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Thomas Berg wrote:

Hi, guys —

1 Timothy 1:13 says:

13 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but
I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

I find it hard to understand this verse as Paul seems to be saying that the only reason he was saved was because he didn't know the truth when he persecuted Christians. He was shown mercy when he repented because he acted ignorantly which implies he wouldn't have been forgiven if he had done this wilfully.

  • Do you have any thoughts on my view?

A number of Bible commentaries state that had Paul done it wilfully, it would have been unforgivable.



  { Can you help me understand 1 Timothy 1:13 and the reasoning behind Paul's statement? }

John replied:

Hi Thomas,

This is a tricky verse and we have to be careful as to how we apply the conclusion.

Yes, Paul acted in ignorance and if he had not been ignorant, it would have been unforgivable because it was a very specific sin called Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

This is a sin that Jesus said could not be forgiven so we have to establish what it is and the conditions under which it is committed. In essence, it is a denial and rejection of Gospel even though you know it is truth because the Holy Spirit is convicting you of the truth. It takes full knowledge and full consent of the will.

In context, Jesus was being accused of healing by the power of Satan by certain Jews, I believe the Pharisees, but the text sort of implies that they knew better.

Paul's outward actions in persecuting Christians, on the surface could appear to be this sin, however, Paul did not know that Jesus was Lord at this point in his life, hence he did not have full knowledge. In fact, he thought the opposite: that he was punishing blasphemers and therefore was doing the will of God.


Thomas replied:

Dear John,

Your interpretation would mean I have committed this sin and am beyond hope since for 20 years or so I have sinned knowingly against the truth.

  • Is no forgiveness possible for me?


John replied:


The only sin that cannot be forgiven is the sin you refuse to accept mercy for.

If you were beyond hope, you wouldn't be remotely concerned about being forgiven. You would not seek forgiveness. Those in Hell suffer because they are perpetually rejecting God's love. Likewise God keeps loving them because it is His Nature, hence it is the same Love and Mercy which is the source of infinite joy to the saved that is the source of eternal torment to the damned.

That is because that is the way the damned want it. They are the ones rejecting forgiveness.


Thomas replied:


You said:
Paul's outward actions in persecuting Christians, on the surface could appear to be this sin, however, Paul did not know that Jesus was Lord at this point in his life, hence he did not have full knowledge. In fact, he thought the opposite: that he was punishing blasphemers and therefore was doing the will of God.

  • Are you not implying he wouldn't have been forgiven had he have known?

I used to believe for a while Jesus was controlled by the devil.

  • I have committed all the things you have to do to be guilty of that sin so why am I different from Paul in the sense that, had he known and did those things, he couldn't have been forgiven?

Paul was only forgiven upon repentance because he didn't know, implying that someone like him who did know wouldn't be forgiven.


John replied:


Let's go through this again. Paul was talking about a very specific sin. It is the only sin for which man is ultimately condemned. It is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. It is not simply sin against anything that you know to be true. It is a refusal to acknowledge Jesus is Lord and to accept His Mercy. It is a permanent lack of reconciliation of the heart which requires complete heart knowledge of who Jesus Christ is. That doesn't mean mental assent. It means genuine conviction of by the Holy Spirit that the Gospel is true and that you refuse to accept His Mercy.

Now if Paul had fully understood the Gospel and then did those things, it would seem from the text that he would have committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The outward actions which are also sin would be symptom of the actual unforgivable sin but, if that had been the case, he wouldn't want to be forgiven. That's the way it works. If you are concerned about being forgiven, then it is not possible for you to have blasphemed the Holy Spirit!

In fact, I'm pretty sure you didn't even have nominal head knowledge of who Jesus is, as you wrote that you believed for a while Jesus was controlled by the Devil.

Well Thomas, that's a serious heresy that tells me you didn't understand the Gospel.

  • Jesus is God Himself, the Second Person of the Trinity.
  • He is True God and True Man, hypostatically fused at the moment of conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin.
  • He is the Living Word who created all things at the beginning of time, having indeed created time.
  • He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the Author and Perfecter of the faith.

It is impossible for Him to be controlled by the devil or anyone else.

He suffered torture, humiliation, and death in order to pay the price of every single sin ever committed by anyone and everyone. That includes you and me. He died and rose from the dead so that whosoever would believe in Him, whosoever would accept His Mercy and Grace by faith, would have eternal life.

  • Seeing He paid an infinite price for your salvation, do you think, He's going to now go looking for reasons to condemn you?

This view of God sitting in Heaven with a quiver full of lightning bolts just waiting to zap anyone that sins is not the Gospel. The Gospel is simple.

For God so Loved the world, that gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever would believe in Him, should not perish by have eternal life.

(John 3:16)

Now there are obviously doctrines about the nature of:

  • God
  • Christ
  • the Trinity
  • faith
  • grace
  • etc., etc.

that we must eventually learn as we grow as Christians. As Catholic Christians we have been graced with the sacraments which are encounters with Christ. Through them Jesus strengthen and perfects us if we received them in faith and are open to the grace we receive, but as Mike said, there is no sin that can not be forgiven other than the sin you refuse to repent of, but let me qualify that.

The only reason you or I ever repent is because God Himself calls us to repent and provides us with the grace to repent so we are back at the beginning. If you refuse the grace, then we blaspheme the Holy Spirit and that doesn't happen at the drop of a hat. Moreover, repentance isn't always immediate. God gives us grace, but sometimes it takes time. Nevertheless, He keeps working on us.

John made it clear in the first chapter of his first letter. If we say that we haven't sinned, we are liars, however he adds, If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9-10)

You've got to be careful with how you use Scripture Thomas. You're taking a text from one of Paul's personal letters to Timothy, in which Paul describes the horrors of his own sins and your trying to extrapolate doctrine from one verse. You are selecting one example from Scripture out context and, based on that, you condemn yourself.

From Genesis to Revelation, the story of Salvation History, is loaded with loads of sinners whom God saves and uses for his purpose. Look at Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all of Jacob's sons.
For Pete's sake, they would all make great guests on the Jerry Springer show.

  • Abraham made his wife pretend to be his sister instead of his wife so that Pharaoh would sleep with her and not kill Abraham in order to have her.
  • Jacob was a weasel (which is what his name means). He stole the blessing God was going to give Him anyway.
  • And then we go down the line, one of Jacob's son slept with one of his father's wives.
  • Ten of his sons sold Joseph in to slavery.
  • Judah slept with his daughter-in-law, only he didn't know it was his daughter-in-law at the time. She had dressed up like a prostitute and propositioned him.

So now let's move forward 1,000 years to King David, who committed adultery with another man's wife. When she got pregnant, David had her husband (a soldier) killed in battle. So David, was both an adulterer and a murderer and yet it is written that David was man after God's own heart.

The list goes on and on. Just look at the genealogies of Jesus. Look at who God chose to be in own blood line: Rahab, a pagan prostitute from the city of Jericho!, yet Rahab assisted the Israelites in their conquest of Jericho and was brought in to the house of Israel and eventually her progeny was God Himself, taking on flesh.

Of course these people all repented of their sin and that is the point of most the Scripture. It is Salvation History. It is the Story of God's intervening in human history to save the crown jewel of His creation, mankind.

  • It is not the story of a God that is looking to condemn as many people as possible.
  • It is not the story of a God that has anger management issues, who is a dysfunctional Father who gets his jollies beating up his own kids.

Thomas, the bottom line is that if you had committed the unforgivable sin, you wouldn't even have bothered to write your first e-mail on the subject.

I suggest you find a good spiritual director that can help you work through some your issues from the past. If you're Catholic, I suggest you avail yourself of frequent Confession and obviously make sure you get to Mass on Sundays but just as important you need to start learning your faith in more structured environment. You can't try to discern Catholic doctrine on your own. That's what the Magisterium of Church does. That's why God gave us the Pope and Bishops, so that together they would study and explain Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

If you aren't Catholic, I would invite you to seek the truth. Let the Holy Spirit lead you. Open you heart to Church Jesus Christ established and again, stop worrying about not being forgiven. If you want mercy and grace, God is willing to give it you.

In fact he's trying to give it you as you read this.

Under His Mercy,


Thomas replied:


My understanding is that to believe means to have reliance upon.

I do believe Jesus is God, but I don't have the belief of salvation — that's what I meant. I believe Jesus is God, though I seriously considered Jesus from a demonic view. I now have a conviction Jesus is God.


John replied:


Let's leave aside what you exactly believe about Christ and salvation for the moment and let's deal with your past sins.

You say you intentionally and knowingly sinned against the truth in the past. OK. Welcome to the human race! You're no different than any other human person to live except the Virgin Mary who was protect and preserved from sin by a unique grace.

Let's also forget for a moment how one is saved. The question is:

  • Do you want to be forgiven for your sin, or would you rather reject mercy and spend eternity separated from God?

If you would rather be forgiven, then you never committed the unforgivable sin.

If instead you would prefer to suffer all eternity in Hell because you don't want to accept God's love, mercy, and forgiveness, then you are guilty of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit but even if that is the case, I would still have to question it, because I would have to question whether or not you are of sound judgment and are actually making that decision with the full consent of the will.

Thomas, the Church has yet to say that any particular person is in Hell. Now we know some people will go there by there own choice but the Church has not presumed to ever say this particular individual is in Hell. That includes Judas, who betrayed Jesus and is guilty of deicide, so if the Church still holds out hope for Judas, I don't think you have much to worry about in terms of having your fate sealed.

Now that said: It sounds like you are very mixed up, theologically speaking. You're all over the place and are in need of spiritual direction and catechesis (teaching).

That said, we need to start from the beginning.

  • Are you Catholic?
  • If so how much education in the faith did you receive and from whom?
  • If not, what is your tradition?
  • How did you come these conclusions you've arrived at?
  • How on earth did you ever come up with the idea that Jesus was demon?

    Certainly that's not a belief held by any Christian Church or denomination.

Thomas, you seem to want to pick and choose what Scriptures to believe on your own. You focus in on an obscure text in Paul's letter to Timothy, which has litter doctrinal value, but you reject the Gospel itself. Apparently you think that you are capable, on your own, to understand a 2,000 year old theological document, translated from Ancient Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew, without any real theological or Scriptural training.


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