Sermon title: THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN—WORRIED YOU HAVE DONE IT?
Matthew 14:6-12 and Mark 3:20-30
Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, June 24, 2018
Over the years, I’ve been approached
a number of times by individuals
who worried that they had committed “the unforgivable sin.”
Some of them were long-time, committed Christians.
All of them were discouraged, fearful and anxious—
afraid that they had done something
that God would never forgive,
and that they were lost as a result.
But, as far as I could tell,
not one of them had actually done
what they were afraid of.
None of them had committed the unforgivable sin.
But, there is an unforgivable sin.
At Matthew 12:31-32, our Lord Jesus said,
“...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.”
So, what is that unforgivable sin?
Rather than have me answer that question,
let’s look at the Scriptures together
to discover the answer
that God gives in the Bible.
In his first letter to the Corinthians[ OPEN ]
the Apostle Paul names quite a few sins.
Let’s see if one of them
is the unforgivable sin.
That list is found at
1st Corinthians Chapter 6, beginning at Verse 9.
And there it says,
9 Do you not know
that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Do not be deceived:
Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters
nor adulterers nor male prostitutes
nor homosexual offenders
10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards
nor slanderers nor swindlers
will inherit the kingdom of God.
So, the list of sins includes
Those are all pretty serious sins.
Paul says those who practice such things
will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Are any of them the unforgivable sin?
No, because, notice what the next verse, Verse 11, goes on to say:
11 And that is what some of you were.
But you were washed, you were sanctified,
you were justified
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ
and by the Spirit of our God.
So, all of those sins are serious.
They are serious enough to keep someone
from inheriting the Kingdom of God—
to keep them from getting into heaven.
But there are people going to heaven
who committed all those sins.
They repented and received God’s forgiveness.
They were washed, sanctified and justified
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So, those were not unforgivable sins.
They were forgiven.
What, then is the unforgivable sin?
What about the sins Herod committed?
We just read about them in Matthew Chapter 14
in our Responsive Reading.
Herod’s sins were grievous.
He had taken his brother’s wife Herodias
to be his own wife.
And when John the Baptist accused Herod of sin,
Herod had John arrested
and kept him in prison for a year or more.
And that brings us to
the portion of Scripture we read this morning
from Matthew 14.
The Gospel of Mark gives us a little more detail
on those same events,
so, I’m going to read it from the 6th Chapter of Mark.[ OPEN ]
Herod was content to keep John in prison,
but Herodias his wife wanted to kill him.
Mark Chapter 6 says this, beginning in Verse 18:
18 For John had been saying to Herod,
"It is not lawful for you
to have your brother's wife."
19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John
and wanted to kill him.
But she was not able to,
20 because Herod feared John and protected him,
knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.
When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled;
yet he liked to listen to him.
Herod kept John in prison,
but he would have him brought out to him,
so that he could listen to him—
and then stick him back in his prison cell.
Continuing at Mark 6, beginning with Verse 21,
we read of the events
that were in this morning’s Responsive Reading.
21 Finally the opportune time came.
On his birthday Herod gave a banquet
for his high officials and military commanders
and the leading men of Galilee.
22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced,
she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
23 The king said to the girl,
"Ask me for anything you want,
and I'll give it to you."
And he promised her with an oath,
"Whatever you ask I will give you,
up to half my kingdom."
24 She went out and said to her mother,
"What shall I ask for?"
"The head of John the Baptist," she answered.
25 At once the girl hurried in to the king
with the request:
"I want you to give me right now
the head of John the Baptist on a platter."
26 The king was greatly distressed,
but because of his oaths and his dinner guests,
he did not want to refuse her.
27 So he immediately sent an executioner
with orders to bring John's head.
The man went, beheaded John in the prison,
28 and brought back his head on a platter.
He presented it to the girl,
and she gave it to her mother.
I find that to be one of the most distressing passages in the Bible.
But, was it the unforgivable sin?
because Jesus didn’t describe it that way.
And we know that murderers—even vile murderers—
can be forgiven.
Even those who murdered
innocent men of God like John the Baptist
can be forgiven.
We know that because, before he became a believer,
the Apostle Paul participated
in the murder of Stephen,
who was stoned to death in Jerusalem.
Speaking of himself at 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul wrote,
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—
of whom I am the worst.”
Paul said he was “the worst,”
so even the worst sinner can repent
and receive God’s forgiveness—like Paul did.
At Luke 5:8, when the fisherman Simon Peter
first realized who Jesus was,
“he fell at Jesus' knees and said,
"Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"
So, just being sinful, very sinful,
or even the worst of sinners—as Paul said he was—
does not constitute the unforgivable sin.
So, let’s go back to our Responsive Reading—--
the second part we read—
in Mark Chapter 3,
where Jesus declares that there is such a thing
as an unforgivable sin,
to see what Jesus said it was.
We start reading at Mark Chapter 3, Verse 20.
20 Then Jesus entered a house,
and again a crowd gathered,
so that he and his disciples
were not even able to eat.
21 When his family heard about this,
they went to take charge of him, for they said,
"He is out of his mind."
So, our Lord Jesus’ family
came to take charge of him,
saying, "He is out of his mind."
Now, you might think that would be the unforgivable sin—
to say that Jesus was “out of his mind.”
But it must NOT have been,
because his family later became believers.
His half-brothers James and Jude
later wrote the New Testament books
bearing their names.
So, they were forgiven for saying Jesus was “out of his mind.”
In fact, as we read a moment ago at Matthew 12:32, Jesus said,
“Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man
will be forgiven.”
And I suppose that’s a good thing,
because you can hardly spend time in public
without hearing someone use Jesus’ name in vain,
as a curse word.
What a tragedy it would be,
if they all became guilty of unforgivable sin
whenever they did that.
But, if we keep reading in Mark Chapter 3,
we’ll see what sin Jesus said WAS unforgivable.
Beginning at Verse 22,
22 And the teachers of the law
who came down from Jerusalem said,
"He is possessed by Beelzebub!
By the prince of demons he is driving out demons."
23 So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables:
"How can Satan drive out Satan?
24 If a kingdom is divided against itself,
that kingdom cannot stand.
25 If a house is divided against itself,
that house cannot stand.
26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided,
he cannot stand; his end has come.
27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house
and carry off his possessions
unless he first ties up the strong man.
Then he can rob his house.
So, Jesus was NOT driving out demons by Satan’s power.
He was binding Satan—
tying him up—
so that he could set free the captives Satan held.
And then Jesus continued in Verse 28,
28 I tell you the truth,
all the sins and blasphemies of men
will be forgiven them.
29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never be forgiven;
he is guilty of an eternal sin."
30 He said this because they were saying,
"He has an evil spirit."
So, it was by the power of the Holy Spirit
that Jesus was driving out demons.
But the teachers of the Law said,
"He has an evil spirit."
So, they were blaspheming against the Holy Spirit,
and that is what Jesus said was “an eternal sin”
for which they “will never be forgiven.”
It was the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Now, blasphemy CAN be forgiven—
but not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
We know blasphemy can be forgiven,
because in 1st Timothy Chapter 1,[ OPEN ]
the Apostle Paul wrote
that he himself was guilty of blasphemy
back when he was persecuting Christians,
before he became a Christian himself.
In 1 Timothy Chapter 1, beginning with Verse 12, Paul wrote
12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord,
who has given me strength,
that he considered me faithful,
appointing me to his service.
13 Even though I was once a blasphemer
and a persecutor and a violent man,
I was shown mercy
because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.
So, Paul had been a blasphemer,
but he was forgiven.
He had acted “in ignorance and unbelief.”
Paul had not blasphemed against the Holy Spirit.
Now, up to this point
we’ve looked at examples of unbelievers who sinned,
and who later turned to Christ for forgiveness.
But, what about believers?
Even Christians do sin and receive forgiveness from God.
1 John 1:9 says,
“If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just
and will forgive us our sins
and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
And at John 10:28 he says,
“I give them eternal life,
and they shall never perish;
no one can snatch them out of my hand.”
So, you don’t need to be afraid
that Satan has snatched you
out of Jesus’ hand.
But, as I mentioned at the beginning of this sermon,
sincere believers sometimes worry
that they may have committed ‘the unpardonable sin.’
They desperately want God’s forgiveness,
but fear that they aren’t eligible.
They may be thinking about
the 10th Chapter of the letter to the Hebrews
which talks about
people in the churches
who put themselves
in a very bad position with God.
It’s in Hebrews Chapter 10, beginning with Verse 26.
There it says,
26 If we deliberately keep on sinning
after we have received the knowledge of the truth,
no sacrifice for sins is left,
27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment
and of raging fire
that will consume the enemies of God.
28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
29 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?
30 For we know him who said,
"It is mine to avenge; I will repay,"
and again, "The Lord will judge his people."
31 It is a dreadful thing
to fall into the hands of the living God.
So, again, it is talking about those who have
“insulted the Spirit of grace”
and who “deliberately keep on sinning.”
Only now it’s talking about people
who do that AFTER coming to know the truth
and coming into Christian fellowship.
Sometimes Christians backslide,
but Hebrews doesn’t seem to be talking about that.
Sometimes people stop going to church
and start going to bars instead.
Sometimes people do some pretty bad stuff
before coming to their senses again
and returning to the church
and to Christian fellowship.
And people in the churches
can do some pretty bad things, too,
and then repent and come back to Christ.
In the 2nd and 3rd chapters of Revelation
the risen Christ calls on 5 different churches to repent,
or face punishment.
So, Christians do sometimes sin, and then repent.
How can we know
they haven’t committed the unforgivable sin?
How can you know YOU haven’t committed the unforgivable sin?
Turning back a few pages in the book of Hebrews
to Hebrews Chapter 6,
we can find the answer.
There it tells us
that those whose sin is unpardonable
They don’t repent and turn to Christ for forgiveness.
There in Hebrews 6, beginning at Verse 4, it says,
4 It is impossible
for those who have once been enlightened,
who have tasted the heavenly gift,
who have shared in the Holy Spirit,
5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God
and the powers of the coming age,
6 if they fall away,
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.
So, Hebrews says concerning those
who commit the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit,
and who fall away,
that it is “impossible” for them to
“be brought back to repentance.”
And here is the key to knowing that YOU
have not committed the unforgivable sin.
If you are repentantly coming back to Christ
and seeking his forgiveness,
that proves that you are NOT among those
who are “impossible”
to be “be brought back to repentance.”
You are repenting!
It is not impossible for YOU!
So, you have NOT committed the unforgivable sin.
You may feel depressed,
discouraged, and far away from God.
Sickness can make you feel like that.
Clinical depression can make you feel like that.
Circumstances in life can make you feel like that.
A chemical imbalance in the body can make you feel like that.
But God assures us that he cares about us
when we feel like that:
Psalm 34:18 says,
“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”
And our God does not become less forgiving
just because we may feel depressed.
Isaiah 1:18 says,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.”
Christ’s love and forgiveness reach us,
even when we fear the worst.
Folks who fall on their knees before God,
worried that they may have committed ‘the unforgivable sin’
have NOT done so,
because those who have done so don’t repent.
Repentance is an indication
that a person has NOT committed the unforgivable sin.
Your falling at Jesus’ feet
seeking his forgiveness—
your humbly doing that
shows that you have NOT committed
the unforgivable sin.