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The Unforgivable Sin

“Thesis XXIV–In the twentieth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the unforgivable sin against the Holy Ghost is described in a manner as if it could not be forgiven because of its magnitude.”

I do not remember the first time I heard about the “sin against the Holy Ghost.” I am guessing I was in grade school at the time. I do remember it being scary. Why? Because the sin against the Holy Ghost is unforgivable. That means you cannot go to heaven if you have committed it. Had I committed it? Might I have lost heaven because of it? Perhaps these are questions that you have asked yourself as well. These questions no doubt occupied Walther’s thoughts as he addressed his seminary students on October 23, 1885, in the second-to-last of his evening lectures in this series.

Walther rightly points out that the sin against the Holy Ghost is real. It is mentioned in Scripture in several places, including Matthew 12:31-32. “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” (See also Mark 3:28-29 and Luke 12:10.) Walther concludes that this sin cannot be related merely to speaking against the person of the Holy Spirit, for then the sin would also be committed against the co-equal other persons of the Trinity, the Father and the Son. Rather, it is a sin against the office , or operation, of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit Who works faith and forgiveness through the means of grace. A person who, against his better knowledge, continues to reject the testimony of the Holy Spirit risks hardening his own heart, a heart that God will eventually make incapable of repentance and faith.

Should This Sin Alarm Us?

All Christians should take heed to the warning of willfully resisting the Holy Spirit. Continuing to nurture any sin in spite of our better judgment is putting one’s spiritual life in danger. We do not know at what point God will allow our heart to be hardened beyond repair. This is God’s Law. It should alarm us.

Take Comfort in Christ

If you are concerned that you may have committed this sin, that is evidence that you have not. Those who have do not worry about such things. “They would not feel distressed if they really had committed that sin and were in that awful condition of heart, but they would find their constant delight in blaspheming the Gospel.” (page 399) It is only those who insist on maintaining and defending their known error who are in danger of having committed this sin. “Whoever is sorry for his sins and craves forgiveness should be told that he is a dear child of God.” (page 397)

Finally, it is wrong to think that the sin against the Holy Ghost is unpardonable because of its magnitude. Think of the sins of Bible believers, including Abraham, David, Noah, and the thief on the cross. God assures us that where sin abounds, grace abounds more. “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

[To read Walther’s The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel for free online, and to access related Bible class materials, go to]

Joe Lau is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.