What is the unpardonable sin? Is it something we have to be concerned about today? What was Jesus condemning when He spoke those words?
The Passage: Luke 8:1-3; Mark 3:19-30; Matthew 12:22-37
- Jesus fed 5000 people with 5 fish and 2 loaves of bread, walked on water and raised people from the dead, but with all that power, how did Jesus provide for his own physical needs, and the needs of his disciples? (Luke 8:1-3)
- Jesus stated that the mouth speaks out of the treasure in the heart (Matt 12:34). What did the religious leaders “speech” reveal about what was treasured in their hearts?(Matt 12:22-24)
- How did Jesus show them that their accusation was actually self-defeating and therefore could not be true? (Matt 12:25-29)
- Jesus offers forgiveness for many sins, but how did He clarify the specific sin that would not be forgiven? (Matt 12:31-32) (see Matt 12:24-30 for the sin He was condemning) What is the specific in which that sin was made?
What was God doing? Why did He have this written down?
There is a lot of confusion regarding this passage, and the particular sin that Jesus said would be unpardonable. For the full explanation, see the full commentary for this section. But for the sake of keeping this short, Fruchenbaum summed it up by saying, “By definition, the unpardonable sin was the national rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus on the grounds of demon possession while He was physically present on earth.” That specific context, and these circumstances could not be duplicated or repeated. Therefore this sin is not something you and I need to be afraid of repeating today.
But, the heart issues that caused the religious leaders’ blanket rejection of Jesus is something all of us are in danger of repeating, and Jesus calls us all to consider it.
“Matt 12:34b-35 Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”
Paul Tripp in his book, “Instruments in the Redeemers Hands,” gave these 3 principles regarding treasures of our heart:
- Everyone seeks some kind of treasure. (This is Christ’s operating assumption. Matt 6:19-20)
- Your treasure will control your heart. (“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt 6:21)
- What controls your heart will control your behavior. (“No one can serve two masters.” Matt 6:24)
This was the case with the Pharisees. The treasure they had stored up in their hearts brought them to reject Jesus even though the evidence was indisputable. The things they set their heart on, affected the fruit that their life produced, and Jesus declared theirs to be a “bad tree”, and “bad fruit.” (Matt 12:33-34).
As I ask these questions of myself, I encourage you to ask them too.
- What can I learn from this? What is God saying to me and my life from this passage?
From Luke 8:1-3:
Jesus could have had birds bring him food like Elijah. He could have turned stones into bread, or multiplied a small portion to provide food for himself and the disciples. But that’s not what He did. He humbly chose to be dependent on a group of women who provided for them out of their means! This was Jesus living every moment as the Father intended Him to! He lived completely dependent on His Father, not just for God Himself to work through Him (John 14:10), but for God to provide for His daily needs.
That was God’s plan for Jesus, and it’s also God’s plan for everyone who works on His behalf. (1 Cor 9:13-14)
From Matt 12:22-37
The things I treasure, the things I choose to set my heart on, will affect the fruit that my life produces. I can become so protective of my treasure (idols) that I lose sight of what God wants to accomplish through me.
What do I need become more aware of?
- How often do I worry about my support level?
- What kind of treasure is stored in my heart? What evidence do I see through my words, attitudes, thoughts, especially when the thing I treasure (my idol) gets tampered with?
How does God want me to engage with this? What does He want me to do because of what He is saying here?
- Every time I worry about money and our support level, picture Jesus wandering around with His disciples, being supported by those women!
- Remind myself daily to rest in God’s provision.
- Don’t forget that only those things which God Himself is doing through me will actually bring fruit for eternity. Seek first His kingdom (Matt 6:33) and leave the rest to Him.
The Power; Implement and Integrate
The power to change is in the implementation and integration. We can talk all we want, make lots of plans, but until we do something about it, and develop habits that integrate those truths, we will never change. What is the one thing I need to do as a result of this study today?
- Daily remind myself of God’s promise in 1 Cor 9:14 to provide for His workers. Picture Jesus every time I worry about it.
- Look for something daily to share out of the treasure in my heart.
Commentary: Verse by Verse
Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, 2and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, 3and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
This is Jesus 2nd tour throughout Galilee. This time He took his 12 disciples with Him, along with some who were providing support for His ministry.
Here we get a small glimpse into how the ministry of Jesus and his disciples was supported. I think The Chosen does a pretty good job portraying this. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and many others… These traveled with Jesus and provided for Him and His disciples out of their means.
personal application: There’s a great application here for missionaries who live by faith (on the support God provides through people). Jesus Himself lived that way. He could have made bread come from the sky, like He did for Israel in the desert. He could have made loaves and fish multiply like He did with the feeding of the 5000. But, He chose to be dependent on these women! That’s quite a statement.
“There was never a moment in the life of the Lord Jesus that was without divine significance, never anything He did, never anything He said, never any step He took which did not spring from a divine origin. There was nothing in His life that was not the activity of the Father in and through the Son. What do we see the Father doing through the Son?” Which means that Jesus dependence on these woman was the activity of the Father in and through the Son! What if we had that attitude when it came to support raising? As the one receiving support… and those providing the support.. the activity of the Father in and through the Son!
Matt 12:22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw.
This is not just any old miracle. This miracle was unique. It was one of the 3 major miracles that the Jews believed only the Messiah could perform. The first one was the healing of the Jewish Leper who was in the late stages of Leprosy (32) (Luke 5:12-16). Jesus was not the only person in Israel who was able to perform healings. But, these particular healings were unique. Even in their own religious teaching, the religous leaders claimed these were things only the Messiah would have the power to perform. In (32-Healing of the Leper) we looked at the basis for why that miracle was Messianic. So, let’s look at was significant about this one.
To understand the significance we have to understand the Jewish practice of exorcism. For this, I will defer to Fruchebaum’s explanation.
In rabbinic exorcisms, the exorcist would need to use a specific ritual that had distinctive steps.
- He would need to establish communication with the demon who was using the vocal cords of the person under his control.
- Then the exorcist had to discover the demon’s name. This was an important facet of the exorcism.
- Once he knew the demon’s name, he could use it to order the demon out of the possessed person11 Arnold Fruchenbaum. (n.d.). Yeshua, The Life of the Messiah.
So, the fact this demon had caused the man to be mute meant there was no way for a rabbi to perform the duty of exorcism. There was no way they could cast this demon out.
Matthew 12:23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?”
Jesus did sometimes use the ritual described above (Mark 5:9) , but often Jesus just cast the demons out. That is what made Jesus so different. On other occasions his actions caused the people to marvel, and question, by what authority did Jesus do the things he did (Luke 4:36). But, this time, Fruchenbaum notes that they don’t question by what authority, their question is, “Could this be the son of David? (Matt 12:23) They saw that what Jesus did was clearly messianic. Matthew notes that “all the people were amazed.” The common Jew could see that Jesus was not just any Rabbi. He was clearly different. And they knew that what He was doing was messianic. As the crowds correctly concluded that Jesus must therefore, actually be, the Messiah, they were beginning to turn toward following Jesus. As the Pharisees saw the response of the people, they became more desperate to keep people from following Him.
Unfortunately, as Fruchenbaum noted so well, “While the multitudes were willing to raise the question, they were not willing to answer it for themselves. From biblical times to the present, the Jewish people have labored under a “leadership complex,” meaning, whichever way the leaders went, the people were sure to follow.”
Matthew 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
When the Pharisees could see the people
- Officially recognize Jesus as the long awaited Messiah… but he rejected Pharisaic Judiasm and the authority of the Oral Law.
- Reject His messianic claims… but what do they do with his miracles… they could not deny what He was doing (they never denied his actions) but how could they explain his special abilities. The only conclusion they could come up with, because of the power He displayed, if He is not from God, then He must be from Satan. Therefore He must be casting out demons by the power of Satan.
Jesus uses some tactical questions to reveal how their argument is self-defeating. Gregory Koukl’s book “Tactics” describes a great method of evangelism by using questions to lead people to define their own arguments. In many ways, this is what Jesus does here.
As the Pharisees make the claim to Jesus that He is casting demons out by the power of Satan, while Jesus doesn’t ask these questions directly, you can see them in that He says.
“You said that “It’s only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that I am casting out demons.” What do you mean by that? The prince of demons is casting his own troops out of people? How did you come to that conclusion?
Clearly these guys were desperate to try and explain away what Jesus as doing, in order to keep the people from following Him.
The next question Koukl mentions, as you seek to expose a self-defeating statement is to ask something like “If that’s true, then how do you explain…?” Fruchenbaum highlights that Jesus clearly lays four ways in which their conclusion is false.
Matthew 12:25-26 “Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?”
In general, a kingdom that is divided against itself, is never going to be strong. When their is in-fighting in a nation, or any kind of organized group, they will never be united on a common cause, because their energies, time, resources will all be divided.
After establishing the general principle, Jesus clearly states, “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself.” Therefore your conclusion defeats itself, it can’t be true.
2. The religious leaders themselves had long recognized that the gift of exorcism was a gift of God, so to accuse Him of this was inconsistent with their own theology
Matthew 12:27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges.
If their claim that his casting out of this demon was by the power of Satan, then their claims put into question all of their own exorcists. Therefore their conclusion defeats itself and can’t be true.
3. This miracle authenticated the claims and the message of the Messiah.
28But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
There was no question that His actions clearly displayed His Messiah-ship. But, they refused to believe it, nor accept it. But, Jesus makes the plain argument, that if this miracle can only be explained as a work of God, by the Spirit of God, then the only conclusion is that the Kingdom of God, and His Messiah, has come! Once again showing their argument does not stand up.
Matthew 12:29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house.
Jesus final argument defeats their statement by showing that instead of Jesus being under Satan’s power, and under his authority, that it’s actually Jesus who is the stronger one. Thus defeating their claim that Jesus is controlled by, or operating under the power of the prince of demons.
After showing how each of their arguments defeat themselves, there is only one conclusion left as to how they came up this argument, and that is a complete rejection of Jesus as the Messiah by their willful choice despite the clear evidence.
Matthew 12:30-32 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
There is a lot of confusion regarding these words, and this particular sin. So, what was the unpardonable sin? Matt 12:30-32 and Mark 3:28-30 are the only places in scripture this sin is mentioned. This is a very specific context. What has been happening in the context leading up to this passage?
Jesus has been performing miracles and doing things that are clearly messianic. But, what He has been teaching has not lined up with what the Pharisees and religious leaders teach. In fact, Jesus has directly opposed their traditions and their oral law. Because of this, they have refused to believe that He is the Messiah, even though the actions He has done are indisputable. In this passage this has come to a head with the casting the demon out of the deaf mute. Not only have they rejected what is clearly evident, they have attributed the work only God could do through the Holy Spirit, to Satan. That is the specific context, and the specific sin that Jesus pronounces as unpardonable. So, what made this unpardonable?
I really like how Fruchenbaum explains what is going on here.
By definition, the unpardonable sin was the national rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus on the grounds of demon possession while He was physically present on earth.
First, this was a national sin, not an individual sin. Individuals of that generation, like the Apostle Paul, could and did escape the judgment… The Messiah did not die on the cross only for certain kinds of sins. He died for every type of sin and rendered all of them forgivable to the individual who will come to God through His blood. The term whosoever in Matthew 12:32 can have either an individual or a corporate meaning, depending on the context. In this context, it is defined by the term this generation of verses 41 and 42, which state: The men of Nineveh shall stand up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it . . . The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it . . . (Mt. 12:41-42). This means that the word whosoever is corporate. The individual could be forgiven, but for the nation, it is now unpardonable.
Second, this sin is unique to the Jewish generation of Jesus’ day, and it cannot be applied to later Jewish generations… It was to this particular generation that the Messiah came both physically and visibly. He offered to establish the messianic kingdom for them, and He offered Himself as their Messianic King. It was also this specific generation that rejected Him.
The sin, then, was the willful rejection of the person of the Messiah who had been authenticated by the signs of the Holy Spirit. To ascribe those signs to Satan was to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, which, in turn, led to the rejection of Jesus’ Messiahship. The Messiah needed to be present to perform these signs, which is why this sin was limited to that generation and cannot be committed today.
Third, no other nation could commit this sin. Jesus was never visibly and physically present with any other nation, offering Himself as that nation’s Messiah. This was a unique relationship He had with Israel. There is only one covenant nation, Israel.
Matthew 12:33-34 Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
It’s always interesting to understand the context of certain well known Bible verses. How often have you heard or even quoted this verse? “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” I know I have. But, what is the context? The context is the religious leaders rejection of Jesus claim to be their Messiah! The words they had spoken had lead the entire nation of Israel to reject their Messiah!
Jesus says the tree is known by its fruit. The fruit that was being seen through their lives was the complete and utter rejection of God’s promised Messiah, while at the same time, claiming to be Israel’s leaders! Jesus asks a great question, “How can you speak good, when you are evil?” They were so full of unbelief, Jesus questions how they could speak any good at all.
Matthew 12:35-37 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Back in Matthew chapter 6, Jesus had instructed his followers, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth… but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there you heart will be also. (Matt 6:19-21) Here Jesus expounds on that to show that the things you treasure, the things you have set your heart on, will affect the fruit that your life produces. If you have been laying up treasure on earth, motivated by a heart set on selfishness, pride, and worldliness, the fruit that will result is evil. On the other hand, if you are laying up treasure in heaven, motivated by a heart set on displaying what God is like, desiring for God Himself to be at work through you, the fruit that will result is good.
The treasure the religious leaders had been storing up in their hearts was that of selfishness, pride, ego, etc. Now Jesus was exposing the fruit! That fruit had come out through their mouth. They had rejected Jesus as their Messiah and had declared instead, that He was possessed by demons. Jesus therefore declares of them, “You will give account for every careless word you said. By your words, you have condemned yourselves.”