The Apple Of God's Eye

April 25, 2011

A Fate Worse Than Death!

What is the most terrible thing that could happen to a human being?

Did you know that there is a sin so great, so devastating in its awfulness, that even the great mercy of God cannot overlook it, and the shed blood of Jesus Christ cannot wash it away? A sin that can never be forgiven.

Jesus warned that it could happen. “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” (Mark 3:28-29, RAV throughout except as noted).

Who could commit such a dreadful sin, and subject themselves to such an appalling fate — to lose all hope of forgiveness and salvation?

Jesus addressed these stern words to self-righteous religious leaders of first century Jerusalem. They had developed an implacable contempt for Jesus. During his ministry, Jesus occasionally clashed with them, and several times he warned them of the dire consequences of their attitude. Finally, they trumped up charges against him and occasioned his crucifixion by the Romans.

But was this the unpardonable sin?

An unpardonable sin is by no means the special province of bigots. Have you ever noticed this scripture in the epistles of John, whose writings usually epitomize love, tolerance and forgiveness? “If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that” (I John 5:16).

So there it is again, but this time it pertains to one who had truly believed on Christ and whose sin is such that his friends should not even pray for his forgiveness. What can such a sin be?

Many theologians, with fuzzy ideas of what sin is, become very vague when confronting these statements. One can certainly understand that. An unpardonable sin is not a pleasant subject to dwell on. There is a real temptation to read quickly over these scriptures, shudder, and hurry on to something more positive, hoping that whatever it does mean, the unpardonable sin doesn’t mean you.

But the scriptures are there, the sin does exist, and it could just conceivably strike you. A passage in the book of Hebrews sheds more light on this sin that can never be forgiven. “For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries” (Hebrews 10:26).

Ah — now there’s a clue — “if we sin willfully.” The Pharisees’ opposition to Jesus was not a spur of the moment, hotheaded fit of pique. These men knew what they were doing.

A leading Pharisee, Nicodemus, once confided to Jesus: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Many of them knew better, but unlike Nicodemus they still plotted to destroy him and his work.

But wait — you sin when you know better, too, don’t you? Unless you are a very unusual person (unusually self-righteous, that is), not a day goes by but that you do something you know is wrong, and of which you know God would disapprove. Even as you do it, you know it is sinning, but you do it anyway. Does this mean that you have also committed the unpardonable sin?

Many torture themselves with doubt and anxiety over this question. They want to do the right thing, but time after time they slip and stumble, victims once again of weakness and human nature.

Even the great apostle Paul once wrote, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19, RSV). He wrote this nearly 20 years after he had been converted! But Paul knew that he had not committed unpardonable sins.

Plainly, Paul said that he did, at times, SIN — even in his converted state. He said, “… but the evil which I would not, that I DO.” And he did do it consciously — knowingly! His mind, for the moment, did consent to it! He knowingly yielded! So knowingly that he wrote of it for you and me to read!

But he did not sin wilfully! The evil he says he DID was “the evil which I would not” (Rom. 7:19).

His ATTITUDE — his overall INTENTION — was to do the RIGHT of God’s Law. He said, verses 21-22 of Romans 7, Moffatt translation: “So this is my experience of the Law. I desire to do what is right, but WRONG is all that I can manage. I cordially agree with GOD’S LAW, so far as my inner self is concerned.”

He had NOT deliberately DESIRED to follow a life of evil — just the opposite! His overall DESIRE — his ATTITUDE — was to obey God’s Law. Yet when the pull of human nature — in a single incident — overpowered him, he was aware of what he was doing in his mind — his mind therefore of necessity did, for the moment, consent and yield.

But THAT WAS NOT THE UNPARDONABLE SIN! It was NOT sinning WILLFULLY! And it did NOT condemn him! Nor does such an experience, if truly repented of, condemn YOU. Paul continues:

“There is therefore now NO CONDEMNATION to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). Here again, Moffatt renders it in more modern English: “Thus there is NO DOOM now for those who are in Christ Jesus; the law of the Spirit brings the LIFE which is IN Christ Jesus, and that law has set me free from the law of sin and death.”

Source: The Plain Truth, February 1986

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