In our apologetic group there has been much banter over controversial subjects. One question that came up, is the subject about the Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit or what some call “the unpardonable sin.”
Over the last few days I have heard some different viewpoints on this, most of them are different from any thing I have ever heard, and some are familiar. When we examine all of these different viewpoints it may seem that we are very knowledgeable, but have you ever considered that the more we know about a subject the more difficult it is to be objective? Instead of opening our mind to what is actually truth it hinders us from exploring something new. It’s called studying the Bible with preconceived ideas (or if you want to be intellectual, Pre suppositions).The practice of biblical meditation frees us from human opinions and encourages us to find out the mind of God on a matter. Meditation causes us ask: Who said it? When did he say it? What did he say? Who did he say it to? What bearing does what he said have upon the present and the future? Did he say something relative to it in another place? How did these people who he was talking to understand it? Does it have some application, warning, encouragement, or instruction for me today? These are just a few questions we need to ask to understand a difficult subject. Considering all the varying opinions, this one definitely is controversial and difficult. What makes it that way is human understanding which is far from perfect.
I don’t have any etched in granite opinions myself on this subject because I don’t plan on making myself that vulnerable to evil. From my understanding, this is not a sin that happens by accident. It involves a personal choice. As I have been thinking about how to understand it, something interesting from the scripture has come to mind.
One of the goals of apologetics is to present truth based on clear understanding which comes from careful examination. I have not always been involved in this discussion because as I mentioned before, it is not my intention to commit this sin. Well, what is this sin that I don’t intend to commit? Let me share with you briefly how I understand it, and how I will explain it to anyone who asks me why. We all know what we believe on many subjects but the real issue is “Why do we believe it? Because someone else told me, or I read it in a book, is not a good reason. It is important first to understand the scripture that I am quoting and give a clear explanation of what it means and why I believe that. That is true apologetics. I always say there are three important couplets that we should remember. In regard to temptation “Don’t Go There.” In regards to truth, “Check it out.” In all other important decisions “Listen to your Wife.” (That last one is a bonus one to you married men who know by experience what is true.).
I am using the account found in Matthew 12, as my main point. In verses 22-37 we see the context. (Other places Mark 3: 20- 30, and in Luke 12:10.) From these verses consider:
1. Who is Jesus talking to? He was talking to Jews who were skeptics about how H e came to cast demons out of this man. He was addressing men who were ignorant as to the source of His power. They had pre-conceived ideas.
2. What was their Charge? In their ignorance they charged Jesus with casting out demons by the power of Satan. They did not know about the power of God. Here is where I must disagree with many who claim that the unpardonable sin is attributing the works of God to Satan. It seems so contextually correct. If that is so, then they have already committed it. Second what do we do with all those Baptists who accuse the Pentecostals of the same thing? (Illustration only to prove point).
3. What was the Purpose of the statement on blasphemy against the Spirit?
It was a warning against hastily uttering statements base on insufficient information. Jesus knew that they were speaking out of ignorance. They had not yet committed this sin but were heading in the right direction.
4. What did Jesus say about Forgiveness? All manner of sin would be forgiven to those who spoke against Him in their ignorance. Remember His last words on the cross. “Father Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Do you think that this prayer included these Jews as well?
5. How did this sin against the Holy Spirit differ from the sin against him? I believe that we are now entering into the crux of the matter. Jesus said that when He was Gone He would send another comforter to replace Him. The one who would come and do “the greater work” than he has done. After His ascension we might view it as a new period and final one, up until His return. We might call it the church age when men still have opportunity and desire to turn from sin.
After all this background, allow me to give you what I believe is the sin against the Holy Spirit (the unpardonable one.) I don’t think that any of you will disagree with me on this. You may disagree with how I got there. That’s ok because methods are not necessarily inspired, ( especially mine).
What is Jesus warning against? I believe that this sin is a gradual thing. It begins with ignorance. That is why it is so important that we be proclaimers of truth, in order to dispel ignorance. People do not believe because no-one has told them or given understanding that they need to hear (and sadly there are too many Christians who are ill equipped to do so.)
The next stage is receiving light. Once they have received light there exists an opportunity to consider and receive that light. Rejection of that light is not the sin. Sometimes people need time to consider the costs of following Christ or other issues that need to be dealt with. Making the choice to reject Christ is the first sin against light. Even at this time repentance is possible so there is still hope. The next stage is that of defiance. It is a purposeful sin against light, even understanding the consequences of such. I believe that’s where Paul the apostle was when Christ found him: Another Dangerous state, but not completely hopeless.
The fourth stage is Hostility which expresses itself in crying out against God even in blasphemous words. It is the hardening of the spiritual arteries where man is incapable of guilt and unable to repent. An example of this is when one commits acts of crime so often that guilt for such evil is no longer present. Is this state of unforgiveness scriptural? Consider just two verses that describe this.
When Stephen was preaching he addressed the defiance stage of which Paul the apostle was a part. In Acts 7:51, Stephen addressed them with these words, “Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.” Were these people already there? We know from the next chapter that one of them wasn’t. Finally the example of this sin taking place is found in Revelation 9:20, 21 These verses describe the sin that was present and the hardness that kept them from ever receiving forgiveness. At the close of the fifth and sixth trumpet we have a picture of men in this final stage of sin. There was no loner any desire for repentance, no guilt over their sin, and finally no longer opportunity for salvation. It is described in verse 20 and 21. “And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues, yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of Gold, and silver and brass, and stone, and of wood which neither can see nor hear nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries nor of their fornication nor of their thefts”
Jesus statement to these critics was a warning concerning the danger of continuing this way. Now how can we summarize all of this? First it is a sin that was possible to commit but it was not one sin but a series that happened over a period of time. Second Jesus was not talking to those who received Him, counted the cost, and became His followers. Third the question remains to be debated whether a Christian can commit this sin? In all the years of my ministry I have never met any one that has, and knowing what it means to be a Christian I cannot understand why a true believer would let this happen. (Remember I am saying, that it is my experience not that it cannot happen.) While there are scriptures to indicate that this is possible like in Hebrews, It is my understanding that these are hypothetical, that if it were possible for such to happen renewing to salvation would be impossible because the fourth stage would make it so.
None of us are in the position to be judge and jury over anyone’s spiritual state, whether it is backsliding, false profession, or hardening of the spiritual arteries. We have the responsibility to understand, speak forth the word, encourage, and pray for God to have mercy. I have studied this issue carefully enough to form my personal conviction and I am able to give an answer to those who wish to know not only what I believe but why I believe it. The fear and trembling comes from the realization that my understanding is yet imperfect and I fear that I may lead someone astray by not being prayerful and careful enough. After all we are still earthen vessels containing Gods great treasure. Henry