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God’s Word for You

Mark 3:23-30 The sin against the Holy Spirit

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, February 19, 2022

23 Jesus called them together 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 And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is finished.

To answer the outrageous accusation that he was driving out demons by the power of the devil, Jesus makes a simple, clear statement that nobody can contradict: A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. In a civil war (when a single nation goes to war against a portion of that nation, whether larger or smaller), one side will almost always annihilate the other, and then both sides will collapse.

Jesus takes this a step further. If the devil were to start driving out demons, how long would his kingdom last? The world saw this attitude in the behavior of the madman of the twentieth century, Adolph Hitler. Hitler was completely convinced that Darwin’s theories of evolution were correct, and he chose to operate the Third Reich, particularly it’s many different branches, under the terms of what Darwin called “survival of the fittest.” This pagan philosophy meant that Hitler was content to let the various parts of his military and police spy on one another and even murder one another, partly to see which one would show itself to be the most effective and strongest. He himself ordered the murder of the officials of the early paramilitary force, the S.A., including one of his closest friends, in order to make way for the S.S., its more potent and terrifying replacement. He abandoned God, logic, and even reason in favor of a scientific theory, and it ate like gangrene at the heart of his state.

27 On the other hand, no one can enter a strong man’s house to steal his possessions unless he ties up the strong man first. Then he can plunder his house.

This little parable is a surprise, because it puts Jesus in the role of the thief who comes to plunder. But “the strong one” is Satan, and in order to have any victory over Satan or his demons, one must first bind him. The “possessions” aren’t the demons, but the people who are afflicted and possessed by them. In order to snatch them back into the kingdom of God (for everything that Satan possesses was stolen in the first place), Christ had to show his authority over Satan. This was the victory with Jesus overcoming the devil’s temptations in the wilderness (Mark 1:12-13). We learn some key doctrinal points from this little parable:

  1, God is able to rescue anyone from Satan’s power; nothing is beyond the power of God (Psalm 115:3). He is “the LORD Almighty.” Sadly, as the verses that follow will show, a human being is able to resist God’s grace and power. But this is not due to the lack of ability or strength in God.

  2, Satan is a personal being, not a theoretical apex of wickedness and evil in the world. He “roams through the earth and goes back and forth in it” (Job 1:7). No one can overpower and plunder a concept or a mere idea, and Jesus’ words here would be (as Lenski says) “farcical and senseless” if the devil were not an actual being. God speaks to Satan, not to ideas (Zechariah 3:2; Matthew 4:10).

  3, The demons, too, are beings with existence and will. They are dominated in some way by the devil, but since they all were once angels, his role must be one of more thorough corruption and power. This is opposed to the human concept of primus inter pares or “first among equals,” since that title is one of honor among true equals, and the devil and his demons are not beings of honor. Jesus commands the demons, personally, telling them to be quiet (Luke 4:35) and rebuking them (Luke 9:42).

  4, These demoniac possessions were not ordinary mental illnesses. If they were, then Jesus would not have the power over them that the historical record of the Gospels shows, nor would the invocation of Christ’s name be the powerful tool for exorcism that it is and will remain so until the end of time (Acts 16:18). “The nations will fear the name of the Lord” (Psalm 102:15), and the demons tremble in terror at it. “The Lord declares: ‘Should you not tremble in my presence?’” (Jeremiah 5:22).

28 Amen I tell you: Everything will be forgiven people, their sins and whatever blasphemies they may speak. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” 30 Jesus said this because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Forgiveness covers over all sins. But what is the difference between every other sin and blasphemy, and the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? One who sins against the Holy Spirit is sinning until he is beyond repentance and reform. To sin against the Holy Spirit, a special kind of blasphemy, is to throw up a wall in one’s heart and mind against the gospel, to call Christ a devil, and to reject the gospel, that is, the forgiveness of sins. One person can never know when another person has truly committed this sin. A person who is guilty of this sin might possibly be aware of it, but wouldn’t care. Paul and Barnabas said to the Jews in Galatia:  “We had to speak the word of God to you first, but you reject it” (Acts 13:46), and after this the Jews “expelled them from their region” (Acts 13:50). They had hardened their hearts against the gospel and against the work of the Holy Spirit. When a human being rejects forgiveness, how is forgiveness possible for him any longer? Professor Deutschlander illustrates this sin with an equation:

No gospel = no Holy Spirit = no faith possible

This is the danger of rejecting the gospel, and more and more we see the scholarly world throwing up a new barrier to the gospel by reducing the Word of God to “rewritten Scriptures” in their study of the Dead Sea Scrolls. This is a separate matter but one that should be pointed out in our Bible classes.

To reject the gospel is to sin against the Holy Spirit. Where the gospel is rejected, the work of the gospel cannot be done, since “faith comes by hearing the message” (Romans 10:17). That work is to comfort the sinner, to create faith, to build up faith, and to rescue the sinner from the work of the devil, the temptations of the world, and the original sin that infects the fallen sinful flesh. “This sin,” Luther teaches, “cannot be surpassed; it cannot become worse, for the devil himself can commit no higher or worse sin.”

The devil’s work is serious and severe, but don’t forget the Savior’s little parable about Christ the Thief. He is strong, stronger than Satan, and he came to rescue the fallen from the devil’s strongbox. Jesus wants us all back. He has shown his power and authority to do so. He has demonstrated his loving compassion. “He humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8), and he did this for our sakes, not just to show the devil up, but for you. He wants you in his family, and in his heaven, forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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