Bible Studies/Biblical Interpritation
QUESTION: I have a question about Biblical Interprtation. This is a general question, but honestly ties in to the more narrow question of the unpardonable sin and what some might refer to as "sinning away your day of grace." To keep the question on the shorter side, I will forego my specific situation as it would require significant background and would most likely circle into the other questions that have been asked about that particular subject. My specific question is regarding when the Bible seems to have two differing statements. For example You have the three passages in the gospels that speak of the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and the passages in Hebrews that seem to speak of an unpardonable sin, and a passage in 1 John. In opposition to those, there are the passages that seem to suggest that all sin can be forgiven. Passages such as 1 John 1:9, the last part of John 6:37, and several other verses that promise God's pardon if we are repentant and ask for forgiveness. In addition to those there are others such as 2 Peter 3:9 that speak of God's unwillingness for any soul to perish. In light of all this, are we to conclude that the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit are exception to these scriptures so that the scriptures say for example, "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us, unless you have comitted the sin of blashemy." Or should we conclude that because God's word promises that if we confess, He will forgive, that no one who commits this sin will confess. So to try to focus the question, are parts of the Scriptures exceptions to other Scriptures, or do we try to mesh them. I hope I have made my question clear enough. Thanks.
ANSWER: Hi Mike,
You ask a good question. The fact is, I get this question a lot.
If you look through the archives of the questions I've answered in the past, you will find several posts on this topic. You may find it helpful to go there, where I have dealt with the issue in more detail.
To get to the point of your question, I believe that the Bible, being God's Word, never contradicts itself, because God does not contradict Himself. Therefore, when there is an apparent discrepancy, we are obliged to make sense of that.
The gospels record the conversation that Jesus had with the religious leaders on the topic of The Unpardonable Sin. To understand His words, it's important to understand the context. What these religious leaders were doing was rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit as He testified in their hearts to the identity and work of Jesus Christ. Their resistance towards the Holy Spirit was characterized by Jesus as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
When we are exposed to God's truth, the Holy Spirit goes to work, enlightening us and prompting us to respond with humility and faith. When we resist this, our hearts become calloused. After a while, it becomes more and more difficult to respond to the Holy Spirit.
There can come a point at which, by one's own choosing, he can become so calloused, so set in his rejection, that the Holy Spirit no longer has any effect. Without knowing it, he will have crossed the line and will become established in his rejection of God.
God is always willing and ready to forgive sin and to accept the humble and repentant. But, when an individual so hardens his heart that he is no longer sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, he has, in essence, chosen to go too far. He will no longer wish to be forgiven or to embrace God.
So how do we know when someone has gone too far? We cannot know. Only God can. In fact, there are numerous cases of individuals who seem beyond hope. And yet some of these will eventually give in to God and turn away from their rebellion. Yes, God can save even the most hardened of sinners. One of the best examples of that is Saul of Tarsus, who later became the apostle Paul.
I hope this helps. Again, read through my previous posts on the same topic. If you would like to chat further, I would welcome that.
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QUESTION: Thanks. I would never suggest that scripture contradicts itself. I was just wondering how these scriptures are to be reconciled. I have always heard that we should use scripture to explain scripture, I just am sometimes unsure how to apply that princilple. Not only in regards to these scriptures, but others as well. Obviously we need to keep everything in context and sometimes ancient words do not carry the same meaning they did at the time they were spoken. But in this instance for example, do we know that God has meant in His Word that any sin we confess and repent of can be pardoned because of what it says in 1 john 1:9, or do we know that God has intended us to understand that any sin we confess and repent of will be pardoned except for the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Do we have to look outside of the actual words of these scriptures to some larger concept like the forgiving nature and love of God for the key to understanding the relationship between these verses? The thought process for example,"God's word says that He is not willing that any should perish, so obviously He will receive anyone who comes to Him in faith and repentance, no matter the nature or level of his sins. So anyone who desires to come to God on His terms has sure evidence that a sin of unpardonable nature could not have been committed." I am just trying to make sure I am reading and interpreting Scripture properly. This is only a focused example of a larger concept. I just know entire movements have been founded on a single scripture taken too far and divorced from the rest of scripture. Thanks.
I understand. Sometimes it's a bit of a challenge to work through the issues and understand what God is trying to tell us.
In this particular case, I think this is what God wants us to understand. God is always ready and willing to forgive. It is sometimes we who push ourselves so far away from God that we become rooted in our resistance. Yes, God will pardon us if we come to Him and ask for forgiveness. But some get to the point that they become calloused and do not wish to acknowledge their sin and ask for God's forgiveness.
Go back to the passage in the gospels and read what Jesus is saying. He is pointing out the fact that they are resisting God, and that doing so is dangerous. He is saying that one can push himself too far--that the proper response is faith and not resistance. The very fact that he appeals to these individuals implies that He felt they were still within reach, still able to turn from their sin and embrace God's truth.