27 December 2018

Matthew 12

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.

If you’ve been attending TCC for any length of time, you know that the Gospel rings out from the pulpit Sunday-after-Sunday, the good news that Jesus has set us free from our sin and guilt by His once-for-all sacrificial death on the cross. If you’re a believer, you have put your trust in Him and this gives you a sure hope of heaven. You know that all your sins are forgiven. It can, therefore, be a little disconcerting when you hear about the so-called ‘unforgivable sin’, the topic of our text today (verse 31-32). Some believers become unsettled by this concept. Mindful of their past sins, they become fearful that they may be guilty of it, and their assurance of salvation crumbles. This concept of the ‘unforgivable sin’, therefore, merits a closer look.

In our text, Jesus speaks of ‘blasphemy against the (Holy) Spirit’ that will not be forgiven (verse 31). A word spoken against the Son of Man (= Jesus) will be forgiven, but not a word spoken against the Holy Spirit; it will never be forgiven, either in this age or the age to come (verse 32). This person is guilty of an ‘eternal sin’ (cf. Mark 3:29). What does all this exactly mean?

In the context, to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit means to call the work of God the work of Satan. This was the accusation the religious leaders levelled against Jesus (cf. Matthew 12:24). One commentator puts it this way: “Since the power of the Spirit is behind Jesus’ miracles, to attribute those works to Satan is to slander the Spirit, an eternal sin that goes far beyond mere unbelief.” Such persons reject the work of God’s Spirit and, therefore, their guilt remains. But what about speaking against the Son of Man? Why is there forgiveness? Does this mean that the Holy Spirit is more important than Jesus? Commentators reject this conclusion. It is possible to be mistaken about Jesus’ true identity at some point, or even be hostile towards Him, and yet subsequently to embrace Him by faith (cf. Matthew 16:21-22). According to one commentator, “The sin against the Holy Spirit (the unpardonable sin) is not equivalent to rejecting Christ as Saviour. People may refuse to accept Christ for years but later in life embrace Him as Saviour.”

It has been pointed out, with merit, that if you are anxious about having committed the unforgivable sin, you are not guilty of this sin. If you are trusting in Jesus for your salvation, you have not blasphemed against the Holy Spirit!