Numbers 12:27-31 “If one person sins unintentionally, he shall offer a female goat a year old for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who makes a mistake, when he sins unintentionally, to make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven . . . But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken his commandment, that person shall be utterly cut off; his iniquity shall be on him.”
Matthew 12:31 “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”
Do you realize that every one of the sacrifices in the Old Testament law was to provide atonement for unintentional sins, only? These are sometimes referred to as “sins of ignorance?” These were sins that a person had committed but they had done so without knowing that what they had done was wrong. It’s like the difference between manslaughter and first-degree murder. Manslaughter is a crime in which the person kills someone, but it is the result of an accident of some type. There was no intentionality to it. In first degree murder, there’s a plan involved. It’s a scheming effort to take a life. It’s a sin someone commits with their own full knowledge.
As the passage above from Numbers 12 tells us, the unintentional sin could be forgiven, whereas an intentional sin had no remedy. If applied to your life and mine, what a devastating thought this is. Over the years I’ve thought about this in relation to a statement once made by the apostle Paul. It’s found in 1 Timothy 1:13-14, which says this: “Formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” This verse has bothered me. It says that the reason that Paul was forgiven for all his wickedness before he was a believer was that he had acted out of ignorance. It was all unintentional, because he didn’t realize what he was doing. Then there are the words that Jesus spoke from the cross about those who had screamed “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” In response, Jesus said “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34).” Again, although the murder of the Savior was, perhaps, the most horrible sin anyone had ever committed, even that sin was forgivable if it was a sin done in “ignorance,” if you will.
But then I’ve thought about my own sins. Have they all been done unintentionally? Hardly. I’ve committed lots of sins that I’ve known full well were wrong to do, yet I did them anyway? If I were to guess, you’re in the same boat as me. So, in consideration of what the Scriptures have said, are my sins unforgivable, especially when I call myself a believer and know the commandments God has given us much better than those who have never believed? Have I committed the “unpardonable sin?”
Well, I read something recently that helped me. It’s a book by a pastor, H. A. Ironside, about the various Old Testament sacrifices and how they all typified, in one way or another, the sacrifice of our Lord, Jesus Christ. In this book, he helped me to understand that the awesome grace of our God is revealed in the New Testament by reducing the “wilful sins” to one very specific sin. Ironside (1876 – 1951) was a well-known pastor, author, and theologian who once pastored Moody Church in Chicago. Listen to what he says: “There was no sin offering for wilful, deliberate sin under the law. It was only for sins of ignorance. But since the cross, God in infinite grace counts only one sin as wilful, and that is the final rejection of His beloved Son. All other sins are looked upon as sins of ignorance; they are the outcome of that evil heart of unbelief which is in all of us. Men sin because of the ignorance that is in them.”
Yes, there is a sin that is unforgivable. It’s that sin that Jesus was referring to in Matthew 12:31, above, when He said that “EVERY sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people,” that is, every sin but one, and that one sin is “the blasphemy against the Spirit.” It is that sin that will not be forgiven. And what is that sin? In this passage Jesus was talking to some Pharisees who claimed that He was casting out demons because He, Himself, was demonic. This amounted to a total rejection of the Son of God with a view that He was evil rather than good. It is the rejection of the Son of God as the one and only Savior of the world that is the one wilful sin that God will not forgive. And why is this? Because if someone turns away from the Savior, how then can they ever be saved? As Peter said when Jesus asked him after many of His professing “believers” had turned away from Him, “Do you want to go away as well?” To this Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life (John 6:67-68).”
I’ve talked to a number of people over the years who have wondered if they’ve committed the unpardonable sin. They’ve asked me that question, sometimes in the depths of despair. But glory be to God that His only begotten Son said that “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people,” i.e., if they turn to Him, ask His forgiveness, and believe. But to turn against the awesome and gracious One who offers this indescribable gift of forgiveness for every sin is a wilful sin that will not be forgiven.
So, do you think you cannot be forgiven of some awful thing you’ve done in the past? Praise God that you can be if you just turn to Him and believe. However, if you refuse the free gift of eternal life that is being offered to you by the sinless Lamb of God Who died for you and provided the one and only way anyone can ever be forgiven, then where else can you go?