“I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” (Mt 12:31)
On the face of it, this saying of our Lord seems to contradict what has been said in the previous numbers of this series. Is the Lord saying there will be some people who never receive forgiveness? Surely this cannot be. We have seen that our Lord’s character is such that there is no end to His mercy and forgiveness.
However, we are up against bad translation yet again. “this world” and “the world to come” should be translated “this age” and “the coming age”. To speak ill of the works of the Holy Spirit will cause a withholding of forgiveness, whether the person lives in this age or the coming age of God’s Kingdom.
What therefore is this heinous sin? Jesus said, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Matt.12:28) To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to abuse, or insult, the words and works of the Spirit of God. When Jesus uttered these words, He had just been accused of casting out demons by Beelzebub. That was a direct example of such blasphemy.
“It is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance.” (Heb.6:4-6)
“Falling away” is not “back-sliding”. The Greek word speaks of apostasy, a deliberate U-turn. “If we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment.” (Heb.10:26-27)
Jesus gave us a typical example of this in His parable of the unforgiving servant. The man owed a prodigious amount of money (representing the most terrifying catalogue of sins), and he was forgiven by pleading for mercy. But instead of being thankful, he abused the privilege by withholding forgiveness from own servant. This occasioned the wrath of God, and he was required to pay for all his sins, even to the “uttermost farthing.”
But that’s where the process ends. Once this punishment has run its course, then the floodgates of God’s mercy will open to him again, as he shows contrition, sorrow, and repentance. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there until you have paid the uttermost farthing.” (Matt.5:26)
Notice therefore the force of these words – “get out”, and “until”. They speak of a time when the wrath of God is appeased, and He can turn to such a man once again with the offer of forgiveness. There is no sin that will forever remain unforgiven, but some will first have to pay a big price for insulting the Holy Spirit of God.
David committed adultery and murder, both of which attracted the death sentence. His debt was enormous. But he cried for mercy, and was forgiven. But if he had returned to his former ways, imagine the extent of God’s wrath that would have been poured out upon him. Thankfully his subsequent life showed the fruits of humility.
End of present series.