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Answering The Atheist
July 18, 2004 / Volume 4, Issue 29

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Is there an unforgivable sin? Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:29 and Luke 12:10 all indicate that there is, but Acts 13:39 says "...by him all who believe are justified from all things." Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Certainly, the Bible speaks of an unforgivable sin, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. In Mark's account, an explanation of why Jesus referenced this sin is given, "... — because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.'" (v 30). The Pharisees not only spoke against Jesus, but against the Spirit of God, stating on more than one occasion that Jesus' works were accomplished by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons (Mt 9:34; 12:24; Mk 3:22; Lk 11:15; Jn 7:20; Jn 8:48, 52; Jn 10:20). This ongoing defiance against the Spirit of God results in condemnation. By rejecting the proof of Jesus' identity which was given through the Spirit, the religious leaders also rejected any hope of salvation. They were guilty of unbelief.

The text is in some ways akin to this: "...For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame." (Hebrews 6:4-6). If one sins (and continues therein), they cannot come to repentance, and can never receive forgiveness. To perpetuate sin brings with it condemnation. Neither text infers that one can commit a sin which can never be repented of or forgiven. Both texts deal with unbelief in the heart.

Acts 13:39 reads, "...by him all who believe are justified from all things." Amen!! If we believe in the Lord, He is able to justify us. However, it should be noted that the questioner has left out the latter portion of this verse. It goes on to read, "...from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses." Contextually, the apostle is not dealing with the blasphemy against the Spirit, but the weakness of the law of Moses to deal with sin (it clearly revealed it, but no provision was made for forgiveness), and the strength of faith in Christ to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible