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Sun, May 03, 2015

76 - The Unforgivable Sin [b]

Matthew 12:15-32 by Robert Dean
Can you do something so awful that God won’t ever forgive you? Listen to this lesson to learn about the unforgivable sin. Find out that when Jesus pronounced this judgment He was talking to the religious leaders of Israel who were plotting to kill Him. See what blasphemy or the “sin of the high hand” is and that it was punishable in time. Learn that people who have trusted in Christ never need worry about committing an unforgivable sin but should make a decision to be on God’s side and get involved in God’s plan and purpose for their life.
Series:Matthew (2013)
Duration:56 mins 10 secs

The Unforgivable Sin
Matthew 12:15–32
Matthew Lesson #076
May 3, 2015

We now get into one of those probably eight or ten difficult passages in the New Testament. That is, a lot of people read them and read things into the passage and come away with a lot of questions. This lesson is one of those that people often come up with it, and it focuses on the unforgivable sin. [Slide 2] Is it possible to commit an unforgivable sin that somehow negates my salvation or prevents me from ever being saved? Many people get concerned about this. They wonder if somehow they might have committed the unforgivable sin. It is amazing how some theologians, pastors, and some people have gained prominence over the years who for a time in their spiritual life were obsessed about the fact that they had committed the unforgivable sin.

Among Christians there are a number of different views related to the meaning of this passage. Some believe that the unforgivable sin is rejecting Jesus as their Savior—that the sin of unbelief is the one sin that is not forgiven. But then the issue is: how many times are you allowed to express unbelief? The first time you hear the gospel? The second time you hear the gospel? The fifteenth time you hear the gospel? How many chances do you have? Others believe that this is some sin you can commit after salvation, after you receive eternal life and are born again, and then if you commit this sin—poof, it’s gone; you have lost your salvation never to recover it again. Others believe that this is not a sin that we can commit today, but that this is a sin unique and distinct to this period of time—it is uniquely a sin in relationship to the messianic claims of Jesus during the first advent, and therefore could not be committed by any other generation. Still others believe that this is not an individual sin at all, but was a national sin that was exhibited by the national leadership of Israel, and that therefore this sin not only could only have been committed by that generation, but that it also is specifically related to God’s plan for Israel: the offer of the kingdom to Israel at that particular time, and is specifically related to the Jewish acceptance or rejection of Jesus as Messiah.

What we will see as we go through these passages is that once we understand the text and clarify a number of things, it will be very clear what this passage means. The last option mentioned above is really the correct understanding of this passage. So we are going to address these questions [Slide 3]:

  • What is the unforgivable sin?
  • Have I committed it?
  • Can this be committed today?

And we will see why we know that this is not something that we need to be concerned about today.

Matthew 12 is the pivot chapter that describes the pivot event in the life of Christ. [Slide 4] As we look at the so-called synoptic Gospels, the three Gospels that basically cover the life of Christ chronologically—Matthew, Mark and Luke, we see that John looks at it differently. John has a bird’s-eye view looking down from Heaven, as it were, at the life of Christ and organizes his material differently. It is roughly chronological in Matthew, Mark and Luke, although within that broad chronology they shift things around as they are expressing their particular arguments. Usually the life of Christ is understood to begin with this period of time where Jesus comes on the scene and offers as the messianic King of Israel the kingdom. That seems to be welcomed at first, and there are increasing crowds that come to Him. He is also feeding them, healing them, but many of them are coming for the perks; they are not there for the repentance that is related to the coming of the kingdom.

This builds to a point eventually where it comes into conflict with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, the religious leaders. And as representatives of the nation, they officially reject Jesus as the Messiah. There is an increasing rejection, not only by the people, but also by the leadership. After the rejection of the training of the Twelve for the Church Age, there is a definite shift and focus that takes place after this pivotal event. Before this takes place, Jesus’ ministry is restricted to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. After this, He goes to the Gentiles. Prior to this rejection, He preached a gospel to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; after this, the kingdom is no longer offered. Before this, He performed miracles publicly; but after this, they are only done in private. Before this, He taught openly to the masses in public, but after this, He used parables, cloaking what He was teaching the disciples as He prepares them for their future ministry as leaders in the Church Age. So this is the pivot chapter in the book of Matthew, and the context is clearly a shift from the offer to the Jews to taking the gospel to the Gentiles.

We see the foreshadowing of this from prophecy in the Old Testament, which talks about how false teachers will come into Israel. They will lead the people astray, and God says that He Himself will come and rescue them and deliver them. [Slide 5] Ezekiel 34:10 NASB “Behold, I am against the [false] shepherds, and I will demand My sheep from them and make them cease from feeding sheep. So the shepherds will not feed themselves anymore, but I will deliver My flock from their mouth, so that they will not be food for them. [Slide 6] [11] For thus says the Lord God, ‘Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out …. [16] I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken and strengthen the sick; but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with judgment’.” This forms a prophetic backdrop for what is happening in this passage. Jesus is indeed binding up the broken, strengthening what is sick, is going to heal the demon-possessed man in order to demonstrate His power and credentials to the Pharisees. And they will reject Him. This is the final straw of rejection that will bring about God’s judgment upon them.

What we see here is that throughout these previous passages Jesus claimed to be the Messiah. Jesus has claimed to be God. Jesus has claimed to be the sole authority for knowing God and the sole authority for correctly interpreting the Mosaic Law. The Pharisees have been His chief opponents; they reject Him as the Messiah and eventually because of that, will condemn Him to the cross. Jesus has offered the gospel to Israel, and they have rejected Him as the Messiah. So He will take the gospel to the Gentiles. This develops into what will be the church. The church doesn’t come into existence until the day of Pentecost fifty days after the crucifixion, and at that point we have the birth of this new entity, the church. Eventually there will be a restoration of Israel.  

What we have seen is that Jesus performed the miracle of healing the withered hand, and this is connected to the announcement of divine judgment upon the nation - that God would take them out of the land as He had promised in Leviticus 26. [Slide 7] As the Pharisees reject Jesus, they determine to go and plot against Him. The people have been amazed at the miracles that Jesus has performed. This miracle in this case indicates that He is announcing judgment on them, and the Pharisees go out, as Luke says, “filled with rage”, and they plot as to how they might destroy Him. [Slide 8] The verb there is APOLLUMI, the same word used as for “perish”—eternal perishing in John 3:16, as indicated in the context. Here the word refers to death, to killing someone, taking their life—Matthew 2:13, Herod sought to destroy [kill] the infant Jesus, and Matthew 27:20 where it is used to describe the death of Christ. Other passages where the word is used referring to killing someone are Mark 3:6; 9:22; 11:18; Luke 6:9.

When Jesus realizes that they are conspiring against Him, it is not time yet. This happened several times. So Jesus is going to withdraw so that He is not the center of attention for the time being, and so that He can bide His time until the correct time in fulfillment of prophecy, according to the Old Testament, when He will be crucified. [Slide 9] In Matthew 12:15 we see Jesus’ response: NASB “But Jesus, aware of {this,} withdrew from there.”

Many followed Him, and “He healed them all…” This shows His ministry at this particular time. But then in the next verse, [16] “and warned them not to tell who He was.” This really ought to catch our attention because throughout the initial part of His ministry, He has been sending out His disciples to the house of Israel and the house of Judah to make it known, to challenge them with the message to repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. But now He says, “Keep your mouth shut; don’t tell anyone”. Part of the reason He does that is because He doesn’t want to exacerbate the hostility anymore so that they will jump the gun and arrest Him and kill Him too soon. He is holding off to cause a reduction in the intensity of the opposition for the time being.

At that point Matthew says something very interesting. Matthew 12:17 NASB “{This was} to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet:” Matthew says the reason He wanted them to keep their mouth shut was because of the situation that was forecast and prophesied in Isaiah 42:1–4. We have this quotation. It probably doesn’t match the English translation because it is based on the Hebrew. The quote in the Greek New Testament is really based on the Septuagint (LXX), although there are some different problems with that. One thing we note about this is that this is the longest of Matthew’s quotations from the Old Testament. [Slide 10] He quotes more from the Old Testament than any other gospel writer, and this is his longest. That means that there is something significant being said here.

The second thing that is interesting is that in the Septuagint translation, where in the Hebrew it says, “My servant”, the word “servant” is translated not with the word DIAKONOS (servant) but with the word PAIS, which is the word for child or son. So as Matthew quotes from the Old Testament, there is an indication here that this is “my son” or “my child”. There is a clear understanding from the translators of the LXX that the suffering servant was also the child of God. This is something that not too many people bring out or point out. 

Matthew 12:18 NASB “BEHOLD, MY SERVANT WHOM I HAVE CHOSEN; MY BELOVED IN WHOM MY SOUL is WELL-PLEASED …” What is the point contextually of this quote? The main idea of this whole section going down to verse 32 is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. What we see in this quotation is the introduction of two critical ideas at this juncture in the life of Christ. One has to do with bringing in the central role of the Spirit of God in the ministry of the Messiah, according to this particular quote from Isaiah.

The second key idea that comes from Isaiah 42:1–4 is that the ministry of the servant of God is going to be not only to Israel, but also to the Gentiles. And this is what is going to happen with this shift that occurs here: the pivot point. Jesus will begin to take His ministry to the Gentiles. These are the two main ideas in this section talking about the fact that God’s Spirit is upon His servant, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles. “… I WILL PUT MY SPIRIT UPON HIM, AND HE SHALL PROCLAIM JUSTICE TO THE GENTILES.”

That is because, as Matthew 12:19, 20 indicate, He is not being responded to by His original audience; no one is hearing His voice in the streets, and so He is going to the Gentiles. The conclusion will be in v. 21. Matthew 12:19 NASB”HE WILL NOT QUARREL, NOR CRY OUT; NOR WILL ANYONE HEAR HIS VOICE IN THE STREETS. [20] A BATTERED REED HE WILL NOT BREAK OFF, AND A SMOLDERING WICK HE WILL NOT PUT OUT, UNTIL HE LEADS JUSTICE TO VICTORY. [21] AND IN HIS NAME THE GENTILES WILL HOPE.” [Slide 11] This was also foreshadowed by a prophecy by Moses in Deuteronomy 32:21 - that when Israel provokes God to jealousy, then He will go to another nation. 

This will introduce to us then to the final straw of Israel’s disobedience to God. Jesus is about to announce the irrevocable judgment of God upon Israel because they have rejected Him as the Messiah. He is administering the coup de grace to the nation Israel at this point. The coup de grace is a French term that would describe the fact that when there was a firing squad, the officer in charge would come up and put a bullet into the brain of the person being executed to make sure that he was dead. It was the final act that brought death to the victim. This is what is being announced here; it is a judgment. Jesus is announcing a sentence that is irrevocable on the nation. It is not individual. He is not talking about individual loss of salvation; neither is He talking about the inability of some of them to have eternal life. We know from the book of Acts that there were large numbers of priests and Pharisees who after the resurrection and ascension accepted Jesus as their Messiah. 

The sin that is committed here is called the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. What is blasphemy? It is to revile God, to treat God lightly, to disrespect God, use His name in a wrong manner and to belittle God, disobey God, and to reject God. All of these ideas are part of the idea of blasphemy. Many people limit their idea of blasphemy to using God’s name in vain, which isn’t what that passage means at all. And blasphemy is a word that summarizes the disobedience of Israel in the Old Testament for which they were taken out of the land. Blasphemy was considered a willful sin. Willful sin is also known as the sin of the high hand, and for a willful sin there was no sacrifice. That didn’t mean that those people couldn’t be eternally saved, it meant that there was no offering that would cleanse them of their sin. There was a judgment in time (not eternity) that would be brought to bear upon them.

[Slide 12] Isaiah 5:24 NASB “Therefore, as a tongue of fire consumes stubble And dry grass collapses into the flame, So their root will become like rot and their blossom blow away as dust; For they have rejected the law of the LORD of hosts And despised the word of the Holy One of Israel.” The word “despised” there is one of several used for blasphemy in the Old Testament: na’atz, which means to blaspheme, revile, sometimes translated reject or despise, but this means blasphemy. They despised the Word of the Holy One of Israel. It is interesting that in the Hebrew, the word that is translated “word” is memra, a Hebrew word that speaks of the Word of God and would be the Hebrew equivalent of LOGOS in the Greek. This is a reference that is picked up by John later on in chapter one: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” So the memra in Old Testament theology is the expression of God, the spoken Word of God, the revelation of God and this is connected biblically to the Messiah.

[Slide 13] Isaiah 52:5 NASB “Now therefore, what do I have here,” declares the LORD, “seeing that My people have been taken away without cause?” {Again} the LORD declares, “Those who rule over them howl, and My name is continually blasphemed all day long.” The same indictment.

[Slide 14] Here are five different words in Hebrew that are variously translated with synonyms of blaspheming:

  1. The first word, naqav means to blaspheme or to curse, and is used in Job 3:8; Proverbs 11:26; Leviticus 24:11, 16.
  2. Leviticus 24ff also uses the next word qalal, which means to curse, to treat or esteem lightly, to make something contemptible, belittle, to deprive someone of their stature and importance. It is used of the sons of Eli in 1 Samuel 3:13 as they are abusing their role as priests in the tabernacle.
  3. The third word is gadaf, which means to blaspheme, revile, insult, and is used in 2 Kings 19:6, 22; Isaiah 37:6, 23.
  4. The fourth word is na’atz (Isaiah 5:24) and it means to treat someone with disrespect, to despise them, to blaspheme, or to provoke to anger. It means also to revile or to spurn. It is used in Numbers 14:11, 23; 16:30; Deuteronomy 31:20; 1 Samuel 2:17; Isaiah 1:4; Jeremiah 23:17; Psalm 74:10; 107:11. These are all related to circumstances in Israel where the Israelites rejected God and rebelled against Him.
  5. The fifth word is chalal, which again means to profane something, to defile it or to desecrate it. The priests are warned by God in Leviticus 18-22 not to profane God’s name. Various ways in which they would profane God’s name is that they would off their children to Moloch as offerings—Leviticus 18:21; 20:3. Falsely swearing by God’s name is mentioned in Leviticus 19:12. Violating the code of conduct for the priests in Leviticus 21:6 would be profaning the name of God, or eating the holy things (shewbread in the holy of holies while ceremonially unclean), Leviticus 22:2.

[Slide 15] In Numbers 14:11 we have the circumstance of the Israelites who have come out of Egypt and gone to Mount Sinai. They had initially observed Passover before they left, they spent a year at Mount Sinai, and the last thing they did was to observe the Passover. Then they went into the desert of Sinai and headed north to the land of Canaan that God was going to give them. They came to Kadesh-barnea, and Moses chose twelve spies to go into the land. Their purpose wasn’t to see if they could conquer the Canaanites. It was to do a recon of the land. When they came back, ten of the spies misinterpreted the Word of God, which is what commonly happens, and they said they couldn’t do this. God didn’t send them up to see if they could do it; He had already told them they could do it, that He would give the land of Canaan to them, but they came back and whined and groaned, and they said they couldn’t do it, let’s all go back to Egypt. So this was an act of rebellion against God. They wanted to stone Caleb and Joshua because they were the only two of the spies who said no, God has given us this land, we just have to trust Him and we can take it. Like many people, when somebody starts emphasizing what the Bible says, they want to react and just kill them and get them out of the way because they don’t want to hear what God has to say. That is the context for Numbers 14:11.

Then the Lord intervenes and speaks to Moses. “The LORD said to Moses, “How long will this people spurn [na’atz-blaspheme] Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs which I have performed in their midst?” They are rebelling against God, refusing to trust God, and that comes under the category of reviling God or blaspheming God. Notice the parallel—“not believe in me”. Not believing God is parallel to na’atz.

Numbers 14:12 NASB “I will smite them with pestilence and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.” This was the judgment that God was going to bring upon that generation—not in eternity but in time. Over the next forty years God would judge them because of their blasphemy. The point I am making is that blasphemy against God was a temporal sin that was punished in time, in history in the Old Testament. It is not talking about an eternal judgment type of situation.

Numbers 14:23 NASB “shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned [na’atz] Me see it.”

What we see here is that in the Old Testament, Israel’s disobedience to God—their idolatry, their spiritual rebellion and rejection of God’s signs and miracles—is identified as blasphemy and was the cause of divine judgment. In the same way we see that Israel’s rejection of Jesus as Messiah that comes to a head here in Matthew 12, was their rejection of Christ’s miracles and then attributing His power (which was from the Holy Spirit) to the power of Satan, which became the basis for another national condemnation and judgment from God. The context is not talking about individual sins or getting eternal life by trusting in God.    

[Slide 16] Matthew 12:22 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.” Christ is delivering this individual from bondage to Satan. He removes his blindness; He removes his inability to speak; and this is a clear validation of His messianic credentials. Under rabbinic thought, only the Messiah would be able to deliver a demon-possessed man like this. No one could do it in this manner. No one could bring sight to a blind man but the Messiah. This miracle goes beyond anything that Jewish exorcists would do in delivering somebody from demon possession. That is important because this is going to play into the explanations.

This man represents the spiritual state of Israel. They were spiritually blind. They were refusing to accept the truth of what the Old Testament predicted with regard to the Messiah; and they were refusing to tell people to go out among the nations and tell people about the glories of God. They were not fulfilling the mission that God had called them to in Exodus 19:6, that they were to be a kingdom of priests. They were to be a priest nation among all the other nations. And they had failed in their responsibility. Israel had been deceived and blinded by Satan, and as a result, they failed to proclaim God to the nations.  

The mute man immediately speaks; he is immediately able to see. What Jesus is doing is giving a little object lesson that this is what He as the Messiah wanted to do for Israel. He wanted to give them sight so that they would be able to finally fulfill the mission of God in proclaiming the grace of God and the excellencies of God to the nations. By the way, this is exactly what He has done for us. He has delivered us from the domain of Satan and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. We have new life. We can see spiritually and we have to proclaim the glories of God.

[Slide 17] The people respond. Matthew 12:23 NASB “All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, ‘This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?’ ” We miss some of the impact here in the English. The Greek actually expresses it in a sort of negative way. [Slide 18] The terms “amazed” and “saying” are both in the imperfect tense. What Matthew is saying is that they were just so amazed, and they continued to be amazed. The imperfect tense in Greek expresses continual action. They continue to be amazed and they continue to talk about it. They continued to ask this question: Could this be the Son of David? The way it is framed in the Greek—there are two different words expressing negatives or no in the Greek—this is the word that expects a negative answer. So basically what they are saying is this couldn’t be the Son of David, could it?

Asking that question really angered the Pharisees. They have almost reached the boiling point, and now they are going to get a lot hotter because it indicates that the people are beginning to think, what else would the Messiah do? What else could He do? Jesus is performing all of these miracles, so what more could we expect Him to do? The Pharisees don’t answer. The only thing they can do is impugn the power of Jesus [Slide 19] and say that He doesn’t cast out demons, except by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons. Beelzebub was a term of derision that they had given to Baal, one of the gods of the Phoenicians. It is also a play on words for the god of dung, the lord of the flies, and they had given this term of derision to Satan. So they are basically saying that Jesus is performing His miracles by the power of the Devil.

Matthew 12:24 NASB “But when the Pharisees heard {this,} they said, ‘This man casts out demons only by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons’.”

There is one thing that you really don’t do if you are going to avoid blasphemy, and that is to say that God is really the Devil and to accuse Jesus of doing everything by the Devil. Once you do that, then you are in trouble. What we have seen from the Old Testament is that this is an example of the same kind of thinking that characterized the Israelites in the Old Testament for which they were taken out of the land in 722 and in 586 BC.

In Jesus’ response later on, He says you can reject Him, ignore His claims to be the Messiah, but if you blaspheme against the Holy Spirit then this won’t be forgiven you. Matthew 12:31 NASB “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. [32] Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him …” So if someone had ridiculed Him or said something against Him while He was on the earth, it would be forgiven. “…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 “either in this age or the age to come” mean? Jesus is in the age of Israel. He hasn’t gone to the cross yet; He is still under the dispensation of the Mosaic Law and the transitional dispensation of the time of the Messiah. It is before the cross, so “this age” that He is talking about is this time when the kingdom was being offered. What is the age to come? It wasn’t the Church Age because it hadn’t even been announced yet. It doesn’t get announced for several more chapters. The “age to come” is the Age of the Messiah, the Age of the Kingdom that the Messiah will bring. It is in the future and what we refer to as the Millennial Kingdom. What Jesus is saying is that there is this significant sin, this sin of blasphemy like what we saw in the Old Testament that brings the death penalty. It is bringing the death penalty to the nation Israel; He is announcing judgment at this time, and the death penalty was brought by God in AD 70 when the second temple was destroyed just as God brought the death penalty to the northern kingdom in 722 BC and to the southern kingdom in 586 BC when the first temple was destroyed. So He is saying that this won’t be forgiven, and in the Millennial Kingdom we know that the few reasons that a person will die in the kingdom because, as Isaiah says, they will live to be a thousand years. If someone were to die at the age of one hundred they will be thought to have died as an infant, because everyone will be expected to live throughout the entire Millennial Kingdom. But those who commit capital crimes—murder, adultery, and blasphemy against God—will be guilty and receive punishment.

Jesus then gives two answers to their question, two illustrations to show that they are illogical and irrational. The first one appeals to logic [Slide 20]. 

Matthew 12:25 NASB “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 only people who successfully fight against each other and still survive are the church.  The principle is you can’t have this kind of division and win the ball game. [26] “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand?” So if Satan is casting out Satan by his own power he can’t win the ball game. It is illogical; it is irrational.

Then Jesus says: Matthew 12:27 NASB “If I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons [Jewish exorcists] cast {them} out? For this reason they will be your judges.” I am doing something greater. They never healed a blind man; they never cast out a demon that restored speech to someone. I am doing something greater than what they are doing, and you are saying they are doing it by their power; I am doing it by the power of Beelzebub. It is illogical and irrational to make that sort of claim, so it falls apart at multiple levels. [Slide 21] [28] “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” He is emphasizing Himself, His own role; that this is indicative of whom He is as Messiah. It is not that the kingdom has been inaugurated, but that in the presence of the King, the kingdom is being offered to them. And it is now up to them to respond and accept it.

[Slide 22] Then He gives another illustration. Matthew 12:29 NASB “Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house …” The house is Israel; the strong man is Satan. Satan had had control over Israel and had brought spiritual blindness to Israel. Jesus said, “How can someone enter”. He is the one as the King, as the Creator, who is entering the strong man’s house. He is coming into Israel; he is the one who is giving them the opportunity to become free of the spiritual oppression of Satan. “… and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong {man?} And then he will plunder his house.” Jesus is showing that He is restraining the power of Satan by casting out these demons during His first coming.

Then He says—and this is a challenge to that generation as well as to us—Matthew 12:30 NASB “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” Jesus says you are either on my side or you are on the Devil’s side; there is no intermediate ground. You can’t say, well I’m going to trust Christ and then just go hide and take care of my business. And live your life the way you want to. Jesus says here is the issue: If you trust in me and you are a believer, then you are totally for me or you are totally against me; there is no middle ground, which side are you going to be on? It is time to take care of business and line up on the right side and be involved in serving the Lord.

It doesn’t matter what your purpose in life is in terms of your secular occupation. In terms of the fact that you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, your response is to get involved with God’s plan and purpose. And God’s plan during the Church Age is to grow to spiritual maturity, which means that is going to be a priority in your life beyond anything else you can do. That means you have to be involved in studying the Word, applying the Word, growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, and pursuing spiritual maturity; but not as an end in and of itself, but as an end in order to serve the Lord both in the local church as well as outside the local church where you are involved in the lives of people ministering the Word of God in evangelism as well as through encouragement. This is what Jesus ends with. There is a challenge here. What are you going to do about it? Are you going to be completely on the Lord’s side or not? It is one or the other—you are either for Him or against Him.

[Slide 23] It is in that context that He makes this statement: Matthew 12:31 NASB “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.” In other words, this blasphemy against the Spirit is the rejection of the Messiah, the rejection of the King, the rejection of the offer of the King to Israel; and therefore it is a unique sin that took place only at that time, and is specifically in relation to the national response of Israel to Jesus’ offer of the kingdom. And He says this will not be forgiven men. The consequence of your rejection is irrevocable, and just as God announced judgment on Israel—the northern kingdom, and they were later taken out in 722 BC; and then He announced through Isaiah and others judgment against the southern kingdom, and they were taken out of the land in 586 BC—this is the final straw and judgment is coming; it is irrevocable.

[Slide 24] When we look at this, we have to recognize that the Bible talks about forgiveness in two categories. First there is eternal forgiveness related to our eternal destiny. That eternal forgiveness is offered to all. Jesus died for every sin. Right? That includes the sin of unbelief if it is every sin. That includes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; He died for every sin. Eternal forgiveness has to do with eternal life. He is not talking about eternal forgiveness in this passage. He is talking about temporal forgiveness in relation to a temporal consequence and a temporal sin.

[Slide 25] Colossians 2:13 NASB “When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him …” When we trust in Christ, at that point we are regenerated. He made us alive together with Him because when you trusted in Christ, He makes you alive because He has already forgiven you of all trespasses. When did that happen? “… having forgiven us all our transgressions, [14] having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” We had an indictment against us. When did He wipe that out? When we believed? That’s not what the verse says. He says He took it out of the way when He nailed it to the cross. It was an historical event.

There are three things that are the spiritual problem for every person.

  1. We are under condemnation for Adam’s original sin; we are born spiritually dead.
  2. We lack life. Because we were born spiritually dead we continue to be spiritually dead; we lack life.
  3. We lack righteousness. There is only one way to see God, and that is to have righteousness. Isaiah 64:6 says, “all of our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” Isaiah 53 says. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned every one to his own way.” Nobody escapes; we are all under condemnation.

What happened is that at the Cross, God put the penalty upon Jesus. “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” [Isaiah 53:6]; it was paid for at the Cross. The number one problem, the judicial problem, was paid for at the Cross. But that doesn’t automatically save anybody. There are still two problems: you still are spiritually dead, and you are unrighteous. What solves that problem? When we trust in Christ we are immediately born again, we are given new life; and God imputes or credits to us righteousness, just like He did with Abraham in Genesis 15. Abraham was justified by faith. God credited him with righteousness (Genesis 15:6). God imputed to him righteousness because of his faith: faith alone in the promise of God for deliverance.

So Matthew 12 isn’t talking about the fact that you can do something that negates your salvation. It is talking about the fact that there was an important decision for the nation Israel, and that was whether or not to accept Jesus as Messiah. When they rejected Him, they got the same punishment that they got in 722 BC and 586 BC, and because of blasphemy they were going to be taken out of the land and come under judgment. But they could still be saved, and many of those Pharisees that were there that day ended up before they died trusting in Jesus as Messiah. Men like Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, and numerous others trusted in Jesus as Messiah. That is the issue that determines eternal life.