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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
Title:Christ Gives A Solemn Warning
Text:Mark 3:28-30 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Blaspheming The Holy Spirit

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Suggested order of worship:

Hymn 5:1-4
Hymn 7:9 (with the law)
Psalm 83:1-7
Psalm 40:1-4
Hymn 36:1-5

Reading: Mark 3:20-30
Text: Mark 3:28-30

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

In 1994, 800,000 people were tragically slaughtered in the African country of Rwanda. In his powerful book, Shake Hands With the Devil, the retired Canadian general Romeo Dallaire explained how this genocide took place. An extremist radio station in the capital city of Kigali played a key role. RTLM was controlled by the Hutus and they used it as an instrument to stir up hate against the Tutsis. One of the ways they did this was by calling them inyenzi, “cockroaches.” In due time, the call was issued over RTLM to begin exterminating the “cockroaches.”

The seeds for genocide were sown in this name-calling. After all, if your opponents are ‘cockroaches’ then you’ve taken away their humanity. You can do with them as you please. You see it over and over in history: the first steps to holocaust and genocide are always the dehumanizing of the other. First you strip them of their dignity and then you can rob, rape, torture and murder them – all with a clear conscience.

A similar thing was happening with the Lord Jesus in our text. It started with those closest to him. His own family was saying that he had gone crazy. The teachers of the law took things a step further. They said that he was possessed by Beelzebub. The teachers of the law claimed that Satan was living in Jesus. The Lord Jesus looked to the power of the prince of demons to cast out demons. So they claimed.

In the following verses, the Lord Jesus gives several reasons why this is completely ludicrous. His first point is that Satan would never work against himself in this way. Then the Lord Jesus gives a positive picture of what’s going on. Jesus Christ has Satan all tied up! The healing work of the Lord Jesus is positive proof that the God’s kingdom is breaking through. The Lord Jesus is stripping Satan of all his power and bringing freedom to the captives.

All of this sets the stage for what we hear Christ saying in our text about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit has been mentioned before in the book of Mark. At the beginning of the gospel, the Holy Spirit descended on the Lord Jesus like a dove. We therefore know that the Holy Spirit has an intimate connection with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, the one who proceeds from the Father and the Son. The same Holy Spirit led the Saviour out into the desert to be tempted by Satan. Shortly afterwards, we see the power of the Lord Jesus over the evil spirits. With all this, Mark wants us to be clear about who Jesus Christ is for us. That’s also the bottom line in our text. So, I preach to you God’s Word with this theme:

As part of his self-revelation, Christ solemnly warns against blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

We’ll consider:

  1. The identity of this sin.
  2. The character of this sin.
  3. The prevention of this sin.

1. The identity of this sin.

We all know that blasphemy is bad. Blasphemy is usually understood as talking about God in a disrespectful way, using abusive language to or about God. In our text, the Lord Jesus speaks about blasphemy. The first time is in verse 28. This is where we find good news in our text. Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked. Christ says, “I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them.” The Lord Jesus could not have been more comprehensive than this. Every sin you do, every blasphemy you have spoken, can and will be forgiven. Of course, we know that this forgiveness comes through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Now ponder the depth of God’s grace in this verse for a moment. No matter what you’ve done, there is God’s grace for you in Christ. You may have committed sins that are so shameful that they are known only by God. He promises you grace. The Lord Jesus stood among the covenant people as the fulfillment of all God’s promises. He stood there and spoke these words as the ultimate manifestation of God’s grace. He proclaims to his people, also to you, “There is forgiveness for every sin and blasphemy through me.” Every sin and blasphemy.

Except one. The comprehensiveness of verse 28 draws our attention to the one exception in verse 29. There is a sin that can never be forgiven. That one sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Now let’s reflect for a moment on what this sin is.

The clue to the identity of this sin is found in verse 30. There Mark tells us that “He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.” The Lord Jesus gave the warning in our text because the teachers of the law had claimed that he was possessed by Beelzebub. In fact, what was happening was that the Pharisees identified Jesus with the kingdom of Satan. In so doing, they had not merely dehumanized him, but also stripped him of his royal dignity and divinity – they would not allow for the Holy Spirit of God to live in this man. In their minds, this Jesus of Nazareth was not worthy of being treated as a human being, much less as the Son of God himself in whom lived the Holy Spirit.

The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in our text was a deliberate and intentional mischaracterization of the Lord Jesus and his work. The teachers of the law could see that Satan was being deposed. They knew their Old Testament and in their hearts they knew Christ’s true identity. Do you remember what Nicodemus said to the Lord Jesus in John 3? The Pharisees knew that Jesus had been sent by God. They deliberately and willfully distorted the truth about who Jesus is. They purposely characterized his work and the work of the Spirit as being the work of the evil one. They were filled with a hatred for God’s grace being shown to the demon-possessed, the sick, and the sinful. They could not handle God’s compassion being manifested in Christ. And so they turned against him with a wild passion.

This was not an accident or a mistake. No, the teachers of the law knew very well what they were doing. You can imagine Satan’s glee at this turn of events. The Son of God was being caricatured as a partner with demons. The Spirit of God was being portrayed as a demon. Without knowing the final outcome of the story, one might be led to wonder: what would become of God’s promise to crush the head of the serpent? It looked like things were moving in the opposite direction. But this was the irony: God would use even this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to deliver the final crushing blow. The people would believe the dehumanizing and degrading comments about the Lord Jesus and would deliver him up to death – but this would ultimately serve for the salvation of God’s elect. Then the true Israel of God would know their Saviour. They would know, as we do, that Jesus Christ came to bring forgiveness for all the sins and blasphemies of men. All the Israel of God would know his grace.

So, the identity of this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a deliberate identifying of the person and work of Jesus Christ with the evil one. Now, let’s consider the character and seriousness of this sin.

2. The character of this sin.

We all know that people are inclined to exaggerate. We sometimes use words like “never” rather flippantly. Our kids would never do something like that. And lo and behold, our kids can and did do something like that. “Never” is a pretty strong word and sometimes we forget that. However, in our text the Lord Jesus uses the word and he means it. He says that that whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. And just in case we missed the point, he adds: “he is guilty of an eternal sin,” or, as other Bible translations put it, “he is subject to eternal condemnation.”

“Never” and “eternal” are both very strong words and it would be a good idea to think about why this sin is unforgivable. We could approach this question from the angle of election and reprobation. In God’s sovereignty, he has chosen some people to eternal life – we call that election. Likewise, we believe that God has passed over others – we call that reprobation. Though the exact names and numbers are known only to God, there are two and only two kinds of people in this world, the elect and the reprobate.

The elect were chosen by God before the creation of the world. They were predestined to come to faith in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. They will be preserved in their faith until the day of their final glorification. The elect of God may at one point or another in their lives actually be opposed to God and his work. You need only read the biographies of our forefathers in the faith to see this. Think of somebody like Abraham Kuyper who mocked the literal, historical resurrection of Christ before his conversion. You can also see that in the life of the Apostle Paul. In 1 Timothy 1:13, Paul states that he was formerly a blasphemer. But he was shown mercy. God brought him to faith and he repented of his opposition to the gospel.

Not so with the reprobates. The reprobates were passed over by God. They will never believe the gospel message. At certain points they may seem to soften in their opposition, they may seem to be open to the gospel, but in the end they remain outside of Christ. We can be sure that all who blaspheme the Holy Spirit in the manner spoken of by the Lord Jesus in our text are reprobate. But the reverse does not necessarily hold true. Not all those who are reprobate will blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Here we can think of the countless millions who have died without even hearing about the Lord Jesus Christ. They were reprobate, but they did not blaspheme the Holy Spirit. They could not, because they were not able to form an opinion of Christ and his work.

What we can say for certain is that blasphemers against the Holy Spirit are reprobate – our text tells us as much. But why? We have to be careful here, because we are coming close to the secret things of God. Nevertheless, consider that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is like stubbornly believing something against all the evidence to the contrary. No matter what anybody else says, you’re going to keep your head high, you are going to hold to your position to the bitter end. In your pride, you become completely blind to the truth. In the case of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, you believe that Jesus Christ is the devil, or at least on the side of the devil and you believe that his works are evil. You believe that his Spirit is a demon. It’s like you have a life-threatening illness that requires surgery. And you firmly decide that the only doctor who can give you a life-saving operation is really a sadistic murderer. And you know, because you have studied all the psychological characteristics of sadistic murderers and you know one when you see one. You are the expert. Once you pridefully commit yourself to that belief, you will never give it up. You are locked into a position from which there is no exit.

You see, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an unforgivable sin because it is so utterly heinous and evil that it can only come from a heart that has been entirely given over by God to unbelief – a reprobate heart. This sin can only come from those who have, in their pride, totally and utterly set themselves against Jesus Christ. Such people are consumed with their hatred for Christ and his works. That is why this sin cannot be forgiven – such people will never be led to repentance and faith, God has given them over to their unbelief.

Now, why do you think the Lord Jesus has given us these strong words? It is not so that we can look around us and try to point fingers or figure out who around us has committed this sin. Nor did the Lord give us these words to scare us. No, the Lord Jesus wants us to focus on him in the right way. Christ wants us to love him and think rightly about his person and his works. That’s where we’re going with our last point:

3. The prevention of this sin.

It’s a well-known fact that many Christians have found this passage troubling. To take just one famous example, the Puritan author John Bunyan struggled deeply with the question of whether or not he had blasphemed the Holy Spirit and so committed the unforgivable sin. A long period of time passed before he finally had the peace of knowing that he was safe in Christ. A good number of us have been raised in Christian homes and have likely never consciously been opposed to Christ and his work, so this may not be a concern in our midst. Nevertheless, as we reach out into the community with the gospel, we may encounter situations where someone comes to faith in Christ after a life of kicking against the goads. What will you tell a new believer who worries that they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit and are therefore counted among the reprobate? Or maybe you will encounter a brother or sister who grew up in the church and has doubts. And regardless, all of us should be interested in keeping this sin as far away from us as we can. We shouldn’t want to even come close to this sin.

As we’ve been looking at our text, you can see that Christ’s concern here is his self-revelation. This text is about who Christ is and what he does for his people. The teachers of the law say one thing about Christ while they know the truth is the polar opposite. The passage is telling God’s people to pay attention to who Christ says he is and what he does. Christ was telling the covenant people that the way to prevent blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to listen, watch, and believe. Today, the same Christ is still speaking to his covenant people. He tells us to read our Bibles and observe. Hear what Christ said about himself. Look at the miracles and healings he performed. Marvel at his perfect obedience – that obedience which now belongs to you! Believe in this Lord Jesus! Faith is the sure antidote to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The one who has true faith in Jesus Christ, the one who loves Christ, will never, ever blaspheme the Holy Spirit or even close to it. Think about it! Faith in Jesus Christ comes from the Holy Spirit who lives in the believer – and to turn around the image of the Lord Jesus: why would the Holy Spirit ever turn on himself?

A child of God would never be able to commit a sin that cannot be forgiven. John Bunyan eventually recognized it and you may have heard it said before as well: if someone is worried that they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit and committed the unforgivable sin, the fact that they are worried about it shows that they have not done the sin! A person who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never worry about it. They’ll never be concerned about it. They simply don’t care about offending Christ and his Holy Spirit. And if you do care, that shows that you esteem Christ and the works he did.

You can hardly imagine anything more heinous and evil than degrading Jesus Christ and his works. Imagine what the teachers of the law were doing: they were stripping Christ of everything, leaving him lower than an animal – preparing him for the suffering and death to come. We shudder at the thought. But then let’s also shudder at the thought of even approaching this sin by degrading Christ’s ongoing work today through his Holy Spirit. Shudder at the thought of degrading or minimizing Christ’s work in your fellow brothers and sisters. People will sometimes do that. Somebody says something good and positive about a brother or sister and then someone else has to pipe up: “If you only knew the real story about so-and-so. Let me tell you…” And away they go. Slanderously pointing out all the negative things in the lives of your brothers and sisters is moving in the direction of the sin described in our text. Instead, look for Christ’s work in your brothers and sisters! Give glory to God when you open your eyes and see what Christ is doing in your church through his Spirit. We ought also to shudder at the thought of degrading or minimizing the work Christ is still doing through the mission of the Church. Make a determined effort to see what Christ is accomplishing in our own area and overseas. Give glory to God for it and praise Christ and his Holy Spirit. Christ is still at work, gathering, defending and preserving believers everywhere by the power of his Word and Spirit. If we are to stand on guard against blaspheming the Holy Spirit, let’s be open to seeing that work for what it really is.

Beloved congregation of Christ, our text calls us to see Christ rightly. Our text calls us to see Christ’s work rightly. As we do this, there is enormous comfort given to us. It is the comfort of knowing that the “never” of verse 29 does not apply to us. It is the comfort of knowing that the “all” of verse 28 does apply. It is the comfort of knowing that Christ suffered this humiliation and degradation at the hands of the teachers of the law, so that we can belong to him and fully experience his grace.

Let’s pray:

Heavenly God and Father,

We thank and praise you for the work of your Son and the work of your Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives. We praise you for the sufferings and obedience of Christ our Saviour. We are grateful for all that he accomplished for us. Help us to listen, watch, and believe in him as he is revealed in your Word. Please grant that there would be no one among us who would ever commit this sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We pray that we would never even come close. Help us to see the work of the Spirit of Christ in others both near and far. Please give us more grace so that our eyes would be opened to your marvelous works among us and others. We pray in Christ and for the glory of your Name. AMEN.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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