Your E-Mails: April 2024

“What is the unforgivable sin, and how do I know if I’ve committed it?”

Ed: LET’S START WITH two basic Bible principles: first, we’re all sinners and undeserving of God’s grace; second, there’s no sin that’s so big God cannot forgive it. ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ (Romans 3:23–24).

When you’re baptised as a follower of Christ, you are ‘justified’—that is, made righteous. It’s not your own righteousness, it’s Christ’s righteousness that’s attributed to you. ‘God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God (Romans 5:8–9).

If there was a limit to the righteousness of Christ or the mercy of God, there might be a limit to the amount of forgiveness we could expect—but there isn’t.

So what does the Apostle John mean when he writes, ‘If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death’ (1 John 5:16–17). What is ‘sin that leads to death’?

A key to the answer is God’s instruction to the prophet Jeremiah: ‘As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you. Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?… they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger’ (Jeremiah 7:16–18).

There was no point Jeremiah praying for God to forgive the people, because they didn’t want to be forgiven.

There’s only one sin that can’t be forgiven—that is the sin for which we don’t ask forgiveness. Maybe we’re too proud to repent, or maybe we think we’re too bad for God to forgive, or maybe there’s another reason. But the Bible principle stands true:

‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness’ (1 John 1:9).

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