We return in our study this morning to Matthew 12. We are grateful to God for the truth that the Spirit has taught us as we move through this marvelous gospel. This morning, we are looking again at verses 22-32. We have entitled the passage "Blaspheming the Holy Spirit - The Unpardonable Sin."
The New Testament carries the very clear teaching that the Lord Jesus Christ lived in total submission to God the Father. That is a very explicit fact repeated again and again in the New Testament. In fact, our Lord Himself, on many occasions, said, "I have come to do My Father's will. I have come to do the will of Him who sent Me." From the time that we first meet Jesus Christ as a boy at the age of 12, He makes it very clear the reason He came; He said, "I must be about My Father's business." In other words, Jesus Christ came into this world to do exactly what God the Father told Him to do. That was the key element in His humiliation and servitude.
In Philippians 2:6, we read about Christ, "He was in the form [essence] of God," and it speaks of His deity, "But He did not think it something to be held onto, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross." Paul tells us in that great passage that Jesus Christ was equal with God. We know from the clear teaching of Scripture that He was God, in every sense the essence of God. Yet when He came to earth, He took upon Himself the form of a servant, humbled Himself, and became obedient.
Clearly, the Lord Jesus Christ took the role of a servant. He voluntarily set aside the prerogatives of His deity, His own choices, and allowed the Father's will to be expressed through Him. That is pretty much clear, evangelical, orthodox, Christian dogma. But what you may not understand quite so clearly is the next facet, and that is that not only was He submissive to the will of the Father, but He was totally dependent on the power of the Spirit. He was totally submitted to the working of the Holy Spirit. Mysteriously, the second Person of the Trinity set aside His own prerogatives as God, submitting Himself to the will of the Father and the power of the Spirit. We'll never understand all that that means, but in fact, those are the terms by which we can understand as much as our minds can handle. He was submitted to the will of the Father and the power of the Spirit.
If you go back to Matthew 3:16, you find that this is indicated by the very initiation of His ministry under the power of the Holy Spirit. It says that when He was baptized, "He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'"
There we see the Spirit of God descending upon Christ at the initiation of His ministry; that is not to say that He did not have the Spirit prior to that. "He was conceived by the Holy Spirit," it says in the gospels. Certainly if John the Baptist, who was a human being, was filled with the Spirit from his mother's womb, so was Jesus Christ, who was God in human form. So we believe that He was conceived by the Spirit of God, indwelt by the Spirit of God, as in fact He was the very God in human form. So this is not to say that He didn't possess the Spirit; this is simply to say that there was a unique empowering by the Spirit for His ministry. That began at His baptism.
According to Mark 1:12, immediately after His baptism, "He was driven into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit." For the first time since His baptism, the Holy Spirit begins to energize what He says and does, and where He goes. A little further after His baptism, Luke tells us what happened next in Luke 4:14. "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit unto Galilee."
So from the time of His baptism, the Spirit takes over the power and moves Him out of the baptism into the wilderness, out of the temptation, back into Galilee. He is under the power of the Spirit. What happens? "News about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him." The Spirit, then, came at His baptism, led Him in the victory over Satan, and gave to Him a personage, a presence of person, with such power that He had fame and honor immediately.
Then it tells us further in verse 18, that Jesus says, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." The Spirit of God was the power in His preaching, as well as His teaching and His person. The magnetism of His person, as well as what He said, was energized by the Holy Spirit.
Also, "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." In that verse, we see His preaching, healing, and deliverance from demons. All of it because the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him. Mark that in your mind.
When Christ came into the world in humiliation, He set aside His prerogatives and became utterly a servant to the will of the Father and utterly a vessel to be used by the power of the Spirit, so that the Holy Spirit of God energized what He did in His ministry, from baptism through temptation, and out of that into His teaching, preaching, healing, and delivering. Everything He said and did was energized by the Spirit of God. When you looked at Jesus Christ and evaluated Him, in fact, you were evaluating the will of the Father and the power of the Spirit as manifest in His human form.
With that in mind, we approach this passage in Matthew 12. The Jews of Jesus' time had seen all of the miracles, witnessed all of the deliverances, heard the preaching and teaching, seen the magnetism of the personage of Jesus Christ. There was no question about the evidence; there was little argument about the manifestation of divine power. But were they willing to give the Spirit the glory and honor for what they saw?
Verse 22 gives us the activity that brought it all to a head. "Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw." In other words, He not only brought physical healing, but also a casting out of a demon.
From the activity of verse 22, we come to the amazement of verse 23. "And all the multitudes were amazed and said, 'This is not the Messiah, is it?'" I mean, it was a little hard to argue with His power, so they began to wonder if maybe this wasn't the Messiah. The amazement led to the accusation, because the Jewish leaders couldn't tolerate the people concluding this was the Messiah because Jesus was such a threat to their security that they immediately uttered an accusation in verse 24.
"Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, 'This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.'" In other words, they said, "His power is satanic." When they said that, who were they blaspheming? The Holy Spirit, because it was the Holy Spirit that was ministering through Him, for in His voluntary humiliation, taking the form of a servant, He had given Himself over to the power of the Spirit. That, then, becomes the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. It is to speak evil against Him, and the most evil that you could possibly speak against Him would be to say that He is the Devil, that He is Satan. That is what they said about the power of the Spirit; that was their accusation.
The accusation, then, leads to the answer in verse 25. The activity brought about the amazement, the amazement brought about the accusation, the accusation brought about the answer. Jesus has to respond to their accusation, and He does it in three ways. First of all, He says, "Your accusation is absurd." In verse 25, He says, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand."
In other words, He gives them a basic human truism: you can't survive an internal revolution, or the dividing of what you are trying to hold together. It can't be both ways; you cannot sustain a kingdom or a city that you are dividing, that is an obvious fact of logic. Therefore, verse 26 says, "If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?"
In other words, He says, "You saying that I do what I do by the power of Satan is absurd by the most elementary form of human logic." There are only two alternatives. When you see supernatural power, it is either God or Satan. If to say that it is Satan is absurd, then you're only left with one alternative.
Secondly, He says their answer is not only absurd but prejudiced. Verse 27. "And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges." The Pharisees had certain disciples of their system, called 'sons' here, who were going around in little groups, believing that they were exorcists who could cast out demons. Of course, it is questionable whether they ever did that, but they thought they did, and I'm sure there were times when the demons let them think they did. The demons may have been confused enough to enter into some chaos in their faces anyway, but it was not a genuine deliverance as was exhibited by Christ. And yet, the Pharisees believed this to be a work of God, so Jesus said, "They are doing on the surface the same thing I'm doing. You say they are of God and I'm of the Devil; that's arbitrary bias, and only manifests is your prejudice. Your argument is absurd," and frankly, that should have ended the argument anyway. Once you've determined that it is absurd, it's all over, but just to add insult to injury, He says, "It's also prejudiced. The fact that you would come up with such an absurdity shows that all you are is prejudiced against Me."
Thirdly, He says they are prejudiced because they are rebellious. In verse 28, it says, "But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God," or if this is God at work, "then the Kingdom is near. The Kingdom is right here, and you're seeing the Kingdom of God in operation. If I'm doing it by God's power, then you are seeing God's Kingdom."
Then He gives them an illustration; if you're going to rob a strong man's house, you have to be able to tie up the strong man. Jesus is saying, "If I can control the demons of Satan, then I must be able to tie up the Devil himself. If I am the one who can tie up the Devil, then God is in your midst. Your problem is that you are rebellious, and will not be with Me, so you are against Me. You will not gather into My Kingdom, so you are scattering abroad."
So the activity led to the amazement which led to the accusation which lead to the answer. Jesus says, "You are absurd, prejudiced, and rebellious." Then He adds the anathema, which means a curse, and the sum of it is what we'll look at in verses 31-32. This is a passage that has confused many people and has been interpreted in many ways; I hope we can get a good understanding of it as we look at its simplicity in the context of Matthew 12.
They had cursed the Spirit of God, and now God through Christ is going to curse them. They have committed a sin that is unforgivable. Verse 31. "Wherefore," in other words, based on all that He has said and all that has gone on, "I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men."
That is a very simple statement; sin and blasphemy are, in a sense, distinct, although blasphemy is sin. Sin is a large category of evil deeds, thoughts, or attitudes. Blasphemy is one kind of sin within that broad category. Blasphemy is the unique sin of speaking evil against God, saying things about God that are not true about Him, speaking of God in a derogatory manner; that is blasphemy. It is a defiant irreverence, to speak evil of.
Jesus begins by saying, "All that kind of sin and blasphemy is forgivable." Unless you run off into the middle of nowhere with that statement, there is a condition. It is not a universalist statement, that whatever you do or think or believe, ultimately, all sin and blasphemy will be forgiven. It will be forgiven when the conditions are met, and the condition for forgiveness and sin is very clearly given in the New Testament as repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. When you confess your sin, and turn from your sin to Christ in faith, believing and receiving Him as Savior, then God will forgive all your sin and blasphemy.
The classic illustration for that is the Apostle Paul, who himself in I Timothy 1:13 says, "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- of whom I am the worst." He says that he was the worst of sinners, a blasphemer, speaking evil against God, but he was forgiven.
All manner of sin and blasphemy is forgivable; God is in the business of forgiving sin. Look back in the Old Testament,at Psalm 32, where David says, "I brought my sin before You and You forgave me." Psalm 85 talks about God's wonderful forgiveness; Psalm 103 says God forgives our sins and removes them as far as the east is from the west. The wonderful prophet Micah says, "Who is a pardoning God like You, who is so magnanimous in His forgiveness and buries our sins in the depths of the sea?" The prophet Jeremiah speaks of the new covenant with its utter forgiveness. In Isaiah 43:55 and elsewhere, Isaiah says God will totally and completely forgive. In the New Testament, we find the same thing. "If we confess our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
Again and again, that is the message: forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness. God will graciously forgive any sin, even the sin of blasphemy. May I add as a footnote that even when a Christian blasphemes God, it is forgivable. You say, "Would a Christian do that?" Christians do that; any time you think a thought or say a word that speaks against God, you have blasphemed, spoken evil of His name. If you have said, "God, that wasn't fair," that's a blasphemy.
I had a Christian friend who has been in the ministry call me this week and tell me that he had said to God, "You say You'll meet my needs, but You haven't met my needs. God, You aren't telling me the truth." That is blasphemy, but I believe God will forgive that in the life of a Christian, and I think there is reason to believe that. Of course, the Bible says that the Lord will forgive all of a Christian's sins, but even speaking evil against God is forgivable.
Colossians 3:3 says, "We are dead, and our life is hidden with Christ in God." That is talking about our salvation; we are dead as far as our old life is concerned, and as far as being responsible to face the penalty of the law. We are dead in the past life, alive in the new life; our life is secure with Christ in God. Verse 4 says, "Christ, who is our life." Now we are living the Christ-life, we are redeemed.
Then he says, now that we are redeemed, risen with Christ, now that we have a heavenly identification, we should kill certain things in our lives (verse 5). We have to do this with the sins that we see: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Then we get down to verse 8, which says, "Put off anger, rage, malice, blasphemy." What he is saying there is that even a redeemed person may have to deal with the reality of blasphemy in his life, when he says to God, "That isn't right, or fair, or wasn't wise; why did You do that?" He is speaking evil against God, in a sense. That is forgivable.
I think even Hymenaeus and Alexander were turned over to Satan to learn not to blaspheme. Apparently, they were identified with the church, the same terms are used there that are used in I Corinthians 5 of others who were in the church and turned over to Satan to learn not to blaspheme too. So I think they were believers who were to be taught that blasphemy was unacceptable behavior for a Christian, but it is forgivable.
Look at verse 31 again. "All kinds of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men." But, and that little adversative makes all the difference. "The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven men." Now we are introduced to something that is not forgivable. This is the only sin, by the way, in the Bible of which it is ever said that it is unforgivable.
Blasphemy is serious. Do you know the penalty for blasphemy in the Old Testament? Leviticus 24:14-16 says that the penalty was death by stoning. If anyone spoke an evil word against God, they stoned him or her. It is very serious. When you look at the vile, wretched, wicked society of the anti-Christ that exists at the end time, and read Revelation 13, 16, and 17, you will find that it is characteristic of the society of that day that they blaspheme the God of Heaven; they will speak evil against Him. It is a serious sin.
The sin is further defined in verse 32, and we'll see what it means. "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him." If you speak against the Son of Man, that's forgivable. Who is the Son of Man? Jesus Christ. What is He really saying by that statement? You can speak against Christ? Yes. But the emphasis comes from the words 'Son of Man,' and that is a title that designates not His deity, that is 'Son of God,' but His humanity. We are seeing Him in humiliation here, in servitude, as a vessel through which the Spirit of God is working.
So He is saying, "You can speak a word against the Son of Man, and that would be forgivable because you may speak against Him, seeing nothing more than the humanness." In other words, your perception may not even allow you to be dealing with deity as a factor. And it is not His power on display, so you may be speaking against Him as Son of Man; you are condemning what you perceive in His humanness (even though you're wrong), you can understand that you can do that without making a comment on His deity at all, because it is the Spirit who is working, not Him, technically.
Another thought is important here, and that is the fact that this is His humiliation. There is a sense in which He is in a mode of humiliation which invites that kind of criticism. In other words, you might say, "If that is the Second Person of the Trinity, I'm not impressed. I mean, He's a carpenter from Nazareth." You could speak a word against the human Jesus in His humiliation, that's forgivable; you may just not know the facts, who He really is. You may not have seen the evidence, and are just talking at the human level, without a perception of the divine. That's what He's saying.
Nevertheless, when you speak against the Holy Spirit, that will not be forgiven you, not in this time period or in the time period to follow, because when you begin to speak against the Spirit, then you are saying, "I recognize the supernatural, I see the supernatural, only I think it's Hell, not Heaven." For that, you won't be forgiven.
If you're looking on the human plane and that's all you perceive and understand, you can be brought along to believe and understand. But if, when you have seen the supernatural and the ministry of the Spirit of God through Christ, and you conclude that it is of the Devil, you can't be forgiven because now, you are speaking against the Spirit of God, the power of God, the energy of God, as made manifest through Christ. So, in a real sense, you're speaking against His deity, His divine nature, and calling it satanic.
The Jews once said, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" They weren't impressed with the human elements of Jesus; it was a far cry from saying, "Yes, we've seen His supernatural power, seen His miracles, heard His teachings, seen Him cast out devils, and our conclusion is that His power is out of Hell." That was unforgivable.
Why? Stay with me. Forgiveness is based on repentance and faith in Christ. If they concluded that Christ was filled with the Devil, they certainly weren't going to listen to His message about repentance and put their faith in Him. The reason they could never be forgiven is because they would never believe. Why? Because when they had been given all the evidence there was, their conclusion was the very opposite of the truth; therefore, they were hopeless.
I mean, if you only knew a little bit about Jesus Christ, you could be brought along to know a little more, or a little more, until it finally dawned on you what the truth was. But if you have known all the truth, and you have concluded that He is satanic, you're hopeless. If salvation comes by faith in Christ, and the confidence that He is God, and that He has confronted your sins from which you will repent and turn to Him (and they wouldn't believe any of that), then they could never be redeemed or forgiven.
For them, it became a permanent state; that's why, at the end of verse 32, it says, "It will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come." There would be no forgiveness. You see, they saw the work of the Holy Spirit and said, "It's the Devil." It wasn't just some little deal; they had seen thousands of miracles and healings and dealings with demons. They had seen dramatic individual miracles, and massive numbers of miracles. They had heard teachings and preachings; there was no other society that ever lived on the face of the earth that had the information they had about who He was. And they concluded He was the Devil, so He says, "You can never be forgiven. There is no way." Why? "Because you will never get to the forgiveness condition, which is to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, because you have concluded the very opposite."
So it isn't as if God is simply arbitrarily saying, "I don't like the way you're treating My Son; I will never forgive you, even if you come to Me." No, what He is saying is, "You have had so much evidence and you have drawn your conclusions, therefore it is obvious you will never come to Me. So you will never be forgiven." God couldn't have done any more.
Go back to Isaiah 5 and I'll show you a parallel passage. Isaiah the prophet was confronting the nation of Israel as they were about to go into captivity in Babylon. God, in Isaiah 5, through the prophet, describes why He will judge the people and send them into their captivity, and why they will be devoured and destroyed by those roaring lions that will come from the east that He talks about at the end of the chapter. But it is a most interesting point here; He calls Judah, which now constitutes the nation of Israel, His 'vineyard.'
Verse 3 says, "Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and men of Judah, judge between me and my vineyard. What more could have been done for my vineyard than I have done for it?" He uses a metaphor here, a picture of a vineyard as a description of Israel. "I dug it," or fenced it; its the idea of digging a moat, or putting protection around Israel. In the land, there was water to the west and desert on every other side; they were really isolated people. He hedged them in, protected them. He gathered out the stones, which has to do with removing the Canaanites; He planted the choicest vine, and the Jew is a noble people, believe me. He built a tower, that is, Jerusalem, and a winepress, the sacrificial system. He expected to get a product, but all He got was wild, sour berries.
So He says in verse 3, "You judge." And then in verse 4, "What could I have done more?" So He said, "That's it." And the armies of Babylon came and destroyed and devastated the land. There was nothing more to do, no reason to wait, because He had done everything He could have done. They had seen everything they could have seen, and if they turned their back on God at that point, then there is nothing else to do. We have the same thing here in Matthew 12. They had obviously gone beyond the human; they weren't just looking at Him as a Son of Man. They had gone beyond that and perceived supernatural power, and their conclusion was perceiving it as being from Hell; they were hopeless.
People always ask, "Is this a sin unique to that era?" Of course. To commit this specific sin, you would have to be living on the earth when Christ was here, and there may be a possibility that this very same sin will be committed again in the Kingdom when Christ returns. When He is here on the earth, and does what He does miraculously at that period of time, there will also be people who will rebel. Revelation tells us that there will be a host of them from around the world who will fight Him, so that very specific sin of attributing the works of the Spirit to Satan could be committed again.
However, the problem with that is that when He comes back the second time, they won't specifically be the works of the Spirit because He will not be in humiliation mode any longer, but He will be in an exaltation mode, and they will be His own works, though certainly in harmony with the Spirit. At that time, the sin may be a little different, in that they will be blaspheming Him for His own works, and that too would be unforgivable if they have seen enough so that they have all the light that could possibly be given.
Look at these Pharisees; what else could God have done? Thousands of miracles: over and over and over they had seen it, heard it, known of it; by their own evidence, they had proven to themselves in their own minds that He had the power. They concluded the very opposite of the truth, and they are damned.
Less than forty years after this, God destroyed the entire Jewish society in 70 A.D. He destroyed the temple, wiped out the city of Jerusalem, massacred 1.1 million Jews, and in the years that followed, conquerors came through and slaughtered the Jews of 985 towns and villages. It was over because all the evidence was in, and only the remnant believed, and the rest said, "He's of the Devil."
That's unique to that period, but that kind of sin is not necessarily unique, because it came in the very next period. Turn to Hebrews 6. Here, we see the next period of time, the period that immediately follows the life of Christ, and see the same kind of sin occur again. Hebrews 5:11 will start, and he's talking here about some pretty heavy theologies, comparing the priesthood of Christ with the priesthood of Melchizedek, who was an Old Testament king and priest in the book of Genesis. He's making a comparison between Christ and Melchizedek rather than Christ and the Aaronic, or Levitical, priesthood. He says He's more like Melchizedek as a priest, and goes into this very marvelous comparison. Then, in verse 11, he sort of stops and gives another one of the warning passages.
The book was basically written to Christian Jews, but periodically, there are warnings to non-Christian Jews, unsaved Jews, who have had all of the intellectual information and stimulation, the proof and evidence, they've seen it all and heard it all, and they believe it in their minds but will not come to Christ; they will not take that extra step because they're afraid of being ostracized from their society. They are afraid of being un-synagogued, of being put out socially and so forth, so they are holding back.
He says to them in verse 11, "I want to say more, but it's hard for me to say it because you're so stupid." 'Dull of hearing means' slow, sluggish, stupid. "I can't say any more because you're too thick. For the time that you've been hanging around this stuff, you should be able to teach it. But not only can you not teach it, you need someone else to give you the first principles." That means the A-B-Cs, "Of the oracles of God," which are the Old Testament laws. "Instead of being able to teach and understand these rich truths about the Messiah, you need to be taught the Old Testament basics again, you're so thick. You need milk all the time; you can't take the solid stuff."
He says in verse 13, "You're totally unskillful," which means 'unexperienced in righteousness.' That is a good indication they weren't Christians. They were unexperienced in righteousness, in teaching about righteousness; they were babes. By the way, 'babe' does not mean a new Christian, it means an ignorant, spiritually stupid individual, whether you're talking about a Christian or not.
The term is used in I Corinthians 3 for Christians, and in Galatians 4 for non-Christians, so that isn't the issue. Here, they're non-Christians, Jews who should have been able to teach the truth of Messiah; but because they wouldn't listen to it or come all the way to faith, they had to be re-taught the A-B-Cs of the Old Testament since they were so ignorant and unskillful in the truth about righteousness. They didn't have the sense to be able to discern, according to verse 14.
So then we come to Hebrews 6:1. Watch what happens. "Therefore, let me tell you again," or warning, "Leave the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ." Now some have really misunderstood what that says. "Let us abandon the basics of the teachings about Messiah." Where are the basics of the teachings about Messiah? In the Old Testament. What are they? Types, shadows, prophecies, sacrifices, all of those pictures in the Old Testament that were the A-B-Cs about the Messiah. We have to go on, leave those things, as verse 1 says, "Go on to perfection." What is perfection? That's not spiritual maturity; that is what Paul uses it for, but that is not what the writer of Hebrews uses it for. 'Perfection' in Hebrews is salvation. It can't be anything else.
Look at Hebrews 7:11. "Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood," and he is saying that the Levitical priesthood couldn't save. Verse 19. "For the law made nothing perfect," so the law can't save you, "For by the deeds of the law shall no man be justified." Then in chapter 10, it becomes abundantly clear. Verse 14. "Christ, by one offering, has perfected forever," and that's not talking about spiritual maturity of the believer, but eternal salvation.
So he's saying in verse 1, "We have to leave the Old Testament pictures and come on to salvation, get into the new covenant, the New Testament, into Christ. We can't be doing all over again the old stuff," and he mentions several things, "Not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works." That isn't wrong, it's just limited. They believed in repentance, turning from their sins, turning from dead works, but there is more to it than that. They have to repent and come to Christ for perfection. Then he says, "And faith toward God." There is nothing wrong with faith in God, only no man comes to God but by Jesus, He said.
What about the doctrines and teachings of washings? By the way, the word is translated 'baptism' there; that's the only place in the whole New Testament where they translated that word baptism that it isn't baptism. These aren't Christians, these are Jews, and he's talking about washings. So he says, "We have to leave the teaching of external cleansing and come to the cleansing of the blood of Christ, and laying on of hands." This was when the Jew brought his sacrifice, put it on the altar, and put his hands on it to identify with his sins.
"We've got to get to the point where we are no longer worried about laying hands on dead animals, but where we are laying hold of Christ, the Lamb of God. The resurrection of the dead, sure it's in the Old Testament, but we don't know what it really means until Christ, who is our life, comes out of the grave." Then finally, the eternal judgment, which comes into clear focus in the New Testament as to punishment and reward.
So the whole message here is, "You people are stuck in your sluggishness, ignorance, and stupidity, going over the basics. You must come on to salvation in Christ!" This warning goes all through the book of Hebrews. In Hebrews 2:3, there is another one of these. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him," which was the apostles, and knew it was the truth by, "Signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit."
The Hebrews had received very much the same kind of evidence that the Pharisees had received. They had heard the message, not preached by Christ, but by His apostles, who had His commission; they had seen miracles, the power of the Spirit manifest through the apostles. By the way, they, like Christ, were totally dependent on the power of the Spirit.
The readers of Hebrews had neglected it. In chapter 3, he says from verses 7-19, "You're getting the message, but you're hardening your hearts." So chapter 2 was neglect, and chapter 3 was the hardening of the heart. Chapter 4 goes on to talk about the hardening of the heart, and chapter 5 talks about their stupidity and sluggishness. Chapter 6 talks about they are staying in the A-B-Cs of the old instead of moving to the new.
So he says in verse 3, "You have to move on, and only God can help you to do it." Why? The warning comes in verse 4. They had to move on to faith in Christ for one basic reason, which is, "It is impossible." Do you know what that word means? It means impossible; it doesn't mean really difficult, it means utterly impossible. It's the same word used in verse 18, where it says that it is impossible for God to lie. So it is just as impossible for this to happen as it is for God to lie. What is it? "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance."
In other words, he says, "If you fall away now, you will never, ever be renewed again to repentance; you will be hopeless," just like the Pharisees of Matthew 12. Weren't these people Christians? Let's find out; verse 4. They were enlightened. What does that mean? That has to do with your mind; it means 'to give light of knowledge, to understand something intellectually.' That is its use.
It is used in II Peter 2 of those who were given the knowledge of the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. They had the knowledge, but the world's powers pressed in on them, and like dogs, they returned to their vomit; they rejected that head knowledge. Jesus, in Matthew 4, when He preached, said, "The light has shone in the darkness," and the people were exposed to the light, weren't they? In fact, Jesus said, "I am the light of the world." He told them that; He said, "Come to Me while it is day," or light. The light was there; they had been enlightened.
Secondly, it says, "They tasted the heavenly gift." What is that? I believe it is Christ, the unspeakable gift, the salvation message, the Gospel, bound up in Christ. So how did they taste Christ? They followed Him around, saw His power, heard His message, saw His miracles. By the way, they didn't eat His flesh and drink His blood, as John 6 says they would have had to have done. They just dabbled in it, just tasted it.
Jesus said, "If you want to enter into life, drink the water." He didn't say, "Taste the water." You had to drink it; there was a total commitment. They tasted it, knew its character and quality. They were like the spies at Kadesh-Barnea who spied out the land; they looked around, saw all the good things, and turned around and went back, saying, "We can't take it."
You see, this is one of the pre-salvation ministries. In fact, I would suggest that this passage is probably the best in the whole Bible to describe the Spirit's work in preparing someone to be saved. First, there comes an enlightenment and understanding of the message, then a taste of what salvation would be like; a taste of the wonders of Christ.
Then, further, they became partakers of the Holy Spirit. How did they do that? Well, if you were on a hillside in Galilee, for example, when Jesus made fish and bread and you ate some, you'd be a partaker of the power of the Spirit. Or if you were a blind man who was given sight, whether you were saved or not, you would have partaken in the power of the Holy Spirit. They had seen miracles, many of them.
By the way, the word 'partaker' is metochos, which means 'association.' That is never used of a Christian; we aren't in association with the Holy Spirit, we are indwelt by the Spirit, possessors of the Spirit, filled with the Spirit. They were just associated, around; they saw the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 2:4).
Further, it says, "They tasted the good word of God." Of course they did. Rhemais the word for 'word' here, and it means 'a speech.' They had heard a lot of speeches about God and Christ. They had listened to the preachers. Many of them heard the Word of God, and they may have heard it with interest and eagerness. In Mark 6:20, it says that, "Herod heard John gladly," but he never believed. Then it says they tasted, "The powers of the age to come." What are those? The age to come is the Kingdom, and it's power is the full power of Christ. They saw glimpses of that, didn't they?
Here, this generation right after Christ, ministered to by the apostles, enlightened by their teaching, was able to taste the heavenly gift because they preached salvation; they were made partakers of the Holy Spirit as they saw the miracles. They tasted the good word of God as it was delivered to them, and the powers of the age to come were demonstrated to them by the energy of the Spirit through those preachers.
What is he saying? He's saying exactly what God said in Isaiah: "What more could I have done?" I mean, what do you need to believe? If you've had all of that and you fall away, it is impossible to renew you to repentance. Why? Because if you don't believe when you have all the revelation there is, you'll never believe, and you'll take your place with those who crucify Christ. Literally, the text says, "If you do all of this and have fallen away, you can never be renewed to repentance," or come back.
What he's saying is this: "If you're there at the point of highest revelation, you'd better believe at that point, because if you don't, that's it. You fall away from the fullness of revelation, and that's it; you will become an apostate - unredeemable, unforgivable, forever and ever." Then he gives an illustration, just to make it sink in, in verse 7.
"For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned." The rain speaks of all of those things in verses 4-5; that is God's rain of blessing, saying, "Here is the message; believe and see it. If you come forth with briers and thorns, you'll be burned."
In verse 9, he turns the corner and talks to Christians. "But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation." Those things didn't accompany salvation; that was the warning section to the unbelievers.
Listen very carefully as I draw it all together. People say, "What was the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit?" It was attributing to Satan the works of the Spirit. When they had all the revelation there was, in the presence of the living Christ on earth, they concluded it was satanic. They could never be forgiven.
People say, "Can it be committed at another time?" Here, in the very next generation, you have a very similar sin, where people had all the revelation that God could possibly give them, and they came to the edge, and said, "No, we're not interested," and they fell away.
Now, the ones who fell away could never again be renewed to repentance because they would never believe with less revelation what they wouldn't believe when they had it all. So they fell away. But how much more severe, not just to fall away (like Matthew 12), but to fall away and then overtly blaspheme. You see, the ones in Hebrews just didn't believe; they weren't willing to pay the price. But the ones in Matthew not only weren't willing to do that, but they blasphemed, so theirs is a greater guilt. But Hell is reserved for both.
You say, "What about this age?" In this age, the same principle is valid. If you have been exposed to all of the truth concerning the Gospel that God can give, in other words, you have enough to make a decision, and your final conclusion is that it is not the truth, you are unredeemable. The warning is, "Don't get to that point." That is why Jesus said, "You had better believe while it is day, for the night comes when the lights are going to go out."
During World War II, an aircraft carrier was in the North Atlantic. It was during a very high point in the war, and the carrier was engaged in a battle. There was a lull in the battle, and there were many ships in the area. The American forces were in a precarious position, and there was a moment of respite. Six pilots took off in their planes and left the carrier to see if they could search out enemy submarines that could be attacked. While they were all up in the air, the enemy attacked by air and the order was given for a total blackout. The carrier had to shut off every light, which left the six pilots flying around without any ability to locate their ship in the dark of a black night.
They radioed in, and the first pilot said, "Give us some light, and we'll land. We'll make it, even if we have to fly through the artillery." The radio operator said, "I can't; I'm not permitted to give any light, because it is a total blackout." The second pilot said, "Just give us one light." But the radio operator said, "I can't." Each successive pilot tried to get the operator to break his orders, which he didn't, and the record says, "The operator could do no more. He reached over, turned the switch, and broke radio contact. Six red-blooded aviators in the prime of manhood went down in the cold North Atlantic and out into eternity."
I'm not the judge of when it happens, but there is a time when God turns out the lights, and you can never find your way back. I think that's the spirit of Jesus when He says, "Believe while you can," and Paul when he says, "Now is the accepted time." Let's pray.
Thank You, Lord, again for such a clear word out of Your Scripture. Thank You for Your grace; it calls and calls and calls. Where there is even the slightest little flicker of hope, thank You that You fan the flame. You never give up where there is any hope. Lord, we pray that no one would fall away, or turn their back and walk away from the edge of Your Kingdom, and have the lights go out forever. Father, bring to the prayer room those that You would have to come; minister to every heart today. Bring us back tonight with great excitement and anticipation of what You have for us. Thank You for Your precious Word, Your beloved Son, in whose name we pray, Amen.
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