The unpardonable sin is not an accidental failing, nor a misguided moment of irreverence, nor is it even willfully committing a sin when you know you shouldn’t. For those who look to Christ for their only hope of salvation, all sins are forgiven.
In Matthew 12:22–31, after Jesus had just cast a demon out of a man, the Pharisees accuse him of using the power of Satan to do so. In response, Jesus first points out that this is not only illogical, for what kingdom divides against itself (v. 26), but that his signs, done in the power of God’s Spirit, actually reveal that God’s kingdom has entered into their reality and is standing before them (v. 28). But then Jesus gives the Pharisees a rebuke, saying,
Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
So what exactly is blasphemy against the Spirit, what many call the unpardonable sin?
Simply put, the unpardonable sin is the rejection of God’s grace. Let’s consider again the context of Jesus’ words.
Jesus had just restored a man’s sight and hearing by ridding him of an evil spirit (v. 22). This act was certainly done for the wellbeing of that man, but it was also done for the well-being of the crowds, the disciples, and even the Pharisees. It is through this miracle that Jesus was once again providing a graphic sign of himself, as the redeemer of the world, who will ultimately rid all evil from his creation. And this sign was done in the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the one who reveals Christ to us for salvation. And while the crowds received the sign for what it was and were amazed (v.23), the Pharisees despised the grace that had been revealed to them, and aggressively tried to destroy it.
For the Pharisees, there was no misunderstanding, or ignorance, or confusion over what had been done. Their promised God stood in their midst, revealing himself to be gracious, loving, and good, and yet they called him evil. Jesus had liberated a demon-possessed man and restored his sight. And at this, the Pharisees shut their eyes and closed their ears, refusing to embrace Jesus as the Messiah. The Spirt had enlightened them to the truth of Christ, and yet they closed themselves up in darkness.