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God’s Word for You

Luke 12:8-10 blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Confess Christ

8 “I tell you, whoever confesses me in front of other people, the Son of Man will also confess him in front of the angels of God. 9 But whoever denies me in the presence of other people will be denied in the presence of the angels of God. 10 Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

This passage takes us into the realm of the sin against the Holy Spirit, called by John the “sin that leads to death” (1 John 5:16), but it is not the primary proof passage. That is found in Matthew 12:31-32 and its parallel in Mark 3:29, and in 1 John 5:16. That sin is rejecting the gospel entirely, turning away from salvation through faith in Christ.

Here we have a different context. This is spoken to comfort the disciples, who were commanded not to fear men “who can only kill the body and then do no more” (Luke 12:4) and to be comforted by God who accounts for the sparrows sold so cheaply and the hairs of their very heads (Luke 12:6-7). Here the Lord is telling his disciples not to be afraid to confess him in front of people. Their confession would send ripples all the way to heaven, whereas denying Jesus would send ripples all the way to hell. The kind of people who would try to stop the preaching of the apostles would be dealt with by God himself—the Holy One whom men should truly fear. So it was for the comfort and encouragement of these disciples that Jesus said: “Do not worry. Anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit won’t be forgiven. They will be dealt with by my Father in heaven.”

Having said that, this is still the proper place in our study of this Gospel to discuss the sin against the Holy Spirit, since no other passage in Luke or Acts comes so near to the doctrine.

What’s the difference between speaking “a word against the Son of Man” and blaspheming the Holy Spirit? Jesus makes the point that speaking against him as the Son of Man—in his incarnation—is something that might be forgiven, because men are slow to understand, and can be misled. Those who rejected him might repent and come to faith in him, and they would be forgiven.

Let us first remember that if we divide all sins into two classes, (1) sins which can be pardoned through repentance, and (2) sins for which there is no longer any repentance, then almost all sins would fall into the first class, and only one sin would fall into the second.

Blasphemy against the Spirit cannot be taken to mean any word spoken against the Third Person of the Trinity. For an example of this, remember Paul, who persecuted the Christian Church and the work of the Holy Spirit, but he did so out of ignorance and was forgiven. No, this must mean those who come to know Christ, even to believe in him, and only then reject him as a fraud and a sham. This is unbelief, but a very particular form of unbelief. An unbeliever can be converted to faith, even on his deathbed. But a man who has turned away from salvation through Christ and dies in obstinacy, confident that he is right and the Holy Spirit (the Giver of faith) is wrong—such a man cannot be saved. This kind of unbelief can be looked at in two ways. It is either positive: firmly believing that one cannot be saved, or it is negative: not believing that one can possibly be saved. Whichever way it is put, it is the final sin of Judas, who took his own life in despair of being forgiven for betraying innocent blood (Matthew 27:4-5). In Judas’ case, he was also betrayed by the sin of the priests who refused him when he tried to repent (Matthew 27:3-4). For this reason, I disagree with those like Dante who assert that Judas and other traitors are the humans who will suffer the most in hell. The priests who rejected Judas are traitors who were standing in the robes of Aaron the priest of God. They rejected Jesus. They must take some of the responsibility for the soul of Judas who was at that moment under their care (since he came to them to repent) and even for his life because of their failure to act according to their office. Their role was to proclaim the absolution for the man who repented. The Law of Moses said: “The priest will make atonement for him before the LORD, and he will be forgiven for any of these things he did that made him guilty” (Leviticus 6:7). Of course, another part of the tragedy of Judas is that, failing to see his own forgiveness there on the cross (which no one saw until it was explained to them later), he ran back to the Jewish priests, who turned him away and refused to forgive him.

This is why the office of the public ministry must be held in high regard by those who occupy it as well as those who are served by it. Ministers who do not take their calling seriously, or who do not fully understand what it is to be called by the Holy Spirit and to stand in place of Christ to proclaim the forgiveness of sins should not have the office at all. Jesus prayed for his apostles, but he also prayed for those whom they served: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” (John 17:20). Pray for your pastors and leaders, and remember that when you do, you are praying for the good of the whole church.

How can a Christian who has fallen into a grave sin be comforted when he or she is terrified that they have fallen into the unpardonable sin? Don’t think for a moment that this doesn’t happen—your own brother or sister or child might be afraid of this very thing at this very moment. We must remember that the grace of God is free; that through Christ “he will be forgiven for any of these things he did that made him guilty” (Leviticus 6:7). Only this teaching of God’s free and full grace will give comfort, and praise God that you have a minister to give you this comfort. Any other minister—Catholic, Calvinist, Arminian or Reformed, must first become a Lutheran in his theology before he can deliver anyone from the fear of having committed the unpardonable sin. God’s grace is universal, and we are saved by his grace alone. Treasure this truth of God’s word, and share it.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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