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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: May 14, 2021
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Bonus Lesson: The Unpardonable Sin
Welcome to HBS, my friends; thanks for being here. I pray y’all learn at least one new thing about “God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope” today.
I’ve placed our study of 1 Timothy 2:8-15 on hold because last week I said we might look at what the Bible has to say about “the unpardonable sin” in the Age of Grace.
That’s because many people believe they committed an inexcusable sin and they live their lives in fear and dread thinking God could never forgive them. There’s another reason why we’re here. A close friend recently brought this subject up because his church taught there is an unpardonable sin. Despite what I showed him from Scripture he left troubled and somewhat confused. So, my advice to my friend and to y’all is this the lead-in question for this study or for any Bible study is, What does Scripture, rightly divided, say and that includes the so-called unpardonable sin and who committed it?
Some think the unforgivable sin is adultery, suicide, murder or some form of sexual immorality. Others believe it has to do with thinking or saying blasphemous things against God, which is akin to hating Him, i.e., shaking your fist at Him and cursing Him, His Son, or the Holy Spirit. Are these people right? Do these beliefs line up with what God actually said, dispensationally speaking? To answer these questions and others, I’m sure, we begin by asking: What is the unpardonable sin?
What Is The Unpardonable Sin?
As I’ve already said, and will repeat from time-to-time because people need to hear it, the first question you ask when you’re searching for biblical truth, or what God has actually revealed to mankind is, ”What does the Bible, rightly divided, say?” That should always be your first question because God’s Word is our first and final authority in all matters of faith and practice. When you rightly divide the Word of Truth, the answer to the question re: the unpardonable sin becomes clear.
The Context Examined
“He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matthew 12:30-32).
When people consider what the unpardonable sin is they refer to this portion of Scripture and its parallel passages in the synoptic gospels (Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10). To understand what the Lord meant, His words need to be interpreted by both their immediate context and their dispensational context, which is something most people in the church omit, and therein lies the problem. When you discount or ignore what God has said, how is it possible to walk in His Truths?
In the immediate context above, we learn about a miracle that Christ performed, which prompted opposition from the Pharisees who were present in the crowd of onlookers that day. Matthew 12:22-24 records that a demon-possessed man who was “blind, and dumb” was brought to the Lord for healing. Being the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah, the Lord had authority over both the supernatural realm and the physical realm. Therefore, He simply cast out the demon and healed the man so that he could see and speak. This amazed the people who witnessed the miracle, and they wondered out loud, “Is not this the son of David?” (12:23), an obvious reference to Israel’s long-promised Messiah and King. Hearing the crowd say this, Christ’s enemies reacted unfavorably: “But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils” (12:24).
This should have been a moment of rejoicing over the healing of the man who had just been freed from the demon and could speak and see. Instead, the unbelieving Pharisees were infuriated. They could not deny the miracle, so they tried to explain it away by calling it evil. They would not allow themselves to believe the possibility that Jesus of Nazareth was the nation of Israel’s long-promised King, the Son of David, and their Messiah, so they attributed the miracle to another ruler, claiming that the Lord did it by the power of Beelzebub the prince of the devils, which is Satan. The Lord, in turn, addressed their unbelief and their insulting accusation telling them, “And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” (12:26).
Their accusation of Christ casting out demons by the power of Satan made no sense, because Satan would be working against himself by relinquishing control of someone in his clutches and repairing the damage he had done to the man. The Lord advanced His wise argument a step further when he asked His doubters, “Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house” (12:29).
In this verse, the “strong man” is Satan. His “house” is the sphere in which he holds control, which is the world we all live in, because Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). “His goods” are his demons and their evil works. Christ is the One who came from heaven and entered the world, “the strong man’s house,” and bound him, and plundered his goods and cast out one of his demons without breaking a sweat.
Right before their very eyes, Christ (their Messiah) had just freed this man from the grip and bondage of Satan. He did not perform this miracle in the power of Satan because He is not subject to him or his demons. Thus, the logical conclusion is Christ is greater and more powerful than “the strong man,” Satan, because Christ is God, and He demonstrated this truth by casting out one of Satan’s demons (Colossians 2:9).
Then the Lord issued the stern warning of the unforgivable sin to these Pharisees who did not believe in Him and opposed Him: “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.”
We need to note to whom the Lord is speaking. First, He is specifically addressing Israel’s unbelieving religious leaders. Accusing Christ of being in league with Satan and casting out a demon in the power of Satan was sin and blasphemy by these same religious leaders. “Blasphemy” is something that is either done or said against God. By declaring that what they had just accused Him of was “blasphemy,” Christ affirmed not only His identity, He confirmed His Deity, i.e., He is Jehovah, i.e., God Almighty.
Second, we note to whom Christ is speaking, in the overall sense, in the Gospel records, Christ is speaking to “His own,” the nation of Israel (John 1:11-13). This is made obvious a few chapters later where the Lord said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). In Romans 15:8, Paul wrote, “Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision (the Jews) for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers.” Christ was sent to and ministered to the nation of Israel, with a few Gentile exceptions, the “woman in Canaan” (Matthew 15:21-28) was but one of these exceptions.
In the gospels, during the Lord’s earthly ministry, you find Him ministering the truth of God and confirming the promises made to the fathers: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, according to the Law, Israel’s covenants, and prophecy. That’s important to keep in mind whenever you read and study Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, because we are gentiles under grace, not Israel under the Law. In the gospels, there are promises of blessing and punishment made to Israel that are not for us today under God’s grace, such as “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and the unpardonable sin” but there I go again getting ahead of the lesson…
Rejection of the Father and the Son
Christ clearly taught that “…All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men:” (Matthew 12:31a). In other words, these unbelieving Pharisees could still believe He was the long awaited Son of David and therefore Israel’s Messiah and King and their rather obvious sin and blasphemy could be forgiven. “but (Christ pointed out) the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (Spirit) shall not be forgiven unto men” (12:31b).
At this time (note the time element) the Holy Spirit had not yet been given (Matthew 3:11; John 7:39, 16:7-8, 13). The Holy Spirit was later sent by Christ on the day of Pentecost after Christ’s ascension to heaven. When He warned Israel’s religious leaders about “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost,” it was because the Holy Spirit “the Comforter” (John 14:16) would soon descend and come to Israel to give them their last opportunity to repent as a nation. It was, at this time, when the Spirit was sent to Israel that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven unto men.
To emphasis this truth, the Lord repeated this warning saying, “And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (12:32).
This repeated warning by Christ to His people, the Jews, was a warning of love and concern for Christ loves the world (John 3:16), and though these Pharisees had made this wicked accusation and spoken words against Him, He told them that they could be forgiven of it. But He also warned them, out of this great love, that the day was coming when their blasphemy and speaking against “the Holy Ghost” would not be forgiven.
The Lord’s teaching that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was unforgiveable was not because the Holy Spirit is greater than God the Father or greater than God the Son, but because the third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, arrived on scene later, or after, the Father’s ministry to Israel, and after the Son’s earthly ministry to Israel.
Even a casual read throughout the O.T. reveals the fact that the Israelites rejected and resisted God the Father often. They did this through their unbelief and persistent idolatry. They did not trust and obey the laws of God, and we are able to see how they reaped the curses or the penalty for their oft disobedience to what God clearly said during the dispensation of the Law (Deuteronomy 11:13; Leviticus 26:3). But there was more wrongdoing. The Israelites killed the prophets the Father sent to them to turn them back to Him and His ways (Matthew 23:37; Romans 11:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:15). The clearest representation of the truth re: Israel’s rejection of God the Father is found in 1 Samuel 8:7. Here we learn the nation of Israel wanted to be like the gentile nations around them. They desired an earthly king to rule over them just like their gentile neighbors: “And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.”
One would think God the Father would wash His holy hands of these God-rejecting people, but we know He did not. In love and mercy, He sent His Son to Israel as promised. In the gospels, we learn the Son of man performed signs, miracles, and wonders to prove His deity in hope that Israel would believe the gospel of the kingdom and receive Him as their long-awaited Messiah unto eternal life (Matthew 4:17; 10:1-7).
However, when we consider the account in Matthew 12, we see that the religious leaders were rejecting God the Son and who He was, even accusing Him of performing miracles in the power of Satan. And the religious leaders’ rejection of Christ eventually led to Him being crucified. For the record shows us that the Lord told His disciples, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22, 18:31-34; Acts 2:22-36).
The entire nation, not just the Pharisees, were guilty of slaying their Messiah (Psalms 2:1-3). Even so, on the cross, the Lord prayed to the Father, in mercy, saying, “…Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do…” (Luke 19:14, 23:34). Their sin and blasphemy against Christ was forgiven by the Father in answer to the Son’s prayer. The reason for this is the crucifying of God’s Son was a sin committed in ignorance.
A Presumptuous Sin
The Lord prayed for His Father to forgive Israel of His Son’s crucifixion because “they know not what they do.” Later, Peter told his kinsmen (Israel,) “And now, brethren, I wot (know) that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers” (Acts 3:11-17). Under the Law, there were sacrifices and offerings for sins of ignorance, and God made a provision for their forgiveness. However, for willful sins of presumption there was no provision for forgiveness.
“But the soul that doeth ought (or sins) presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger (i.e., a gentile), the same reproacheth the Lord; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people. Because he hath despised the word of the Lord, and hath broken His commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him” (Numbers 15:30-31).
“Presumptuously” means: with a high hand. To sin presumptuously is a bold, defiant act of transgression against God’s authority. This kind of conduct in Israel disrespected God, because it treated His commands as needless and unreasonable. In other words, His judgement was not to be feared or deemed authoritative. Under the Law that person was condemned to be “cut off” from Israel, never to be forgiven.
This describes Israel’s sin after the Holy Spirit was sent to her. They sinned with a high hand. Thus, it was a disobedient act of transgression against what God had revealed to them. The Holy Spirit bore witness to Christ’s resurrection and identity as Israel’s Messiah, and He did so with undeniable proof and power. Furthermore, by the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit through the apostles, the Spirit brought the Word of the Lord to Israel and glorified God’s Son. God did not let Israel continue in her ignorance. He had Peter, by the Spirit, confront them with the truth that they had “denied the Holy One and the Just… And killed the Prince of life, Whom God hath raised from the dead” (Acts 3:14-15; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8).
Thus, Israel was no longer ignorant of what they had done in crucifying their Messiah. In response to the Holy Spirit’s ministry, many Jews despised the Word of the Lord. By rejecting the Spirit’s ministry and message, those in Israel knowingly and willfully sinned against and blasphemed the Spirit, and for this, there was no forgiveness.
Rejection of the Holy Spirit
In the O.T., Israel rejected God the Father. In the gospel records (still the O.T.), they rejected God the Son. In Acts 7, Israel rejected God the Holy Spirit. By blaspheming the Spirit in deliberate rebellion, they completed their rejection of the Godhead in totality. The Holy Spirit was their last chance, their last opportunity to repent, believe, and be saved. That’s why blaspheming the third Person of the Trinity was unforgivable.
The Holy Spirit, “the Comforter” came to Israel via the twelve at Pentecost just as God the Son said it would (Acts 2:1-4) and then worked mightily in Israel with signs and wonders. Those signs and wonders, done in the name of Jesus Christ, confronted Israel and its leaders with overwhelming proof of Christ’s resurrection and His deity (Acts 3:6-21). Israel’s continued rejection of Christ was inexcusable in light of the Spirit’s ministry. Rather than heed the pleadings of the Spirit-filled apostles, the religious leaders ignored them and initiated a persecution against them in which they were threatened (Acts 4:17-21), imprisoned (Acts 5:17-18), and beaten (Acts 5:40-42).
Israel’s rejection of the Holy Spirit reached its zenith in Acts 7, when Stephen confronted their sin of unbelief. Stephen was “a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 6:5). He stood before the Sanhedrin, Israel’s ruling religious body, and challenged them about their willful rejection of Christ, their refusal to open their hearts, and their guilt of resisting the Holy Spirit: “Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it” (Acts 7:51-53). In a rage, these men then seized Stephen, dragged him outside the city gates, and stoned him to death. These religious leaders committed the exact unpardonable sin that Christ warned them about. Israel’s leaders had been presented with overwhelming evidence that Jesus was alive and was the Christ.
The religious leaders blasphemed the Spirit by their rejection of His miraculous, powerful ministry in pointing Israel to Christ, by their refusal to accept the witness of the Holy Spirit as to who Jesus Christ was, and by their murder of Stephen. By stoning Stephen with wicked hands, in that time and place, at that moment in history, Israel’s religious leaders crossed a line they could never uncross. They sealed their fate in other words. Their sin was unpardonable because it represented a decisive, national rejection of Jesus Christ as Israel’s Messiah, despite the testimony of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
As Stephen was being stoned, in a prayer similar to that of Christ, “he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” (Acts 7:60). But this prayer for forgiveness of the nation was not granted by the Father because it was not a sin of ignorance. It was a willful, presumptuous sin, i.e., they knew what they were doing. At this point in time, Israel as a whole had rejected the Godhead in totality.
Always bear in mind the LORD God dealt with His chosen people as a nation. When the majority of Israel obeyed, God blessed them, including the disobedient among them. When the majority were disobedient, God punished them, including the faithful remnant in their midst. And so it is at this time that the nation of Israel, as a whole, fell. On the prophetic timeline, it was time to purge Israel and the world of unbelief through the events of Daniel’s 70th week, or the seven-year Tribulation. Instead of pouring out His wrath though, God ushered in a previously hidden dispensation of the grace of God in which grace reigns and in which grace is greater than all our sin.
The Grace of God Reigns Today
“Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:20-21).
This Scripture passage is the solution for all the anxiety that “the unpardonable sin” has caused. Paul said, “Sin abounded,” when Christ was crucified, and then after His resurrection and ascension the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the nation of Israel was rejected even though it demonstrated, with power, that Jesus was not only risen from the dead He was the Christ, i.e., Israel’s Messiah.
Christ’s enemies and the religious leaders, in unbelief, willfully stood by what they had said and done and capped off their rebellion, as it were, by stoning Stephen to death. Instead of permitting that defiant act to usher in the seven-year Tribulation, God suspended His Prophetic Program with the nation of Israel, temporarily, and “grace did much more abound” when God turned to the gentile nations and ushered in “the dispensation of the grace of God” (See Romans 10-11).
We all live under a different program now, i.e., different from the program God suspended (paused) because of Israel’s unpardonable sin. “The unpardonable sin” cannot be committed under grace. That warning from Christ was for Israel and her religious leaders. Its dispensational context was that of Israel’s Prophetic Program and the coming of the Holy Spirit to Israel. It had to do with Israel’s rejection of Christ and His ministry and the rejection of the Holy Spirit’s ministry to Israel. Thus, “the unpardonable sin” does not apply to you or me today it hasn’t applied to anyone since the stoning of Stephen. God Himself has rendered it impossible to commit this sin because His program (administration) changed from Israel to the Body of Christ. Thus, when you rightly divide God’s Word, the unforgivable sin does not exist so there’s no need to worry about it. By rightly dividing the Word of Truth, we understand that today we are all under grace. And under this program of God, grace reigns supreme, i.e., grace triumphs over all our sin. When Paul wrote that “grace did much more abound,” it means that grace hyper-abounds, super-abounds, abounds beyond measure. In other words, we’re not talking about normal, regular, everyday grace here. This is grace that the world had never seen before, because we are in the dispensation of grace in which grace “much more abounds.”
No matter what sin you commit today it makes no difference; grace abounds over it and it can be forgiven. Murder, suicide, blasphemy, hating God, adultery, drunkenness, etc.; all sin is forgiven in Christ when one trusts Him as their personal Savior. No one is beyond the reach of God’s mercy and grace. Anyone, including the vilest sinner, can be saved by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). God’s super-abounding grace freely gives those who believe Paul’s gospel “eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 2:16, 5:21).
Summing up, God’s warning re: “the unpardonable sin” does not, in any way, need to cause you to worry or doubt, because God’s Word to the Body of Christ today tells us,
“In Whom (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).
“And you, being dead in your sins… hath He quickened (made alive) together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses” (Col. 2:13).
We are forgiven “all” our sins, past, present, and future, the moment we trust (believe) that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again according to the Scriptures, or put another way, believe Paul’s gospel of grace (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
“All” means all and not just some. Therefore, no one needs to live their life in fear of committing the one sin that can prevent them from being saved because there is no unpardonable sin. No one, I repeat, no one needs to live their life in fear for three reasons today:
first, the unforgivable sin was a warning given to Israel and her misguided religious leaders.
second, God’s program has changed, for we are not under the Law, we’re under grace.
third, today there is no sin that cannot be forgiven by God’s super-abounding grace through faith in Christ Jesus and there is no sin that could ever cause you to lose your salvation for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is our Advocate (Romans 8:33-34).
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