Unforgivable

Many often wonder about the passage in Matthew 12 about Jesus’ statement of the unforgivable sin.

22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 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. (ESV)

Ancient Rabbis taught that a mute spirit could not be cast out, because in order to cast out a demon, one must ask its name, and by it’s very nature, a mute spirit can’t speak. Because of this, such a miracle would only be able to be done by the Messiah. So in Matthew, 12:22-23, Jesus performs what he knew would be a clear proclamation to the Jews that he was the Messiah. The response of the people shows us that they knew it was a messianic miracle when they say “Can this be the Son of David?” That’s when the Pharisees say “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that he casts out demons.” The Pharisees should have clearly seen that it was a miracle that only the Messiah could perform, yet because of their hard hearts, they blasphemed against the Holy Spirit.

It’s important to keep in mind that even though Jesus is God, when he came to earth and performed miracles he only did them through the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:14 et al). That is, Jesus intentionally did not use his own power, but relied on the third member of the Trinity as an example for us to Follow. Since the Holy Spirit was the one performing the miracles (through Jesus, and later Peter and others), to deny that kind of evidence of Divine power meant that one must already be too hard-hearted and blind. In this sense, the person can’t be forgiven because the hard state of his heart means he will never repent. If one can deny the power of God when faced with it directly, there is nothing else that will change his mind. Inasmuch as the Holy Spirit works His miracles today, whether through believers or directly, people’s hearts can still be so hard as to deny Him. Therefore, it is “truly unforgivable” (because they won’t repent) and can still be committed today.

There is at least an indirect correlation in this passage to the third commandment. In Hebrew, “don’t take the name of the Lord in vain…” is at least a three-fold point:

  1. Don’t use His name as a curse word or to express disgust.
  2. Don’t waste the breath He gave you: Rabbis have surmised that in order to pronounce the divine name (Yahweh) properly, it required a breath in followed by a breath out. This is probably because when God created mankind, He “breathed into him and he became a living being.” That is, God gave him his very breath. Therefore, this second point is, “don’t take the very breath that God gave you in vain.” Don’t waste your life, don’t take your own life.
  3. Don’t carry the name of the Lord (Follower of Yahweh/Christian), and then do something to bring that name shame or ill-repute. “You shall not bear (carry) the name of the Lord in vain.”

The third one is the one that relates best to the passage about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. What’s interesting is that the Pharisees were accusing Jesus of the exact opposite of this commandment. They were accusing Jesus of doing something GOOD in the name of Beelzebul. This points out the difference between “blasphemy” (claiming to be God), of which Jesus was accused, and “blasphemy against” (claiming God’s power to be of Satan) of which the Pharisees were guilty.

Hopefully this explanation brings clarity and peace to your hearts!

About Jesse Walker

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