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Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Unforgivable Sin?


The Unforgivable Sin?

Matthew 12



Jesus spent his life ministering to the people of Israel - preaching and healing and loving the Jewish people.  In order to spread the gospel and heal the many that needed his touch, Jesus and his disciples spent a lot of time walking many miles from one Israeli town to another.  One afternoon as they were traveling along and getting hungry they happened to walk through a field of grain and the disciples began to pluck heads of the grain and eat it as they walked along.


It was the law of the land in Israel that a hungry person should be allowed to pluck enough of his neighbors’ grain to eat and satisfy his hunger.  God had given his people this divine law regarding sharing..  God spoke to the people through the prophets and commanded them to be there for one another when they were in need. (Deuteronomy 23:25) .  


 A group of hostile Pharisees were following Jesus and his disciples and watching everything they were doing.  They were looking for any nit picking thing they could use against Jesus.  When these religious leaders saw the hungry disciples in the fields plucking grain and eating they were furious, not because the disciples were picking and eating someone else’s grain but because they were doing it on the Sabbath!  How dare they!  The religious leaders began criticizing the disciples for breaking the Sabbath.  A person was not supposed to “work” on the Sabbath day and the angry Pharisees accused the disciples of working.  The Pharisees insisted that plucking grain was work and to work on the Sabbath was sin.   

Jesus answered the angry Pharisees by quoting Scripture.  He reminded the Pharisees of a time when King David was fainting from hunger and he went into the temple of God and ate the showbread off of the altar.  Jesus told the religious leaders that even though God had given them a law restricting the showbread from being eaten by the priests. (Lev.24:9)  Extreme human need overrules a strict interpretation of the law.  Jesus told the Pharisees: “God desires mercy and not sacrifice.”  (Matthew 12:7)  It seemed that if we are loving and merciful in our dealings with others that that is more important to God that if we do everything perfectly.    . 

Jesus gave the Pharisees another illustration.  He said that the law of the Sabbath rest where no one can work is not absolute.  He reminded them that the priests needed to work on the Sabbath to keep the temple open for people to come and worship.  And it wasn’t illegal for the priests to work.  (Numbers 28:9, 10)  And Jesus ended the conversation by telling the upset priests that He was the Lord of the Sabbath.  “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”  (Matthew 12:8)  Jesus was implying that He is God in this statement and that really made the religious leaders want to have him killed!  

Jesus and his disciples left the grain fields and went to the synagogue, or their place of worship, since it was the Sabbath.  A man who had a withered hand was worshipping in the synagogue when they arrived.  The Pharisees and priests followed Jesus into worship and they asked Jesus if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath.  They wanted to catch Him breaking more of their rules so they could have him arrested.

So Jesus answered their question.  “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”  First Jesus turned and asked the Pharisees: “Who among you who has a sheep that falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not reach in and pull the sheep out of the pit?  Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath?”  (Matthew 12:11-12)   Jesus has said that God made the Sabbath to be a day of rest for the people, to be a blessing and not a burden.  The Sabbath was made for people and people were not made to legalistically keep the Sabbath.

 Then Jesus turned to the man with the withered hand and said: “Stretch out your hand.”  (Matt.12:13)  And then to the joy and amazement of everyone in the worship service, Jesus healed the man’s withered hand!  Scripture says: “Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Jesus, how they might destroy Him.”  (Matthew 12:14)

 Following God for the Pharisees had become a great burden.  To be pious and pure the Pharisees and religious leaders had to force the people to keep hundreds of laws.  Jesus’ law of love and mercy and his message of repentance and forgiveness were threatening to the religious establishment.  Their Scriptures and their prophets told them that God would send a Messiah and a Savior but they refused to consider that Jesus might be that promised Messiah - even when Jesus raised people from the dead.  The religious leaders were afraid that they might lose their power over the people. 

Jesus and the disciples left the area since the religious leaders were out to get Him.  And Scripture says that when they left: “Great multitudes of people followed Him, and He healed them all.”  (Matthew 12:15b)  It seems that Jesus was ever gracious and never left sick people behind if they wanted His healing.

 Someone in the crowd brought a demon possessed man to Jesus.  This poor man was so enslaved by the demon that he could not speak or see.  It seemed that the demon possession had caused two side effects – blindness and dumbness. Jesus looked at this pitiful man so twisted and tormented by this evil demon and He reached out His hand and healed him.  The man raised his hands in exuberance and began to talk excitedly!   And he could see too!  The demon was gone and this man was healed!  The crowds went wild!  “Could this be the Son of David?” they asked.  (Matthew 12:23b)

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had healed this demon possessed man, instead of being glad that this desperate man was finally healed and rejoicing with his family, they accused Jesus of being in league with the devil and using the devil’s power to cast out demons and heal people.  They said: “Jesus does not cast out demons except by the power of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”  (Matthew 12:24)  The religious leaders said that Jesus was going about healing and doing good by the power of the devil! 


Jesus responded to these supposed men of God and this is what He said: “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself.  How will his kingdom stand?” (Matthew 12:26) 

And then Jesus spoke about the unpardonable sin!  This is what He said:  “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people but the blasphemy against the Spirit.  That will not be forgiven.  Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, (Jesus) it will be forgiven him, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.”  (Matthew 12:31-32) 

Here Jesus is saying: “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people.”  The general principle is that all our sins are forgiven by Christ because of His death at Calvary.  Even the very worst slander against God will be forgiven. (vs31) if we are sorry.  But one sin Jesus is declaring unpardonable: “Whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit.” (vs32)  Scripture has always proclaimed that Jesus’ death on the cross is adequate to forgive all sins.  So what is this sin that will not be forgiven?  Isn’t there a contradiction here?

Jesus says that the unforgivable sin is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  We do not believe that Jesus was saying that blasphemy against God or against Jesus would be forgiven but that there is a peculiar sacredness about the Holy Spirit so that we can not speak against Him and be forgiven!  That’s not it!  Let’s stop and discuss what the Holy Spirit does.  What is His work?  Then this unforgivable sin will make more sense.

Scripture says that “The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.”  He will guide us into all truth.”  (John 16:8,`13)  The work of the Holy Spirit is to convict people of sin and to guide them to Christ for forgiveness and salvation.  The Holy Spirit is God’s agency for conversion.  Without the Holy Spirit, no one would come to Jesus on their own and be saved. We may think that we believed in Jesus because of our common sense and our smart mind, but faith in Jesus is a spiritual thing and the Holy Spirit was the “wind” that pushed us along to Christ. 

I believe that the unforgivable sin was not the sin of the Pharisees’ accusing Jesus of casting out the demon by Satan’s power.  The Pharisees did not recognize that Jesus was the Messiah and thought He was healing people by the devil’s power because these Pharisees absolutely refused to listen to the Holy Spirit, whose job is to draw each person to the Truth and to salvation. The Pharisees’ sin was their abject refusal to even consider that Jesus could possibly be their promised Messiah.  They hated Jesus so much that they rejected the Holy Spirit’s strivings in their hearts to bring them to Jesus.  Jesus’ miracles were right in front of their eyes and they shut their eyes and refused to see. 

It would seem that when the Holy Spirit tried to speak to these religious leaders they must have been so unwilling to listen that they completely shut the Spirit out, blasphemed the Spirit and refused to hear his message.  The particular function of the Holy Spirit to bring the Pharisees to God was quenched by their stubbornness and their hatred of Jesus.

 If a person shuts out every overture of the Spirit again and again, if a person is continually determined year after year not to be drawn to the Truth, and if a person refuses to listen to the Spirit’s pleadings time after time; then finally the rejected and blasphemed Spirit sadly removes His spiritual presence from that person whose ears are deaf and whose heart is permanently hardened to His calls.  The Bible says: “My Spirit shall not always strive with humans.”  (Genesis 6:3)  It is a scary thing when the Holy Spirit finally stops striving with a person!

Since according to Scripture the Holy Spirit is the force that leads a person to the Truth – which is Jesus, then continually rejecting (or blaspheming) the Holy Spirit until He finally stops pleading can be the sin that is unforgivable.  (John 3:36)  In other words, a persons’ sin will not be forgiven by Christ if that person does not allow it to be forgiven.  If a person says “no” to the Holy Spirit and “no” to Jesus then they have chosen to live life their own way and not God’s way where they would have been forgiven.  And since the Holy Spirit is the One who brings a person to Jesus, if a person says “no” over and over again to the Holy Spirit then that person has shut out the only way to Jesus – the One who would have given them salvation!.  

Jesus has given the warning that He can only forgive the person who wants to be forgiven.  He won’t force a person to come to Him.  Our part in our salvation is being open and willing to try to follow Jesus.  We don’t need to worry that we have committed the unforgivable sin if we want to follow Jesus,- if we fail sometimes but still try.  We cannot see into people’s hearts but I am guessing that the people who may commit the unforgivable sin are the ones who have never cared and don’t care now and don’t want to care.  The Holy Spirit has no where to go with them since they have slammed the door in His face when He came to call (or they blasphemed Him) and the door stays shut year after year.  

The Holy Spirit sends out the call: “Whosoever will may come.”  (Rev.22) Love is free and there is always a playful freedom about it!  True love is very precious –joyful and valuable.  Just ask lovers how wonderful it is to be in love.  And our relationship with the Lord is like that too.  A person who loves another has to want to love that person.  You cannot force another person to love you! You cannot legislate love.  It must come freely from the heart or it is useless.  God has created it that way!  If we do not want to love God, He will give us what we want.  Even though it may break His heart, He will not force us to love Him.  That’s not who He is.  If we hold back our love, if we reject and refuse His unbelievable Love, then that I believe that that is the unforgivable sin!     







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