In a recent Sunday school lesson, when looking at the Ten Commandments and the great sin of Israel at Mount Sinai, I discussed the Mosaic Law and living under grace. The subject of the law and grace has been one that I have spoken on a lot in my years as a preacher. I did a Bible Study on this subject last season that you should check out if you missed it – What Does the Law Mean to the Genuine Believer?
I am often asked questions about certain sins, and I understand the questions and the fear of committing sins against the Lord. So, what I want to do in this study is focus on sin yet again. For example: I often get asked questions about sins mentioned in the book of Leviticus that frighten many people – I want to tell you that you should not be frightened. So, instead of just telling you that, I feel we can study it so that you can understand why you should not be completely terrified.
Ultimately my study is going to be a study of scripture we find in Matthew’s gospel — Matthew 12:31-32. In these two scriptures, we see Jesus talking about sin and we see Jesus speak of the unpardonable sin. So, let’s take a deep dive into all of this so that we can have a greater understanding of sin and the victory and forgiveness we have over it.
Quick note for before you start this study: Studies are written out to be longer than my sermons and the Sunday School lesson commentaries. I skip a week with posting bible studies because not everybody can complete a study in one sitting. Take your time and do not rush through my studies! Take it one day at a time if you need to do so. I will recommend a stopping point below for taking a break. Enjoy this lesson and share it with others!
Forgiveness of ALL Sins
I wanted to first dive into some of those Old Testament scriptures that mention sins and scare us, but I think I will save that for later in this study. First, I want to start off with what Christ said about sin so that you can be given some immediate comfort.
In this chapter of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus spent time teaching about doing work on the sabbath. Now, according to the law and commandments, the Israelites were to keep the Sabbath holy (Ex. 20:8). They were commanded not to labor or work (Ex. 20:10). Yet, in Jesus’ day, the Pharisees were upset at the disciples for going through the grainfield and plucking heads of grain to eat (Matt. 12:1-8). The Pharisees saw such an act as an act of labor and work.
Lesson on Sabbath
So, on Sabbath, Jesus entered into their synagogue and saw a man with a withered hand. The Pharisees seeing this man knew exactly what Jesus would do, and so they sought to test Him (Matt. 12:9-10). You will see that they asked Jesus, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” When they ask, “Is it lawful”, understand that they are suggesting to Jesus that He is about to sin just like His disciples did.
In the next two verses, Jesus speaks hypothetically about someone losing something on Sabbath and searching for what was lost – that could be considered work, right? Jesus then brought clarity to the commandment when He said, “it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” He went on to heal the man with the withered hand on Sabbath which further drew the ire of the Pharisees (Matt. 12:11-14).
I share this example because it shows our lack of understanding. Again, the Sabbath was a day in which the Israelites were to give to God in honor and service. Doing good things on Sabbath was certainly a way to honor the Lord. How could that possibly be a sin? Yet, the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, and even prior, had made doing anything physical on Sabbath a sin.
So, I also share this example because there are sins that man has created in his own mind – we do not get to decide what is or what is not a sin. This is how people end up getting burdened down by others in religious practice. Christian faith is not a religious practice but a practice of genuine faith in the Lord. Only the Lord determines what is and what is not a sin.
What is sin?
Quite a few years ago, I did another bible study on this exact thought – What is Sin? Go and take a dive into that study if you have not done so before. (It’s a few years older but still very relevant to this study.) Ultimately, sin is any act that stands in opposition of the Lord. God is righteous, and anything or anybody that opposes the righteousness of the Lord, is being sinful.
In this same chapter of Matthew’s gospel, the Pharisees accused Jesus of working on behalf of Beelzebub (Matt. 12:22-24). To them, Jesus responded (Matt. 12:26), “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?” Again, Jesus was doing good works, but they were accusing Him of being a sinner. (How does that work?)
Jesus was literally doing the work of the Lord, but those religious leaders were standing in opposition of His work! So, I ask you, what does that sound like? Doesn’t that sound like that would be a sin? Jesus then said to those leaders (Matt. 12:30), “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.”
So, now I want you to pay very close attention to what Jesus said after all of these things. He has accused those religious leaders of standing against the work of the Lord, but then He says, “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men (Matt. 12:31).” Please, in your bible or your bible apps, highlight this scripture and make note that Jesus says “EVERY SIN” in that scripture. I cannot tell you how often those two words get overlooked or simply not talked about.
Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven; let’s just seriously think about this for a moment. What is the worst sin that you can think of? For many people, adultery and fornication are very bad sins and others would say that murder is a terrible sin. Some people suggest that such sins will not be forgiven, but let’s take a look into this in a few examples.
Now, before we get into these examples, I want you to understand that I am not trying to excuse these acts. We live under grace which includes forgiveness, but we should always strive to move away from our sins instead of continuing to live in them.
Cheating on a spouse or mate
In the gospels, we find two examples where cheating was brought up to Jesus. Let’s stay in Matthew’s gospel for a moment here. Later on in Matthew’s gospel – Matt. 22:23-33 – the Sadducees came to Jesus to talk to Him about resurrection. The Sadducees did not actually believe in resurrection (Matt. 22:23). Yet, they had a question about marriage and resurrection that they posed to Jesus believing it to be complex.
The hypothetical question they ask Jesus deals with a widowed wife marrying again after the death of her first husband. They say to Jesus, when she gets to heaven, after marrying again so many times, who would be her husband. So, let’s note: with this question they are suggesting that she’s sinning by cheating on her first husband and marrying again (read Matt. 22:27). (I honestly have no personal feelings on marrying again but let’s stick with this for the lesson.)
I want to also note, they even seem to mock the idea of forgiveness, the resurrection, and also the idea of the heavenly kingdom. If they really believed this woman was a sinner, then they should not have suggested she would go to heaven, right? Anyway, Jesus swatted away this silly hypothetical that the Sadducees had brought to Him by saying they did not know Scripture nor the power of God (Matt. 22:29).
For those curious, Jesus goes into great detail about how marriage is handled in the heavenly kingdom (Matt. 22:30). The important thing to this is that Jesus reminded them that God is Lord of the living and not the dead (Matt. 22:32). Frankly, Jesus had no time for the Sadducees silly little games. Neither is the Lord concerned about the petty issues that many of us bring up to burden others. God is concerned about the souls of all people.
The woman caught in adultery
In the same sphere of cheating, in John’s gospel – John 8:3-11 – the Pharisees brought a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. Essentially, they were saying that the cheating woman (they did not bring the man she was cheating with forward because of course) should be punished for her sin. The punishment was a stoning to death by the way. (This is also one of those sins mentioned in Leviticus – Lev. 20:10.)
So here is a sinner that should be punished right away, according to those religious leaders, that they’ve brought to Jesus. As in the example I used above, I want to show you Jesus’ response to the Pharisees. We are told that Jesus did not even bother standing up to face those leaders. Jesus stooped down to the ground and wrote in the ground as if He did not even hear them (John 8:6).
After they continued making their case to Jesus, He immediately swatted them away with a saying we all are familiar with: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” After no man had stoned the woman, Jesus spoke and asked her if nobody had condemned her to which she said did not. Then Jesus said something to the woman that I believe all people need to read and see. Jesus simply said to her about her adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more (John 8:7-11).”
Not the time to condemn
You see, Jesus did not come to the world to condemn anybody of any sin (John 3:17). Again, the idea is that while we yet live, forgiveness of our sins is possible if we choose to have faith in the only begotten Son of God. Scripture says that whoever believes in the only begotten Son of the Lord would not perish to sin but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
As I often express, through the death and resurrection of Christ, our sins have been put on Him. Jesus became the propitiation of our sin so that we can have forgiveness of our sins in the world. While on the cross, let us remember the criminal who asked for forgiveness of his sins and crimes and that forgiveness from Christ was granted! We have no idea of the atrocities that said criminal had even committed, but while dying, Jesus had forgiven Him and said he would be in the heavenly kingdom because of the man’s faith in Christ (Luke 22:39-32)!
This is a very extraordinary thought that runs against the beliefs of most people that walk the earth. It is hard for many of us to understand evil criminals could also earn such forgiveness from the Lord – it makes little to no sense! Again, the truth of the matter goes back to what we read in Matt. 12:31 – “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men.”
Sins of the Old Testament
So, when we dive into the Old Testament and we start reading the law and the Ten Commandments, we start seeing sin after sin and the punishment of those sins. For example, we have already read one of those sins from Lev. 20:10 – the punishment of adultery. Many of us read the Old Testament and try to treat the same as the New Testament which I certainly understand.
I believe that we should certainly read the Old Testament and study it, but I want you to understand that the Old Testament is essentially a history lesson. The Old Testament is there for us to learn from to not repeat certain actions. We are not under the same law of the children of Israel and that is something we must understand. Jesus said that He is the new covenant going forward for mankind. His broken body, but most importantly, His shed blood is that new covenant and in that covenant is the remission of all sins (Matt. 26:26-27).
In a past bible study I did about Christian Myths, I referenced the sin of scaring (tattooing) one’s body. Let’s just reference that whole bundle of scripture from that chapter of Leviticus – Lev. 19:26-29 (you can read more of those laws if you wish, but I will keep it short). Covered in those verses are laws for not cutting hair around the sides of the head, or even disfiguring the edges of the beard – that would be sins if you did not follow those laws.
They were told not to eat anything with blood – I actually discussed why this is no longer a sin in my most recent bible study – The Role of a Christian. Also included in that same scripture is a law about practicing divination and soothsaying (acting like you can see the future). Some of these we could understand why they might be a sin but the other things seem otherworldly as to why they would be a sin. Look: do not get hung up on these things! Remember: Christ died so that all sins would be forgiven!
Stopping point: you have made it through the first part of this study. Take a break if needed and return back to this point to continue. This is the bookmark point of this study. If you do not feel like pausing, let’s dive deeper into this study!
The Sin not Forgiven
Yet, turning back to Matthew’s gospel, and looking at what Jesus said to the Pharisees. We will see that Jesus speaks of the one sin that will not be pardoned. Jesus said, “but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men (Matt. 12:31).”
Jesus calls attention to exactly what the Pharisees were doing when they called His work a work of Beelzebub (Matt. 12:24). Jesus was busy doing the works of the Lord by healing on the Sabbath and casting out demons, but the Pharisees continued to bemoan and argue against His works. Let us remember that the work Jesus did, He was doing in the name of the Father. So, the Pharisees, though they did not realize it, were blaspheming the work of the Lord.
Working against the Spirit
Let’s be very clear about this sin that Jesus is speaking about here. Jesus says (Matt. 12:32), “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him.” So, if you happen to say something against Jesus Himself, then that would be forgiven. For example: saying something as simple as you didn’t care for how Jesus talked, that would be forgiven.
However, and this part is extremely important, Jesus then said, “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” To speak against the Spirit is to work against the works of the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees had begun to preach against the works that Jesus was doing. Not only were they speaking against His works but many of them believed in their heart what they were preaching!
Gamaliel’s words of advice
Accepting such belief in the heart is the true blasphemy that we must be aware of. We see examples of working against the Spirit throughout the New Testament. A couple examples I want to focus on comes from the books of Acts. In the early chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we see the Apostles begin to do the work of sharing the good news.
The work in which the apostles were doing was not a work that was acceptable to the Jewish religious leaders. In Acts 5:12-42, you will see this work drew the ire of the high priest and the Sadducees who had them arrested (Acts 5:17-18). After being freed from jail by an angel (Acts 5:19), the apostles were put on trial before the Sanhedrin council (Acts 5:25-27). (The council was made up of the high priest and other religious elders.)
On trial, the apostles were accused of filling Jerusalem with the doctrine of Christ. Those religious elders could not care less about the doctrine of Christ – they wanted to put it to an end. Again, I want you to understand that they would have been working against the work of God – blaspheming the Spirit.
Gamaliel, the teacher of Paul who happened to sit on the council, noticed how those religious leaders could have been working against the Lord. To them, he said, “take heed what you intend to do regarding these men […]; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it of God, you cannot overthrow it — lest you even be found to fight against God.” To fight against the Lord, is the sin.
Lesson further shown through Paul
Speaking of Paul, let’s take a look at him for a moment, because I want you to have a good understanding of what it means to blaspheme the Spirit. Paul, we know, was a man that persecuted the church; he went as far as to pursue new believers from city to city. We could say that Paul was a blasphemer. Paul actually admits to having been a “former blasphemer” in his days of persecuting the Lord (1 Tim. 1:13-15). (Please read that scripture.)
Paul, however, points out the difference of speaking against the Son of Man (Christ) and speaking against the Spirit. In the scripture I reference, Paul says he obtained mercy (from the Lord) because what he did in persecuting the church, he did ignorantly. You see, Paul thought he was doing right by doing according to the Mosaic Law those who took God’s name in vain. Paul had no knowledge of Christ and because of this ignorance of Christ, he persecuted the church; he even had Stephen stoned to death (Acts 7:58 – 8:1).
Paul preached against Christ ignorantly, yet, the Lord forgave Paul of this blasphemy. What changed? Well, Paul went down the road to Damascus pursuing believers, when Christ revealed Himself to Paul. The Lord asked him, “why are you persecuting Me (Acts 22:6-7)?” Paul was then sent away from Jerusalem by Christ, and later explained that he went to Arabia for three years, and was taught the Word from Christ personally (Gal. 1:11-18).
Paul was no longer ignorant to Christ because Christ was revealed – he immediately stopped his blasphemy. Those who Christ has been revealed to, and choose to still deny Him or work against Him, are denying God and working against the Lord. This is what speaking against the Spirit actually is – this is the true blasphemy. This blasphemy is the one sin that the Lord will not forgive. The sin that Satan commits in the world today is his speaking against (working against) the Lord.
So, let us understand this: those who speak against Christ, can be forgiven of this sin if they acknowledge their sin and turn to the Lord — this is repentance. Paul persecuted new believers because of his ignorance to Christ and was forgiven! Guess what – every person has to repent of their sin in order for the Lord to forgive them. All of us have committed sins ignorantly at some point in our life and had to repent! This repentance is, again, acknowledging we have done wrong and committing ourselves faithfully to the Lord.
There is not much of an excuse built in for ignorance of God in our world today. Children are forgiven for their ignorance of Christ, we know, because Christ said He would hold accountable the one who causes them to sin (Matt. 18:6). Yet, children eventually begin to grow and understand, and in our world, the name of Christ has been spread. So, those who blaspheme the Spirit fully know what they have chosen to do and will one day, such will be held accountable by the Lord.