4th Sunday after Pentecost June 20, 2021
2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1
18, 369, 444, 293
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, who have been redeemed, restored, and forgiven by Jesus’ precious blood, dear brothers and sister of Christ.
It is remarkable how far people are willing to go with words to cover up something they don’t like. Politicians are especially fond of making overstatements about their opponent to make them look bad. Some of you may remember how back in 2011 some in congress wanted to make changes to Medicare. Opponents stated how devastating this would be to the elderly. Some went so far as to make a commercial depicting a congressman pushing grandma in a wheelchair over a cliff! They were overstating things to make their point.
Remember Peter in the court yard of the high priest? He was afraid that if people found out he was with Jesus who had just been arrested, that he would be arrested too. So when a servant girl approached him about it, Peter said, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” Later, Peter would deny it with oaths and invoking curses on himself saying, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” (Mk 14:66-72) Peter overstated things in hopes of protecting himself.
In the portion of God’s Word before us today, we find three groups of people. One group consists of those who are close to Jesus, yet think He is “out of His mind,” because He is so focused on serving others that He doesn’t have time to eat. That’s a bit of an overstatement! Another group consists of scribes, those religious scholars that have come from Jerusalem to debunk the miracles Jesus has just done. They make their own dangerous overstatements about the miracles of Jesus. And finally there are those nameless number who, like you, are gathered around Jesus to hear the Word of God and follow it. Let us join this last group, sit around Jesus to hear His Word of warning and comfort about sin.
Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
This is God’s Word. Even so, let us pray with the hymnwriter:
Holy Spirit, God of love, Who our night dost brighten,
Shed on us from heaven above, Now our faith enlighten.
In Thy light we gather here; Show us that Christ’s promise clear Is Amen forever.
Jesus, our ascended Lord, Oh, fulfil Thy gracious Word: Bless us with Thy favor! Amen.
As our text begins, Jesus has just cast out a demon who made a man blind and mute. And Matthew reports, “All the people were amazed, and said, ‘Can this be the Son of David?’” The people saw the powerful works that Jesus had done and were beginning to wonder whether this was the promised Messiah. He certainly demonstrated divine power as He cast you evil demons from a man with His own power and authority.
However, the scribes, the religious scholars of the Jews, could not let such a thought go any further. “He is possessed by Beelzebul!” And, “By the prince of demons He casts out the demons!” “Beelzebul” or “Beelzebub” is a demonic name likely adapted from one of the Philistine gods. The scribes were making an overstatement of the most dangerous type. The scribes did not deny the miracles they had just seen. Instead, they stated that Satan was the one behind Jesus’ miracles.
It is at that point that Jesus sounds a most dire warning, “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” “An eternal sin?” “Never has forgiveness?” This is no overstatement by Jesus, but a warning of the most serious kind.
So what is this “blasphemy against this Holy Spirit?” This “sin that never has forgiveness?” Have I committed it? Am I guilty of an “eternal sin?” Many Christians have wondered and worried about it. So we do well to take a closer look.
The context of Jesus’ warning is very important. Remember what is going on in our text. By the power of His word, Jesus had just cast a demon out of a man and had been known to do many other mighty miracles. Jesus’ divine power was visibly at work. Jesus’ showed that He is stronger than Satan because He commanded Satan’s demons and they obeyed. The Holy Spirit was testifying through these miracles that Jesus was sent from God.
Though confronted with this undeniable power, the scribes claimed, “HE is possessed by Beelzebul…by the prince of demons He cast out demons.” While the Holy Spirit was clearly testifying about Jesus through His works, the scribes tried to convince others that this was not the Holy Spirit but an unclean spirit at work.
Jesus tore apart the argument of these scholars as irrational on the most basic level. “How can Satan cast out Satan? …If Satan rises up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.” Their claim that Jesus was casting out unclean spirits by an unclean spirit fell flat on its face. If Satan is sending demons to possess people and Satan is casting out those same demons, he is working against himself and his work is going to soon fall apart. Instead, Jesus’ work proved that He was the stronger man who had bound up this strong enemy and was plundering him. Jesus is stronger than Satan and His miracles proved it!
This is the setting under which Jesus warns about the eternal sin against the Holy Spirit. Through these miracles, God the Holy Spirit was testifying that Jesus was of God. But the scribes tried to convince them otherwise, contrary to the clear testimony of the Spirit. Thus they were blaspheming—speaking injuriously, insulting, or defaming the Holy Spirit. And that is a sin that never has forgiveness.
So we note first, that the sin against the Holy Spirit is a sin that is spoken. Jesus says it is blasphemy—words that goes against everything that the Spirit is clearly testifying to the individual. The Spirit’s work is to convert hearts to faith in Jesus Christ. To testify about sin and grace through Jesus. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to openly blaspheme what is clear to the heart.
Consider the Apostle Thomas as a possible example. Thomas doubted the testimony of the other apostles that Jesus really had risen from the dead. Thomas said he needed to put his finger into the nail holes in Jesus hands and side before he’d ever believe. Now, that’s not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. That is a very weak, doubting faith. It would have been a sin against the Holy Spirit if even after seeing Jesus face to face and put his finger into Jesus’ side and the nail holes in His hands, if even then Thomas still continued to openly and verbally reject that Jesus had risen from the dead. Then Thomas would have gone from a weak, doubting faith to a blaspheming of the Holy Spirit who was revealing the risen Lord to Thomas.
So why does this sin against the Holy Spirit never have forgiveness? It is not because of the magnitude of the sin, because Paul writes, “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Rom 5:20) No, there is plenty of grace to cover all the sins of the world.
Rather such a person never has forgiveness because of the NATURE of the sin. They don’t want to be forgiven. They are not bothered by their sins. Even though the Spirit testifies the truth to them and their hearts recognize it, their minds and mouths continually reject it.
Such is the sin that leads to death. Such a person is guilty of an eternal sin. It is more than simple unbelief or ignorance, it is openly, blasphemously rejecting what the Spirit has testified as truth and the person knows in their heart of hearts that it is truth. This is the very thing the scribes were doing as they saw Jesus cast out demons and said He was doing it because He was possessed by Satan himself. This is the sin that never has forgiveness, because it is the sin of rejecting the truth and the Holy Spirit who is clearly testifying to the truth.
Are you worried that you might have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit? Well, there is a great deal of comfort just in that fact! If you had committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, you would not be worried about it in the least, but would have already hardened your heart to the Lord and would not care about Him or your sin. The fact that you might be worried is evidence that you have not committed this eternal sin.
Now, as verse 29 speaks about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a very powerful verse and it captures our attention. But do you know which verse should be even MORE powerful? Listen again to verse 28 with your troubled hearts: “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter.” WOW! Jesus seals this statement with an oath. “Amen” or “Truly,” He says. All sins committed and all blasphemies uttered will be forgiven! That is amazing grace! Full and free forgiveness for all sinners. No matter how great they were.
We see a clear fulfillment of verse 28 in the Apostle Paul. Before being called as an apostle, Paul—then Saul—blasphemed Christ and sinned against Him by condoning the imprisonment and killing of those who confessed Christ. But, Jesus says in our text, “all sins will be forgiven…and whatever blasphemies they utter.” Paul found that forgiveness in Christ. And Paul is held out to us as an example that Jesus is true to His word for all repentant sinners. “For this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.” (1 Tim 1:16)
So, dear family of Jesus, as you sit at Jesus feet to hear His word and are worried about your sins know that in Jesus ALL sins will be forgiven and whatever blasphemies you have uttered. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin OF THE WORLD. All the sin of the whole world. Know that the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from ALL sin. And let your repentant heart soak in the amazing grace of our God! That “where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.” (Rom 5:20)
Yes, the sin against the Holy Spirit is a hard saying, but it is a saying of Jesus preserved in 3 of the 4 Gospel accounts for us. God wants us to know about it because it is a word of warning against speaking out against the clear testimony of the Holy Spirit when one knows in their heart of hearts that it is true. But rejoice in the simplicity of our salvation, that in Jesus all sins and blasphemies uttered will be forgiven. Thanks be to our Savior God! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.