Is Suicide an Unforgivable Sin?

Series: Question Box

by Rick Phillips July 29, 2001

Our next question has to do with the troubling topic of suicide: “Is suicide the unpardonable sin?” The direct answer to that question is, “No.” Jesus mentioned “an eternal sin” that “will never be forgiven” in Mark 3:29. The context there has nothing to do with suicide. Jesus had cast a demon out on a Sabbath-day, and the Pharisees accused him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus called this a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, namely that they would attribute the work of God’s Spirit to the spirit of the devil. This, he said, could never be forgiven.

Many people have lost sleep wondering if they have committed the unpardonable sin. Let me simply say that people who worry about this can be assured that they have not, since Jesus was talking about blasphemous apostasy, and apostates are not trying to assure themselves of salvation through faith in Christ.

It is sometimes said, however, that anyone who commits suicide is necessarily and absolutely guaranteed of hell, since their final act was one of sin and unbelief. Despite a surface logic, there are a couple of serious problems with this teaching. None of us are saved by being sinless in the moment of our death, but by the cross of Christ, which takes away the sin of all who trust in him. There are plenty of ways to die while sinning and, praise God, we can rely on his saving grace in Christ to overcome all our sin. However, doesn’t suicide show that a person really wasn’t trusting in Christ, and therefore cannot be saved? This argument makes sense, and yet it over-simplifies a subject that is inherently complex. Suicide is usually linked to mental illness, and it is quite possible for a deranged person to kill him or herself without consciously denying the Lord. One of our great hymn-writers, William Cowper, struggled with dark depression all through his life, and attempted suicide numerous times after he became a Christian. God protected him in these times, and yet Cowper would have been no less joined to Christ in this kind of death than he was in the more natural one that came in due time.

Suicide is a dark subject that obviously casts a disturbing shadow over anyone who commits it. Undoubtedly, we will be troubled about the spiritual destination of anyone who takes his or her own life. But this troubling subject is not enlightened by oversimplifying statements that underestimate both the complexity of the issues involved and the grace of God that superabounds over all our sin.

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