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The Unforgivable Sin

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The Unforgivable Sin
Mark 3:20-30
In case you haven’t noticed, we’ve been working through Mark’s gospel on Sunday mornings. Mark is my go-to book. It’s the first gospel that I studied in depth, so I always seem to find myself drawn back to it. It’s just so fast paced; everything is moving towards the cross.
And when I got to the passage that we’re going to study this morning, it was almost like hitting a brick wall. How would I tackle the unforgivable, the unpardonable sin?
And let me say this, a lot of people think that they have committed the unforgivable sin. They think that they’ve done something so wrong, so bad, or so horrific that there is no way that God could ever forgive them. They think that God isn’t big enough to forgive them for what they’ve done. And a lot of people will go to their deathbed thinking that same thing. And that is partially because of other people.
But let me be clear on this. Jesus tells us that there is only one thing that we cannot be forgiven for, just one thing, everything else can be forgiven.
So, if you have your Bible, open it to the third chapter of Mark’s gospel. One of the things that I really enjoy doing is preaching or teaching through a book or section of the Bible verse by verse. It really is a good way to study because it forces me (and you by default) to deal with topics that might normally not be covered otherwise.
If I only preached topical sermons (like a lot of other preachers) what would happen is that we would avoid all the tough passages and end up swimming on the surface instead of going into the word deeply.
I hope that the passage today will comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. There’s a warning here about the horrible reality that one could be utterly and totally forsaken by God, judged with His righteous judgment and sent to the everlasting flames of hell.
We’ve seen that in dealing with the crowds, Jesus healed many with diseases and freed many who were demonized. He ministered to the public but He also drove truth into people in a very personal way.
Last week we saw how Jesus chose twelve ordinary men and used them to go and change the world. They weren’t anything special, they were just willing to be used by Jesus.
There was always a reaction (either good or bad) when Jesus preached. People didn’t just sit passively or sleep during his sermons. They either embraced Him or attacked Him. They bowed before Him or blasted Him. As we continue in Mark, we see two strong responses. The first is from those closest to Him and the other from those who were threatened by Him.
Before we read Mark 3:20-20, let’s pray.
Pray!
Mark 3:20–30 ESV
Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
The first thing we see is:

Friends and family thought he was crazy

Again, the crowds gathered. Jesus and the disciples couldn’t even take time to eat because of the pressure and the need of the people. His family heard about this and came to get Him, thinking He was out of His mind.
They had probably heard about the crowds as well as his confrontations with the religious leaders. Maybe they were worried about the family name, their reputation, something Jesus obviously had no concern about.
They had probably seen many self-proclaimed “messiahs” come and go. They could see where all of this was going, so they went to seize Him and bring Him home.
Families and friends can be a source of joy and support. But some can be possessive and even vicious. A stranger’s harsh words might sting but when it’s someone close to you, it can cut you to the core.
We’ll come back to the family of Jesus when week but don’t miss the obvious application that if you stand up for Jesus your own friends and family may turn on you.
Friends and family thought He was crazy.

Religious people thought He was possessed

While His family thought He was mad, the scribes thought He was bad. His brothers and sisters thought he was deranged while the religious crowd claimed he was demonized. Remember that Mark 3:6 says the Pharisees and the Herodians were plotting to destroy Jesus. And now the Scribes try to take him out.
News about Jesus had reached all the way to the capital city of Jerusalem, located about 90 miles away. Making the several day journey, the scribes, who served as the religious police, confront Christ by making an evil accusation in verse 22:
22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”
Now, understand they don’t deny that Jesus heals people or that He casts out demons. Instead, they try to reduce His power and destroy His status. The New Living Translation says it this way: “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”
Their insulting attack is two-pronged and is designed to turn public opinion against Jesus. First,

They say Jesus is possessed by Beelzebul

The religious leaders often made accusations like this.
John 8:48 ESV
The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?”
But here they’re not saying he has an ordinary demon but that Satan himself has taken possession of him. They use a very nasty name that comes from the ancient Canaanites, meaning the “lord of the dung flies” or the “lord of filth.”
The scribes were saying that Beelzebub was inside Jesus.

They say Jesus casts out demons by the prince of demons.

The word “prince” refers to the chief demon and is another way of saying he bows to Beelzebub and serves Satan.
After laying the ultimate insult at the feet of Jesus, it’s time for Jesus to respond:
23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables…
They had just declared that He was possessed by the devil and so we see that He does two things:

He called them to Him.

This phrase was used of summoning an adversary into a court of law. I wonder if they were nervous when He asked them to come closer.

He spoke in parables.

A parable is an analogy and literally means, “to lay something alongside.” A parable took something that everybody understood in order to explain something they didn’t.
Jesus’s answer is summed up briefly and powerfully in the form of an absurd question:
“How can Satan cast out Satan?
Good teachers use rhetorical questions and Jesus used them all the time.
Jesus then uses the word “divided” three times in the next three verses to prove His point. This word means, “to be disunited by discord; to be separated into parts.”

A divided kingdom cannot stand.

His listeners were probably thinking of how Israel and Judah split into two parts after the death of Solomon when Jesus said in verse 24:
24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.

A divided house cannot stand.

In verse 25 we’re reminded of the importance of a family not fracturing into pieces:
25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.

A divided Satan cannot stand.

Jesus points out the absurdity of their evil argument in verse 26:
26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.
If Satan were to cast out demons it would defeat his own purpose. Satan would never act contrary to his own interests. He wants to destroy the work of God, not his own work.
In verse 27, Jesus goes in for the kill shot:
27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
If you want to take the property of someone, you must overpower the owner. Here Jesus is saying that Satan is the strong man but that He is stronger.
Jesus binds (ties him up) Satan and then plunders his possessions. Some commentators believe these possessions, or “goods” are the helpless people Satan holds in bondage through his demons.
The KJV uses the word “spoil.” It doesn’t mean to go bad. It means to “snatch, seize and carry away.” That’s exactly what Jesus has been doing, and continues to do today as He saves people from the bondage of serving sin and Satan.
There is no way that Christ is in association with the devil! Jesus has come to conquer the evil one and to destroy the works of the devil. Scripture is clear:
1 John 3:8 ESV
Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
…The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
Jesus is clearly stronger than Satan because the demons “fell down before him” in verse 11.
Keeping in mind the context, let’s look now at the text found in verse 29:
Mark 3:29 ESV
but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—
To “blaspheme” means “defiant irreverence.” At its most basic level it refers to speaking evil about the Holy Spirit. One Bible dictionary puts it like this: “To speak reproachfully, to rail at, to revile.”
What then is the unforgivable sin?
Is it not liking Star Wars? (It actually might be. But seriously…) Is it taking God’s name in vain? Is it yelling at Him? Is it murder or adultery? What is it?
In short, the unforgivable sin is attributing the mighty miracle working power of Jesus to Satan. The scribes witnessed undeniable exorcisms and instead of giving glory to the Holy Spirit they claimed that He was possessed by Beelzebub. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is accusing Jesus of being demon possessed.
I like how Matt Chandler puts it: “The blasphemy of the Spirit is the knowledgeable, willful and continued rebellion against the ministry of the Holy Spirit.”
Someone else adds, “It is not a careless act but a calloused attitude…it is not mere denial, but determined denial; not mere rejection, but wanton, willful, wicked, wide-eyed rejection.”
It’s a deliberate refusal of the work and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Verse 30 tells us why this person never has forgiveness and is guilty of an eternal sin:
30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
And if you notice, they continued, or persisted in “saying.” This was not a one-time occurence but rather an ongoing, fixed and settled attitude in their minds that came out of the mouths.
Here are some things to think about from our text.

Always consider the context.

The unforgivable sin is ascribing to Satan the work of the Holy Spirit.

Christians cannot commit this sin.

If you are truly saved, then you are truly secure. When you believe in Jesus Christ for eternal life, then you have eternal life.
1 John 5:11–12 ESV
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
If you’re saved, you won’t do this.

If you’re worried that you’ve committed the unforgivable sin, you haven’t.

If you’re mourning and grieving and anxious about sin, it means that the Holy Spirit is moving and active in your life.

Satan wants to steal your hope and joy.

He wants you to think you’ve gone too far to be saved. He wants you to be ashamed and filled with guilt.

This is a warning to those persisting in unbelief.

Maybe you’ve been suffering under true guilt. Conviction is a good thing if it leads you to commitment. You are a sinner and if you haven’t repented and received Jesus Christ, you won’t be forgiven. The good news is that God is ready to forgive each and every one of your sins.
Don’t put off a decision to follow Christ. You could almost say that the only unpardonable sin today is that of continued unbelief. If you die in a state of disbelief, your sins will not be forgiven and you will pay the price for them forever in a place of everlasting torment called hell.
At the same time, we should be concerned about any sin that we knowingly commit and refuse to give up. Actually, most of us aren’t unsettled enough about our sins. We excuse them, rationalize them or minimize them by comparing ourselves with others. But if you have not been saved, you should shudder at the thought of entering eternity with your sins not forgiven.
One pastor writes, “Many Christians have such a sentimental view of God’s justice that they never feel the terror and horror at the thought of being utterly forsaken by God because of their persistence in sin…God is never neutral toward sin. He either forgives it or punishes it.”
Romans 2:5 ESV
But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
We skipped a verse in this passage. Let’s go back to it and look at the freedom found in verse 28:
Mark 3:28 ESV
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter,
If verse 29 is the bad news, verse 28 is the good news. Most people rush past this part of the passage when discussing the unforgivable sin.
This is the truth. When Jesus uses the word, “truly” or “verily,” He is stating that what He is about to say is absolutely true and reliable. It’s like He’s saying, “listen up!” In Greek it is actually the word “amen.”
This is authoritative. Next, He uses the pronoun “I say…” to show that He has no need to quote someone else. He’s saying, “Listen up, I’m the Lord!”
This must become personal. And then He personalizes it by saying, “Truly, I say to you…” This message is for you right now.
And then we see that, “all sins will be forgiven” and “whatever blasphemies.” The idea is that all manner or types of sin can and will be forgiven. All sinful behaviors and slanderous blasphemies against God can be forgiven!
Listen to a verse from the Old Testament and a verse from the New:
Isaiah 1:18 ESV
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
1 John 1:7 ESV
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
…and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
Through faith in Jesus Christ, you can be forgiven! Satan would like nothing more than to have you believe that your sins will never be forgiven. But if you know Jesus, your sins are forgiven.
But if you die in your sins, you will never be forgiven. There’s no second chance. No do over. No purgatory.
Hebrews 2:3 ESV
how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,
3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? …
It’s dangerous to hear the gospel message and to decide to walk away. Don’t forfeit the forgiveness He wants to give you.
Have you ever repented of your sins? Have you turned from them and turned to Christ?
The gospel Jesus preached starts with repentance according to Mark 1:15:
Mark 1:15 ESV
and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
Resist no longer. Repent fully and believe in the gospel. Jesus died in your place on the cross, His blood paying the price for all of your sins. His sacrifice satisfied the divine wrath of a holy and righteous God. Submit and surrender by the Holy Spirit of God to Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Believe that He did all this for you, receive Him as your Savior and determine to follow Him as your Lord.
Don’t be like the buzzard that spotted a dead fish on a piece of ice floating in the river. He landed on the ice and began to eat. He knew it was dangerous because there was a waterfall just ahead but he knew his wings were strong and he could fly away right before going over.
So, he kept eating.
But just before the piece of ice tumbled over that fall, he spread his wings to fly but because he waited too long, his feet were frozen in the ice and there was no escape. In an instant he plunged to his destruction.
Fellow sinner, it’s time to be saved.
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