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Reading Mark this morning, I came across Mark 3:28:

"I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them."

I have always been taught that one must confess their sins and bring them to Christ in order to receive forgiveness, but does this verse support the idea that all sins will be forgiven without precondition? Or, if that is not the correct way to read this verse, can someone help me understand this verse within its Biblical context?

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    The idea of repentance ("confession") for the sins is likely implied. – user862 Sep 18 '15 at 13:07
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I don't believe the verse can be taken out of the context of its full passage:

Mark 3:28–30 (KJV 1900)
Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.mark

Parallel accounts are found in Matthew and Luke:

Matthew 12:31–32
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.

Luke 12:10 And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.

I think there is a basis in these Scriptures for supposing that some sins may be forgiven without asking for forgiveness, but not all. What the passage means, I think, is that God will be forbearing with human weakness when we insult and offend each other, even if we, out of our ignorance, do not necessarily realize our sin and come to Him for forgiveness. But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (e.g. believing and stating that Christ had a demon) will not be forgiven without repentance.

Theophylact's commentary explains:

What He is saying here is this: whatever other sin a man may commit, he will perhaps have some excuse and obtain forgiveness, since God is forbearing with human weakness. For example, when they said that the Lord was a glutton and drunkard and a friend of publicans and sinners, they will be forgiven for this. But when they see Him working extraordinary miracles and then blaspheme the Holy Spirit, that is, blaspheme the miracles that took place through the Holy Spirit, how will they obtain forgiveness, unless they repent? For when they took offense at what Christ did in the flesh, they were forgiven this even without repenting, for what they saw scandalized them as men. But when they saw Him doing the works of God and still blasphemed, how will they be forgiven while remaining unrepentant?

- Explanation of the Gospel According to St. Matthew; trans. Christopher Stade (Chrysostom Press, 2008), p. 35.

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Jesus is speaking about sins against the Holy Spirit, and the possibility of final impenitence.

He is contrasting sins that will be forgiven against those that will not. This is not a statement about the way in which the sins that can be forgiven will forgiven, but rather than some sins (which we observe in the passage) will not be forgiven.

Before discussing this in more depth, I would recommend reading the entire passage of Mark 3:20 - Mark 3:30, quoted here (you may have been referring to the whole passage, I have listed it here for those who are only reading what was quoted in the question):

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”

23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”

30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”

If you also read the parallel passages in Matthew 12 and Luke 12, there are additional references to sin against the Holy Spirit, which are always considered to be sins of blasphemy in terms of the type of sin that it is.

Additionally, sins against the Holy Spirit are classically understood as one or more of the following:

  1. Despair (my sins are to great to be forgiven)
  2. Presumption (I can save myself; God won't punish me even if I don't repent)
  3. Impugning/attacking/resisting/opposing the known truth
  4. Envy of the spiritual good of another
  5. Obstinacy (persisting in sin)
  6. Final impenitence (eternal refusal to repent of sin)

Notice how we are observing a number of these sins in the passage and how this relates to the following explanation.

It is my understanding from the teaching of the church that this passage has been understood to mean that there is no sin that God is unwilling to forgive, or that cannot be forgiven. However, there are sins that will not be forgiven by God, either because we refuse to repent of them, or because we place ourselves outside of the possibility of God's repentance by profoundly rejecting God and/or God's ability to forgive us because we fundamentally deny that God is who he says he is.

What we are observing in the surrounding passage is the teachers of the law demonstrating their profound rejection of God as revealed in Christ, as evidenced by their saying "He has an impure spirit."

Jesus is not speaking here about the possibility of a sin (here, the blasphemies being spoken by the teachers of the law) being forgiven, he is speaking about whether these sins will actually be forgiven (he is saying they will not). In other words, he is speaking about the hardness of the teachers of the laws' hearts and their stubborn refusal to repent and recognize Jesus as God, or even recognize his miracles as works of God. This passage actually refutes the idea that God will forgive us even if we refuse to repent, as Jesus is telling us that there are some sins that could be forgiven, but are not ever going to be forgiven. This is because of the nature of what forgiveness and reconciliation are, as God will not force us to be in right relationship with him against our will.

  • Where did you read that 1-6 are sins against the Holy Spirit? It is my thinking that the "teachers of the law" in the above passage were sinning against the Holy Spirit, not because of their refusal of repentance, but because they called the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit residing in Jesus, an evil spirit. By the way, thank you for such an obviously well-thought-out response. – Matt Cremeens Sep 21 '15 at 18:43
  • This is a list from the writing of a number of early church fathers. It is referenced in a number of theological sources. I will look for a specific re fence to post. – JAGAnalyst Sep 21 '15 at 23:47
  • Yes, you are correct. My understanding is that by saying this, the teachers of the law are demonstrating a deep-seated hardness of heart. – JAGAnalyst Sep 21 '15 at 23:48
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The quote is made when after Jesus using his power to heal the sick, cast out demons and in short, forgive sins. Scribes came down to him accusing him working hand and hand with Satan to accomplish these tasks.

And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils

Mark 3:22

Additionally, this is a result of the Son of God ordaining his 12 apostles to do those same works.

And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils

Mark 3:14

What we see here is Christ giving his authority to his Bishops, These bishops are with us now and continue to excercise this Christ given authority.

Further on you will see that Christ changes his mind and just tells everyone they can just whisper a little prayer up in the air and excercise these powers.

oh wait, there is not biblical basis for that.

There are commisions given to the Disciples here, These commissions are Graces imparted what we now call Sacrements, not to them only but to thier office which continues as part of the church. That commission is here:

Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you:as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained

This commision was given to his disciples by breathing on them. This breath which came from the mouth of God was real and not a symbol, it had power, in this case, power given to them directly by God to forgive sins and cast out demons and heal the sick. This power is being pased on now by those who faithfully maintain the faith.

The office is here

For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein:and his bishoprick let another take.

Acts 1:20

It is indeed written here:

Let their habitation be desolate; and let none dwell in their tents they persecute him whom thou hast smitten; and they talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded. Add iniquity unto their iniquity: and let them not come into thy righteousness.

Psalm 69:26-27

But also summing up the Psalm:

For God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah: that they may dwell there, and have it in possession. The seed also of his servants shall inherit it: and they that love his name shall dwell therein

Psalm 69:35-36

Also:

Let his days be few; and let another take his office

Psalm 109:8

with the conclusion for those who take over his office.

Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you

1 Cor 11:2

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle

2 Th 2:15

and warnings of those who forget

From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm

1 Tim 1:6

Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery. Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all. Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them:for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee

1 Tim 4:14

I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men's sins:keep thyself pure

1 Tim 5:22

So what it meant by our Lord when he makes this statement is that all sins will be forgiven, and this is how, I will appoint others, as he just had done, Not as a tool of Satan against Satan, but as a tool of God against Satin and Sin. He created a ministry outlined above in the New Testiment versus and fullfilled in his Church, a Church being built over the last 2000 years. All the sins that will be forgiven are the ones that have been forgiven by the Church through it's ministers, by Chirst acting on his own, as he has not given up his athority but shared it, and by God the father, who through a means known only to God himself, can forgive sins, this last mystery known only to God.

The passage does not suggest, that if you do not repent or that you continue to sin against God, that you are forgiven automatically, only that those who he sent in the flesh with the power of the Holy Spirit acting in and Through Christ have this power.

  • Are you saying there is no biblical basis for the notion that we can ask Christ directly to forgive us of our sins? Isn't that how he taught us to pray? "...forgive us our trespasses..." – Matt Cremeens Sep 18 '15 at 15:34
  • @MattCremeens In no way, that falls under Christ acting on his own. However, we are flesh and blood and as Christ is Locally Present in heaven and not here for us to interact with and personally acknowledge our repentance. Sin damages us, not from a standpoint of salvation but a standoint of actual damage, the repercussion of our sin also impact others and causes more damage. Whispering up to heaven and repenting into the wind, does not bring to light the actual harm done to ourselves and to others in order that we may correct our lives. Sin, becomes habitual without consequences. – Marc Sep 18 '15 at 18:23
  • @Marc: While I may be a Catholic, and I take it you are as well, I can't agree with your remarks about Christ being "locally present in heaven and not here for us to interact with and personally acknowledge our repentance." (1) Christ is God, and God is omnipresent. (2) We have the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us (cp. Rom. 8:9). (3) Regarding the Father, Jesus said to his apostles (which applies to each individual Christian), "...we (Jesus and the Father) will come to him (each Christian) and make our dwelling with him." (John 14:26) – user862 Sep 18 '15 at 18:58
  • Thanks for the comments (both of you). I'm not Catholic, but I have yet (until now) known one to say that Christ cannot be named among one's confessors. That said, I think this response may be a bit off topic as I was really only interested in any arguments that state whether or not sins will be ultimately forgiven with or without confessing (repenting) of them. I adhere to "a baptism of repentance" for the forgiveness of sins, but was wondering why this verse in Mark mentioned "all...the sins...will be forgiven" without mentioning any need for repentance. – Matt Cremeens Sep 18 '15 at 19:13
  • In no way am I suggesting that you cannot confess your sins to Christ, of course you can, the Sacrement however is the perfect way in which you do that. I assume, correct me if I am wrong, but as Catholics you do not have 2 way communications with Jesus. You do not hear his voice, although you could possibly anticipate his forgiveness, his voice is alien to you, that is the vibrations from his vioce box effecting the air and transmitting to the ear. Christ has designated representives here on earth to be his voice and his ears. That is my point in my answer. – Marc Sep 18 '15 at 23:47

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