The Unthinkable Sin
One day I had the opportunity to preach with John Barros outside of an abortion mill in Orlando. In the message I preached, I made the point that I am also a murderer because Jesus said: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool!' will be liable to the hell of fire." (Matthew 5:21-22). After I finished, John cautioned me not to use this kind of argument because, though it is true, it can, inadvertently undermine the gravity and seriousness of the sin those heading to the abortion clinic were about to commit. I was, to some extent, downplaying the teaching of Scripture regarding the degrees of the severity of sin.
Most Christians are familiar with the unpardonable sin which Jesus speaks of in the Gospels: "...the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." (Luke 12:10). The fact that an unpardonable sin even exists is evidence that some sins are more evil than others. During Jesus' trail in which He was unjustly condemned, He taught us that there are greater degrees of sin. Jesus said to Pilate: "...he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin." (John 19:11).
The Unthinkable Sin That Never Entered God's Mind
There is not only an unpardonable sin in the Bible, there is also an unthinkable sin in the Bible. There is only one kind of sin that is so evil, so wicked, and so unbelievably horrific that the Bible says it never even entered into the mind of God. This is the sin of parents murdering their sons and daughters. The Prophet Jeremiah speaks of this sin three times:
"For the sons of Judah have done evil in my sight, declares the LORD. They have set their detestable things in the house that is called by my name, to defile it. And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind." (Jeremiah 7:30-31)
"Because the people have forsaken me and have profaned this place by making offerings in it to other gods whom neither they nor their fathers nor the kings of Judah have known; and because they have filled this place with the blood of innocents, and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind..." (Jeremiah 19:4-5)
"They built the high places of Baal in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to offer up their sons and daughters to Molech, though I did not command them, nor did it enter into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin." (Jeremiah 32:35)
This unthinkable sin involved parents sacrificing their own children to false gods. These parents were murdering their own children, and they did so as a part of a religious, idolatrous ritual. God hates and forbids idolatry, but nowhere else in the Bible does He speak this way about idolatry - that it never even entered His mind.
Why might God speak this way? Because this particular form of idolatry was particularly abominable to Him because it involved the shedding of innocent blood (which God particularly hates: "There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood..." (Proverbs 6:16-17)) and it involved the unthinkable act of parents shedding the innocent blood of their own children. God designed parents to be the life-giving protectors of and providers for their children; to love their children; to be God-like authorities in their children's lives who are supposed to lead them to God by teaching them about God and displaying for them what righteous, good, loving authority is supposed to look like. When parents reject this God-given calling and do the exact opposite by murdering their own flesh and blood - this sin is particularly abominable to God - it's even unthinkable to Him.
God Knows, But He Doesn't Know The Unthinkable
How can something - anything - not even enter God's mind? Doesn't God know all things from all of eternity? Isn't He omniscient? Hasn't He ordained "whatsoever comes to pass?" He absolutely is and He absolutely has! There is nothing that God does not know. He knows all things and no one can teach Him anything. Consider the following teaching of Scripture about God's infinitely and eternal knowledge:
"Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding?" (Isaiah 40:13-14)
"...remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose...'" (Isaiah 46:9-10)
"God is greater than our heart, and knows all things." (1 John 3:20)
So if God knows about the evil of His people sacrificing their own children, in what sense does He not know? How does this practice not even enter His mind? He doesn't know it in the sense that this particular sin is so wicked and contrary to His will, that it is unthinkable to Him. Iain Duguid has explained that the phrase "did not enter into My mind" is "an anthropomorphism indicating how contrary it is to the LORD's will for His people."1 Ardel Caneday suggests, "[This is] not an expression of previous ignorance . . . [but] . . . an intensive idiom to express what is unthinkable."2 Michael L. Brown writes, 'This was the last thing on my mind! I never intended this for you, nor did I ever associate you with such vile practices.' The divine 'shock' is genuine, but not because of the 'surprise element' as much as because of the horrific nature of the sins committed."3 And, Charles Feinberg notes, "One of the most debased forms of idolatry involved child sacrifice...By strong anthropopathism, the Lord indicates that the enormities the nation committed in sacrificing children had never been enjoined on them or spoken of and had never even entered into his mind. It was totally alien and opposed to his will."4
It's as if this particular sin is so bad that the all-knowing, omniscient, all-powerful God could not even think of it because it is so contrary to His perfect, holy character.
The Unthinkable Sin Of Abortion
Like in Jeremiah's day, child sacrifice exists today. Abortion is the unthinkable sin of child sacrifice in our day. Abortion is the murder of an unborn child. God's Word makes this abundantly clear. As Nick Batzig has recently written: "It is estimated that under Stalin, 23 million men, women and children were brutally murdered, under Hitler, 17 million were tortured to death; but, under the red, white and blue, close to 60 million helpless, unborn children have been ripped apart in the womb - which, as we all know, is supposed to be the safest place for a child." Abortion truly is the great unthinkable sin of our day.
In his commentary on Jeremiah, Philip Ryken writes:
"Jeremiah's sermon on the Valley of Slaughter suggests important parallels between child sacrifice and abortion on demand...Anyone who has ever seen pictures, videotapes, or ultrasounds of children in the womb knows how early the human heart forms, and how the fetus can respond to pleasure and pain. To know those things is to know instantly and instinctively that abortion is the murder of an unborn child. There is no substantive moral difference between the child sacrifices offered in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom and abortion as practiced in America."5
Some may think it a stretch to equate abortion to the pagan rituals of demonic child sacrifice; however, it is actually one and the same in a more demonic form of sophisticated idolatry. Instead of the altar of Molech, many sacrifice their unborn children on the altar of convenience, a college education, reputation, or money. Whenever couples abort their children under the rationale of any of these reasons, they are essentially shedding the blood of their children on the perceived altar of their own personal idol.
Saving Sinners From The Unthinkable Sin: The Son God Sacrificed
There is only one unthinkable sin in the Bible. And there is only one unpardonable sin in the Bible - and praise God that murdering your own children is not that unpardonable sin!
You see, the sacrifice of a Son did enter into God's mind once. God did think the unthinkable - He determined to crush, strike, condemn, and curse His own perfect, beautiful, sinless Son in place of sinners so that they might be saved.
God loves sinners! God loves parents who murder their own children! So in eternity past, God determined to save sinners by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save sinners by His sacrifice on that cross and by His resurrection from the dead. On that cross Jesus took upon Himself the unthinkable sins of sinners and the wrath of God that son and daughter murderers deserve so that there is therefore now no condemnation for all those who repent and believe in the LORD Jesus Christ!
There is salvation in Jesus, even for the unthinkable sin of abortion. Jesus' grace is greater than all our sin! Whether you've had one, ten, or one million abortions, where your sin abounds, His grace abounds all the more - if you will admit that your abortion is the unthinkable sin, turn from this sin, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, then you shall be saved! "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved!" "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!" (Acts 16:31; John 3:16).
Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God saves the unsaveable and forgives the unthinkable: He washes away the unthinkable sin; He casts it behind His back and remembers it no more; As far as the east is from the west so He removes your sin from you; He casts it into the depths of the ocean floor forever! And God then accepts you and delights in you just as He does in His own Son. I love they way Dr. Russell Moore puts it:
"And what the Gospel of Jesus Christ tells us is that there are probably women in this congregation right now who have had abortions - probably many of you. And you are probably hiding in the secret and in the shame of that abortion, fearing that anyone will ever find out about that secret that you have. What the Gospel of Jesus Christ says is that you are not an enemy in any culture war. If you come out of hiding and embrace the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Scripture says that you are so hidden in Christ that when Satan accuses you and says: 'I know who you are, and I know what you did. I know your secret!' - your response is to say: 'Satan, you are exactly right. You are right when you say that I am deserving of condemnation, but I have already been condemned! You are exactly right when you say that I am worthy of execution, but I have already been executed! Because I am in Christ - so every bit of penalty that belongs to me has already fallen on me! I've been crucified! I've been pulled off of that cross! I've been buried under the curse of God! And you know what? God now has announced what He thinks of me when He opened up that hole in the ground and Jesus Christ - my Head, my New Life, my New Identity - walked out of there. So when God looks at me, He says of me exactly what He says of Jesus Christ: this is my beloved child, and in you I am well pleased!'"6
Hallelujah! What a Savior! He alone forgives the unthinkable sin and all of our sins! After receiving such a great salvation may we go and sin no more, and may what is unthinkable to God become unthinkable to us as well.
1. Iain Duguid, Notes on Jeremiah in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible, ed. D. A. Carson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 1480.
2. Ardel Caneday, Beyond The Bounds, Open Theism And The Undermining Of Biblical Christianity, eds. John Piper, Justin Taylor, and Paul Kjoss Helseth, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2003), 194.
3. Michael L. Brown, The Expositors Bible Commentary, Jeremiah, eds. Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010), 115.
4. Charles L. Feinberg, Jeremiah A Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 141.
5. Phillip Graham Ryken, Jeremiah and Lamentations (ESV Edition): From Sorrow to Hope (Preaching the Word) (Wheaton: Crossway, 2016), 144-145.
6. I heard Dr. Russell Moore preach this in a sermon delivered on a Sanctity of Life Sunday.
Joseph Randall is the Pastor of Olney Baptist Church in Philadelphia, PA.