What is the Unforgivable Sin?

David O. Dykes, Senior Pastor of Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas.

Matthew 12:22-32

When I served as pastor of a church in North Alabama during the early 1980s, there was an usher in our church named John. He was a sweet man who was always present in his regular spot to greet people and hand out bulletins, but John was a very troubled man. On several occasions, I met with him, and he began to weep as he told me that during World War II he had done something he thought was so evil that he was certain he had committed the unforgivable sin.

I tried to help him by telling Him God could forgive every sin except the sin of unbelief, but that didn't change his mind. John never told me what he had done, but he was convinced he never would go to heaven. He attended church and served the Lord faithfully. His family was active in the church, and his children were talented singers; but he was tormented with the belief that he had committed the unpardonable sin and never would make it to heaven.

I haven't heard from John for many years; and based on his age, chances are he already has died. From everything I knew about John and his life, I think he's in heaven; but he missed out on so much peace and joy in this life because he was tormented by the belief that his sin was unforgivable.

John isn't the only person who has expressed fear to me of having committed the unforgivable sin. Dozens of people have told me the same thing. Maybe you've wondered if you've committed the unforgivable sin. Let me start by saying what I tried to tell John: If you are concerned that you have committed the unforgivable sin, the fact that you are burdened about it means you probably haven't!

I often say there is a parable in every miracle and a miracle in every parable, so let's look first at the message we can glean from the miracle. Then we'll talk about the implications of the parable.

The Miracle: Jesus Can Deliver the Most Hopeless Person!
The Bible says, "They brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could talk and see." The phrase "demon-possessed" is actually a mistranslation. The literal term is demonized, so a better translation would be "under a demonic influence."

There are many levels of demonic influence. The blind and mute man in this passage was the victim of demonic influence, which makes us wonder, "Is every blindness or sickness the result of demonic activity?" The answer is, "No." This is one of the few times in the gospels that demonic affliction is associated with physical impairment. There were many times Jesus healed sickness that wasn't related to demonic activity, and there were many times Jesus delivered people from demonic influence when there weren't any symptoms of sickness.

There isn't any elaboration about this miracle, it simply says Jesus healed the blind and mute man so he could talk and see. How tragic it must have been for this man living in darkness and unable to talk! His family and friends must have thought his case was hopeless, but no person is beyond hope when Jesus is present.

This miracle reminds me of Helen Keller. As a young girl, Helen contracted scarlet fever; the illness left her blind, deaf and mute. She grew up frustrated by her inability to communicate and often flew into uncontrollable rages. Her parents were ready to give up on her, but before they packed her off to an insane asylum, they made one final attempt. They hired a half-blind teacher named Anne Sullivan to see if she could do anything with this helpless, hopeless child.

In 1962, The Miracle Worker was filmed with Anne Bancroft playing Anne Sullivan and Patty Duke playing Helen Keller. They both won Academy Awards for those roles. If you saw the movie, you probably recall how frustrated and angry Anne Sullivan and Helen Keller were about their inability to communicate.

The climax of the story is when Helen feels water on her hand and Anne repeatedly spells water using sign language into Helen's hand. Suddenly the light comes on and Helen understands. From that point Helen Keller quickly learned to communicate. Almost overnight she changed from a frantic, frustrated girl into a composed, eager student.

Helen Keller went on to become the first deaf and blind person to earn a college degree. Before she died in 1968, she had written a dozen books and traveled the world. In her own words, she described this turning point in her life: "Once I knew only darkness and stillness...my life was without past or future...but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living."

That sounds like my testimony, as well. Once I was living in spiritual darkness and a miracle worker came into my life. With His nail-pierced hand He put His Word into my heart and replaced my emptiness with a kind of life beyond description.

You may feel that your life seems hopeless right now. Jesus is the real miracle worker; if you cry out to Him today, He can bring light where there was once darkness. Perhaps you have someone in your family or circle of friends whose life is out of control, hopeless. Don't stop praying for and sharing with him or her; remember Jesus can deliver the most hopeless person.

When Jesus performed the miracle of healing the demon-possessed man, some witnesses wondered if He was the "Son of David," a title for the Messiah. His enemies, the Pharisees, accused Him of using the power of Beelzebub to cast out demons. (Beelzebub means "lord of the flies." People observed swarms of flies around dead animals and equated them with death and demons.)

In Jewish literature, Beelzebub was a chief demon and sometimes identified as Lucifer, but the point they were making was: "Sure this guy has some powers, but he gets his power from Satan, not God." That was a very dangerous accusation, and Jesus used it as an opportunity to give a short but powerful parable.

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