‘And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven’ ~ Matthew 12:31
Jesus spoke these words to the Pharisees with such finality. This was after He had healed ‘a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute’ (Matthew 12:22). After the healing, the Pharisees said, ‘It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons’ (v24). Jesus knowing their thoughts replies to them, distinguishing His Kingdom and that of Satan, and continues to say, ‘But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you’ (v28). Their unbelief even when the Kingdom of God was right before them was what led Jesus to openly state that all other sins of speaking ‘a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven’ (v32). But unbelief even after the Kingdom of God was right before their eyes, even after all evidences and convictions, would not be forgiven. And so Jesus repeats, ‘anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come’ (v32). In other words, Jesus termed damned all those who do not believe in Him even after His appearances to them, because it is only by believing in Jesus, does one receive the Holy Spirit.
When one remains in unbelief they ‘always resist the Holy Spirit!’ (Acts 7:51) and by extension are speaking against Him. Ignorance, denial, doubt and all other sins are forgivable, but remaining in unbelief even after Jesus appears to one is unforgivable. Jesus even says, ‘If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains’ (John 19:41). For those who were ignorant of God before the coming of Jesus, Paul says ‘In the past, God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17:30). After Jesus Christ was revealed, now ‘the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men’ (Titus 2:11). To each individual, opportunities to hear the message of Christ and repent are given because ‘He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance’ (2 Peter 3:9). Those who hear the Gospel time and time again, and yet do not take action flirt with unbelief, like King Agrippa who asked Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’ (Acts 26:28). Paul replies, ‘Short time or long– I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains’ (v29).
After hearing of the Gospel in whatever form and seeing its power demonstrated in many ways, those who still remain in unbelief choose to be against God by default. Jesus elaborates, ‘He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters’ (Matthew 12:30). As a result, ‘we must pay more careful attention therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away’ (Hebrews 2:1). In the past, God used Prophets and Angels to reveal His Word to men, but through Jesus Christ, His own voice now speaks. Paul therefore warns, ‘For the message spoken by angels was binding, and every disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him’ (v3).
God speaks to Moses about The Prophet ‘like me’ (Deuteronomy 18:15) and says, ‘You must listen to him. . . If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account’ (v15,19). Jesus, whom God was speaking of, says, ‘if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins’ (John 8:24). Paul bluntly warns those who refuse God saying, ‘See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven?’ (Hebrews 12:25). Eventually, judgement must come to all men, and so Peter says, ‘For it is time for judgement to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?’ (1 Peter 4:17).
Those who put on a façade and call themselves Christians while in reality harbour unbelief, and those who fall away even after receiving the truth are considered worse than an unbeliever. Peter says, ‘If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them’ (2 Peter 2:20-21). Paul corroborates, ‘It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened . . . if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace’ (Hebrews 6:4). Peter and Paul were not speaking of those who are weak in their faith, but those who purposeful remain in unbelief even when they know the truth. They only put on a façade as ‘Christians’, ‘having a form of godliness but deny its power’ (2 Timothy 3:5).
We are then cautioned that; ‘If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God’ (Hebrews 10:26-27). If those ‘who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses’ (v28), ‘How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?’ (v29). Those who in their hearts deny Jesus but outwardly profess to know Him have already signed their doom. But for those who are ignorant and doubtful, Jude urges us to, ‘Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them’ (Jude 1:22). However, remaining in doubt for prolonged periods is also unbelief, and does more harm than good. One then becomes hardened at heart and will always find an excuse to doubt because, ‘If they do not listen to the Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’ (Luke 16:31). So the reality is that belief starts with faith as small as a ‘mustard seed’ (13:v18).
Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep’’ ~ John 10:25