3rd Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 3:20-35 Sermon
June 25, 2006
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
152 "Glorious Things Of Thee Are Spoken"
374 "God Calling Yet, Shall I Not Hear?"
375 "My Faith Looks Up To Thee"
461 "Pass Me Not, O Gentle Saviour"
THE UNFORGIVEABLE SIN
TEXT (vs. 28-29): “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
Some years ago, a gentleman wrote to Dr. Billy Graham with the following question:
“I know I'm going to hell when I die because I've blasphemed the Holy Spirit. My aunt says God will forgive me but I don't believe it. But I promised her I'd write you to see what you'd say. I don't want to go to hell but I know I will.” Signed, G.M.
Dr. Graham responded to that question: “Dear G. M.: Do you honestly think God wants you to spend eternity apart from Him in the place the Bible calls hell? No, He doesn't. Instead, He wants you to be with Him in heaven because He loves you. The Bible says, ‘He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9)
“Those words were written by the Apostle Peter—and if anyone was guilty of denying Christ, it was Peter. Do you remember? Jesus had warned Peter that he would deny Him, but Peter strongly disagreed. Then Jesus was arrested, and when someone asked Peter if he also was a follower of Jesus, ‘He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, 'I don't know this man' (Mark 14, 71). But Peter repented, and God forgave him—completely and totally. And He will forgive you.” Thus writes Dr. Billy Graham.
This is not a new question; and in my years in the ministry, I have heard it more than once. Usually it isn’t asked quite so dramatically, but people still want to know about the sin against the Holy Spirit.
What is it? How is it committed? Do I need to worry about whether or not I’ve committed it? How do I know if I have committed it? Do I need to be afraid of being eternally condemned to hell if I’ve committed this sin unintentionally? And the list goes on.
I tend to answer with some words of assurance. I would say not to worry, because you haven’t committed the unforgivable sin. If you have demonstrated concern about committing it, then you haven’t. Dr. Graham’s usage of the example of Peter’s denial of Jesus is good. Peter, who made the rock-solid confession of faith by saying “You are the Christ, the son of the living God” was also guilty of denying his Lord when queried by a simple servant girl. But even with Peter’s lapse of faith at that moment, he wasn’t doomed to hell for eternity. Even Peter found forgiveness for the sin of denying his Lord.
Some people have tried to pass this whole subject off as not being very important, because the Bible doesn’t use a lot of space talking about it. Some people don’t think that Jesus is making a statement that we should take very seriously, if at all.
So what does the Bible say about it? Let’s take a brief look at the passages where it is mentioned directly, or referred to:
In Matthew 12, 31-32 Jesus says: “And so I tell you, every human sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And anyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but no one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven either in this world or the next.”
I won’t repeat the section I read earlier from our Gospel reading from Mark 3.
Then Jesus says in Luke 12, 10: “Everyone who says a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but no one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven.”
Now just from those three references, I’d say that God is pretty serious about this sin, and these are only the direct quotes from Jesus himself. There are other references in the Bible where God has directed the writers to address this topic, and I’ll get to those in a little bit. But first, I’d like to get into the nature of the sin.
The sin against the Holy Spirit is, quite simply put, unbelief. And I’ll clarify that even more by saying it is dying in a state of unbelief.
A good example might be the legend of what has been reported to be the last words of the 18th century French philosopher, Voltaire. Throughout his life, he refused to adhere to or sign any confession of faith regarding Christianity. He mocked the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, and even tricked a priest into granting him absolution. He also was attributed with making the statement: "The story of Zeus transforming himself into a swan so that he might couple with Leda, they call myth, but the tale about a holy ghost impregnating a virgin, they believe..."
When he was on his deathbed, he summoned a doctor. Legend has it that this was the final scene: “When the Doctor came, he found Voltaire in the greatest agony, exclaiming with the utmost horror – ‘I am abandoned by God and man.’ He then said, ‘Doctor, I will give you half of what I am worth, if you will give me six months' life.’ The doctor answered, ‘Sir, you cannot live six weeks.’ Voltaire replied, ‘Then I shall go to hell, and you will go with me!’ and soon after expired.”
I can’t attest to the historical accuracy of that statement, but it gives you a good idea of the last testimony of someone who proudly sinned against the Holy Spirit right up to his dying breath. Voltaire died an eternal skeptic.
So what else does the Bible say about this sin against the Holy Spirit? Hebrews 6, 4-6 says: “As for those people who were once brought into the light, and tasted the gift from Heaven, and received a share of the Holy Spirit, and tasted the goodness of God’s message and the powers of the world to come and yet in spite of this have fallen away--it is impossible for them to be brought into the freshness of repentance a second time, since they are crucifying the Son of God again for themselves, and making a public execution of him.”
The apostle John in I John 5, 16 writes: “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that is not a deadly sin, he has only to pray, and God will give life to this brother--provided that it is not a deadly sin. There is a sin that leads to death and I am not saying that you must pray about that.”
In our Gospel lesson for today, Jesus is dealing with some skeptics. The Jewish officials were looking for ways to get rid of Jesus, and to try to trap him any way they could. They had witnessed Jesus casting out demons, but they still accused him of being possessed by the devil. Jesus points out how ridiculous that whole argument is! He asks the obvious question, “How can Satan cast out Satan?” Common logic dictates that such a situation was simply ludicrous. It would be like using water to bring a flood under control, or cutting open a wound to control the bleeding.
The Jewish officials made it very plain that they had no use for Jesus; so they rejected him and everything about him. The Scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees, and the rest of them are the classic examples of people who sinned against the Holy Spirit. These are people who would reject Jesus with their dying breath.
In today’s society, we are plagued with so-called Christians with what I would like to call “romantic notions.” They believe that a good Buddhist, or Muslim, or Jew, or any sincere practitioner of a non-Christian religion is going to enter heaven just the same as a Christian. God couldn’t send anybody to hell just because they weren’t a Christian, could he? Wouldn’t that tarnish the image of a loving God?
Well, the Jewish officials were sincere in what they were doing. So was Voltaire. But these people openly sinned against the Holy Spirit. They committed the unforgivable sin.
We have to cast aside all the romantic notions people have about God, and believe what the Bible says. We have the words of Jesus in Mark 16, 16 which say, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” And in I Corinthians 12, 3 we read, “Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed,’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”
The sin against the Holy Spirit is the complete rejection of Christ. Since the Holy Spirit is the one responsible for creating faith in a person’s heart, the rejection of him results in the total elimination of a person’s faith. And when that is gone, then so is any hope of heaven.
Of course God doesn’t want to send anyone to hell. A good summary of God’s will for humanity is in I Timothy 2, 4 where we are told that, “[God] wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
And the thing is, that God has made it so simple. Believing in Jesus as one’s personal Saviour is all that is necessary to be saved. The Bible tells us, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.” It is so simple and uncomplicated, but people seem to want to complicate it and search for other alternatives. Sadly, that will always wind up grieving the Holy Spirit and will ultimately be rewarded with eternal perdition.
How does a person lose their faith anyway? I believe that there are several ways this happens. One way, is by looking at how people treat the Bible. Is it accepted as the pure inspired and inerrant Word of God, or just a collection of Godly stories and lore? How can this affect a person’s faith? What kind of tricks does the devil use to try to erode our faith to the point of futility?
I remember a few years ago the task I had of removing a set of poured concrete steps leading up to a porch—and it wasn’t a modern type of pre-cast concrete either. It was much too heavy to budge or move as it was. So my dad and I took sledge hammers and begin to break it up so we could move it. It took awhile too. But with each piece we broke off, the steps became smaller and smaller; and at the end, we were able to haul off the whole thing without too much trouble.
Satan will attack our faith in the Bible by chiseling away at it a little bit at a time. He’ll chip off things like a 6 day creation, the great flood, the virgin birth, Christ’s physical resurrection from the dead, and so on. He’ll shatter it piece by piece, so at the end, he can carry it away with ease. A fragmented faith can lead to no faith at all.
Or he’ll use the sins of others to try to dissuade others. When people who claim to be Christians start slandering, and back biting, and speaking evil, and stirring up trouble, then people often will want no part of whatever faith they profess, and simply walk away from the church.
For people who cause others to sin, especially to sin against the Holy Spirit, we read these words of warning in Luke 17, 1-3: Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the depths of the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves.”
As Christians, it is our duty and privilege to show our faith to others, and to lead others to faith in Christ. When we do this, we are acting as vehicles for the Holy Spirit, who speaks words of love, hope, and forgiveness through the Bible. We also are witnesses as we demonstrate that faith which lives within us in such a way so that others will want to emulate us.
But as we live our lives, we will also sin. We will have doubts at times. And sometimes we’ll act like the worst heathens around. It happens. So what do we do?
I John 1, 8-10 says, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
We find forgiveness at the throne of grace through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Whatever our sin, and however it happens, we know that we have a sure promise. This is a promise that is something we live and demonstrate to others.
The sin against the Holy Spirit is something we never need to fear as long as Jesus is our Saviour. Whatever our sin, we know we are forgiven. Even though Satan will try to get us to doubt our faith or our salvation, we have the promise of Jesus when he tells us not to worry.
Our salvation does not depend on some internal feelings we might have, or by some sort of outward sign. We can be sure of our salvation simply by the promises God gives us in the Bible, as it says in Romans 10, 9: “…if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”