Is Porn the Unforgivable Sin?
John Piper

John Piper

“Pastor John, here’s a question that we get often in the email inbox, worded in various ways. Here’s the main thread in this common question: Is an addiction to pornography an unpardonable, or unforgivable, sin?”

True Repentance

In the way I understand the Bible about sin, the only sin that cannot be pardoned is the sin that cannot be repented of. What I mean by repented of is at least these four things.

First the sin produces remorse for the offense to God, not just the pain of the punishment. Second, it is a sin that is put, consciously by faith, under the blood of Christ. Third, the sin must be fought with dependence on the Holy Spirit. As we see in Romans 8:13, we are to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit. Fourth, this must be a sin that we renounce consciously. We say no to it. We renounce it with a genuine embrace of Christ as our superior treasure.

That is what I mean by the repentance of sin. Any sin that you can repent of will be forgiven.

Deep-Rooted Sin

There is though — and this is probably why the question was asked — an extent of sinning that is so deep and so long that the sinner can’t repent anymore. The reason I feel frighteningly confident to say that is because Esau is given in Hebrews as an example of that very thing.

What is so stunningly relevant here is that the writer introduces Esau as illustrating the need to fight sexual immorality. He says in Hebrews 12:15–16, “See to it . . . that no one is sexually immoral.” Well, as far as we know, that wasn’t the issue with Esau. Maybe when he married those pagan women (Genesis 26:34–35). But it says, “See to it that no one is sexually immoral.” He is using Esau as an example of that.

“Any sin that you can repent of will be forgiven.”

Hebrews continues, “. . . who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears” (Hebrews 12:16–17). I think “no place [or chance]” means “not a physical locality”: There was no place in his heart as he cast about trying to find a real repentance in his heart. It wasn’t there, even though he was crying.

That is why I said the remorse has to be more than just remorse for the loss of punishment. There is a “too late” in our compromise with sin. God does, at times, withdraw his patient protection from final destruction and hand us over. We see that in passage like Romans 1, where God gave them over to dishonorable passions, and God gave them over to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done (Romans 1:26–28).

Not Too Late

Here is the encouragement. Here is what I want to press in on this person’s conscience for hope. It says in Romans 2:4, “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience [so God is long-suffering, and he is patient], not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”

So I would say to this person, “Don’t assume it is too late.” Assume that God’s mercy is still leading you to repentance. Assume he is still at work in your life. After all, the question has arisen. You are not giving up, it sounds like.

My answer is that an addiction to pornography is not unforgivable if it is repented of, which means it would be temporary. And I don’t know how long it might last. God alone knows how long it would go on. And he is very, very patient.

Find a Friend

The question is: Knowing the present bondage — that is what I take an addiction to be — knowing the present bondage, are you making war on it? Do you keep making war? Now there is the question.

Sometimes guys will say, “Oh, I have tried to make war. It didn’t work.” I said, “Well, you think the battle is over? It is not over.” Do you keep making war as long as it takes? Or have you given up and settled in and made peace with your sin? If that is your case, you are in big trouble.

“Don’t assume it is too late. Assume that God’s mercy is still leading you to repentance.”

So, are you putting it to death? It may be — it no doubt is — a very resilient foe. It may refuse to die all at once. But the question is “Do you keep thrusting the sword of the Spirit through it over and over again?”

I stumbled onto this, in thinking about this question, as a final practical suggestion. It says in 1 John 5:16, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him [that is, the sinning brother] life.”

So if you see someone in an addiction or a bondage to sexual immorality, then you ask for that person. So I would say one of the marks of the sin that you are committing not leading to death is that you are willing to find a brother and ask him to pray for you. That prayer, according to 1 John 5:16, will be one of God’s instruments in delivering you.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory. this article first appeared on desiringgod.org.

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