All too soon, we find ourselves ushered into the first weekend of the second month of this New Year 2018. We are grateful to God for His endless love, forgiveness and mercy towards us.
We are continuing with our series on “Returning to Holiness”, and today we are looking at the sin of omission and commission and the unpardonable/unforgiveable sin.
The SIN of Omission
James 4:17 declares, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.”
A sin of omission is a sin that is the result of not doing something God’s Word teaches that we should do. It is generally used in contrast with the corresponding phrase “the sin of commission,” or sins that a person actively commits. Paul juxtaposes the two concepts in Romans 7:14-20. He decries his tendency toward both types of sin. He does what he doesn’t want to do and knows is wrong—the sin of commission—and he doesn’t do what he knows he should do and really wants to do—the sin of omission.
In the New Testament, the classic example given by Jesus is the account of the Good Samaritan. After a man had been beaten and left in need of help, the first two men to pass by—a priest and a Levite, both of whom knew better—failed to act. The third man, a Samaritan, stopped to show compassion to the man in need (Luke 10:30-37). Jesus used this example to teach that we are to likewise help those in need. By doing so, he clearly communicated that it is sinful to avoid doing good, just as it is sinful to pursue what is evil.
Jesus further describes the sins of omission in Matthew 25:31-46. The goats, those who are sent away by Christ, are those who saw others hungry and thirsty, but did not provide food and water. They are those who saw others in need of clothing, who were sick or in jail but did nothing to clothe or comfort them. These are all examples of sins of omission. There was no sin committed against these needy people—they were not intentionally starved or deprived of their clothing. But the sin of omission was committed when those who could have provided for them chose not to.
Finally, the apostle Paul provides a summary statement that explains why we should do what is right and refrain from sins of omission: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). When we do the will of our heavenly Father (Matthew 12:50), we avoid sins of omission and live productive, fruitful lives pleasing to God (Romans 12:1-2; John 15:1–11).
The SIN of Commission
A sin of commission is a sin we take action to commit, whether in thought, word, or deed. A sin of commission can be intentional or unintentional. Foreknowledge is not the issue. If you visit another country in which traffic drives in the left lane, and you drive in the right lane, you are still breaking the law whether you know it or not. The Old Testament Law prescribed special sacrifices for sins that were unintentional but were nevertheless sins (Numbers 15:22–24; Hebrews 9:7).
Humanity’s first sin was a sin of commission. God forbade the eating of a certain fruit (Genesis 2:16–17). Adam and Eve knew God’s command and disobeyed anyway (Genesis 3:6). They took action to commit a sinful act. When King David committed adultery and then had Uriah killed to cover it up, both were sins of commission (2 Samuel 11). The Bible does not hide the often sordid details of the lives of people He loved and used anyway. Its pages are peppered with sins of commission by great leaders such as Abraham (Genesis 20:2), Moses (Exodus 2:11–12), David (2 Samuel 12:13), Solomon (Nehemiah 13:26), Peter (Matthew 26:74–75), and Paul (Galatians 1:13).
We are all guilty of sins of commission. We all commit intentional sin by acting in ways God has forbidden. We also commit unintentional sin in our ignorance of God’s standards (Acts 3:17; 1 Peter 1:14; Leviticus 4:13–14). Our sin nature keeps us from fellowship with God. We may be able to limit the number of sins we openly commit, but we cannot cleanse our hearts. Jesus said that “what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matthew 15:18–19).
That’s why we need Jesus. We cannot stop ourselves from sinning, and by sinning we eliminate any hope of connecting with a holy God. Only when we allow Christ’s death and resurrection to be our substitute can our sin be expunged (Colossians 2:14; Romans 6:6). Second Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus took upon Himself all our sins of commission and omission and paid the debt we owe God.
Psalm 51 is the prayer David wrote after he had been confronted with his own sin of commission. He had sinned greatly, and there would be consequences (2 Samuel 12:14–15). But he knew how to repent. And he had enough confidence in the mercy of God to cry out, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10–12). David models for us the right way to deal with our sins of commission. When we recognize our sin against God, we can turn to Him, acknowledge that sin, and ask for His cleansing. We can trust in the power of Jesus’ shed blood to wipe away our sin. God promises to restore us to fellowship and strengthen us to live in a way that pleases Him (Philippians 4:13).
Unpardonable sin/Unforgivable sin
The unpardonable/unforgivable sin or “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” is mentioned in Mark 3:22–30 and Matthew 12:22–32. Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter” (Mark 3:28), but then He gives one exception: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin” (verse 29).
According to Jesus, the unpardonable or unforgivable sin is unique. It is the one iniquity that will never be forgiven (“never” is the meaning of “either in this age or in the age to come” in Matthew 12:32). The unforgivable sin is blasphemy (“defiant irreverence”) of the Holy Spirit in the context of the Spirit’s work in the world through Christ. In other words, the particular case of blasphemy seen in Matthew 12 and Mark 3 is unique. The guilty party, a group of Pharisees, had witnessed irrefutable evidence that Jesus was working miracles in the power of the Holy Spirit, yet they claimed that He was possessed by the prince of demons, Beelzebul (Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:30).
The Jewish leaders of Jesus’ day committed the unpardonable sin by accusing Jesus Christ (in person, on earth) of being demon-possessed. They had no excuse for such an action. They were not speaking out of ignorance or misunderstanding. The Pharisees knew that Jesus was the Messiah sent by God to save Israel. They knew the prophecies were being fulfilled. They saw Jesus’ wonderful works, and they heard His clear presentation of truth. Yet they deliberately chose to deny the truth and slander the Holy Spirit. Standing before the Light of the World, bathed in His glory, they defiantly closed their eyes and became willfully blind. Jesus pronounced that sin to be unforgivable.
The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, specific as it was to the Pharisees’ situation, cannot be duplicated today. Jesus Christ is not on earth, and no one can personally see Jesus perform a miracle and then attribute that power to Satan instead of the Spirit. The only unpardonable sin today is that of continued unbelief. There is no pardon for a person who dies in his rejection of Christ. The Holy Spirit is at work in the world, convicting the unsaved of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). If a person resists that conviction and remains unrepentant, then he is choosing hell over heaven. “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6), and the object of faith is Jesus (Acts 16:31). There is no forgiveness for someone who dies without faith in Christ.
God has provided for our salvation in His Son (John 3:16). Forgiveness is found exclusively in Jesus (John 14:6). To reject the only Saviour is to be left with no means of salvation; to reject the only pardon is, obviously, unpardonable.
Many people fear they have committed some sin that God cannot or will not forgive, and they feel there is no hope for them, no matter what they do. Satan would like nothing more than to keep people labouring under that misconception. God gives encouragement to the sinner who is convicted of his sin: “Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:8). “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20). And the testimony of Paul is proof positive that God can and will save anyone who comes to Him in faith (1 Timothy 1:12–17). If you are suffering under a load of guilt today, rest assured that you have not committed the unpardonable sin. God is waiting with open arms. Jesus’ promise is that “he is able to save completely those who come to God through him” (Hebrews 7:25). Our Lord will never fail. “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).
Remember: There is no sin so great that He is unable to forgive! Just ask!
Until next week,
The Saving Grace
…with Akpene Sabah