Vol. 4, No. 10
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Mark 3:28-30, "Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit."
This last verse makes plain what Jesus calls blasphemy of the Holy Ghost. In verse 22, we read that the scribes were trying to convince the people "by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils." Attributing the power of the Holy Spirit and the miracles Jesus performed to the devil was a sin most reprehensible and would not be forgiven. Consider that God, the Almighty Creator of the universe, was displaying just a small fraction of his power in the presence of man, the lowly creature, and man in all of his arrogance had concluded that this was not a manifestation of God's power but that of the devil. Parallel passages occur in Matthew 12:31ff and in Luke 12:10ff. Luke's account seems to have occurred at a different point in time, but as Robertson points out in his Word Pictures in the New Testament:
There is no sound reason for saying that Jesus only spoke his memorable sayings once. Luke apparently finds a different environment here.
The question of import for modern Christians is of course, "Can I commit this same sin today, whereby I would never be forgiven?" In the strict sense of our text, it is the opinion of this writer that we cannot. Consider that no man living today has seen the miracles performed by Jesus or his apostles afterward to have the opportunity to both reject them and attribute their power to Satan. The Jews in the first century committed a terrible sin in both seeing these miracles and then crediting them to the devil, and Jesus says the one who does this "hath never forgiveness." Wuest's Word Studies in the New Testament comments on Mark 3:
The religious leaders of Israel were trying to break the force of the attesting power of our Lord's miracles done in the energy of the Holy Spirit, by saying that he performed them in dependence upon Satan, thus disproving his claims to Messiahship, and linking him with the devil. This is the so-called unpardonable sin. It cannot be committed today since the conditions are not here which made it possible in the first century. (Wuest. Vol. I, p. 76)
We cannot say today as John said long ago, "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the word of Life" (1 John 1:1, Emphasis mine, sps.). We are those about which the Lord spoke to Thomas saying, "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (John 20:29).
However, we can arrive at a state in which we WILL NOT be forgiven if we refuse to repent, and we reject the Word of God. This writer does not believe that this is the exact same sin as "blaspheming the Holy Ghost" committed in the first century. That was a malicious, willful denial of the power of God in the presence of a miracle. But in a similar vein, we can "Grieve the Holy spirit" (Ephesians 4:30) by rejecting the Word the Holy Spirit has given us. Today we can deny the Spirit by refusing to obey the Gospel, or by falling away after we believe. Those who do so can even reach a "point of no return" by continually rejecting the calls to return to the faith until they have become so calloused in heart that it is "impossible to renew them again unto repentance" (Hebrews 6:6). Such sin will not be forgiven, but the fault is not with God. It is one's inability to repent that makes him/her lost.
This writer believes that there is no one time act of sin that can be committed today that will cause one to lose his candidacy for salvation, i.e., the unpardonable sin. As long as the sinner possesses a willingness to repent and wants to obey God, any and all sins can be washed away. It is only after we have fallen so far that we willingly, continually and habitually live a lifestyle of sin that "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin" (Hebrews 10:26). This is described as sinning "wilfully" and will not be forgiven. The conscience has been "seared with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:2), and will no longer be affected by the Gospel.
With reference to "speaking against" the Son being forgivable, Jesus is not saying that the Spirit was superior to him but that after his testimony is given there will be one more testimony -- that of the Holy Spirit -- the Word of God. This is the last effort of God to save sinful men; there will be no others! Consider the words of the Hebrews writer in Chapter 1:1-2: "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son..." Early in man's history God spoke to us through prophets, then Jesus came and declared the Father to us, and still speaks to us today through the written Word, the "Sword of the Spirit" (Ephesians 6:17). Men could reject the prophets, and even reject the teaching of the Lord, but the final testimony of the Spirit, God's Word, is the last chance. A perfect example of this is the Pentecostian Jews who obeyed the Gospel in Acts 2. No doubt some of these were participants in the riotous chanting of "Crucify him," but now they are "pricked in their hearts," willing to repent of their sins and listen to Peter's words. Jude 3 tells us to "earnestly contend for the faith which was ONCE delivered unto the saints" (Emphasis mine, sps). He does so with good reason, for there will be no more revelations from God! The perfect tense in the original Greek makes the rendering of this verse, "once for all time."
The statement "Neither in this world nor in the world to come" in Matthew 12:32 is also misinterpreted many times. This does not have reference to a sin of this sort being committed in the future, but the eternal aspect of the sin that had just been committed. In other words, the ones guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit had just committed a sin that would not be forgiven forever. Mark's account renders this "Hath never forgiveness" (Mark 3:29, Emphasis mine, sps.). See Barnes Notes on Matthew 12:32.
It means, then, not the future dispensation known among the Jews as the world to come, but it means that the guilt will be unpardoned forever; that such is the purpose of God that he will not forgive a sin so direct, presumptuous and awful. (Barne's Notes on the New Testament, The Gospels, p. 132)
This writer's conclusion then is that one cannot commit the exact same sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit today after the manner of the Jews in the first century, for no one living today has seen with his own eyes the miracles performed by Jesus and his apostles. However, one can sin similarly by rejecting the Word spoken through the Holy Spirit to a point that he will no longer be moved by the Gospel message and thereby be lost in eternity. With this, DeHoff agrees -- "The sin for which there is no forgiveness is the sin for which there is no repentance." (DeHoff's Commentary, Vol. V, p. 142.)