by Mike Ratliff
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.” (Mark 3:22-30 ESV)
Several months ago I got into a comment and email exchange with a fellow who insisted that God will not condemn anyone to an eternity in hell. He said that it is only a temporary place that will be emptied when all things are reconciled to God in eternity. It did no good to use clear scripture references to show him that he was ignoring a great deal God’s truth. One thing that struck me was his stance that Romans 5 was blasphemous in reference to the doctrine of Original Sin and condemnation for all men by it, but there is justification and life for ‘the many’ (Romans 5:12-17). Was this a case of ‘blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?’
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him! Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God. Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Luke 12:4-7 ESV)
The Greek word Luke used here which is translated as ‘hell’ is γέεννα or géenna. This is the place or state of the lost and condemned (Matthew 5:29,30; Matthew 10:28; James 3:6). What is our Lord exhorting us to do here? He is telling us to not fear those who attack our doctrine and us. The word ‘fear’ in this passage is the Greek word φοβέω or phobeō. In classical Greek, this word is used to describe actions that cause others to run away or to terrify them or frighten them. Our Lord is exhorting us to not allow anyone to terrify us into compromising our stand. Why? What can they do to us from an eternal perspective? They can hurt or injure us. They can defame us. They can ruin us financially. They can threaten us with lawsuits. However, they cannot do anything about our standing with God because our advocate is the Lord Jesus Himself. We are to fear God in obedience instead of men.
“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:8-12 ESV)
Those who accuse the brethren of being of the devil are actually attributing their good works to the enemy. The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees did this very thing against our Lord. They accused Him of doing miracles by the power of Satan and that He had a demon. This is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Notice that He did not say that speaking against Himself was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and that those who did that will be forgiven. However, those who commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Those who come to Christ and are saved often have said dishonorable things against Him in their spiritual blindness. When they ask Him for forgiveness they will receive it. A good example of this would be Peter’s rejection of Jesus in Luke 22:54:62 and his subsequent restoration found in John 21:15-19. What is it about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that is unforgivable?
This blasphemy is committed when people are persistent in their unrepentance against the work of the Holy Spirit and His message concerning our Lord (Acts 7:51). Our Lord says that this sin will never be forgiven. Those who commit this sin persistently harden their hearts against God, against the work of the Holy Spirit, and against the provision of Christ as Saviour. They are outside the reach of God’s provision for forgiveness and salvation. Genuine believers need not worry whether they have committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for that very concern is evidence of the openness to the work of the Holy Spirit. I am convinced that God’s Elect will be preserved from this sin prior to salvation. After regeneration, they become incapable of it.
Therefore, the message we should take from this is to not fear men nor fear our enemy. Why? They can do nothing to us that can take away our eternal standing with God. The Holy Spirit has sealed us in Christ. However, that does not mean that we will not incur the wrath of Satan and his seed. Our Lord tells us in this passage to not be anxious about how we should defend ourselves or what we should say. Why? The Holy Spirit will teach us in that very hour what we ought to say. Whatever that is that we are going to say will bring glory to God.
What we must never forget my brethren is that the unregenerate are spiritually blind. They may be quite intelligent, but they cannot perceive God’s truth that even a child can understand by God’s grace through the faith that is His gift to the Elect. There are so many in our time who insist that they are Christians, but they are among those who are not known by our Lord and prove it by their fruit.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'” (Matthew 7:15-23 ESV)
We are commanded to earnestly contend for the faith (Jude 1:3). However, doing so will incite the wrath of those our Lord describes above. When we recognize their bad fruit and warn the brethren about them then watch out. We must not fear them. We must stand firm and never waver from the truth. We know in whom we have believed and we know that He will keep us and hold us until we are through this life. Then we will be with Him. Our Lord also said in His Sermon on the Mount to not give what is holy to dogs or throw our pearls before pigs.
“Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you. (Matthew 7:6 ESV)
In our Lord’s day, dogs lived in squalor and scavenged the streets for food. The Jews considered them unclean and, therefore, used the term to describe those outside of God’s covenant grace. Pigs were unclean according to the Mosaic Law. They were also scavenging animals like dogs. What are the Pearls and who is it that we are to avoid throwing them before? The Pearls symbolize the great value of the message of the Kingdom of heaven. We are to be merciful, forgiving, and slow to judge, however, we are to also wisely discern the true character of people and not continually proclaim the Gospel to those who adamantly reject it. Why? It is to keep us from becoming bogged down in unfruitful arguing and outright word wars with those who are never going to listen. This frees us up to move on and proclaim the Gospel to others (Matthew 10:14; Acts 13:46; Acts 18:6; Titus 3:10-11).
Soli Deo Gloria!