Saturday, October 15, 2011

Those who Refuse Pardon will be Denied Pardon

(Photo: David Singer)

Many fear that they have committed the “unpardonable sin” and have passed beyond the hope of salvation. Usually, they cite these chilling words of our Lord:

• And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but 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. (Matthew 12:31-32)

This passage raises several questions. What does it mean to speak against the Holy Spirit (the blaspheme against the Holy Spirit) and why is it unpardonable? At first glance, this seems peculiar. Why would speaking against the Spirit be unpardonable while speaking against the Son is pardonable? Perhaps it is because speaking against the Son might have been done in ignorance (1 Tim. 1:13). However, speaking against the miraculous manifestations of the Spirit – in this case, casting out demons – could hardly have been done in ignorance. Instead, such denials of the Spirit’s Jesus-attesting miracles could only arise out of a hard heart that refuses the light. Consistent with this, the Jamison, Fausset, Brown Commentary reads:

• In charging Jesus with being in league with hell they were displaying beforehand a malignant determination to shut their eyes to all evidence, and so, bordering upon, and in spirit committing, the unpardonable sin.

I would add to this that their refusal to regard the light – the evidence of the Spirit’s miraculous workings – was a persistent refusal. Right before this, “Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus,” they assailed Him for healing on the Sabbath, and then “went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus” (Matthew 12:9-14). Clearly, all the evidence in the world would make no difference to them. It seems apparent that God would now allow them to go their own way and to reap the consequences of their refusal to be influenced by the evidence (Rom. 1:18-32).

However, could this frightful fate also pertain to those who want the truth and salvation? The sage commentator Matthew Henry put it this way:

• But humble and conscientious believers, at times are tempted to think they have committed the unpardonable sin, while those who have come the nearest to it, seldom have any fear about it. We may be sure that those who indeed repent and believe the gospel, have not committed this sin, or any other of the same kind; for repentance and faith are the special gifts of God, which he would not bestow on any man, if he were determined never to pardon him; and those who fear they have committed this sin, give a good sign that they have not. The trembling, contrite sinner has the witness in himself that this is not his case.

For someone who wants God’s salvation, Scripture assures them that if they seek, they will find. Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Rom. 10:13). Any who come to Jesus will not be cast aside but will be raised up in the last day (John 6:37). Any who confess their sins will be forgiven and cleansed (1 John 1:9). In fact, there is no instance in Scripture where someone sought forgiveness and was turned away.

We find that forgiving the greatest unworthiness, the worst of sins or the most plenteous of sins represents no obstacle to our Lord. He even seems to delight in saving the least deserving of people. He claims that He purposely choose this world’s rejects (1 Cor. 1:26-29). Paul had been the worst of sinners. He not only killed Christians but forced them to denounce their faith in Christ. (I can think of nothing worse!):

• Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Tim. 1:15-16)

Paul explained that his life should serve as an example to any who might fear that they are un-savable. If Paul could be saved, then none need fear that they couldn’t be saved.

King Manasseh was perhaps the worst of Israel’s kings. He ruled for 55 years. If anyone had committed sins that made him ineligible for salvation, it was he:

• Because Manasseh king of Judah has done these abominations (he has acted more wickedly than all the Amorites who were before him, and has also made Judah sin with his idols), therefore thus says the LORD God of Israel: “Behold, I am bringing such calamity upon Jerusalem and Judah...” (2 Kings 21:10-12).

However, the Assyrians captured Manasseh and threw him into prison:

• Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God (2 Chron. 33:12-13).

God had given King David everything, but that wasn’t enough for him. Despite the fact that he had numerous wives, he took another’s wife and then killed her husband. David had to suffer greatly for these sins, but God gladly forgave him.

Israel had consistently performed worse than other nations and became “more corrupt than they in all your ways” (Ezekiel 16:47). Nevertheless, God promised to restore them completely (Ezek. 16:59-63) even though they deserved nothing from their God.

The worst of sinners can come before God with the assurance that if they confess, they will be forgiven (1 John 1:9). One such sinner cried out, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” and received mercy (Luke 18:13).

Forgiveness and the mercy of God do not depend on our worthiness, but upon our willingness to humble ourselves by confessing our unworthiness, as Jesus explained:

• For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).

These things are despised by those who have hardened their hearts:

• The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor. 2:14)

They hate the light and will crucify the light. However, for those who God is drawing, the light is appealing (John 3:19-20), and its aroma is alluring (2 Cor. 2:14-17). These will cry out to the Lord, and He will hear them.

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