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Sun, May 10, 2009

5 - The Unforgiveable Sin

Romans 10:9-10 & Matthew 12:24-34 by Robert Dean
Series:Resurrection and the Gospel (2009)
Duration:53 mins 3 secs

The Unforgiveable Sin. Rom 10:9-10, Matt 12:24, 31-34


We are answering the question, is the resurrection a part of the gospel message? The answer to that is yes, it is part of the gospel message, it is how we see Jesus Christ proclaimed by the apostles in the book of Acts and throughout other passages in the New Testament. The proclamation of the gospel or when you are in a position where you are witnessing to someone entails the communication of certain pieces of information. The way the gospel is presented in the Scripture is that Jesus is presented as the Son of God; He is presented as divine; He is presented as the risen savior. That may or may not entail going into those doctrines in a certain amount of depth, depending on the age of the person, their background, or other factors.


There are some today who say that not just the message must entail the resurrection of Christ but that if you don't believe as a separate proposition in the resurrection of Christ when you first believe then you aren't saved. This gets a little dicey for some people because, of course, we are believing in a risen savior and when you are four or five or six years old as a young child you don't understand a lot of the intricacies and the abstractions that can be related to understanding these things, and certainly you don't understand resurrection. But when you are presented with a living divine savior then if you are trusting Him that is what you are trusting in. When you get older you may have your thinking shaped and twisted by misunderstandings of Christianity, by cults that have taught various things, false views of Jesus, then a person with that sort of thinking needs to have it corrected so that they understand the who of who Jesus is as well as the what because the two ultimately are inseparable.


Some people have come along and said that you have to not only present Christ as a risen savior but to be saved you have to understand that in an analyzed way and believe that Jesus rose from the dead. Two passages that are used to support that are 1 Corinthians 15:3,4 and Romans 10:9, 10. At first glance if you think of "saved" as getting eternal life as a synonym for justification or regeneration then it seems that Romans 10:9, 10 is saying you not only have to confess publicly that Jesus is Lord but you must also believe that He was raised from the dead or you are not saved. But if Paul means something by the word "saved" other than to be justified or regenerated then this verse really means something else.


Where we get into a problem here is that in the 20th century evangelical environment the word "saved" has come to mean a technical term for moving from spiritual death to spiritual life, from being unrighteous to righteous, from being dead in sins to being alive in Christ or regenerate. However, that is not how this word group is really used in the Scriptures. There are passages such as Romans 5:12 that talk about the fact that we have been justified so we will be saved—have been justified is a past tense concept; that we will be saved is future, so we can be justified and not saved because he is talking about saved in a completed or final sense in terms of that final face to face reality before the Lord, not in terms of that initial experience of becoming born again, regenerate, and justified. We have to understand these distinctions. Often we talk about the fact that when we trust Christ as savior we are saved from the penalty of sin. As we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ we are being saved from the power of sin. Then when we die physically and we are absent from the body and face to face with the Lord we are saved from the presence of sin.  So whenever we see that word "saved" or "salvation" in the Bible we need to ask if it is talking about phase one, phase two, or phase three. In the epistle to the Romans Paul never uses the word "saved" as a synonym for justified, he either uses it as a synonym for phase three, glorification, or as a summary of the whole process, ending up with our being face to face with the Lord in heaven.  


Do we have to believe in the substitutionary death of Christ for our sins? Yes, we do. Do we have to believe in the resurrection? In an analyzed way, not necessarily—a small child cannot understand, but he can understand believing in Jesus Christ to be saved. Resurrection isn't part of what we must believe but we can't deny it. We can't be an older individual and say we believe in a Jesus who didn't rise from the dead, or that we believe in a Jesus who wasn't God. A Jesus who wasn't God and didn't rise from the dead isn't a Jesus who saved you, so then you have the wrong who. We have to understand that we believe in the Jesus who died and rose from the dead for our sins, the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus of Mormonism, not the Jesus of the Jehovah's Witnesses who is not God, or the Jesus of the Hindus who is just another avatar. We believe in the Jesus who is the Messiah of Israel, the greater son of David, the one to whom all the prophets pointed.


We have seen that as we approach Romans 9-11 we have to understand the context in the epistle to the Romans. The epistle to the Romans deals with the topic of how a person is justified in chapters 3, 4 and 5. That is, how do we get eternal life? How do we move from being spiritually dead to being spiritually alive? How do we move from being dead in Adam to being alive in Christ? How are we born again? That happens by faith alone in Christ alone. But then starting in chapter six through chapter eight the apostle Paul shifts to now that he is justified how does a person live? How is he to live in this new life that he has in Christ? We call that sanctification, experiential or progressive sanctification. It is the growth that we have in our spiritual life. At the conclusion of chapter eight Paul says that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, and someone might say well what about the Jews, it seems that they have been separated from the love of God. Chapters 9-11 focus on vindicating God's righteousness in relationship to Israel. The focus here is not on Jews individually but on the Jewish people as a corporate group.


We need to look at what Paul says in Romans chapter nine. First, we see that he makes the point that God chose Abraham and his descendants as a corporate group through which He would do four things. We are looking at them as a group, as a whole, not in terms of individual parts. The first thing God promised Abraham was that through him all nations would be blessed. Genesis 12:2, all nations would be blessed through the coming of the savior, i.e. the seed promised to Abraham—also repeated in Galatians 3:16. Secondly, Paul points out in this chapter that Israel as a whole is the recipient of God's covenants and promises. God made a covenant with Abraham but it was with Abraham and his descendants as a group. God made a covenant with Moses and with David but it has to be with this corporate understanding of Israel as a people. Third, we see the emphasis that the Messiah would enter the human race through Israel and that He would come initially to Israel as a nation—Romans 9:5; John 1:11. Fourth, we learn from Romans 9 that not all of Israel is true Israel. True Israel is not just those who are born genetically as descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but those who follow Abraham in faith and trust in God's promise of the Messiah. They looked forward to the promise; now in this age we look back and we believe that Jesus was the Messiah. So true Israel is a combination of two things: genetic relationship to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and a spiritual relationship to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by trusting in the promise of God, in the Lord Jesus Christ.   


As we come to a passage like this we have to focus on context and not only the immediate context of Romans 9-11 and understanding this context of corporate Israel, that God is dealing with them as a whole as well as in terms of being individuals. That means that Israel as a whole, as a nation, can trust God but there may be individuals who are unsaved. Israel as a whole can reject Christ but there will be individuals who trust in Him and are justified. The nation itself can be in apostasy but individuals are following God. The nation as a whole can be serving God and yet have individuals within the nation who are apostate and idol worshippers. There can be discipline for the nation but blessing for individuals, for example, Daniel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and others who are individually trusting God.


We also have to look at a biblical context, which means that we understand these two verses (Romans 10:9, 10) but they are surrounded by Old Testament references. To really understand these two verses which at the surface looks like a "salvation" verse—it is often used that way in many churches, and that ignores the context of Romans 9-11, the context of Romans, and ignores the context of the Bible—we have to look at some background passages that are used and quoted in this section: Deuteronomy 30; Joel 2. We must also understand Matthew 12:24, 31-32; 23:39; Romans 10:12; 11:25. Once we get a grip on these passages then when we go back and look at what is said in Romans 10:9, 10 we know is being said. We also have to look at some key words such as "saved, salvation, confess, call, and righteousness".

Romans 10:6-8 loosely paraphrases Deuteronomy 30:11-14, the context of which is important. Deut 30:1-3 "So it shall be when all of these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call {them} to mind in all nations where the LORD your God has banished you, and you return to the LORD your God and obey Him with all your heart and soul according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the LORD your God will restore you from captivity, and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the LORD your God has scattered you." So when the apostle Paul comes along and quotes verses 11-14 from this chapter that context has to do with their future return and restoration to the land as God's people in a position of blessing.

The focus here is on Israel, and Israel as saved, not as needing to be saved. He is addressing them in Deuteronomy 30:11-14 as a saved people and in terms of how they should live as a saved people. In Deuteronomy 30 Moses is telling the people that they cannot use as an excuse that they just can't find God. Deuteronomy 30:14 NASB "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it." What is Paul going to say in Romans 10? "If you believe in your heart and confess with your mouth…" Paul applies that to the people of his day by showing that they can't use that excuse either. In Romans 10:5 there is a quotation from Leviticus 18:5 and in that passage it is dealing with how a redeemed people are to live, not how they become redeemed. So the point being made is that neither of these Old Testament passages that lead into Romans 10:9, 10 are talking about how to be redeemed, how to be justified, how to be regenerated; they are talking about how the redeemed person lives after he is redeemed, how the justified person lives after he justified, and how the regenerate person is to live after he is regenerated. Then he is going to apply this to Israel. That is the context of Romans 9-11.

Romans 10:9 NASB "that if you confess with your mouth Jesus {as} Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved"—from what? In order to answer that question we have to go to another passage for background, Matthew chapter twelve which is a pivotal chapter in the Gospel covering the pivotal event in Christ's ministry; because He came to offer the kingdom to Israel. He came to Israel as the Messiah to present Himself as the promised savior, the one who was born of a virgin, Isaiah 9, the one who is the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies.  Though many individuals believed that He was the promised Messiah and trusted in Him the nation as a whole, the majority, did not, and the leadership did not. As a result the nation was condemned to punishment under the fifth cycle of discipline. This was a corporate punishment, their removal as a nation in AD 70 was a national discipline even though there were many individuals who were saved.

There is an interesting parallel in the Old Testament in passages such as 2 Kings 23 and Ezekiel 14 which indicate that the nation could reach a point of no return. The fifth cycle of discipline is going to come into effect and they will be taken out of the land even if they turn to God before that. There is a point of cumulative consequences that could occur because of continuous sin where God is going to have to bring about the fifth cycle of discipline no matter what. The same thing can be true in our own lives. God may in grace overlook sin in our life to a certain point and then if there is no change or growth God is going to bring about the discipline necessary to get our attention.

We see an example of this in 2 Kings 23:24 NASB "Moreover, Josiah removed the mediums and the spiritists and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might confirm the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD."  Josiah was a good king, he had instituted a tremendous spiritual revival in the nation. He was the son of Manasseh the most wicked, evil king the northern kingdom had, and the nation was so apostate and had been for so long that no matter how spiritual they became under Josiah the die was cast and God was going to take them out under divine discipline. [25] "Before him there was no king like him who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him." Next to David he was the most spiritual king that Israel had. [26] "However, the LORD did not turn from the fierceness of His great wrath with which His anger burned against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked Him." In other words, they were so apostate and so rebellious under Manasseh that divine discipline was necessary, and no matter what changes occurred the cancer of carnality had grown to such an extent that major surgery was still necessary, and so the nation was set to go out under divine discipline. [27] "The LORD said, "I will remove Judah also from My sight, as I have removed Israel. And I will cast off Jerusalem, this city which I have chosen, and the temple of which I said, 'My name shall be there.'" That sets a precedent. The nation will still go out under discipline even though there are a large number of spiritually mature positive believers in the nation.

In Matthew chapter twelve we have the unpardonable sin. It is important to understand what is meant by the unpardonable sin. This chapter brings the confrontation between Jesus and the Pharisees to a head. As He has continued to teach and to correctly interpret the law of Moses it has challenged the teaching of the Pharisees—their legalism, their whole traditional set-up, and their authority over the people. The first thing that happens in Jesus is walking with His disciples, they go through a field where the wheat has grown and they began to pull off grains of wheat to eat, and it is on the Sabbath. According to Pharisaical tradition that violated the Sabbath law. It did not violate what the Mosaic law said, it only violated their tradition, and so they confront Jesus and challenge Him.

Then in vv. 9-14 there is another conflict because Jesus heals a man on the Sabbath. This intensifies the conflict. In verse 14 NASB "But the Pharisees went out and conspired against Him, {as to} how they might destroy Him." Luke tells us that they were filled with rage. This is the beginning of the end, we might say, the great turning point. Jesus has offered the kingdom to the nation and now we are going to see that the nation rejects it.

Matthew 12:15 NASB "But Jesus, aware of {this,} withdrew from there. Many followed Him, and He healed them all, [16] and warned them not to tell who He was." Don't tell the Pharisees. Then there is a warning. [17] {This was} to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: [18] "BEHOLD, MY SERVANT WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN; MY BELOVED IN WHOM MY SOUL is WELL-PLEASED; I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT UPON HIM, AND HE SHALL PROCLAIM JUSTICE TO THE GENTILES." This puts the emphasis on the role that God the Holy Spirit played in empowering Jesus in His ministry as the Messiah and in His healing.

That leads up to another miracle in v. 22 where He is going to cast out a demon. NASB "Then a demon-possessed man {who was} blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw." Why is it important that we are told that he is blind and mute? It is because the procedure that the Jews used for casting out a demon was that they would enter into a conversation with the demon, ask the demon what his name was, and then use the name to cast the demon out. Jesus followed that procedure with the Gadarene demoniac, but here He is not. Why? If you ask a mute demon what his name is he can't tell you! The Jews had a tradition that when the Messiah came He would cast out a mute demon. The rabbis couldn't do that. This is a unique messianic sign. See the response of the multitude, v. 23 NASB "All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, 'This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?'" Is this the Messiah? Nobody had ever done this before!

Matthew 12:24 NASB "But when the Pharisees heard {this,} they said, 'This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons'." They think: If we say He is the Messiah, we're toast, so we can't validate His claim. The only alternative is that He did this by the devil. [25] "And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, "Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand." The role of the Holy Spirit was to give the confirmatory evidence of who Jesus was, the Messiah. The Pharisees are saying He didn't do it by the Spirit, He did it by the power of the devil. That is why it is a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and not against the Son of God. 

Matthew 12:28 NASB "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you." If He has been doing these things by the Spirit of God then that confirms he is the Messiah and that His offer of the kingdom is legitimate.

After Jesus talks to them in vv. 25-30 He is then going to make His point in v. 31 NASB "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven." Then He defines what that is. [32] "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the {age} to come."

What does He mean by "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man"? If we look at the first eight verses where Jesus is talking His disciples through the grain field, the last verse, verse 8, says, "For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." That is the point He makes, he identifies Himself with the Son of Man. Did the Pharisees challenge Him there? Yes, they challenge Him and His identity as the Son of Man. Jesus says they can speak a word against the Son of Man but it is not the determinative sin, it will be forgiven. But whoever sins against the Holy Spirit … when the nation gets to that point where the leaders reject completely the evidence of the Holy Spirit and say it is not the Holy Spirit, it is the devil, that is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and it won't be forgiven them.

The question is, what kind of forgiveness is this? We have identified four different types of forgiveness in Scripture: judicial forgiveness, positional forgiveness in Christ, experiential forgiveness in time, and the forgiveness that we have relationally one to another. This is the third kind of forgiveness. He is not talking about it being unforgivable in the sense that they can't or won't pay for, He is saying that this is the same kind of sin that the Jews had in the Old Testament. This cuts it, they are going out under divine discipline because they rejected Him as the Messiah. It is not talking about the fact that they can't be justified and get into heaven now because they have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, He is saying by rejecting Him things have come to a head, this is the final spot; they have rejected Him and His offer of the kingdom and so He was withdrawing it. From this point on He will not go to Israel, He will start teaching about the church. This is what happens in Matthew 13. The kingdom is never offered again. From this point on the focus is on going to the cross, not bringing in the kingdom. This is that great national sin that Israel committed. Verse 32, it will not be forgiven in this age or in the age to come. "This age" was the age of the Messiah; "the age to come" is the church age. Neither of those ages is related to the final age which is the Millennial kingdom. So what He is saying there is that this national sin is not going to be remitted, the consequences in time are not going to be removed from the nation until after the end of the next age.


·  Jesus announces that this is a judgment of divine discipline on the nation at this time. Only that generation could commit the unforgivable sin. This is a unique sin in history, related to Israel and their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. It wasn't an individual sin, it was a corporate sin.

·  Jesus announced this judgment and it came in AD 70 when the Romans armies took the nation out under divine discipline, and they are still under divine discipline. But Paul says in Romans chapter eleven that they will have a future deliverance, not justification. When does this occur? When the deliverer comes out of Zion and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob, etc. In that verse the taking away their sins doesn't refer to paying the penalty for their sins because that happened at the cross. This is when the temporal discipline is removed from the nation.

·  Israel is under discipline from AD 70 until just before Jesus returns. What happens when Jesus returns? Joel 2:32 NASB "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Will be delivered; For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem There will be those who escape, As the LORD has said, Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls." This is a physical deliverance at the time of the Armageddon campaign.

·  Just before Jesus went to the cross He said: Matthew 23:39 NASB "For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, 'BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!'" The Jews don't say that until the end of the Tribulation period, and when they do Jesus Christ will return. He will give them victory over the armies of the Antichrist, He will physically deliver them, and He will then lead them on a march of Triumph back to Jerusalem.

·  The point that we need to understand is the significance that Matthew chapter twelve plays, that Israel was set to go out under divine discipline. What Paul is saying in Romans 10:9, 10 is directly related to Israel. That confession with the mouth is parallel to calling on the name of the Lord, and if you confess with your mouth corporately, as a nation, that Jesus is God (that is what they have rejected), and believe that God raised Him from the dead (they had rejected the resurrection), you will be saved (delivered)—the physical deliverance of Israel, the remnant that is there at the end of the Tribulation period.