The text in question is this: “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” From an initial reading, it seems that Jesus actually talks about an unforgivable sin; however, we need to understand the context before we draw such a conclusion. To get a proper sense of these words, we need to back up to at least verse 22, where Jesus performs a miracle, healing a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute. Many were able to witness this with great amazement and they began to question if the one before their eyes was the great king to come. Now obviously, this is the time when the Pharisees had to step in, for they couldn’t bear to have anyone believing that Jesus was the Messiah. Therefore, the Pharisees spread the lie that Jesus was able to cast out the demon because he was of the Devil, the ruler of the demons. When Jesus heard this nonsense, He makes a logical point addressing the contradiction it would be for evil to cast out evil. Jesus continues, and in verses 28-29 He says “But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? And then he will spoil his house.” This is the first time that the Holy Spirit appears in the discussion, so we need to make a note of that. Jesus identified where His ability to cast out demons logically comes from; it comes from the Holy Spirit. Jesus then proceeds to teach them that God is willing and able to forgive all sins and all blasphemies (verse 31). So essential, in the same verse where many believe an unforgivable sin is spoken of Jesus tells us that all sins and all blasphemies God is able to forgive. There is no such thing as an unforgivable sin. Jesus makes that point very clear. God is willing to forgive all things of all men; but just because he is willing does not mean that we are willing to have Him wash away our sins. Many reject the very simple steps that God has instructed us to take in order for Him to do what He desires to do for us; wash away our sins. He even sent His son to die for that very purpose. What many mistake as “the unforgivable sin” in this text is not what Jesus ever said. His words are quite different. He said “but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.” His point here is that men can live their lives in such a way as to not receive forgiveness. The way in which these individuals choose to live is in blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. What does that mean? It means they have rejected the Holy Spirit. How does one reject the Holy Spirit? Scripturally speaking, there is actually only one way to reject the Holy Spirit, and that is to reject the words of the gospel of Christ. It is the words of the New Testament which the Spirit gave to us. To reject these words in our lives, or to be a false teacher who speaks a different word than what the Spirit provided us, or to be a believer of a different word, is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Jesus is making the point that as long as one stays in that position of rejection, they cannot receive forgiveness of sins. He never makes the point that in the coming days, if they realize what they need to do in order to be saved, that God will refuse to forgive them. That is a ludicrous doctrine! The Apostle Paul is a great example of this point. Paul, himself, gave testimony that he was a blasphemer of the way which the Holy Spirit taught (1 Timothy 1:12-16), but he lives on to become one whom God displayed as a pattern to all other blasphemers that He is longsuffering in his desire to forgive them as well (vs. 16).
Going back to the text of Matthew 12, verse 32 is just as important to the subject, because Jesus provides a fuller understanding of what he is speaking about in the context. Again, He says: “and whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” He tells the Jews something very personal here when he says that whoever rejects Him, it will be forgiven, because he is referring to his crucifixion. Even though they will have a hand in the death of Christ, as long as they accept the words of the gospel which the Spirit will bring, they will be forgiven even of this great sin. Acts chapter 2 is the fulfillment of such words. Notice the people that Peter is preaching to when he says: “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” (v. 23), and later Peter says: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (vs. 36). Following this, Peter tells these who blasphemed the Lord that they would be forgiven of their sins if they heeded the words which they heard that day. And what words did they hear? Back in verse 33, Peter said this: “Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.” What they heard was the words from the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Peter, these words told them to repent and be baptized (vs. 38). 3,000 of these blasphemers of Christ were forgiven because they chose to not blaspheme the Holy Spirit (vs. 41). They rest of the Jews who were there that day not only rejected Christ, but the Spirit that was poured out on the Apostles, and as long as the Spirit is rejected, they will not follow His words toward repentance and baptism; they will not be forgiven. This is the actual point that Jesus is making back in Matthew 12:31-32. These who did not obey the Spirit on that day, may have also been the blasphemers along with others in Acts chapter 7 who stoned Stephen. Of these individuals Stephen said: “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers.” So again, as long as this description that Stephen gave fits them, their sins will go unforgiven. Jesus said that this is applicable to both “worlds,” i.e. ages (Matthew 12:32); meaning this truth stretched from the age of the Jews under the Law of Moses through the age of the gospel of Jesus Christ; and therefore, these words of Jesus apply today. Will we heed the Spirit’s words unto salvation?
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