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(From Forerunner Commentary)
There was no offering or sacrifice for the presumptuous sin. The person who presumed in his sin 1) despised the Word of the Lord; 2) brought reproach to the Eternal; and 3) died in his guilt. That is a very serious situation.
Notice that it does not say that he will be "cut off" from his people. It says that he will be "completely cut off" from his people, that is, done—finished. There is no sacrifice for presumptuous sin.
This contrast here—between unintentional and intentional sin—helps define what presumptuousness is. Presumptuous sin is intentional willful. It is doing something boldly, brazenly, audaciously, arrogantly, rebelliously, defiantly.
Remember verse 31 says that it brings despite on God's Word. And, if we commit such a sin, we are doing it in defiance of what God has said. It is being headstrong, and haughty—no matter what God has said on the matter. It is just pushing "our agenda" right on through, no matter what God may have to say on it. We could say, it is taking matters into our own hands and damn the torpedoes.
In the sense that there is no sacrifice (or atonement) for this type of sin, there is a link to the unpardonable sin. There may be contrition after a presumptuous sin like this, and God may not forgive it. When we are talking about something done arrogantly, willfully, in despite of God's Word and bringing reproach upon God Himself—then you are talking of very serious guilt. Will the blood of Christ erase such despite?
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
This transgression is commonly called “the unpardonable sin,” something so grave that it will not be forgiven, either in the present age or in the next one, even though God is normally eager to forgive.
Blasphemy is not talked about much these days, since our culture cares little about the things of God. The word “blasphemy” comes from two roots that together mean “injurious speaking.” Granted, speaking (or writing) that causes injury is quite common these days, but blasphemy belongs in a separate category because it has God or something sacred as its target. Thus, blasphemy is “a dishonoring of God or sacred things,” whether done deliberately or not.
Jesus' words in Matthew 12 are a strong enough warning by themselves, but the parallel account in Mark 3:29 makes the consequences of this even more plain: “He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” (emphasis added).
The wider context of these verses helps us to understand this stark warning, beginning in Matthew 12:22 with Christ healing a demon-possessed blind-mute. Because of the Pharisees' hard hearts, they would not accept that this had been done through the power of the Holy Spirit, so they tried to diminish this work of God by claiming it was performed by the power of Satan.
In verse 33, Jesus says to evaluate a matter based on the fruit that is produced. The Pharisees should have been able to see the supremely positive fruit that He was producing, and at the same time, He was pointing out that the fruit they were producing was rotten. In verses 34-35, their speaking evil against the power of God reflected the evil in their own hearts. While the Pharisees belittled the miracle that had just taken place, Jesus says in verse 36 that even idle or careless words must be accounted for in the Day of Judgment. Verse 37 warns that our words will either justify us or condemn us, putting the Pharisees on thin ice.
Notice, though, that He does not state directly that these Pharisees had committed the unpardonable sin. They did commit blasphemy serious enough to evoke a thunderous warning, but it appears that Jesus may have made some allowance for the Pharisees because, in His taking on the form of a bondservant (Philippians 2:7), they were confused about who He was. His true identity as the Son of God had not been revealed to them (as it had been to the disciples; Matthew 16:16-17), so He declared that they could be forgiven the blasphemous things they said about Him. He did not mean that blasphemy or other sins are no big deal, but rather that it is possible for those things to be forgiven upon repentance, in contrast to a transgression that cannot be forgiven at all.
Remember, the Pharisees triggered this warning by attributing the outworking of God to the Lord of Flies (Beelzebub). It included a rejection of God's nature, power, and activity. The conversation between Christ and Nicodemus shows that some of the Pharisees would acknowledge that Jesus was a Teacher sent by God (John 3:1-2). Yet, Matthew 12:14 states that these Pharisees were plotting against Him, so they had malicious intent.
Even so, a measure of ignorance remained. Paul says in I Corinthians 2:8 that if the rulers of the age—which would include the Pharisees—had full comprehension, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. Despite their attitudes approaching the point where they would be unable to repent, their lack of full comprehension of who they were opposing meant that repentance could still be possible once their eyes are opened. Due to their ignorance, they were not guilty of conscious rejection of the Spirit of the Most High God.
David C. Grabbe
What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
Jesus appears to contradict Himself. In Luke 12:8-9, He demands that we openly confess Him without hypocrisy, but in verse 10, He says our speech against Him can be forgiven. Yet, God will not forgive speaking against the Spirit. Why? One who blasphemes God's Spirit so thoroughly rejects its power to work in him that he refuses to submit to God. Too proud and rebellious to repent, he cannot be forgiven. A true Christian, though, constantly depends on the Spirit to reflect Christ's life as much as possible.
Christ's sacrifice for the overall forgiveness of sin and the receiving of God's Holy Spirit applies only once for each person, and if an individual rejects God's grace, it cannot be applied again (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-27). This is why apostasy is so serious a matter and why the first-century apostles contended so fiercely against heresy. Eternal lives are at stake!
Sustained neglect can also lead to eternal death. The sinner may know he should repent of his sins, but through lethargy, he never bothers to overcome them. In his apathy, he may try to appear righteous, but he is not fooling God. In effect, he is blaspheming God's Spirit by refusing to repent, so his sin is unpardonable.
Martin G. Collins
Beware of Hypocrisy
Considering that God's chosen were foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, yet seeing that many are called but few chosen (Matthew 20:16; 22:14), we are left wondering who was foreknown and who was predestined.
A safe approach to this is to understand that predestination applies to the church as a whole group. In other words, in the beginning God knew that He would raise up the church to do its work in the world and to nurture His called-out ones.
More recently, we have understood this to be far more specific. The Bible indicates that God foreknew several individuals at least from before their births (Isaac, Jacob, Samson, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, etc.), so His foreknowledge includes specific people. It makes perfect sense that God would want certain individuals to perform in a particular way when He wanted special things done, as that is a pattern God has used in the past.
However, God's foreknowledge and predestination “to adoption as sons, . . . according to the good pleasure of His will” (Ephesians 1:5) is not an absolute guarantee of salvation and eternal life. The Bible is unambiguous in its assertions that a person can lose his salvation (see, for instance, Hebrews 2:1-3; 3:12; 4:1; 6:4-8; 10:26-31). If an individual could not lose his salvation, then why does God provide so many passages warning us of the possibility?
God is not a liar and does not warn without cause. These warnings are given because God has cause to give them! While God is sure of His ability to work out the salvation of every person He calls, each person has his part to play, that is, he must believe and cooperate with God throughout the sanctification process, growing in the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. This is why the apostle Paul urges us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). In other words, though God chooses us, we must also choose Him.
An individual's sins could cause him to lose this awesome opportunity. Yes, God is eager to forgive all our sins and set us back on the path of righteousness, but that act of mercy cannot begin if we do not seek forgiveness and repentance from Him. A sin is unpardonable if one refuses to ask God to pardon it.
A person can also turn away from God so willfully that he becomes a rebel against God, repudiating his former belief and “trampl[ing] the Son of God underfoot” (Hebrews 10:29). Christ's sacrifice does not apply in such a case because it cannot be applied twice to the same person. As the writer of Hebrews says, this is considering the blood of the covenant, Christ's own blood, to be common and an insult to the Spirit of grace.
Further, why would He reveal that there will be a Lake of Fire for the incorrigibly wicked if it would not be needed? Certainly, the Devil and his demons will be cast into it, as well as the Beast and False Prophet (Revelation 20:10), but Hebrews 10:26-27 indicates that this is also the fate of those who “sin willfully after receiv[ing] the knowledge of the truth” (see also Hebrews 6:8). By the way, the Lake of Fire imagery stands behind Jesus' illustrations of Gehenna fire as well as the fate of the man not wearing a wedding garment: “outer darkness” and “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
This is why God warns us so often and so urgently in the pages of the Bible—because He does not want to lose those He has called to salvation!
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Many Are Called, Few Are Chosen
1 John 5:16-17
"A sin which does not lead to death" is one that is genuinely repented of and for which forgiveness is available because the attitude of the sinner is meek and truly sorrowful. A person may have this attitude, yet still sin on occasion out of weakness, ignorance, bad judgment, or even inadvertently. Both greater and lesser sins can fall under this category. Earlier in the book, the same apostle writes:
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:8-9)
Our genuine confession admits to God that we are guilty of breaking His law and seek to be cleared of it by Christ's sacrifice. This true repentance leads to a fierce desire not to sin and to building righteous character. God thus lifts the penalty of the second death, and once again, we, by His grace, are back on the road to salvation.
The sin that John calls a "sin leading to death" is what others know as "the unpardonable sin." Again, both greater and lesser sins can lead to the attitude that causes someone to commit an unforgivable sin. Such a sin is deeply reinforced by the attitude of the sinner—an attitude that denies Jesus Christ as Savior, that flagrantly hates his brother, and refuses to obey God's laws and statutes. Rebellion and defiance set this sin apart from others!
Martin G. Collins
Are Some Sins Worse Than Others?
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