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In light of these and other passages, it seems difficult to deny that there is such a thing as an “unpardonable sin” or what Jesus calls, “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.” But the possibility of such a sin raises many difficult questions, especially for pastors. Was the unpardonable sin unique to the first century? Or is it still possible for someone to commit this sin today? If so, how shall we counsel the struggling soul who believes he has committed this sin and can no longer be forgiven? Can we know whether someone has committed this sin? If so, should we pray for their salvation or refrain from doing so?
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Jesus’ greatest critics were the scribes and the Pharisees. As we have seen above, they were religious men who possessed much biblical knowledge but who refused to submit to God’s will. On one occasion, they actually accuse Jesus of performing miracles by the power of the devil rather than by the power of God. Jesus’ response is tremendously sobering:
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).
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Why does God treat some sin more seriously than other sin? The answer to that question depends upon at least two factors: the degree of light the sinner possesses, and the degree of intention involved in the sin. Let’s consider each of these in turn.
In Luke 12:47-48, Jesus teaches this principle by way of an illustration:
And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.
Are there degrees of sin? The simple answer to that question is “yes.” Jesus himself acknowledged degrees of sin when He said to Pilate, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11). In light of Christ’s words, we must acknowledge degrees of sin. However, we must also beware of drawing unbiblical conclusions from this truth.
In the article below, I want to examine the Bible’s teaching on degrees of sin. We will note that the Scriptures treat all human sin as serious. Nevertheless, some sins are more serious than others. Moreover, we will give some space to consider the most egregious sin, namely, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Before we launch into our study, though, I would like to describe and refute the Roman Catholic distinction between “mortal” and “venial” sins.1
"All the effects of the curse are God’s judgment upon the sin of humanity, and [are] God’s continual, providential engagement with creation (cf. Isaiah 24:1-13, Lamentations 3:37-39). God’s involvement in governing creation has not ceased upon the introduction of sin, but continues ...When the scourge of the curse befalls his people, our reaction should be to evaluate our lives in light of God’s holy judgment." - Ref21