“What is the Unpardonable Sin?” Exposition of Matthew 12:22-32

Audio of this sermon is available here.

There has been a lot of speculation about the nature of the unpardonable sin. Some have suggested that divorce, murder or suicide. But none of those sins are identified as unforgivable in the Bible. Others fear that they have committed the unpardonable sin because of an unguarded thought or word against the God the Father, Son or Holy Spirit. Some think that an irreverent joke might be the unpardonable sin. But the idea of the unpardonable sin comes directly from the lips of Jesus. In our text this morning, Jesus says that every kind of sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, except for one. What does He say that it is? That’s what we want to consider in this passage.

Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matthew 12:22-32

I. The Occasion of the Miracle, vv. 22-23.

The occasion that produced the statement by Jesus about the unpardonable sin is this. Jesus has just healed a man who was oppressed by a demon. Jesus had healed the man by exorcizing the demons. This is exactly the kind of action that indicated that Jesus was the Messianic King, the descendent of David, for which the Jews had been waiting. Isaiah 35:5-6 prophesied the coming of the kingdom of God: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy.” Interestingly, when the crowd sees this miracle their minds must have immediately went to these Old Testament prophecies that link the coming of the Messiah with His Davidic kingdom to miraculous works such as they have just seen. No wonder, then, they ask the question “Can this be the Son of David?”

II. The Accusation by the Pharisees, v. 24.

It is unclear whether the crowd asks this question out of faith or doubt? There seems to be a hint of skepticism in the Greek at this point, like “He can’t be the Son of David, can he?” But the Pharisees did not even want the issue raised. They immediately reject this possibility by asserting that the miraculous deeds done by Jesus can only be attributed to Satan himself. Notice what they are doing. They are taking the miracles which Jesus has performed by the power of the Spirit which identify Him as the messianic king, the Son of David and are rejecting that evidence and saying that these miracles were performed by the power of Satan.

III. The Reaction by Jesus, vv. 25-32.

Jesus responds. He knows their thoughts, which was itself evidence of his divine power. He responds by pointing out two problems with their accusation:

  • First, he points out the illogical nature of their accusation, vv. 25-26. 
  • Second, he points out the inconsistency of their accusation, v. 27.

Then, in verses 28-29, Jesus argues that, contrary to the Pharisees, the inclination of the crowd to identify Jesus as the promised Davidic king was dead on. Jesus asserts that since He is performing this miracles, since He is casting out demons, this is evidence that the kingdom of God has come among them because the king was standing in their midst!

So, what is the sin that Jesus is discussing here that is unforgivable? It is a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. John Walvoord has defined this sin as “attributing to Satan what is accomplished by the power of God.” D. A. Carson has defined the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as “the willful assigning of what is unambiguously the Spirit’s work in the ministry of Jesus (12:28) to the devil (12:24).” In other words, Jesus is referring to the sins of the Pharisees in this text who have rejected the evidence provided by the Holy Spirit through the miracles performed by Jesus that He is indeed the Messianic King. Their rejection is unforgivable at this point, because they have sufficient evidence that Jesus is the Messiah. They know the Old Testament prophecies and they have seen the miracles in person. Yet, they reject Jesus as their Messiah. Jesus essentially says in verse 30 that you’re either with me or against me. They have aligned themselves against Jesus by their rejection and therefore there is no forgiveness available for them.

Now, for the question: Can this sin be committed today?

If we take this question in a very strict sense, we would say no. This sin could only have been committed by people who were alive during Jesus’ earthly ministry who knew the Scriptures like the Pharisees and saw the miraculous signs performed by Jesus.

But, I believe that this sin can still be committed today. Because it is still possible to reject the evidence provided by the Holy Spirit in Scripture and through His internal conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of David, the Savior, the Son of God.

When an individual is brought to a certain point by the Holy Spirit where they are convinced that Jesus is indeed the only Savior, and they still reject Him at that point, then there is no other hope available for them and their sin is unpardonable.

I think this is what the author of Hebrews is talking about in Hebrews 6:4-6, 9. These people have been exposed to the working of the Holy Spirit, even having been enlightened, but not yet converted. If people brought to that point do not trust Christ, salvation is impossible for them.

Conclusion:

Don’t be that person! How can you guarantee that you’ve not committed the unpardonable sin? Don’t reject Christ. Respond positively to each step of revelation given to you by the Spirit. Don’t reject His testimony in the pages of Scripture and His working in your heart!

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