Monday, August 3, 2015

Jesus on Forgiveness (What is an Unforgivable Sin?)

Jesus (just a pic) taught his disciple 
Anyone who isn’t with me [Jesus] opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me. So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven – except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come” (Matthew 12:30-32, NLT).

Discussions about forgiveness often get detoured by the question, “Is there a sin God can’t forgive?” Once this question has been raised, there is an almost inevitable corollary, “How to know I haven’t committed that sin?” Today’s passage certainly seems to declare that there is indeed an unforgivable sin. And blaspheming the Holy Spirit sounds suspiciously like a sin someone might commit simply by thinking about it.

So what does it mean to blaspheme or speak against the Holy Spirit? At the basic, personal level, those who worry about this probably haven’t done it! Someone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit isn’t interested in forgiveness.

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit involves invalidating or rejecting God’s most compelling move toward us. Once the Holy Spirit has appealed to us, God can go no further. If we are hardened against the approach, we have placed ourselves beyond reach of forgiveness, even if it’s offered. When Jesus described the Holy Spirit’s role in salvation, he said, “When [the Holy Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s forgiveness, and of the coming judgment. The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me” (John 16:8-9). Unbelief in Christ is the sin we all commit and that the Holy Spirit works to convict us about. If we irrevocably turn from that conviction, we’re permanently lost. Therefore, we “will never be forgiven.”

Knowing what blaspheming the Holy Spirit is doesn’t give us the right to declare when anyone (even ourselves!) has done it. Only God ultimately knows about those who have blasphemed his Holy Spirit. Rather than worrying about offending the Spirit, we ought to invest more time in obeying the Spirit! Think about this: The Holy Spirit is God’s indwelling presence in us, starting from the moment of faith (Ephesians 1:13-14). Just as Jesus is Immanuel – “God with us” – the Holy Spirit is – “God in us.” He is not our conscience, dispensing common sense. He is the eternal wisdom – wholly God. Amen.


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