Two Warnings and a Promise
“Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God. And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven. And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.” (Luke 12:8-12)
The passage we have read contains some “things hard to be understood.” The principle thing that is dealt with in this text is “the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.” This is a subject about which it must be acknowledged little is known. The best and fullest explanations of it are, in my opinion, far from being exhaustive and satisfactory. And I have no delusions about being able to fathom the depths of this subject. I will say no more about it than I am confident of as a matter of divine revelation and no less.
We must never be surprised to find things in the Bible that are simply beyond the reach of our minds. If it had no deep places here and there, which no man is capable of understanding, much less explaining, it would not be the Word of the infinite God. However, rather than stumbling and falling over the things we cannot understand, we ought to give thanks to God for those revelations of wisdom and grace, which even the simplest minds are able to grasp. When we find things written in the Word of God that we do not understand, or that appear to our puny brains to be inconsistent with matters of clear revelation, let us reverently bow to the Scriptures, knowing that God is true, praying and waiting for clearer understanding that only God the Holy Spirit can give. Let us never speculate about divine truth, or offer opinions about things beyond our comprehension.
Confessing Christ and Denying Him
In verses 8 and 9 our Lord warns us about denying him, teaching us that true faith confesses him before men and will not deny him.
“Also I say unto you, Whosoever shall confess me before men, him shall the Son of man also confess before the angels of God: But he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God.”
If you would be saved, you must come to Christ (Matthew 11:28-30). There is no salvation without coming to the Lord Jesus. I am often asked, “How do I come to Christ?” Come to Christ any way you can, but come. This coming to Christ is an act of faith. If you come to Christ in saving faith, you must do so personally. I wish that I could believe God for my family; but a father cannot trust Christ for his children. Each must trust the Son of God personally. Unless a person in his own heart believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, he will perish.
If you come to Christ, you must come sincerely. You must not only be persuaded that Christ is the Way, but in your heart you must lovingly and sincerely agree with God’s terms of salvation. He says, “My son, give me thine heart” (Proverbs 23:26). It is the heart or nothing in this heavenly marriage.
This matter of faith in Christ, coming to Christ, is a rational, reasonable thing. All who come to Christ do so rationally, in knowledge and understanding. Faith is not a leap in the dark, but a reasonable, rational, knowledgeable trust. I know what Christ saved me from. He has saved me from sin’s curse and condemnation. I know who saved me — the Lord Jesus Christ, the God-man. I know how he saved me. He saved me by grace alone, through the merits of his perfect obedience and precious blood. And I know why he saved me. He did so “according to the good pleasure of His own will” (grace, grace, and more grace).
I know this, too: — If you come to Christ, you will never quit coming to him. Believers are sinners who are ever coming to Christ, seeking him, trusting him, and worshipping him (1 Peter 2:1-4; Colossians 2:6). The gift of faith is a permanent gift of grace; and those who come to Christ come permanently, with no intention of ever leaving him; and, by his grace, with no possibility of ever being forsaken by him.
Having come to Christ, we confess him (Romans 10:9-13). We confess our Savior before God, the Church, and the world in believer’s baptism (Romans 6:1-6); and we confess him before men in daily conversation, bearing witness to others of his marvelous, free, saving grace. If we deny Christ before men in this world, he will deny us before the angels of God in the world to come.
When our Savior said, “he that denieth me before men shall be denied before the angels of God,” was not talking about an act of denying him, as Peter did. Such a horrid thing a true believer may do. Our Lord is here talking about a person who denies Christ and goes on denying him, a person who persists in denying him (2 Timothy 2:12; 1 John 2:23).
Let us ever take care that we confess Christ before men. I am not talking about button-holing people, making a lot of religious noise, or obnoxiously badgering people with our religion. However, as God gives you opportunity, or in his providence constrains it, do not allow anyone or anything to make you ashamed of Christ. Confess him.
I do not go around talking to people about my wife everywhere I go; but I never miss an opportunity to talk about her. It is not a forced thing, but very natural. I love her; and it is very natural to talk about someone you love. Should I ever be in a place where someone speaks ill of her, I would be ashamed if I did not speak boldly of her honor. If I failed to do so, she and all who observed such silence would have every reason to be suspicious of my professed love for her.
Ever confess Christ before men. Never be ashamed of him, the gospel of his grace, and the goodness and mercy you experience at his hands. If we deny him, he will deny us. In the world to come we will reap the consequences of such cowardice and hypocrisy. In the Day of Judgment he will refuse to own us; he will refuse to plead for us; and he will refuse to be an Advocate for us.
The Unpardonable Sin
In verse 10 our Lord warns us of that sin which shall not be forgiven, neither in this world nor in the world to come. — “And whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but unto him that blasphemeth against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven.”
I will say no more about this than is obvious; but I will say no less. There is such a thing as the unpardonable sin. Many who spoke against the Son of man while he was upon the earth, not knowing who he is, were later converted and forgiven; but those who blaspheme against the Holy Ghost are forever damned (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28; 1 John 5:16).
We must not make more of this warning than our Lord does. What is this unpardonable sin, this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that shall never be forgiven? It is not difficult to show from the Scriptures what this sin is not. The difficulty is showing clearly what it is.
Our Savior clearly declares the free, full, absolute, and everlasting forgiveness of all sin to all believers. – “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.” — “If we confess our sins,” no matter what they are, no matter how vile they are, no matter how many they are, no matter how old or how new they are, the Lord God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins,” all of them, completely, and forever, “and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). — “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).
Yet, the Son of God does speak about one particular sin that is unpardonable. It is called “the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.” What is “the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost?” “The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost” does not involve sins of ignorance. The distinction drawn between “speaking against the Son of man” and “speaking against (blaspheming) the Holy Ghost” must not be overlooked. The sin against Christ as the Son of man was committed out of ignorance by those who did not know that he is the Messiah. Therefore, they did not receive him, believe him, and obey him, but opposed, persecuted, and even crucified him. But they did it ignorantly (1 Corinthians 2:8), as Saul of Tarsus did (1 Timothy 1:13).
This sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which our Savior declares is unpardonable, is committed by men and women who willfully persist in unbelief and obstinate impenitence, deliberately rejecting the counsel of God against themselves, and are therefore given up to a reprobate mind. J.C. Ryle accurately describes it as, “The union of the clearest head-knowledge of the Gospel with deliberate rejection of it, and deliberate choice of sin and the world.”
John Gill wrote, “It is a despiteful usage of the Spirit of grace, an opposing, contradicting, and denying of the operations wrought, or the doctrines revealed by him, against a man’s own light and conscience, out of a willful and obstinate malice, on purpose to lessen the glory of God, and gratify his own lusts. Such was the sin of the Scribes and Pharisees; who, though they knew the miracles of Christ were wrought by the Spirit of God, yet maliciously and obstinately imputed them to the devil, with a view to obscure the glory of Christ, and indulge their own wicked passions.”
This unpardonable sin is the willful, deliberate rejection of Christ by one who is fully convinced that he is the Son of God and the only Savior of sinners. It is a deliberate refusal to bow to him as Lord. It is choosing to save your life, rather than lose it to the dominion of the Son of God. It is nothing less than running over top of the Son of God to get to hell!
Those who are troubled with the fear that they may have committed this unpardonable sin, most assuredly have not done so! The one thing that always characterizes those people described in the Scriptures as reprobate is a callousness and hardness that is the result of a seared conscience. When God gives a man up in reprobation, that man is no longer concerned for the glory of God, the knowledge of Christ, and the things of God.
Lot’s wife, Pharaoh, King Saul, Ahab, and Judas Iscariot stand out as beacons to warn all. Each of them had crystal clear knowledge. Yet, each of them deliberately rejected Christ. They had light in their heads, but darkness in their hearts. Each of them today is in hell, suffering the wrath of God. Beware of despising the light God has given you. Do you know the truth? Then walk in the truth. Walk in the light God has given you. That is the only safeguard against the unpardonable sin.
In the context in which this and our Lord’s other warnings about it are given, this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit appears to be that which was the preeminent crime of the Pharisees. It is the willful, persistent rejection of the gospel, the willful, persistent hardening of the heart against the claims of Christ in the gospel (2 Corinthians 2:14-16; (Proverbs 1:23-33; 29:1).
No doubt, some who read these lines will ask themselves, with terror in their souls, “Have I committed this unpardonable sin? Have I committed this blasphemy against the Holy Ghost?” To you, I say again, the sin here described is a sin accompanied by utter deadness, hardness, and insensibility of heart. The person whose sin shall never be forgiven him is precisely the person who will not seek to have his sins forgiven. That is the very essence of his condemnation. God has left him alone! He is “twice dead!” Sin hardened and gospel hardened, his conscience is seared as with a hot iron (1 Timothy 4:2). Do not be so foolish as to trifle with such things. Come to Christ now. Trust him now. Today, if you will hear his voice, harden not your heart!
In verses 11 and 12 our Lord Jesus promises grace to help in time of need.
“And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.”
Whatever your trial may be, my brother, whatever your difficulty, my sister, as surely as God is on his throne, he who brings you into the trial will bring you through the trial; and he will do it in such a way that it will be obvious that he did it. He will give you what you need, when you need it, enabling you to persevere, enabling you to serve him, enabling you to honor him. — “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
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