“There is no sin, and there can be no sin on all the earth, which the Lord will not forgive to the truly repentant! Man cannot commit a sin so great as to exhaust the infinite love of God. Can there be a sin which could exceed the love of God?” (Fyodor Dostoevsky, quoted in Quotes from Fyodor Dostoyevsky).
“Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”– because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit” (Mark 3:28-30, NASB).
Recently, a Facebook friend who lives in an Asian country where Christianity is a minority religion asked me this question: Is there any sin God will not forgive? He was asking this from an evangelistic perspective—he had been sharing the Gospel with somebody who raised this question. However, this question is also important to consider from a personal perspective: Can I commit any sin that God will not forgive? My friend’s acquaintaince or friend gave an example like this: Suppose a man had a car accident and hit a child. Instead of staying around to make certain the child got help, he drove away. As a result, the child died. I believe the legal term for this is “vehicular manslaughter,” but since I am not a lawyer, it might be “vehicular homicide” or murder. Can God forgive such a person?
That is a very different question than “Can the parents of the child forgive the person?” Humans see certain actions and attitudes that we find repugnant. We might call them unforgivable. What we are saying, though, is that we are unable—or perhaps unwilling—to forgive such people. I have addressed this subject in more detail previously.
Scripture is filled with case of people whom Jesus forgave even though others might consider their sins unforgivable:
- Saul of Tarsus persecuted Christians and was even complicit in the execution of some of them (Acts 7:58-8:1; 9:1-3; 22:1-5; 26:9-12). See this article for a thorough discussion of Saul’s persecution of believers. He was violent and, even though he may not have directly murdered anybody, was an accessory to murder. Nevertheless, Jesus forgave him; we know Saul as St. Paul the apostle, who wrote about one-half of the books in the New Testament.
- Two men were crucified alongside Jesus. Both are described in the Gospels as “robbers,” and the Roman authorities deemed their crime unforgivable. Both mocked Jesus early into their ordeal (Mark 15:32), but eventually one of them had a change of heart. Jesus forgave him (Luke 23:40-42); He promised that criminal, who perhaps a few minutes earlier may have ridiculed Him, that he would be with Him in paradise.
- Jesus forgave women who committed adultery.
- He forgave tax collectors, who usually earned their income by extorting extra money from taxpayers.
- He forgave others who had willfully and knowingly sinned against the revealed will of God.
Have you committed murder? Have you committed robbery? Have you mocked God or Jesus? Have you committed adultery? Have you used a position of influence as an opportunity to take advantage of others? Have you willingly committed any other sin, knowing that what you were doing was wrong? If so, your sins are forgivable.
Do you know others who have committed these sins? Can you think of people who committed these sins against you? If so, Jesus says these sins are forgivable, whether you like it or not.
Scripture tells us that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2) and that God wishes that none should perish, but that all would come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). His forgiveness is available to all who will repent and turn to Him by faith, no matter how horrible the sin seems to us.
What if we repent, ask Jesus into our hearts, and then stumble back into that sin? Suppose the guy who killed a child in a car accident does it again? What if the recovered alcoholic slips and goes on a drinking binge after years of sobriety? What if the adulterer or adulteress stumbles into another immoral relationship? God knows your heart. He knows if you are sincerely repentant and have just fallen back into old habits, or if you are just playing church with no change of heart. Repentance is a change of attitude about sin. It comes from a Greek word, metanoia, which means “change of mind.” When we repent, we turn from a life of sin to a life of following (or, at least, trying to follow) God. Sometimes, we make mistakes even after we repent. Some people repeat really bad sins over and over until they finally repent, ask for forgiveness, and receive salvation. God knows our hearts, and He knows if we have sincerely repented, even if we are continuing to mess up at times.
So, if you are sharing the Gospel and someone asks you if God will really forgive a particular sin, the answer is always “yes.” God wishes for none to perish and for all to come to repentance, no matter how horribly they have sinned in the past.
In your own life: Do not fear that you have committed some unpardonable sin that God will never forgive. You should not go looking for clever new ways to sin so that you can test God’s mercy, but if you do sin, return to Jesus in repentance.
Some readers may wonder about the “unpardonable sin” of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which is why I included Mark 3:28-30 above. Perhaps you wonder if you have committed it. As I mentioned in the previous post about “unforgivable” sins, there is some debate about what this sin entails. However, one thing seems clear from Scripture: If you are worried or concerned about a particular sin, you have not gone too far. The Holy Spirit is still dealing with you. God has not given up on you. You should not give up on yourself, either. If you have committed this unpardonable sin, you would not know or care about it.
No matter how you have sinned, come to Jesus and ask for forgiveness and a second (or third, or twenty-third, or four-hundred-ninetieth) chance. If someone has hurt you, remember: They are not beyond God’s reach, and He may still forgive them. If someone has committed sins that seem horrendous, bring them to Jesus: He is ready and willing to forgive them and to cleanse them from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
No matter what: Come to Jesus, and invite others to come to Him too.
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Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.