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Wednesday
May292019

A Warning against Blasphemy

Mark 3:28-30.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on Memorial Day Weekend, Sunday, May 26.

Today we are going to talk about the Unpardonable Sin.  Many people who become Christians live under a fear of an inner accusation, which tells them that they can’t really be saved because they did something so bad that God won’t forgive it, no matter how repentant they are.

Our passage is short and follows on the heels of the response of Jesus to the Scribe’s accusation that he is in league with the Demon Lord, Beelzebub.

The general statement about forgiveness

After showing that it is illogical to think that Satan would cast out his own demonic minions, Jesus gives what can only be seen as a warning.  Is he saying that the Scribes had already gone too far and could no longer be saved, or is it simply a warning that they are flirting with a serious offense?  That would seem to be the question.  Before we get into the unpardonable sin, though, we should spend some time talking about the powerful statement Jesus first gives in verse 28.

It is an amazing statement about our sins and blasphemies, and the possibility of their forgiveness.  Let’s first notice that it opens with the word “Amen.”  This is usually translated as truly or assuredly (KJV = verily).  This is a Hebrew word that means something is firm and dependable, along with everything else this implies.  We are most used to its use at the end of a statement, or as an affirmation of the hearers to a statement that is truth.  So, to preface a statement with this word is to in a sense amen your own statement.  It functions as a form of emphasizing the importance of what one is going to say.

So, what about our sins and blasphemies?  Jesus states that God is ready and able to forgive them.  That is an important statement.  Sin is the many ways that we miss the mark or goal that God has for us in this life.  It is not just an inability to hit the target, but also our partiality to missing it on purpose. Interestingly, the word that is used in the Greek is a modified form of the word for sin and adds the sense of including even the results of our sins.  Thus, it points to our sinful actions (whether in thought, word, or deed) and the sinful results they produce in us and others. 

Blasphemy on the other hand is a particular kind of sin, or a subset of it.  It means to slander someone or speak in a way that intends to bring harm and injury to them.  It is not about hurting someone’s feelings, but about our intention to hurt their reputation, their place in society, and even their physical well-being.  This can be done against another person, but also against God Himself.  Though we don’t use this word in our society, we probably should, since much of our politics and social discourse consists of lots of slander, whether intentional or not.  At best our politicians throw mud against their opponent hoping it will stick to them in your mind and heart.  Beware of being drawn into the blasphemies of others for their selfish motivations and your own. 

Now, as horrible as sin and blasphemies can be, the statement is that they can be forgiven.  Each one, no matter how bad.  Yes, we are going to get an exception.  However, we should not jump past this statement.  God is ready and able to forgive us our sins, pause and meditate.

The second emphasis is that God alone is the remover of sins.  When we say that they will be forgiven, it is not a statement of universalism, which means every sin regardless of our heart condition will eventually be forgiven, i.e. no one will be judged eternally.  Rather, this is a statement of possibility and God’s disposition towards us as sinners.  He is willing to forgive us.  The word “forgive” is far more specific in the Greek.  It literally means to remove our sins, including their guilt, and cause them to be separated from us.  It does not mean to overlook something.  God will remove them so that no one, not even Satan himself can bring them up to be used against us before His judgment seat.  So, how does this work when we are told to forgive one another?  We cannot remove another person’s sin and guilt from them, only God can do this.  When we forgive another person, we choose to let go of the offense and not bring it up against them ever again.  If they are truly forgiven is between them and God.  I, however, need to forgive for at least two reasons.  One, I testify to the other person of the greater forgiveness of God that they should seek.  Two, I shut down the sins of hatred and bitterness in my own heart.

The phrase “shall be forgiven” in verse 28 is in the future tense and has a quality that means, “at whatever time it is needed or necessary.”  Though Jesus does not bring up the mechanism of getting God to forgive us, the Scriptures teach that those who humble themselves, repent of their sins, and believe in Jesus will receive forgiveness from God.  1 John 1:9 states, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  Confession is agreeing with God concerning just what sin is (i.e. not changing the definition to suit us).  Repentance is the idea of turning away from our ideas and emotions about our “sins” and turning towards God and His Word of Truth. 

This is a powerful reminder of the grace of God that works tirelessly to give us what we desperately need and yet also give us what we undoubtedly do not deserve.  We stand completely guilty before Him of not just accidental and incidental sin, but also of willful and purposeful ones.  Yet, He does not want us to perish in our guilt.  He makes forgiveness possible through the death of Jesus, who takes our sins upon him and carries them away from us.  Praise God for His indescribable gift!  We must simply humble ourselves, ask his forgiveness, and put our faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ.

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit

Now, we turn to verse 29 and the qualification to the general statement that all our sins can be forgiven.  Blaspheming, or slandering, the Holy Spirit is put forth as a sin that will not be forgiven.  So, what does this actually mean? 

Many treat it as a simple one-time act that can remove us from any hope of salvation.  They can picture a person who is begging God to forgive them, but He will not because they did a sin that is unpardonable.  Is this actually what Jesus means?  And, do we ever see God telling a truly repentant person in Scripture that they cannot have forgiveness in the Scriptures?  The answer to that last question is an emphatic, “No!”  Yes, there are some verses that may seem on the surface to say such, but the truth is that on deeper inspection it is not.  This is often approached in one of two ways.  People either use it as a point of fear and warning, with no hope for those who may do it, or they try to water down the idea to the point that you don’t really need to worry about it because it is basically impossible.  I believe that either way is foolish.  Jesus would not have said this if it was impossible to blaspheme the Holy Spirit in such a way that you could not be forgiven.  It is a real warning of something that we can actually do, if we let ourselves do so.  Sin is damaging, even to the point of eternal damage.  Thus, it should not be taken lightly.  The passages that warn of judgment are as important as the passages that point us to grace.  So, whatever we do, we must understand that this is a true warning from Christ of a sin that can affect our eternal salvation.

Yet, does this mean it is something that we can unwittingly do in an unguarded moment of time?  To analyze this, we must think about the way the Holy Spirit is involved in forgiveness as revealed by Scripture.

The Bible tells us that it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict or convince people of their sin, their coming judgment, and the righteousness of Christ.  This can be found in many places, but John 16:8 says it best.  Even as Jesus was doing what he was doing, the Holy Spirit was moving on the hearts of those watching him.  The Spirit was working to convince them of their sin, coming judgment, and need for God’s righteousness.  Thus, it is the Holy Spirit that helps us to humble ourselves, repent, and believe.  If it wasn’t for the grace of God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, none of us would do so.  The Holy Spirit operates upon every heart and mind upon the earth, drawing them to Christ.  Jesus does the work of making forgiveness available to us, but it is the convincing work of the Spirit that encourages us to believe in Jesus and receive the benefits of what He has done.

This is a critical point because, if we need the Holy Spirit’s work in our heart and mind in order to be forgiven, then any resistance and slandering of that work pushes away the only thing that can bring us to it.  Essentially to resist the Holy Spirit is to build a wall between us and salvation.  To slander the Holy Spirit is an even greater wall between us and forgiveness of sins.  The point of verse 29 is not about an instant in time.  We have plenty of examples in Scripture of people who resisted the Holy Spirit, and even blasphemed His work, and yet who later repented and received forgiveness (Paul the apostle comes to mind).  In fact, all humans who ever get saved do so after a period of resisting the work of the Holy Spirit and what He was trying to do in our hearts and minds. 

Many people who have been hurt in this life will tell themselves that they want nothing to do with organized religion.  In so doing they protect themselves from the charlatans that abuse the words and authority of Christ.  Yet, in so doing, they also wall themselves off from a huge witness that the Holy Spirit could use to reach their hearts.  If we continue to block and resist the Holy Spirit in our heart regarding Jesus, then we have no hope.  There is no other answer; there is no other way.  Jesus is God’s solution to our problem of sin and the Holy Spirit is God’s worker to convince us of this, period.

The phrase in verse 29 that is often translated “never has forgiveness,” literally says, “is not having forgiveness into the age, but is presently guilty of eternal judgment.”  The emphasis is on a current condition that will not be overturned in the age to come.  The emphasis is not on whether or not we can get out of that current condition as long as we are alive.  We are presently in the age of grace in which God is allowing whosoever will to believe and receive forgiveness of sins.  We are approaching the age of judgment and the restitution of all things.  Let no one think that the sins they refuse to deal with in this age will be overlooked in that age.  Now is the day of salvation.  Today, if you hear His Voice, do not harden your hearts, as they did in the rebellion.  Rather, repent and believe in the Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord.  Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is serious because you are fighting against the one person who can convince you of salvation.  I do not believe Jesus is saying that one instance of blasphemy can damn a person forever.  However, each time we do so we are damaging our ability to respond to the Holy Spirit.  We can so damage our ability to respond to the Holy Spirit that we are unrecoverable.  How can a person know if they have gone too far?  If you are worried that you may have gone too far, then it is a sign that you haven’t.  Only the Holy Spirit can convict us of sin and by definition those who have gone too far are beyond His work, or no longer sensitive to His stirrings. 

If you feel fearful and despondent today, don’t stay in that place.  The Holy Spirit is calling you to Christ, but the Devil wants to scare you away.  Repent of past disbelief and rationalizations of why you don’t need to pick up your cross and follow Jesus.  Then believe on Jesus and follow Him.  You can know today that your blasphemies can be forgiven, if you will yield to the conviction of the Holy Spirit right now.

Blasphemy audio