|RPM, Volume 12, Number 8, February 21 to February 27 2010|
Chair of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology and
senior pastor at First Presbyterian Church Coral Springs, Margate, Florida.
In Matthew 12:31, the Pharisees are faced with positive proof that Jesus is who he says he is. They know that what Jesus is doing is of the Spirit of God. But rather than believe, they ascribe the work of the Spirit to the devil. Jesus comments on this, "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." Is Jesus' point simply that this is a special sin for which there is no forgiveness? The answer is No. There is no sin so great that the precious blood of the Son of God -- of infinite value before God -- is not sufficient to pay for it. The issue is that forgiveness comes only to those who believe on the Lord Jesus. And someone who knows who Jesus is -- who realizes that his work is by the Holy Spirit -- and yet so refuses to believe that he actually ascribes the Spirit's work to the devil, cannot possibly be saved. Why? Because that person is not just ignorant, but they willfully, knowingly, reject Jesus as Messiah, as proved by the Holy Spirit. So, this passage describes not someone who in a fit of anger or temptation commits blasphemy, but someone who refuses to believe on Jesus as the Messiah, even when he recognizes the Holy Spirit at work.
Now, let me comment on what you say about yourself. You would be astonished to learn how many believers are tempted by the devil to believe that they cannot be forgiven because of this verse. Numerous people, acting either under psychological stress, anger, unbelief, doubt, confusion, etc., have uttered or thought blasphemous things regarding the Spirit. The devil is not able to take away our salvation, so he wants to disarm us by causing us anguishing doubts regarding our salvation. I myself have experienced this, early in my Christian life, and under such pressure have verbalized blasphemous things regarding the Holy Spirit. Nonetheless, I believe on Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I have since grown considerably in my Christian life -- and that has involved a lot of repentance -- and the Lord uses me in ministry. I do not think that what you are experiencing is the unforgivable sin.
Based on what you have written, I would make the following observations:
1. The very fact that you are concerned about this indicates that you are not in a situation wherein you cannot repent or be saved. Only a believer would ever have these anguishing concerns or be so concerned about his or her salvation.
2. Salvation is by faith alone. The way to know that you are saved is to ask yourself, "Do I believe on Jesus as my Lord and Savior?" According to the Bible, that can only happen by the work of the Holy Spirit. I don't know if you believe or not, but you most certainly can know. So, do you believe on Jesus or not? If you do, then you are a far cry from the men about whom Jesus was speaking in Matthew 12, men who even confronted with proof of the Spirit refused to believe.
3. What you need is to believe in the promises of the Bible about salvation through faith. Jesus said, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life" (John 3:36). Of course, you now have a great need for sanctification. If you continue on in a wicked life, with no repentance and no good works, without any change, then I will agree that your profession of faith is questionable. So, stop letting the devil side-track you with issues like the unforgivable sin, and believe on Jesus. Trust his Word. Start actually repenting and that will answer your concerns about whether or not you are able to repent. If you are hung up on a certain sin, then start praying to God for his power in your life. Walk with him and he will change you. But, no longer allow the devil to hang you up on this matter. Say to him what Martin Luther said when the devil came to him in a vision accusing him of being beyond salvation because of his sins. Luther shot back with 1 John 1:7 -- "The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin." Note the "all". So trust in the blood of Jesus and you can know that each and every sin of yours is cleansed.
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