Lesson 137—November 13, 2016
Audio Commentary by David Daniel
From Middle Ground to No Ground
Important Special Invitation
Tonight at 6:00 pm (following Launching Out Discipleship), we welcome “The Miracles” to Mars Hill Baptist Church. “The Miracles” are a nationally recognized choir from the Baddour Center in Senatobia, Mississippi, whose ministry is to glorify God, demonstrate the abilities of persons with intellectual disabilities, and tell the story of the Baddour Center. The choir travels an average of 16,000 miles and performs approximately 90 concerts annually. Please come and support these beautiful people and their wonderful ministry. You will experience the absolute joy of the Lord, as God shows up in a powerful way through the faithfulness of these dear friends. I am asking you to come, even if it is not in your normal schedule to attend worship on Sunday evenings. I promise you will be blessed! Please do not miss this opportunity.
Today’s Scripture: Matthew 12:30-32
Lesson Goal: To learn and better understand the importance of saying yes to Jesus while we still can. The possibility does exist to delay until it is too late.
We begin today’s lesson with Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew 12:30. Jesus spoke these words to the Pharisees, but their importance is for every generation and for all people. The point is that neutrality toward Jesus is ultimately impossible. There is simply no middle-ground position one can take concerning Jesus Christ. Jesus, Himself, declares this in verse 30.
- What does it mean to take a “middle-ground” position concerning Jesus Christ?
- How do people attempt to justify this middle-ground position today?
In the heat of the moment (persecution, risk of embarrassment, wanting to appear cool), have you ever taken a middle-ground position concerning your faith in Jesus Christ? (Please answer prayerfully.)
Have your true actions ever given away your position as middle ground in following Jesus Christ?
The Life Application Bible Commentary tells us that the point of the truth in verse 30 is that anyone who is not actively following Jesus has chosen to be against Him. There is no neutral zone or neutral ground when it comes to following Jesus. Each person must make the decision and answer the question: Am I for Christ or against Christ? With each person’s answer and decision come results, responsibilities, and consequences.
Please explain and discuss the words of John MacArthur as he expounds upon verse 30: “It is not necessary to oppose Christ in order to be ‘against’ Him; it is only necessary not to be with Him. Nor is it necessary to actively interfere with His work in order to be one who scatters; it is only necessary to ‘not gather with’ Him.”
Verses 31 and 32 are some of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted verses in all of Scripture. Before we continue our study, it is imperative that we seek the Lord. Would you pause to pray asking God’s wisdom and guidance as we look into the vast yet simple truths of these verses? Ask God to speak to your heart by His Spirit and through His Word. Please do not bring your own preconceived notions to this passage, but rather let this passage speak the truth to any and all preconceived notions or ideas. Make this truly your prayer: “Word of God speak.”
It should not surprise us that these verses (31-32) immediately follow Jesus’ words concerning no neutral position: “He who is not with me is against me” (v. 30). In these verses, we find what is known as “the unpardonable sin” or “the unforgivable sin.” As with any passage of Scripture, we must remember some very basic truths concerning biblical interpretation. We must always look at Scripture in the light of Scripture itself; we must see the passage in light of the totality of the Word of God. We must also look at the passage in the specific context in which it was written.
As we look at the whole of Scripture, there is no doubt we find the consistent love, mercy, compassion and grace of God. These themes sound forth in both the Old and New Testaments. This is the God who loved and made provision for Adam and Eve, Abraham, David, and many, many, others. This same love reaches throughout the pages of the New Testament into the lives of Matthew (tax collector), Paul (persecutor), and countless others. To correctly look at verses 31 and 32, we must keep these themes in mind.
In order to gain an accurate interpretation, it is very helpful for us to remember the context of Jesus’ specific words. Jesus has healed the demon possessed. As a result, some who witnessed this take place asked, “Could this be the Son of David, [the Messiah, the Chosen One, the Anointed One]?” The Pharisees cannot dispute the fact of the man’s healing, but they must offer some kind of explanation that addresses the question: “Could this be the Son of David?” They must refute any thought that would allow for, or entertain this question in any form. The Pharisees offer the explanation that the healing has come as a result of Jesus being satan or being empowered by satan. Jesus spoke to them offering the truth of how the man was truly healed. Following Jesus’ explanation, He makes a clear and bold declaration concerning the fact that every individual must decide for themselves, for there is no neutral position concerning who He is. Jesus now offers a response to this specific and immediate context (vv. 31-32).
“Jesus is speaking to Pharisees who are showing themselves to be completely opposed to Him. They were saying that Christ’s works were not through the power of the Spirit, but through the power of satan. This context helps us to understand why Jesus uses the term “blasphemy” here instead of the more common term “sin.” To blaspheme is to speak against, to slander, and that’s what the Pharisees were doing” (Platt).
Jesus begins, “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.” Often in our quest to understand the last portions of verses 31 and 32 concerning the unpardonable sin, we miss the first portions of these verses.
The truth is those who believe and become followers of Jesus Christ will be forgiven of all sins (i.e. sins of commission—disobedience, evil actions, wrong actions; sins of omission—good deeds not done, not doing what should have been done; sins of disposition—wrong motives, bad attitudes, bad thoughts). When there is genuine repentance and confession, none of these are beyond the forgiveness of God. When a heart is genuine in repentance and confession under the conviction (working) of the Holy Spirit, none of these are beyond God’s forgiveness.
Jesus said that blasphemy is forgivable even to the extent that it is against “the Son of Man.” When it is confessed and repented of, even an unbeliever who blasphemes against Jesus can be forgiven. (See 1 Timothy 1:13-14). By God’s wonderful mercy and grace, even a believer who blasphemes Jesus may be forgiven. Blasphemy encompasses any thought or word that dishonors, devalues, or defames the Lord’s name (1 John 1:9).
“BUT blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven” (31b). “BUT whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven” (32b). So what is this blasphemy against the Spirit? MacArthur explains that it not only reflects unbelief, but determined unbelief—the refusal, after having seen all the evidence necessary to completely understand who Jesus is. This unbelief is a determined rejection of Jesus in spite of all the Spirit’s witness, conviction, and evidence. It is a willful refusal to accept the light of Jesus Christ and therefore to remain in darkness.
David Platt writes:
Jesus is speaking to people (Pharisees) who He knows were in serious danger, if not already guilty, of hardening their hearts completely against Him. In attributing the work of the Spirit to the person of satan, they were setting themselves in total opposition to the Spirit of God, the only spirit who can draw them to salvation through repentance. They were rejecting even the thought of repentance. Such sin involves willful unbelief, persistent rebellion and final denial. In the end, no one can be saved if they pridefully and permanently reject the Spirit of God. This is the Spirit who draws us to salvation, who alone leads us to repentance and applies God’s forgiveness. We dare not reject His [the Spirit’s] testimony of the Son. Even as we consider the danger of blaspheming the Son and the Spirit, we must be careful not to completely disconnect the two from one another, for ultimately to reject the Spirit is finally to reject the Son (1 Corinthians 12:3).
There have been a few times in my ministry that someone has come to me worried that they have committed the “unpardonable sin.” I pray for God’s wisdom, but I believe if a person is truly concerned that they have committed the unpardonable sin against the Spirit that’s pretty good evidence that they have not.
The fact that Jesus spoke of the unpardonable sin should help us to understand the importance of responding to Christ when the Holy Spirit draws us. We should not delay. It is poss