Title: The unpardonable sin part 2
Scriptures to Read: Mark 3:23-30; Matthew 12:25-32
Now Jesus defends himself against this charge by making four specific points.
1. This accusation cannot be true because it would mean a division in Satan’s kingdom (vv25-26).
2. They themselves were teaching that the gift of exorcism was a gift of God. Therefore, to accuse him of this would be inconsistent with their own theology (v27).
3. This miracle actually authenticates Jesus’ message, and authenticates His claims to be the Messiah (v28).
4. It shows that He is stronger than Satan and not subservient to Satan (v29).
Jesus goes on to pronounce a judgement against Israel (Matt. 12:30-45). In the middle of His Pronouncement He is interrupted by the scribes and the Pharisees, who ask Him for a sign. He responds briefly to them and then continues His judgement. This passage raises many questions and is not often well understood, but it is the key to understanding the rest of the gospel story, the story of the book of Acts, and indeed the letters of the apostles.
Gathering and scattering
Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore, I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:30-32).
The first question arises from verse 30: “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” The first part is fairly plain. They cannot be both for Him and against Him at the same time. If they are not for Him they are against Him. The implication of His statement is that those who are with Him will gather with Him, but those who are against Him will scatter. Now what is the gathering, and what is the scattering? Turn in your Bibles to Deuteronomy 28:63–64. In chapter 28 of Deuteronomy, Moses first sets before Israel the blessings they will receive if they diligently obey the Lord their God. Then he sets out the curses they will have if they disobey the Lord their God. In the midst of the consequences of disobedience he says this:
“It shall come about that as the Lord delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the Lord will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it. Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known.”
Here, right in the very covenant He gave them, God warns them that one of the consequences of their disobedience will be a scattering. They would be scattered among all nations over all the earth. And in all their history this had not yet happened. In the Babylonian captivity they were taken captive into one nation. But in AD 70, about 40 years after Jesus spoke these words, the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem and the temple. At that time:
I. Those who accepted His Messiahship and heeded His warnings were gathered together in safety outside of the war zone and not one of them perished.
II. But those who rejected His Messiahship were either killed or scattered all over the world by the Romans!
These words of the covenant would be familiar to His audience. And so we can see that Jesus is making reference to this statement from the covenant. As a consequence of what the Jewish leaders have just said, the scattering of the Jews all over the world is about to take place. In other words, He is pronouncing a judgement against them. They have rejected Him on the basis of demon possession, and now they will be scattered as a consequence.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
Now, the second question arises from verses 31 and 32 of Matthew’s account, and it is this: why does He talk about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, or speaking against the Holy Spirit here? As we have already noticed in earlier sections, Jesus was led by the Spirit and filled with the Spirit, which means that He was controlled by the Holy Spirit. And in verse 28 He says that He cast out demons by the Spirit of God, which means He cast them out in the power of the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Spirit was the agent who brought it about. Therefore, when they declared that He casts out demons only by Beelzebul, the ruler of demons, they were attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil. And thus they were speaking against and blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.
Individual men and women can be forgiven
In verse 31a Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people…” Here the word people is the word that means a man or woman, an individual of the human race, a person. So, before He points out that their decision, as a nation, is unforgivable, He is careful to point out that individuals can be forgiven. Also, regarding individuals, one thing the Bible makes clear is that any sin is forgivable to an individual who will come to God through the blood of the Messiah, and the nature of the sin is irrelevant. On the cross he did not die for some types of sin and not for others. He died for every type of sin, which renders every type of sin forgivable to any individual that will come to God through the blood of the Messiah.
The unforgivable sin: Unique to this generation of Israel
In verse 31b Jesus says “but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” In the process of investigation of His messianic claims there were two stages, First, the observation stage, and then the interrogation stage. The purpose of the investigation was to determine if His claims were true; whether or not He is the Messiah. And during the course of this interrogation stage they would be questioning Him and challenging Him, and even speaking against Him. This was acceptable and would be forgiven them. But now they have reached their conclusion. The investigation is complete. Their decision has been made: He is not the Messiah, and the power enabling Him to perform His miracles is that of the prince of demons (see Mark 12:30 for corroboration). So He makes the contrast. While they were speaking against Him, whatever they said would be forgiven them. But now they have reached their decision. As a result, they will be judged on the basis of that decision, and the consequent destruction of the city and the temple and the scattering of the Jews is now inevitable. Thus their decision is unforgivable.
Jesus is dealing with a specific national sin. He is not dealing with a sin committed by an individual, but a sin committed by the nation. Furthermore, it was committed by a particular generation of Jews, and in the next section we see that the emphasis of His judgement is on this generation- the generation of Jesus day. It was to this generation that He came, offering himself as the Messiah, offering to set up the Messianic kingdom. And it was this generation that rejected him. So from now on in the gospels we are going to see two words coming up frequently: this generation.