grieving of Spirit in Ephesians 4:30 which is forgiven if and when one repents and confesses to the LORD (John 6:37). Note that Paul was not talking about unbelievers or skeptics, but warning the believers to be in constant fellowship with God and his Words. Based on Luke 17:3,4, 1 John1:9, 2:1, Revelation 3:1-3, we see carelessly repeated sins does not come under unpardonable sin. Unlike the imprudent sin, one who does blasphemy of Spirit is unable to repent at all and hence is not forgiven.
It also does not mean that if a person once defies Jesus openly out of his ignorance he cannot be a true Christian later. It is absolutely not possible for a person to have sinned beyond the point of being saved by the blood of Christ. Apostle Paul is a great example of this. He had worked tirelessly to end Christianity, but when he was enlightened, he did not defy the way of salvation and later became one of the greatest apostles ever lived. If you are worried by the fears of having committed the unpardonable sin, be assured that that very feeling is the proof that you have not, because a person who is guilty of unpardonable sin can and never will feel guilty or repentance of that sin.
Is there a contradiction in Bible?
Absolutely NO. The blood of Christ cleanses and forgives ANY and ALL sins man has done (as 1 John 1:7) and those who defy that forgiveness cannot be pardoned (Matthew 12:22-32, Luke 12:10, Mark 3:22-30) - Both verses are implying one and the same matter. God is perfect and so is His righteousness. Calvary is not a partial solution for Sins, but it is the full and complete solution for all
...the wages of sin is death...Romans 6:23
However 1 John 5:17 says
...there is sin NOT leading to death....
This verse in 1 John 5:16-17 raises several questions like 'Can one's prayer for a sinner count to the justification for that sinner?', 'Is there any sin that makes a person unqualified for being prayed for?', 'Is there a ranking of Sin?', 'Are there any minor sins that we can do and still make it to heaven?', 'If some sin is too small, then is Romans 6:23 entirely true?' etc.. All these questions can be answered if we simply understand whether there is a ranking for sins.
What is Sin and How God sees it?
Whatever deviating from God's will is SIN. Whether it is 'just' boasting or a 'heinous' serial murder. Even the things man thinks is righteous is like filthy rags before GOD (Isaiah 64:6) - Not only doing what is not right [the sin of commission] but also not doing what is right [the sin of omission] is considered as Sin in LORD's eyes (Romans 3:10-12, James 4:17). Also, James 2:10 says if one stumble in one point of the LAW is guilty of all! 1 John 5:17 says ALL unrighteousness is SIN.
Sin separates man from the divine nature of God (Isaiah 59:2) and since God is life, anything away from Him is death and regardless of the specifics, ALL sins are WORTHY of Death.. (Numbers 15:30, Romans 6:23, Romans 7:5, James 1:14,15). He is the Holy of Holy, nothing unclean or sinful will ever enter in His presence (Revelation 21:27, 22:15). Hence, there is no question of punishment in Heaven. The reason why Christ died for us is that ALL sins are worthy of the death penalty (1 Peter 2:24). One who repents shall not die because the punishment for the repented Sin is already carried out on Calvary. Hence, for those who repent their sins and come to Calvary's Grace, there is NO gradation of Sin. There is only ONE simple step for the one who did a serial murder and the one who did a tax evasion and the one who violates traffic laws of the state. That is the faith in Christ (1 John 1:7-9, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Since repenting cannot be qualified with an adjective, one who did a 'gross' sin needs no more repenting that one who did a 'regular/simple' sin. Hence for those who are in Christ, there is NO gradation of SIN at all. Also, there is NO judgment for ANY sin that God has forgiven upon a man's repentance. (Isaiah 43:25, Hebrews 8:12, Hebrews 10:17) because He chooses not to remember it ever after the forgiveness
Jesus told in His sermon on the mount that one who looks at a woman with lustful eyes has already committed adultery to her and one who hates his brother will be judged just like a murderer. That does not mean that lust is same as adultery, but He was pointing out that the transgressions of our body (adultery, murder) is a result of the transgression of our mind (lust, anger) and since He is the God who searches one's heart (Proverbs 24:12, Psalm 44:21) He knows when one crosses the boundaries of the divine law, even if it is committed in one's heart. So even if a person did not commit the act of murder, he still will be a sinner before God since he has the starting point of that sin in his heart. Just like that, even if one does not actually commit adultery, right from the starting point of that sin, which is lustfully looking, he is a sinner before God. Pharisees justified themselves to be pure because for them, being pure in one's action is purity while for God being pure in one's heart is true purity!
But is God unjust to punish with the same severity for all the sins in judgment? Never! The Bible (Proverbs 24:12, Isaiah 59:18, Jeremiah 17:10, Matthew 12:36, 16:27, Mark 9:49, Romans 2:5-6, Revelation 20:13, 2:23) clearly suggests that there is a gradation of SINS but it is ONLY for Unrepented SINS. That means if one dies in Sin, there is certainly different punishment levels for all of the above categories of Sin since God is not unjust to anyone. He will judge everyone according to what they have done (Rom. 2:6).
If all sins are worthy of death, then what is the meaning of "sin not unto death" in 1 John 5:16-17? It is true that all sins are worthy of death, but that does not mean all sins result in death, because as explained above, anyone who repents and saved by Jesus will not be put to death for his sins. John is writing to and about believers and declares in the 1st chapter that ALL repented sins are forgiven if and when repented. So the sin that is qualified as 'unto death' should be those which are unrepented, willful, defiant irreverence and disobedience to God, as explained in the first part of this article (unpardonable sin). [Hebrews 2:2,3, Romans 6:21, Romans 7:5] For example when Ananias and Sapphira cheated the Holy Spirit (Acts. 5:1-10), instead of praying for them or advising them, the Apostles let the wrath of God fall upon them because they have gone astray permanently.
We are supposed to pray for our sinning loved ones, including those among us and we certainly may not be able to judge a visible sin as one that is unto death or not. This exhortation is consistent with the teaching that we need to be concerned about our brethren for the sins they do (1 John 2:1-2, Galatians 6:1,2, James 5:19-20). Note that NKJV translates James 5:19-20 as one who saves a brother from sin "saves him from death". This is because, though a person is in Christ, if he continues to sin he will be cut off (John 15:2, Romans 11:21).
There is no verse in the Bible that suggests forgiveness without self repenting. However, with our prayer, God will enlighten them where they have fallen and will give them the chance to repent, return, and repeat (Revelation 2:5). Remember that for the sake of Abraham, God saved Lot and his family from the wrath. God gave the chance to escape from the destruction for all four of them, but Lot's wife chose to look back and thus 'sinned unto death' (Sin of Apostasy). Apostle is exhorting us to have compassion for those who sin but also warns that there are people that are heavyhearted and thickheaded who just can't get the result of those prayers.
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1) Let us submit ourselves for progressive sanctification by abiding in the ever-flowing grace of Jesus Christ.
May God Bless you.