The "Unforgivable Sin" in Mark's Account: Studies in Mark, Pt. 11

When I was a teenager, I used to curse a lot. Though my mother was totally unaware of it (she would have kicked my butt if she knew), there was a point when I had a filthy mouth. Once I became a Christian, though, that all had to change; I had to quit cursing. But I soon realized that there was one curse word that Christians really got uptight about: GD. To say this, people remarked, was to “take God’s name in vain,” “to commit blasphemy.” Not really understanding what either of those phrases meant, I just went with the consensus; they sounded wrong to say, so, I didn’t say them. After all, I didn’t want to put myself beyond the limits of God’s forgiveness.

But as I grew in the faith and as I studied the Scriptures, my understanding of blasphemy changed a bit. While studying Mark’s account of the Gospel, I realized that there were two types of blasphemies. In Mark 3.28-30, Jesus is recorded as saying, “‘Truly, I tell you, people will be forgiven all their sins and all the blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin.’ He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.’”

This statement comes in the context of Jesus being challenged by a number of local, religious and political persons about His identity. (I have written more on the context of this passage here.) Jesus has already made several claims of divinity in Mark’s account and here, the act that was spoken of in 3.6 (e.g. “Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”), is coming true; the people are out to get Jesus. Not only do they want Him physically dead, they want Him to die a social death too; they want His movement to come to a screeching halt! So, in the context of this statement, what they have done is try to publicly humiliate and shame Jesus. As the religious officials, they think, “We are the religious elite, the people will admire our discernment and buy into what we say.” So, they say, “You are possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons you drive out demons” (3.22). Indeed, they were saying that Jesus had an evil spirit; they were committing the “unforgivable” type of blasphemy.

But “What is it and how do you know if you’ve done it? How do you know if you’ve committed it?” What blasphemy, in general is, is to attach something vain or sinful to something holy. It is like curse words coming out of a person’s mouth who claims before others that they are also a holy person; the two claims just don’t go together. Or blasphemy is saying that you’re a Christian, a holy person while in fact, you are living like a hellion. In doing these two things, you are committing blasphemy; you are attaching sinful actions to a supposedly, holy person. Again, blasphemy is attaching something vain or sinful to something holy. And Jesus says that when you do those types of blasphemies, basically, when you claim to be a godly person but you sin, you can ultimately repent and be forgiven of that. But the key is repentance, changing your ways.

But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, according to the text, is not forgivable. So, “What exactly is it?” In short, it is attaching something vain to the Holy Spirit. In this instance in Mark’s account, it was saying that the Holy Spirit in Holy Jesus was actually an evil spirit. In other words, it was saying that Holy Jesus had an evil spirit in Him by which He was doing His works. So, from this point-of-view, the “unforgivable blasphemy,” is the type of blasphemy where one continually makes the claim that Jesus was not who He said He was, God, but rather something else and something less. In short, it is attaching something vain to Him and attempting to make Him into something less than He was and something less than He claimed to be; something less than God.

Now, here’s the thing, the text says in verse 21, literally, that the people “kept” saying these things—that is, continually. That is what the Greek verb tense suggests—these people kept doing this so much so that they got to the point where they had totally convinced themselves of it and nothing could have possibly changed their minds (and this is consistent by the way, with their actions throughout the rest of Mark’s account, they are bent on getting rid of Jesus). And here’s the thing, I would argue that, if you even have the ability, unlike these people in Mark’s story, to ask if you’ve committed the unforgivable sin, then you know you haven’t. Why? Because your mind isn’t fixed against Jesus and your conscience is still able to feel guilt from the Holy Spirit. If you had committed the unforgivable sin, you wouldn’t even be concerned about asking such a question because you wouldn’t care; you would be so hardened and so insensitive to Jesus that it simply wouldn’t matter to you.

So, if you can ask the question, then that is probably a good indication that you haven’t committed the unforgivable sin. And ultimately, this denial of accepting the fact that Jesus was who He said He was (e.g. God) is unforgivable in an eternal sense. By living a life that is a testimony against Jesus, one is attempting to make Him out to be a liar, just like satan strives to do. Thus, in the end, the “unforgivable sin” is actually not just about denying Jesus but also siding with satan. To side with satan, then, over the Holy Spirit, is to commit blasphemy against the Spirit and to say, “I do not want to live in a relationship with you.” And according to Scripture, there comes a point when God gives persons their way and removes His abiding grace from their midst. It is this point that I refer to as the point beyond forgiveness; a point where the person is not at all interested in seeking God’s forgiveness and so, with their seared mind and hardened-heart, he or she does not.


  1. I think you're right: THEY were the ones who committed the unforgivable sin, namely, attributing the work of God to the Satan.

    Would you agree that it is not that God is incapable of forgiving this, but, the honus of "unforgivable" is on them?

    I mean: if you are convinced that your doctor is evil, you will not let him do his work: you are uncureable. If you are convinced God is the Satan, you will not let God do His work: you are unforgivable?

  2. jacob,
    yes, that's the point i was trying to make. good example. they are the ones getting in the way of God; their consciences are too seared to realize that though.