Sermon on the unforgivable sin

This sermon was delivered on 4/09/16 by Chris Duke at Essendon Presbyterian Church. The article is from notes I took while listening so is not word for word, though I have tried to be accurate. I have also used an article called “Immanuel: the gospel according to Isaiah” from Creation Magazine (Creation 38(4) 2016).

Today’s message is centred around Mark 3:22-35:

22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. 23 And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. 27 No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. 28 Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: 29 but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: 30 Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.

31 There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. 32 And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. 33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? 34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.

A critical section of the Lord’s prayer is a request to Father God to forgive us of our sins. Sin is an offence to God. As God forgives us, we ask that we have the same gracious attitude to forgive others. Often, however, we resist forgiving, due mainly to pride. We tend to excuse our own behaviour though when we lack forgiveness whilst not excusing it in others.

Isn’t the gospel about God’s offer of forgiveness to sinners? God will forgive all our trespasses, so when we read in today’s passage that Jesus said one sin is unforgivable, isn’t this a contradiction? No. This passage ought to frighten the comfortable and comfort the frightened. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all proclaim that Jesus is God – 100% man and 100% very God, God in human flesh. Believing this and committing your life to Christ is the only way to escape hell and enter heaven. The evidence is very powerful and is laid down by the Holy Spirit in the New Testament and even the Old Testament.

For example, Isaiah 9:6-7 prophesied that Immanuel would be born in the house of David. He would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23), He would be the servant of Yahweh from His earliest existence (Isaiah 49:1, 5). He would be holy and set apart for service to Yahweh, who would put His words in Immanuel’s mouth (Isaiah 49:2). He would be extraordinarily wise, and would be filled with God’s Spirit (Isaiah 11:1). Immanuel would “refuse the evil and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15), which no mere person does consistently. This is an indication that Immanuel would not be a mere man; even the extraordinarily righteous men in the Bible were still sinners. Immanuel’s birth makes it clear that He would not be an ordinary person, and His name means “God with us”, meaning that His birth would signify God’s presence with His people in a special way. He is called “Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Someone with these titles could be no less than God Himself.

Though there would be signs to point to the truth of Immanuel’s identity, He would seem to be a normal person; He would not be obviously divine (Isaiah 53:2). And Israel would ultimately reject Him, as Israel had rejected Yahweh for idols in Isaiah’s day, subjecting Him to humiliation and ultimately death. He would be beaten so badly that He would be disfigured (Isaiah 52:14).

Yet all this would be in line with the will of Yahweh (Isaiah 53:10); and it’s because it is the will of Yahweh that Immanuel would not resist (Isaiah 50:6; 53:7). Immanuel would be shamed temporarily, but Yahweh Himself would vindicate Immanuel, and He would be honoured eternally (Isaiah 50:7-9, 53:12).

The purpose of the shaming and death of Immanuel would be to pay for the sins of Yahweh’s people, both among the Jews and Gentiles (Isaiah 53). Immanuel would never sin, so His death could count for the payment of the sins of many others. This sacrifice would bring in a new covenant, in which Jews and Gentiles who believe in Yahweh and His Son share equally in eternal life (Isaiah 56:3, 6-7).

One of the most well-known events recorded is Isaiah’s vision of Yahweh’s glory (in Isaiah 6:1-4):

6 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple. 2 Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

3 And one cried unto another, and said,

Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts:
the whole earth is full of his glory.
4 And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

John says that this was actually a vision of the pre-incarnate Son (John 12:37-41). While Immanuel would not manifest His true glory, He nevertheless possesses it (and the Transfiguration was one instance where Jesus’ true glory shone through).

Because Immanuel paid the price for His people’s sins, He is able to usher in a restoration of the entire earth. Reigning on David’s throne, He judges all nations. The earth itself is restored to an Edenic state where there is no more carnivory or predation, and snakes will not pose a threat to even the smallest children (Isaiah 11:6-9; 65:25). In that time, all false Gods will be humiliated and all idols will be destroyed never to be worshipped again.

When we properly understand how Christ is foreshadowed in the Old Testament, we can see that the Gospel is not new, or an idea foreign to the Old Testament. It is possible to preach the gospel from Isaiah or from other books of the Old Testament – as did Christ Himself (Luke 24:13-35), Philip (Acts 8:26-39) and especially Paul (eg. Acts 17:2-3) – if we see how they point to Jesus.

The evidence is powerful as well when demonstrated and lived out in Jesus’ three-year life and ministry. There were healings, deliverances from demons, raising of the dead, all pointing to the fact that Jesus is God. Yet the human heart and human mind is often blinded and dead to the truth. Some people made the right response but most didn’t. People today just want to ignore the historical Jesus, stating that He was merely a good man. But He was more than this, He said He was God. And by saying this He eliminated Himself from the category of the good and the reasonable. And if we eliminate this we are left with Him being either a lunatic or a liar. Yet isn’t it interesting that 2,000 years after He walked the earth, Christianity is still flourishing in the West?

Verse 33 of today’s passage reads:

And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?

Jesus is here saying that the only relationship that matters to me is a spiritual relationship. A blood relationship alone to me won’t get you into the Kingdom. Whoever does God’s will is related to me.

If your conclusion about Jesus is that He is a lunatic, you don’t have a relationship with Him. Many who reached this conclusion later repented (after His resurrection, when all the data was in).

What if you conclude that He was a liar? Verse 22 of today’s passage reads:

22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.

So the religious leaders of Israel said this. The brains trust of Judaism went after Jesus. They didn’t like His message or what He was doing. They conspired to kill Him as He went about healing on the Sabbath. He was doing miracles, teaching the good news of the Kingdom, spreading the good news of salvation: and the religious elites hated Him for it. So they sent out a delegate who concluded that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebub. They didn’t conclude that He was insane, interestingly enough, as this wouldn’t explain the supernatural. His power over demons and disease had to be accounted for: it was either due to God or Satan. Sadly, these leaders were unwilling to say Jesus’ power was due to God. Instead they called him a name for Satan, Beelzebub. This name came from the word Baal, meaning “Lord.” This was the god of the Ekronites, the Philistines worshiped him. A more proper rendering of the name might be Baalsebub or “Lord of the High Place.” Effectively what these leaders were calling Jesus was Lord of the dung, Lord of the flies, all terms for Satan.

Jesus’ response to this is given in verse 23. He says effectively, how can Satan drive out Satan? This is a logical impossibility. Good teachers such as the Lord ask questions that make students think, that put them on the horns of a dilemma. Jesus does this here. He in effect says, “Satan wouldn’t expose people with demons and cast them out. This would destroy both himself and his enterprise.”

Verse 27 brings a positive message from Jesus: you have to be stronger than Satan to get his power:

27 No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house.

There is only one who is stronger than Satan and that’s God. In effect then, Jesus was saying, I am God. So no Jesus isn’t a lunatic or a deceptive liar who represents hell. The only other option is that He is God, He is Lord.

Verse 29 reads:

29 but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation:

The unforgivable sin then is that Jesus is demonic. Those who believed this went to hell for that. If that’s your final conclusion after the full revelation of scripture and the gospel have been given to you, then you can never be forgiven. This was a very unusual circumstance in that the religious leaders were blaspheming the Holy Spirit directly by saying Jesus was demonic.

Yet we know with Jesus that whatever He did was the Father’s will and was done via the Holy Spirit:

I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.
(John 5:30)

What about today? Could someone today commit the unforgivable sin? Yes of course they could. We’ve all been forgiven for rejecting Christ at some stage in our lives, before we were born again. The comforting truth is that if you’re frightened that you’ve committed this sin then you most certainly have not. If you’re comfortable and not spiritually convicted, however, you need to receive Christ today:

May the Lord Jesus bless you always.

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