The Glory of the Gospel and the Danger of Unbelief
“And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils. And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end. No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house. Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.” (Mark 3:22-30)
The Scribes came down from Jerusalem specifically to slander the Son of God. They saw the miracles he performed and could not deny their reality. They heard his doctrine and could not refute it. Yet, they would not bow to the Lord Jesus as their Lord, acknowledging him to be the Christ of God. They would not repent of their sins and believe on the Son of God. Instead they accused him of being in league with the devil. They said, “He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of devils casteth he out devils!”
Throughout his life on this earth, our Master was misunderstood by his family and friends, and deliberately misrepresented by his enemies. This was a trial he had to endure from his childhood until his death as our Substitute upon the cursed tree. While he was most humble, he was thought to be most arrogant. When he went about his Father’s business, he was thought to be negligent and irresponsible. Though he was perfectly righteous, he was thought to be altogether sinful.
We must not expect better treatment in this world. As we endeavor to live for Christ, as we seek the glory of God, as we try to walk in obedience to the will of God, others will judge us to be self-serving, self-promoting, rebels and antinomians. Unbelieving friends and relatives will not understand us. Enemies will deliberately misrepresent our actions and accuse us of being ruled by the most vile and base motives imaginable. Our Lord Jesus told us plainly that these things must come to pass (Matthew 10:16-26).
Our Savior’s kinsmen said, “He is beside himself!” The Pharisees called him a glutton, a drunk, and a sinner. The Scribes said, “He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of devils casteth he out devils.” We will be wise to expect and be prepared for the same treatment, because “the world knoweth us not,” even as “it knew him not.”
Yet, even these base actions of wicked men were turned by our sovereign Master into an occasion for good to his chosen. He took their evil works and words and used them to teach us much needed spiritual lessons that we would be wise always to remember. The things taught in these verses deserve special attention. They are recorded here by divine inspiration for our learning and admonition.
Lost, self-righteous, religious people, while pretending to be loving, benevolent, and gracious are never reluctant to slander the names of others to promote themselves. “But,” as John Trapp observed, “envy never regards how true, but how mischievous.” The lying heart is manifest by the lying tongue. The Scribes who had come down from Jerusalem, seeking to find some accusation against the Lord Jesus, when they saw, or were informed that he had cast out unclean spirits, said, “He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils” (v. 22). Sometimes they called him Beelzebub (Satan), the prince of devils (Matthew 10:25). At other times they said our Savior’s work of mercy and grace was the work of the devil.
They were filled and guided by enmity and envy toward the Son of God. These men knew that he was not insane. And they knew that he had exercised power that only God possesses, healing the bodies of men and casting out devils; but that, they refused to acknowledge. In their malice and envy they attributed to Satan the power and work of God, hoping by their slander to defame him whose doctrine they could not refute and whose work they could not deny.
The Scribes were trying to protect themselves, to guard their religious turf, and protect their position of influence. They had no concern for either the souls of men, the truth of God, or the glory of God. They were moved by nothing more noble than envy. If they owned the Savior’s work to be of God, their religious importance, their occupation, and their gain would be gone. The proud, self-serving religionists, claiming to be God’s servants, were the slaves of Satan. As such, they blasphemed the Son of God.
Let all be warned. Such deceitful workers are present and highly esteemed throughout the religious world in all ages, “transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ…as the ministers of righteousness” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of” (2 Peter 2:2).
Our Lord Jesus responded to the Scribes’ accusation by a parable (vv. 23-26). In the parable he clearly shows the absurdity of their accusation against him. Any fool knows that “a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand.”
“And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan rise up against himself, and be divided, he cannot stand, but hath an end.”
There are many things that may be properly taught from this parable. However, that which is, in my opinion, the most important lesson to be drawn from these words of our Redeemer is the one thing most often overlooked. This parable shows us the shameful sinfulness of strife and division among those who are supposed to be friends and allies in the same cause.
I realize that wicked men, men who would utterly destroy the gospel of Christ, promote peace at all cost. There are many who tell us that we must never oppose anything or anyone. Such traitors to Christ and his gospel must not be heard. Yet, there is a form of strife and division that is evil, always evil, and only evil. It is to be avoided by us at all cost. It is our responsibility to seek, pray for, and promote the peace of Jerusalem, the unity and harmony of God’s church and kingdom in this world (Ephesians 4:1-6, 30-32; 5:1-2). We should, as much as possible, avoid needless differences, disputes, and debates about spiritual things.
Nothing so weakens the arms of the church as the carnal strife which divides it. Needless disputes absorb thought, energy, time, and effort that should be spent in the furtherance of the gospel. They furnish infidels with weapons to use against us. The divisions that exist among God’s true people in this world, no matter how justified we think we are in maintaining them, are but taking sides with the devil against ourselves.
Satan is the one who initiates them, the one who maintains them, and the one who profits by them. If he cannot extinguish the kingdom of God, he labors tirelessly to divide the soldiers of Christ’s kingdom into combating armies, fighting each other. The crafty old serpent knows by long experience that “to divide is to conquer.”
We must and should be zealous for the glory of God and the truths of the gospel. I utterly abhor that sentimentality that is willing to sacrifice the truth and glory of God upon the altar of what men call love and peace. We cannot be too jealous about the truths of the gospel and the glory of our God. Divine sovereignty, total depravity, eternal election, effectual atonement, almighty grace, and the preservation of God’s elect are matters vital to truth, vital to the glory of God, and vital to the souls of men. With regard to these things, we must never budge an inch for anyone. But the method of church government, the kind of musical instruments employed in worship, and whether the congregation concludes the sermon by saying, “Amen,” or saying nothing are matters totally insignificant.
We should never make a fuss about trifles. Far too many are morbidly scrupulous about pointing out, calling attention to, and debating differences with others about the most minute details. They are far more anxious to point out insignificant differences and magnify them than they are to lock arms with their brethren and promote truth for the glory of Christ.
Nothing can ever justify such behavior. — Nothing! There is something more important than you and me, something more important than our opinion, our name, or our desires. The truth of God, the glory of God, and the kingdom of God are infinitely more important. The fact is, all debate is wicked. It is of the flesh, does nothing for God’s glory, accomplishes no good, and only gratifies the flesh. Debate is always listed in the Word of God with envy, wrath, strife, whisperings, backbiting, slander, and murder (Romans 1:29; 2 Corinthians 12:20).
As we ought to scrupulously avoid needless strife about words and promote the unity of the church and kingdom of God throughout the world, let every child of God be doubly scrupulous in protecting and promoting the peace, harmony, and unity of the local church to which God has joined him (1 Corinthians 1:9-13). Love one another. Be kind and thoughtful toward one another. Speak well to and of one another. Forgive one another. Be patient, forbearing, and longsuffering with one another (James 3:13-18; 4:1-3).
“No man can enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he will first bind the strong man; and then he will spoil his house” (v. 27).
Here our Savior speaks of his great, omnipotent, saving grace. There seems to be a direct connection between these words and the prophetic words of Isaiah concerning our most glorious Lord Jesus Christ and his almighty, gracious, saving operations in and upon chosen, redeemed sinners.
“Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.” (Isaiah 49:24-26)
We are all, by nature, sinners under the dominion of Satan. Our hearts are his house and palace. His tyrannical rule and dominion over us is so great that we are his willing servants. We could never free ourselves from his dominion if we would, and would not if we could. Salvation comes when the Lord Jesus Christ invades the city of Mansoul by the sovereign power of his omnipotent grace, casts Satan out, and takes possession of our lives, planting his throne where once Satan reigned, in the very core of our hearts.
The Lord of glory is not a pathetic little Jesus, knocking at the sinner’s heart’s door, waiting for the dead sinner, by an act of his will, to open the door and let him in! He who is our Savior is the sovereign Son of God, omnipotent in mercy and irresistible in grace. When he knocks at the heart’s door, he knocks the door in, bolt and bar. He comes in, takes possession of the soul. And when he comes in, he brings his welcome with him! The first time the heaven born soul is aware of his presence is when he begins to cast the devil out!
Every chosen, redeemed sinner shall be set free by the power of God’s omnipotent grace at God’s appointed time. Our glorious Christ regenerates and gives eternal life to dead sinners by the irresistible power and grace of his sovereign Spirit. And awakened, regenerate sinners come to Christ with willing hearts, because he gives them faith and causes them to come to him (Psalms 65:4; 110:3). All who are saved by the grace of Christ willingly bow to him as their only and rightful Lord. Believers are his willing bond-slaves, men and women who willingly stoop down before him and slip under his yoke.
“Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme” (v. 28).
What a great, glorious declaration this is! He who delights in mercy declares, “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme!” That may appear to be a trifling matter to some. But to that person who has tasted his sin, who knows the corruptions of his own heart, whose soul burns with the very fires of hell tormenting his conscience, this is the greatest thing ever heard. — “All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme!” The sins of my youth and the sins of my old age, the sins of my heart and the sins of my hand, the sins of my mind and the sins of my mouth, open sins and secret sins, past sins, present sins and future sins, my sins as an infidel and my sins as a believer he has freely, fully and forever forgiven! The sins of persecutors like Saul, the sins of idolaters like Manasseh, and the sins of harlots like Rahab are forgiven by the Son of God.
“All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme!” — What a magnificently broad proclamation of God’s infinite mercy! The blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin (Acts 13:39; 1 John 1:7, 9; 2:1-2). The righteousness of Christ covers all iniquity. The intercession of Christ prevails over all transgressions. “This”, J. C. Ryle said, “is the glory of the Gospel. The very first thing it proposes to man is free pardon, full forgiveness, complete remission, without money and without price.”
Lay hold of this thing, which is the very glory of the gospel. Often we faint, falter, and fail. We rightly feel ourselves altogether unworthy before our God. We are cast down in our souls. And Satan harasses us with our countless sins. But this is a fact beyond all dispute. — If we trust Christ alone as our Lord and Savior, if we trust his blood alone to atone for our sins and his righteousness alone to give us acceptance with God, then our God has cast our sins, all our sins behind his back forever. He will never remember them against us.
It has become acceptable, and even popular, in many circles today for men, while claiming to believe the Bible, while claiming to preach the gospel, to deny the reality of hell and eternal punishment; but in verses 29-30 the Son of God speaks about “eternal damnation!”
“But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.”
Terrible as this truth is, it is truth. We must not shut our eyes to it. We must not fail to declare it. Sin is an infinitely evil thing. It required a sacrifice and an atonement of infinite value to satisfy the justice of God for our sins. And if God finds sin upon any in the day of judgment, he will pour out upon that soul his infinite wrath, without mercy in “everlasting damnation!”
Let it ever be ours to preach the gospel of free, full forgiveness by the blood of Christ, calling and urging eternity bound sinners everywhere to flee from the wrath of God. Come take refuge for your soul in the City of Refuge. Never rest until you rest in him who is the Rock of Ages. You and I will spend eternity either under the blackness and darkness of the terror and torment of everlasting hell, or in the bliss, glory, and delight of heaven. Where will you spend eternity? We must soon meet the holy, eternal God in judgment. What will you plea for acceptance with him? The sinner’s only hope is Christ; and, oh, what blessed hope believing sinners have in him by the gospel!
In Christ I now believe,
And trusting in His name,
Redemption through His blood I have!
Complete in Him I am!
This hope my soul uplifts,
When sin and Satan press:
Unchanging are my Father’s gifts,
Who promises to bless.
My sins, my sins, my sins,
Are blotted out, each one!
No cause for wrath on me remains!
God sees me in His Son!
So, come to me what may,
It must, I know, be blest.
God, Who for me His Son did slay,
Will do for me what’s best!
The Unpardonable Sin
In verse twenty-nine the Son of God states emphatically, “He that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness.” There is such a thing as the unpardonable sin. This is not a matter of speculation. It may not fit well with our theological systems; but it is a matter of divine revelation, plainly stated and undeniable (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26; 1 John 5:16-17).
What is the unpardonable sin? I fully recognize that caution must be used here. The Scriptures clearly reveal the fact that there is an unpardonable sin; but they do not expressly tell us what it is. However, the Word of God does hold these Scribes and their cohorts, the Pharisees (Matthew 12:31-32), as examples of men who committed it.
The unpardonable sin appears to be the willful rejection of Christ and his gospel, a deliberate, persistent refusal to bow to the claims of Christ as Lord. It seems to be a combination of a clear intellectual knowledge of the gospel and a deliberate rejection of it, a knowledge of Christ in the head and a hatred of Christ in the heart (Proverbs 1:23-33). Though Saul of Tarsus was a persecutor and a blasphemer, he obtained mercy because he did it ignorantly (1 Timothy 1:12-13).
Many of God’s children in this world have been greatly distressed with this, fearful that they may have committed the unpardonable sin. I understand their fear. I have had the same fear. It is a fear with which Satan often buffets the soul brought low with the knowledge of his sin. Of this much I am certain, the blasphemy our Lord speaks of here, this sin that is unpardonable, whatever it is, none of God’s elect can commit it.
The sinner who trusts Christ alone for all grace, salvation, forgiveness, righteousness, eternal life, and acceptance with God has not and cannot commit it. Those fearful, timid, tempted souls who are most fearful they may have committed it before they trusted Christ, have unfounded fears. If you believe on the Son of God, you have not committed this blasphemy; and you can never be in danger of committing it.
Yet, some are in danger of committing this unpardonable crime. Those who trifle with the gospel, trifle with their souls! There is forgiveness with God for all sin through the blood of Christ. — “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But, for every unbelieving soul “is in danger of eternal damnation.” “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6).
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