The Unpardonable Sin
January 9th, 1966 @ 7:30 PM
THE UNPARDONABLE SIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1–9-66 7:30 p.m.
Turn to the Second Gospel, Mark, chapter 3; and if you listen on the radio, sharing the evening service of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, open your Bible to chapter 3, Gospel of Mark. We shall read verses 22 through 30. The title of the sermon tonight is the unforgivable sin, the eternal sin, The Unpardonable Sin, and it is described in Mark 3:22-30. And sharing our Bibles, we read it out loud together, Mark 3: 22-30:
And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth He out devils.
And He called them unto Him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?
And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.
And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.
No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.
Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:
But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.
Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.
I am not trying to be ostentatious or publicity minded in preaching on this subject tonight. I preach through the life of Christ on Sunday night; and, in our following through the life of our Lord, we have come to this incident. I have a natural reluctance to preach on subjects that spectacular sermonizers love to publish, and to attract the itching ears of a listening audience that is mostly vain and empty. And when I speak on this subject, it is not at all a matter of cheap show or publicity. It is because we have in the life of our Lord this tragic incident and those awesome words that it elicited from His lips.
Now, after one has studied and studied and studied, he still would approach a subject like this in great humility. For example, there are fine theologians, noble and scholarly men of God, who pore over the Word in devout faith and acceptance, who say that the unpardonable sin was capable of being committed only in the days when Christ lived in the flesh; that today there is no such possibility of a man being guilty of an unforgivable and eternal sin. When we read, for example, this closing word of the epistle of John:
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death.
[1 John 5:16-17]
Now, a man who will study the life of Christ, a scholar, and who will say, "The possibility of committing an eternal and unforgivable sin was possible only in the days of the flesh of our Lord, but it is not possible today," they will interpret this passage I have just read out of John as meaning a physical death, not a spiritual death, not an eternal death, but a physical death. "There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it" [1 John 5:16]. That’s how they explain the passage in John.
Now, we are not going to enter into any polemical discussion of this awesome thing described here by our Lord. It is in God’s prerogative to save, to condemn, to judge, to damn, to divide among us these on His right hand into eternal life, these on His left hand into eternal perdition [Matthew 25:31-46]. It is not for us to judge, and when we approach any subject that pertains to the damnation of the soul and our appearance before God in the great judgment morning, oh, with what humility should we speak of these things and should we search the mind and revelation of the Almighty!
So I’m going to speak of it, not in any wise as a polemicist, a pugilist, a controversialist. We’re not going to enter a forensic discussion of this awesome thing described by our Lord here in the Book of Mark [Mark 3:22-30]. I just point out, and this is all, I just point out that the Lord said, "There is a sin unto death" [1 John 5:16]. There is a sin eternal. There is a sin that hath no forgiveness, not in this life nor in the life that is to come. And the very fact that such a thing could have been said by our Lord brings pause and sobriety to our souls.
In the Bible, the white light of public acknowledgement and depiction and description is given even to the inmost and private lives of God’s finest, noblest saints. And there is no sin that you could name that has not been committed by these great heroes of the faith; all of them, all of them. There’s not one of them perfect, not one.
The sin of disobedience was found in Adam [Genesis 3:1-6], and God made atonement for his soul and saved him [Genesis 3:21].
The sin of drunkenness, so much so that he lay in nakedness – – what an awesome, terrible thing is the scourge of drinking among people – – and this man of God, righteous Noah, who found favor in the sight of the Lord [Genesis 6:8], when the whole world was destroyed [Genesis 7:23], lying in drunkenness and in nakedness [Genesis 9:21], and therein brought disaster upon one of the children of his own flesh [Genesis 9:22-27]. Oh! But God forgave him.
The sin of lying and deception in Abraham [Genesis 12:12-13], the friend of God [2 Chronicles 20:7; James 2:23], the man and the father of the faithful [Romans 4:16], and God forgave him. The sin of volative anger and murder in the life of Moses [Exodus 2:12], and God forgave him. The sin of worldliness and covetousness in Lot, who aspired to be leader and mayor in the very city and citadel of Sodom [Genesis 19:1, 9], yet he was a child of the King, and God loved him and forgave him and spared him [Genesis 19:19].
The inmost delineation of the life of David, who for another man’s wife, slew her husband and bathed his hand in blood [2 Samuel 11:2-17], yet he was a man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22], and in penitential tears [Psalm 51:1-19], God received him back unto Himself. The sin of Simon Peter, who denied the Lord and cursed and swore that he never knew Him, never saw Him [Matthew 26:64-75]; yet the Lord, in tender and loving and forgiving care, took him back to Himself [John 21:15-19]. The whole nation of Israel was judged and destroyed for the sake of the sin of Manasseh [2 Kings 21:11-16]; yet in prison, chained in the court of a heathen king, he bowed in contrition, and God forgave him [2 Chronicles 33:11-19].
Yet the Lord says, "Every sin whereby a man shall do wrong in the sight of God shall be washed away and forgiven and overlooked, except one sin! There is a sin unto death," says the Lord God [1 John 5:16]. We can sin against the Father, but there remains the Son. We can sin against the Son, yet there remains the Holy Spirit. But when we sin against the Holy Spirit, there remaineth no more forgiveness of sins. It is an eternal damnation [Matthew 12:31-32].
Now what is this thing that happened in the life of our Lord? Well, it is this. The leaders of the nation, the scribes in Jerusalem, sent a deputation down from the Holy City to keep the humble folk from being deceived by this false prophet out of Nazareth. And in order to instruct the people and keep them in a more learned and acceptable way, why, this appointed committee of scribes from Jerusalem came to enlighten the people against this false prophet named Jesus [Mark 7:1]. So they come down and they look in supercilious and superior scorn and disdain upon all that the Lord has done. They found fault with everything that He did. They would accost Him and say:
Your disciples, they eat with unwashed hands. Why do You defile the life and subvert the law by eating with unwashed hands? Not a matter of cleanliness, it’s a matter of ceremonial ritualism, to wash the hands in a certain way. And why do Your disciples disobey the tradition of the elders?
Then again they would say, "And what do You mean by breaking the law of the Sabbath day?" for He would heal on the Sabbath day [Matthew 12:10]. Or they would eat out of a corn field on the Sabbath day, and they found fault with His violation of the traditions of the Sabbath day [Matthew 12:1-2]. Or they would see Him heal a man who was born a paralytic, a man who was afflicted all of his life, and when He said, "Thy sins be forgiven thee," they would say, "The Man blasphemes; no one can forgive sin but God!" [Mark 2:1-7].
Whatever He did, they despised and hated. Their aversion turned into profound antipathy; and their antipathy turned into malignant, violent attack against Him. They hated Him from the beginning with an increasing and deadly and vicious hatred. Finally, as you know, they encompassed His death. They crucified Him [Matthew 27:32-50]. They delivered Him to Pontius Pilate unto death [Matthew 27:2]. Well, these are the people that have come down in order to deliver the common folks from believing in this false prophet and this pseudo-Christ [Mark 7:1].
Well, as they come and as they attempt to dissuade the people from the acceptance of the Lord Jesus, before their very eyes, the power of God moves. There are miracles wrought, miracles that are inexplicable except from some power beyond what a man could do; marvelous miracles! He could raise the dead! [John 11:43-44]. He could speak the word and the storms of the fury of the sea would abate! [Luke 8:22-25]. He could touch the eyes of the blind and they could see! [Matthew 9:27-30; John 9:1-7]. He could touch the ears, and they could hear! [Mark 7:31-35]. He could cleanse the leper by the touch of His hand! [Mark 1:40-42]. And He spake words that no man to this day could answer! [John 7:46].
And the scribes were much put to, "What shall we say to explain the marvelous presence of God in this Man from Nazareth?" [Mark 3:22]. Now the miracles of our Lord were a source of rejoicing to Him. And they were a source of great encouragement to the people. But they were a source of bitter explanation to the scribes. For this is how they did it. They couldn’t deny this leper cleansed. There he stood before them praising the Lord. They couldn’t deny this blind man that could see. There he was seeing, "Whether He be a sinner or no, I know not: but this one thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I can see!" [John 9:25]. They couldn’t deny that, for the man was above forty years of age on whom the miracle had been wrought.
They could not deny Lazarus raised from the dead. He had been dead and in that tomb four days, and his decomposed body was raised, and he lived again in the sight of the Lord, and they could not deny it! [John 11:39-44]. So this is what they said: "He does miracles by supernatural and superhuman power; that’s correct. But He is in league with Satan. He has the power of Beelzebub upon Him; and by Satan, He casts out Satan. And by the devil, He delivers from the devil" [Mark 3:22-23]. And it was then that the Lord said,
Truly I say unto you, every blaspheme whereby a man shall blaspheme, and every sin whereby a man shall sin against God the Father, against God the Son, shall be forgiven. But the man that sins against the testimony, and power, and presence, and appeal, and conviction of the Holy Spirit of God hath never forgiveness; not in this world, nor in the world to come. Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.
Now, how shall we think, and how shall we do, and what shall we say? As I work among our people, oh, my soul, sometimes I tremble within me. It’s no light thing for a man to despise Christ, to tread underfoot the blood of the covenant wherewith He was sanctified, to do despite unto the Spirit of the grace of our Lord [Hebrews 10:29]. It’s no light thing, and I tremble before it.
Maybe a whole lot of the way I feel came from the attitude of my own father. He was very much – and I don’t think I am persuaded of his theology, he was no theologian, He never proposed to be – sweet, humble, follower of Jesus. But he was very much persuaded that there were some men who had said "No!" to God for the last time, and that they would never be saved. And one of his illustrations to me, as he spoke to me one time as a boy, and pointed out that man was the marshal in our little town, and my father said to me in the service there at the church, and when the revival fires were burning high, he said appeal was made to our marshal to give himself to Jesus. And the Holy Spirit in deep conviction pled, and pled, and pled. And that big man stood there and the tears poured from his face, and his great frame shook. And he held on to the back of the pew. And the people prayed, and the preacher made appeal, and the choir sang songs of invitation. And all of God’s people cried unto the Lord for the soul of that man. And he said no, and he said no. And he walked out that house that night lost.
And my father said to me, "And he will never be saved. He will never be saved. He said no to God for the last time."
I left that little town when I was a teenager. And in New Mexico some years ago, I stumbled across his son. And I asked his son, I said, "I want to ask you a personal question. You won’t know why I ask it, but I want to ask you a question about your father. Was your father ever saved, ever saved?"
And that young man replied to me, "No, he never was."
And I remembered what my father had said: "He will never be saved."
I have no defense for the theology of my father. He was no theologian. I am just saying that there are things in our families, and in our circle of home, and friendship, and business, and life that make my soul tremble! Now I have no persuasion that a man can say no to God this time and not have opportunity to say no to Him again.
And I’m not preaching that there is such a thing as a man saying no, and no, and no, and not have another opportunity somewhere, sometime, to say no again. It has just been my observation that when a man plays with God, and plays with the decision, and plays with the grace and the blood of Christ, that he plays with an eternal judgment. And my soul trembles.
I was taken in Alabama, when I was preaching over there about a month ago; I was taken by some of the people in the church to see a glorious dam that had been built, backing up those tremendous rivers. And the dam was a hydroelectric facility. It was built by the Southern Company for the production of electricity. And they took me to an engineer there who with great pride showed me all of the intricacies of that great hydroelectric plant.
And in some of those places, he would point to those copper installations, and he would say, "And there is now pouring through those great copper installations so many," and I’m not electrician enough to describe it, "thousands, and thousands, and thousands of volts. And if a man even deign to come nigh to touch, it might jump from that electrical connection to his own body as if he were standing as someone grounded." And it was a fearsome and awesome thing; and it was carefully shielded and placed away. And I think of our Lord’s grace, and blood, and salvation like that. It is a marvelous and wonderful thing, that great dynamo and the electricity that it brings to the cities, and the towns, and the homes of Alabama, lighting houses, lighting streets, doing the work of the business, turning great generators and industry. It’s a marvelous thing, but it also has in it the potentiality of death and destruction!
And Paul preaches that to us in the gospel of the Son of God, "The Lord’s message is the savor of life unto life to those who believe; but it is the savor of death unto death to those who reject" [2 Corinthians 2:15-16]. Oh, this awesome thing of standing in the presence of God in unforgiven sin; an eternal death! [Mark 3:29].
If a tree, if a tree, could take hold of itself and uproot itself from the earth, every law in nature would fight to destroy it and to kill it! When it cuts itself off from the bosom of the earth and the soil and the moisture; when it pulls itself up, every law of God wars against it to destroy it; its succulent juices are sucked out! Its veins are dried up! Its leaves wither! Its very roots turn brittle and dead! All life conspires to slay it when it cuts itself off from the bosom of the earth, the source of life.
If a mariner, if a mariner would say, "I refuse the guidance of the stars and of the map and of the compass," all of the elements of the ocean conspire to destroy him, as he’s dashed against the rocks and the reefs. When we cut ourselves off from the mercies of God, nothing remains but judgment, and perdition, and damnation, and eternal death.
O Lord, O God, we tremble in Thy presence. "And the Lord hath taught us, saying, The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord" [Proverbs 9:10]. O God, I bow in Thy great presence. Lord, Lord, in whose hands are the issues of life and death, whose very word could slay us, O Lord, great and mighty God, in Christ and in the mercies of Jesus, remember me, save me, forgive me, have mercy upon me. Lord, remember me now as I live. O God, stand by me in the hour of my death. And precious Savior, in the judgment by which I shall stand in Thy presence, O Lord, look upon me through the blood; and in mercy and in grace, pardon my sin.
And Lord, in the goodness whereby Thou hast been good to us, and in the love wherewith Thou hast loved us, Lord, grant to me an eternal home with Thee in heaven. May I share with the redeemed and the saints of all time the inheritance God hath prepared for those who love Thee [1 Corinthians 2:9]. For I love Thee, Lord. And I confess to Thee my sins. And I ask God to forgive me. And Master write my name in the holy Book of Life [Revelation 20:12, 15, 21:27]. And someday present me in Thy grace, in forgiven sin, in Thy presence, O Lord, save, save, Lord, save.
And that’s why He came into the world for sinners like me. "Came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance; They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick" [Mark 2:17]. It is we, made out of flesh and blood, for whom Christ came to die [1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 10:5-14]. And that’s His message of grace and salvation to us who will look to Him in confession and in acceptance [Romans 10:9-13; Ephesians 2:8-9].
Lord, I do confess to Thee, not to a man, he can’t forgive my sins. I confess to Thee, Lord, the dereliction of my life, and I ask God to forgive me. And Lord, having opened my soul to Thee, I own Thee, I name Thy name, publicly, unashamedly. I stand in the presence of men and angels to be numbered among those who look in faith to Jesus, to walk with those who love Thy name. That’s what it is to be saved. That’s what it is to become a Christian. That’s what it is to go to heaven when you die. Would you do it tonight? Would you? Would you?
While we sing this appeal,
Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
["Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior"; Fanny Crosby]
While we sing that hymn of appeal, you, somebody you give himself to Jesus, come and stand by me. "Pastor, tonight, I take the Lord as my Savior, and here I am, here I come, tonight. Best I know how, here I am. Here I come." A couple putting your life with us in this precious church; a family coming tonight; one somebody you; a child, a youth, you, as the Spirit of God shall press the appeal to your heart, make it now. In the balcony round, the throng on this lower floor; down one of these stairwells, into the aisle, "Here I come, pastor. I give you my hand. I do give my heart and soul in trust to Jesus, and here I come, here I stand tonight, now." In a moment when we sing, when we stand up, you stand up coming. "I decide now for Christ, and here I am. Here I come." Do it tonight. This is God’s time and God’s hour. Do it now while we stand and while we sing.
THE UNPARDONABLE SIN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
Mark 3:22-30; 1 John 5:16-17, Matthew 12:31-32
I. Summary discussion
A. We approach the subject in humility
B. Some theologians say there is no such thing in our modern day
1. Interpret 1 John 5:16-17 as being about physical death
C. It is in God’s prerogative to save or condemn (Matthew 25:32-46)
D. There is no sin that has not been committed by finest of saints
1. They repented and were forgiven
E. The one exception – a sin against the Holy Spirit(Matthew 12:31-32)
II. Study of the text
A. Scribes set committee to enlighten people against Jesus
1. Found fault with everything He did (Mark 2:1-7, 7:1-5, Matthew 12:1-2, 10)
B. Scribes confronted with miracles of Jesus(John 9:25, 11:39-44)
1. Since they could not deny the miracle, they accused Him of being in league with Satan(Mark 3:22-23)
C. The response of Jesus(Mark 3:28-30)
III. The sin today
A. It is no light thing(Hebrews 10:29)
1. Attitude of my father
2. Alabama dam
B. Gospel is life and death (2 Corinthians 5:15-16, Mark 3:29)
1. When we cut ourselves off from mercies of God, nothing remains but judgment, damnation and death(Proverbs 9:10)
C. He came for sinners (Mark 2:17)