Summary: What does Jesus means when He says blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin?
Max Lucado says that one of the most difficult truths he has had to come to grips with is that God's grace is big enough to extend to someone like Jeffery Dahmer. If you recall, Dahmer was the young murderer in Milwaukee a few years ago who cut up the bodies of his victims. While in prison, Dahmer made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. Lucado knew that the Bible teaches that all who receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will have their sins forgiven, but did that include someone like Jeffery Dahmer? Could God really forgive a man who has committed such horrific crimes? Eventually, Lucado realized that the forgiveness of Jeffery Dahmer, and people like him, is at the heart of the Christian Gospel. Jesus Christ has come to earth to bring forgiveness, not to good people, but to sinners. Through his life, death and resurrection He has made it possible for all who put their trust in Him to experience free and full forgiveness, no matter who they are, no matter what they have done. That is the great news, the Gospel, that we proclaim and teach in this church week after week. Even someone who butchers a fellow human being has not committed a sin which God cannot forgive.
That is why our text today seems so strange. Our journey through Matthew brings us to a very tough passage. Listen to Jesus' words in Matthew 12:31,32 "And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." Wow! "Every sin will be forgiven, except the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven...anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven." This is often called the "unforgivable sin." A few years ago there was a fellow who would come into my office about once a week and frantically say, "Pastor Dan, I think I've blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. What can I do?" I would usually say, "Nothing if you really have done that." But I then would go on to explain why I was fairly certain he had not committed this unforgivable sin. Now, I got a little frustrated after answering that question for about the 28th time, but it was certainly good that this man took very seriously what Jesus said. Many folks, including some of us in this room, try to ignore verses like this. We know the Bible teaches that God will forgive our sins through Christ, so we try not to think about what seem like glitches in Scripture which cast a shadow on that truth.
But it is important for us to understand what Jesus means when He says blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin. Why? Well, maybe one of our children, maybe another family member or friend, or maybe even we ourselves will read these verses someday and start to wonder: Is this something I have done? That question can bring a lot of pain and anguish to a soul. We will be able to help a person struggling with this question if we can explain what Jesus means. But, our goal in studying this text is not only to avoid misunderstandings it may cause. I also believe these verses give us a deeper and clearer view of what it really means to be a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ. So, let's pray the Lord would give us understanding as we look at this very difficult, but important, text.
Now, let me warn you, this really is not an easy or fun sermon. You may want to tighten your thinking cap a bit because, though I will try to be clear, the truth taught in these verses is somewhat complex. This sermon will also be different from most because there will not be many stories or illustrations. I could not come up with any jokes or even football analogies which go along with the unforgivable sin. I can't figure out a way to claim that cheering for the Vikings instead of the Packers is a sin, much less the unforgivable sin. So, no easy or fun stuff, but important, so stick with me. Let me read Jesus' Words again. 12:31,32 "And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." The unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Blasphemy is extreme slander, which Jesus equates with "speaking against." The Jews saw blasphemy against God as a very grave sin, one which deserved the death penalty. But, why would blasphemy against the Son of Man, the Messiah, Jesus Himself, be forgivable, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not? If anything, it would seem it should be the other way around. And how can there be an unforgivable sin, when both the Old Testament and the New Testament put such great emphasis on God's amazing grace and His forgiveness? Let me mention three explanations of this text which have been given which are really misunderstandings of what this sin is.