“The vilest offender who truly believes, that moment from Jesus a pardon receives.”
Good old Fanny Crosby – she knew what she was talking about when she wrote the above words back in 1872, in her famous hymn, “To God be the Glory.” And yet, so many Christians through the years have been determined to prove her wrong, saying that what they had done was too vile to be forgiven and receive a pardon.
Their reasoning has often come from Matthew 12, where the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Satan. And after assailing their foolish logic, Jesus launches into these memorable words:
“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.”
Matthew 12:31, 32 (ESV)
With that, here is the first of three reasons (and there are more) that Christians who are concerned about having committed some sort of unpardonable sin…need not worry:
1. Regarding Matthew 12, consider that Jesus would have never said that the Holy Spirit is somehow more important than He or the Father. Each Person of the Trinity is fully God. So what does the Lord mean, then, when He says that you can speak against Son and be forgiven but not against the Spirit?
A famous Lutheran theologian, C.F.W. Walther, is helpful. He writes:
“Now it is certain that the Holy Spirit is not a more glorious and exalted person than the Father and the Son, but He is coequal with them. Accordingly, the meaning of this passage cannot be that the unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the person of the Holy Spirit; for blasphemy against the Father and the Son is exactly the same sin. The blasphemy to which our text refers is directed against the office, or operation, of the Holy Spirit; whoever spurns the office of the Holy Spirit, his sin cannot be forgiven. The office of the Holy Spirit is to call men to Christ and keep them with Him.”
The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, Dr. C.F.W. Walther
Surely this is right. For Jesus said…
“Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment. Concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me…”
John 16:7-9 (ESV)
It is only through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit that we come to believe, so to speak against the Holy Spirit is to speak against His convicting work so as to resist His call to believe in Jesus. This explains the passage very well, because the Pharisees certainly did not believe in Jesus – they were accusing Him of doing miraculous works by the power of Satan. Therefore, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is at root the sin of unbelief. It is resisting the Holy Spirit and refusing to believe in Jesus. And this fits in well with the next reason…
concluding tomorrow, Sunday, January 18
Let me offer the same encouragement as in part 1: if you would like to read more, please consider reading the excellent treatment of the subject by Martyn Lloyd Jones in this article, called “That One Sin”.