GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 8
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2010|
|What is the unpardonable sin? How can you know if you have committed it?|
Accusation that Leads to Unforgiveness
The title of the message is this: An Accusation that Leads to Unforgiveness. In order for us to understand the passage this morning, the unforgiveable sin, which I’ve wrestled with for the entire week, we have to mine below the surface of casual reading this morning in order to look at the context of the passage. And for the faithful Bible studiers in here, we will find the secret to the answer if we mine below the surface of casual reading.
If you have your Bibles, turn with me to Mark 20, and we’re going to consider verses 20-35.
“Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.” Imagine the crowd that day. “And when his family heard [him], they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’ And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem … saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub,’ 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.’”
Here it is: “Truly, I say to you, all sins [against the children of God] will be forgiven…and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty [don’t miss this] of an eternal sin—for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’”
Verse 31, “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him.” “Hey Jesus! Your mother and your brothers are outside seeking you.” Jesus says these words, “Who are my mother and my brothers? Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Two segments of the text; and you’ll notice if you’re reading with this, Jesus begins, or the story begins with a story of his family, and then we came back at the end and we end with another story about his family. And it’s two books that form what’s called a chiasm in Hebrew. And basically what it says is this: the two outside stories point you to the inside story. So I want to take the two outside stories first. Write down this if you’re taking notes: there is a case of mistaken identity; a case of mistaken identity in the form or the part of his parents. Notice what it says, “they went home.” Now, we don’t actually what home that is but we can assume and deduce from the book of Mark that it’s Peter’s mother-in-law’s house. Remember the home in chapter 2 verse 1? All the men came and they unroofed the roof in the home and it’s probably the same home here. And once again, there’s madness at this home. So many people had come out for the home that they can’t even eat dinner that night and Peter’s mother-in-law is probably saying, “Oh no, here we go again with Jesus.” And it says that they came out to him.
Look at verse 21: “And when his family heard this….” That’s an interesting phrase there. In the Greek it’s “When those of his….” Some commentators have tried to say that that’s some of his disciples that had found him. But the idea doesn’t hold a lot of weight, because what happens is that word “when those of his” is translated, it’s a connection to Jesus and it gives us the idea of kinship. And so that’s why the ESV translated it, I think rightly, “when his family heard this.” This is his mother, Mary, and his half brothers and sisters.
They had heard from Nazareth that Jesus Christ was going around doing miracles, teaching and preaching and people were saying that he’s the Messiah. “Jesus? Our brother is the Messiah?! Come on. That can’t be the case.” And so they came all the way to Capernaum. And the question is, what did they do? Did they come to congratulate him? Pat him on the back and say, “Jesus, you’re really doing a good job!” Did they come to support to the ministry? No, look at it, what it says in the text. “When they came to him, they said, ‘Jesus, you are out of your mind!’” Notice what it said in your outline. They think he’s a mad man. Jesus, you’re a lunatic! You’re out of your mind! You can’t be thinking this way!
We get that from that word “seize.” Look at it in verse 21: “they went out to seize him.” It’s the idea to take someone by force suddenly. To surround them and to capture them and that’s what the family did. That word’s used 15 times in the New Testament. Eight of those times—watch this, church—it’s used in the form of arresting someone. They didn’t come out to pat him on the back. They came to arrest him, if you will, to bring him back into his right mind again. “Jesus, don’t think this way! We know you as our brother. You’re not the messiah.”
It’s one thing to be criticized by family. It’s another thing to be criticized by a church family, right? It’s another thing when the people of God chastise the people of God. Or let me say it this way; it’s another thing when church family forgets to encourage their own. Let me ask you, church member, this morning. When was the last time you encouraged one of our pastoral staff? When was the last time you told your Sunday School teacher that they meant the world to you? When was the last time you went out of your way to encourage someone? Sometimes we think that others will do that and we fail to do it ourselves. It’s important for us as the body of Christ to encourage one another. Listen, if we don’t get encouragement in here, we sometimes never get it out there, right? And so it’s important for us to encourage one another.
But notice what happens at the end of the story. Verse 31, “And his mother and brothers came to him and they stood outside and they called him.” Jesus, your mother and brothers are outside seeking you. Now here’s a good question. Did Mary think that Jesus was a mad man? Did Mary think Jesus was out of his mind? And the answer is what? No. There’s no way. Because Mary saw the angel of the Lord come to her and the angel said, “You will conceive and bear a son and you shall call his name ‘Immanuel’ and he’ll be the savior of the whole world.” There is no way that Mary thought that and so we probably get that his half brothers or sisters might have thought that about him.
Now what’s the point of this? Why does Jesus say, “My true brothers and sisters and mother are those who do the will of God.” This is what Jesus is saying: Heritage does not supersede obedience in the kingdom of God. And this is what he’s saying: Your obedience to the commands of my Father are more important than who your mom is and who your dad is and who your brother is and who your sister; is because at the end of the day, all that’s going to mean absolutely nothing in the kingdom of God. What’s going to matter is how faithful were you to the commands of the Father.
Now he says this all throughout scripture. Remember in Matthew 7:21. “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only those [get this] who do the will of the Father. Many will come to me on that day and say, ‘Jesus or Lord, didn’t I cast out demons in your name? Didn’t I prophesy in your name? Didn’t I heal the sick?’ And Jesus said, ‘I will look at them and say, “Depart from me. I never knew you, you workers of lawlessness.’” What Jesus is saying is simply this: what’s important in the kingdom of God is your obedience to the commands of God.
He says it in John chapter 15. He said “Those who abide in my word, I will abide in them and they will abide in me.” Verse 10, “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in me.”
Now let me tell you what Jesus is saying here. Two things. First of all one most important, probably the most important of the two. Jesus is showing us in the text, and Mark is showing us the same thing, that Jesus had brothers and sisters, half brothers and sisters. Why do I say half? Amen! Thank you, brother. God’s his Father, not Joseph, right? Joseph was just his earthly father. God’s his Father. But it shows us something pretty amazing, and it’s so amazing for me because, as a child, I was wrongly taught that Mary is a perpetual virgin. What that means is Mary remained a virgin and, therefore, didn’t have any more kids. That is flatly wrong. We see it from the text. It doesn’t take a seminary degree or doesn’t take a systematic theology understanding to read Jesus had brothers and sisters. But the second thing is pretty important. It’s showing us that what’s important in the kingdom of God is obedience to the Father, obedience to God.
Well, the first misunderstanding is a mistaken identity. Notice the second problem in the text, probably the more important problem. It was a misunderstood authority. They misunderstood where the authority of God came from. Look at it in verse 22: “And the scribes… came down from Jerusalem [and they] were saying, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub.’”
Here’s the allegation: He’s demonic. Here’s the first allegation: Jesus is possessed by Beelzebub or Beelzebul. Now that word Beelzebul is a hard word to translate. Commentators are mixed as to what this means. There are a number of meanings but let me give you a couple. First of all, it can mean lord of the dung heap. Yes, I said dung heap. That’s what it could mean. The dung heap. It could man lord of the evil spirits. In 2 Kings 1:2 it means lord of the flies. Regardless, it’s an enemy of God, namely of the kingdom of Satan. In Matthew 12 and Luke 11, there’s a little disclaimer added on to Beelzebul and they say he’s the prince of the demons. He’s of the underworld of Satan. This is a ferocious attack. I mean, think about what they’re saying here. They’re seeing the power of God and they’re mislabeling where his authority comes from, namely his source. It’s not of God. They’re saying this man is of the devil. He’s the lord of the evil spirits.
But they go on. Look at it, “and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” Now why would they say this? Hold your place there and go to Matthew 12:22: “Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him [that’s the context], “and he healed him, so… the man spoke and saw.”
So here’s the deal. A demon-possessed man is brought to him. He can’t see, hear or speak. And Jesus heals the man in front of all the people. And the scribes have a choice at that point. Do we attribute the power to God or do we attribute the power to Satan? And they say, “We don’t believe that’s of God,” and, lying in their heart they say, “That is of the devil.”
Now watch the rebuke. Jesus gives 3 rebukes to them. The first one is this: the demise of the divided house. Look at it in verse 23: “And he called them to him and said to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan?’” Listen to the logic here. “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Pretty simple. “And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.”
What he’s saying is if there’s division in the house, if you’ve got two opposing sides in the same house, what happens? It falls, it crumbles. And he goes on, “if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.”
Something important to note here. It shows us in this text that Jewish people believed in exorcisms. In fact, they practiced it. There was a system to cast out demons in the first century. And what Jesus says here is the logic doesn’t make sense. Demons do not cast out demons. Good casts out evil. Evil does not cast good. And the point he’s making is this: a divided kingdom will not stand. If it’s in an army or an organization or a church, when two opposing sides are in the same building and they’re divided, they will not stand.
But Jesus goes on. He gives us the next point. Not only will you see the demise of the divided house, you’ll see the destruction of the strong man. Mark 3:27, “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”
This is pretty weighty, this passage, and I don’t have time to get into it but let me just give you a couple things. One, the strong man is Satan. The house is the kingdom in which he reigns, which is what? We learned last week. The earth, right, the Prince of the power of the air, of the earth. Because he was banished from God’s presence, he was sent to the earth and he controls this worldly system. And then the possessions are the people that he has held captive for so many years by his demonic forces in the earth, namely his demons. And so what Jesus says is this: the only way someone could free helpless, captive victims is if a stronger man comes into the house. Who’s the stronger man? It’s Jesus. And Jesus, as a strong man, comes in the house, he sets the captives free by binding the enemy.
Go with me to Revelation 20:2. Watch this. This is how it ends. “And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and [he]” —here it is—“bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended.” Who gets bound by Jesus? The devil. There it is. There’s the realization of what Jesus is saying.
But he doesn’t stop there. See, after Jesus says this pronouncement to them, the scribes are speechless. Then he puts the exclamation point on the parable. Look at it in Mark 3:28. “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and [who]ever blasphemies they utter [will be forgiven], but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
The third point under this section is this: the devastating judgment for blaspheming the Holy Spirit. There it is. Matthew gives us a little bit more insight here. Matthew says “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this age or the age to come.” That’s where we get the unpardonable idea from: this age or the age to come. Jesus starts with a positive. Let’s take it apart. He says if you do anything wrong, you’ll be forgiven. If you blaspheme against God, you’ll be forgiven. That’s what’s implied. If you even say things against Jesus, the son of man, you’ll be forgiven. But if you blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, it’s an unforgiveable sin. This is what he’s saying: David’s adultery in the Old Testament, forgiven; David’s murder, forgiven; Peter’s denial of Jesus, forgiven; Paul’s corruption and persecution of Christians, forgiven; but blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the unforgivable sin. Let’s take the word apart.
The word blax means stupid. That’s what it means. It’s a two-part word. Pheme, the second part of the word, means rumor. And so the idea when you put the two together is to speak something that is not true about someone or something, in this case the Holy Spirit. Listen to what the Greek-English Lexicon says of blasphemy: “It is to speak in a way that denigrates or defames. It means to revile, to disrespect, or to slander.” Now, here’s the question: How in the world did the scribes and Pharisees get themselves in this predicament? How would Jesus even say this to them? Mark, unfortunately, misses it.
Go back to Matthew. Matthew 12 gives us the context. According to Dr. Arnold Fructenbaum, there are three messianic miracles in the Bible. The three messianic miracles in the Bible are miracles that could only be performed by the Messiah. Do you remember the ones? The first one was the Messiah would come and he would be the only one that could cleanse a leper. No one from the time of the completion of the law in the Old Testament had ever been cleansed of leprosy. Yes, Naaman was cleansed of leprosy, but he wasn’t a Jew. You may say what about Moses’ sister? That was before the law was completed. And so because of tradition and time that had elapsed, Jewish scholars and rabbis have said the only person that will cleanse a leper will be the Messiah. Jesus had already done that, if you remember, in Mark. He touched the man and he was healed. And they still didn’t believe.
The second messianic miracle was to heal a man who was possessed by a demon and was blind, dumb and deaf. Basically, he couldn’t hear or speak. That’s what we’re going to see. And then the third one was to heal a man born blind. There’d been cases of rabbis or Pharisees healing men who had become blind, but no one had ever healed someone born blind from birth.
Matthew 12 is the second messianic miracle. Now, Arnold Fructenbaum said in Jesus’ day they had a system to cast out demons. The rabbis did it. The Pharisees did it. There’re many cases in the Old Testament and in extra-biblical readings you’ll see of demons being cast out of people. But no one was able to heal a demon of a person who couldn’t speak or hear. And this is why: They had a three-part formula, and here’s the formula: first of all, you had to make contact with the possessed man through his vocal cords. You had to establish communication with his vocal cords. And this is why: the demon would use the vocal cords of an individual to speak through him. So you made contact, first of all. Then the second way is you ask the demon his name. And that was the formula. You would say, “What is your name?” And then the third part is using the name of the demon, you would cast the demon out.
This is the system and I’ll prove it to you. Hold your place there and go to Mark 5. Here’s perfect illustration of Jesus using this rabbinical formula, which he would have known well. Mark 5:8. For Jesus was saying to this man tormented, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” And Jesus asked the man what? “What is your name?” The guy says what? “My name is Legion for we are many.” Jesus casts him out and sends him, as you’ll see, into the pigs. And so Jesus used this formula. But this man, in Matthew 12, they couldn’t use that formula, why? Because he couldn’t speak and he couldn’t hear.
Now, notice what happens in Matthew 12. Look how it starts. Verse 22, “Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him….” That’s the clue. So what they said is we got this guy. He can’t hear and he can’t speak and he’s consumed by a demon. He can’t even see and we’re going bring it to Jesus. And what they said is, “Okay, Jesus. Prove yourself. We want to see if you’re really who people say you are.” And what does Jesus do? He heals the man right in front of them and the crowd goes nuts. I mean, they go bananas. People are applauding, probably, and clapping. And notice what they say next. Look at the verse 23, “And all the people were amazed, and [they say], ‘[Could] this be the Son of David?’”
What are they saying? Could this be the Messiah? This is it! We’ve been waiting our whole life! This has got to be him! And then the Pharisees speak up, “No! It’s not the Messiah! It’s Beelzebub! He’s the prince of the power of the demons. He’s of the devil.” And that’s what Jesus says is the unpardonable sin.
Here’s the unpardonable sin. The unpardonable sin is these men had full revelation of who Jesus was. They’d seen his miracles, they had heard his teaching, they had seen the identification of God through the spirit of God, they had seen the power of God, they had experienced the spirit of God. And instead of ascribing the source of his power to God, which is rightly so, they ascribed the source of his power to the devil. They had two choices—either it’s God or it’s the devil
Why is it so important? This is why. Jesus Christ started his earthly ministry with the anointing of the Spirit, Philippians 2. You know the story. “Have this mind which is yours in Christ Jesus among yourselves. Though he was in the form of God, he did not think equality with God a thing to be grasped but humbled himself, making himself nothing, taking on the form of a servant, becoming like him in his death, being obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This is what that says. Jesus put his divine prerogative on the top shelf of heaven and willingly submitted himself when he came to the earth to the power of God.
What that means is this: Jesus only did what the Father did through him through the Spirit by submitting himself to the will of God. The Spirit carried out the plans of God through Christ. Everything he had and everything he did was by the Spirit. His ministry began with an anointing of the Spirit. When he was finished with his baptism, the Spirit thrust him into the wilderness. When he was finished with the wilderness, he began to preach by the Spirit of God. Remember what he said? “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me to preach and has anointed me to preach.” Everything he did was by the Spirit. He would perform miracles and he would say the Spirit of God or kingdom is upon you. And so the Holy Spirit of God had consumed his ministry and he is at this point. The scribes had seen this, they had seen the power of God, they’d seen the work of the Spirit and instead of ascribing that power unto God, they ascribed that power unto the devil.
Listen to what John MacArthur says about this verse: “Whenever someone deliberately and disrespectfully slanders the person and the ministry of the Holy Spirit in pointing the lordship and the redemption of Jesus, he completely negates and forfeits any possibility of present or future forgiveness of sins.” Why, John? “Because he has wholly rejected the only basis for God’s salvation.” As one pastor said it’s not that the Holy Spirit is greater than Jesus. It’s that the Holy Spirit is later than Jesus. He is the final witness of God. This is the deal. The only way by which these men could be saved, they are negating their way to heaven and, because of their hardness of heart and rejection of the Spirit of God by mislabeling him, they have committed the unpardonable sin.
Now, here’s what the unpardonable sin is not. Because you could be saying, “Pastor, maybe I’ve committed the unpardonable sin.” The unpardonable sin is not yelling at the Holy Spirit. The unpardonable sin is not using the Lord’s name in vain. The unpardonable sin is not murder. It’s not lying. It’s not stealing. It’s not genocide. It’s not rejection of Christ out of ignorance. It’s not even rejection of the Holy Spirit out of ignorance. The unpardonable sin is this: it’s understanding the complete revelation of the person and the work of Christ and willingly and knowingly ascribing the power of God or ascribing the power of God as the power of Satan. It’s misidentifying the work of the Spirit of God in the earth.
If you’re troubled this morning and you’re saying, “Robby, I think I might have committed the unforgiveable sin,” let me say this to you. If you’re wrestling with that, you haven’t committed the unforgiveable sin because you would not even be asking that question if you think you have committed the unforgiveable sin. You won’t even ask the question. And let me say another point. If you’re a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot commit the unforgiveable sin. That is for unbelievers. Unbelievers. Unbelievers commit the unforgiveable sin.
Believers can commit two sins against the Holy Spirit, though. Don’t get too excited now. Two sins believers commit. Do you know what they are? We grieve the Spirit and we quench the Spirit. Let me give them to you. We grieve the Spirit in Ephesians 4:30. Don’t have time to go into it, but you can read it later. But the idea is this: when you were sealed at the moment of salvation, the Spirit of God indwelled you. It was the guaranteed promise for your salvation and redemption and it was the power that God gave you to continually carry out the Christian life. You were—get this—indwelled with the person of the Spirit at salvation. The Holy Spirit of God has one plan for your life and here’s what it is: to make you holy, right? That’s his name—the Holy Spirit. And because he’s holy, he cannot sin and cannot be around sin. And so as a believer, when you sin—get this—you grieve the Spirit of God.
Quenching the Spirit is in 1 Thessalonians 5:19. And the word quench actually means to extinguish. It’s the idea of taking a fire and smoldering it or putting it out. Basically what this is and I don’t have time to get into it but it’s the idea that you submit to the flesh and give in to the desires of the flesh and you don’t submit to the Spirit. Paul said it in Galatians 5, “I say to you walk by the Spirit and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are in contrast to the Spirit and the desires of the Spirit are in contrast to the flesh to keep you from doing what you want to do. So I say live by the Spirit and you’ll not be under the law.” And then he lists all those things of the flesh.
And so the idea is we grieve the Spirit when we go into sin. We quench the Spirit when we don’t submit to his will and his way in our life. Every morning you wake up, you should do this: you should say, “God, I ask you to fill me with the Spirit of God.” Pastor, are you saying we don’t have the Spirit? No. We have the Spirit, but Paul says in Ephesians 5:18, “Do not be drunk with wine but be filled every single day.” So when you wake up, you should say, “God, I want you to fill me with your Spirit today that I would abstain from sin. Forgive me for anything I’ve done to grieve your Spirit and guide me and direct me. Use me today by your Spirit.” And you should do that every day as you out. Every day we can do that.
Now, here’s the question: have you rejected God as an unbeliever? Because I know in a group this size, there could be some that would say, “Maybe I didn’t commit the unpardonable sin because I’m here today. And I hear the Spirit of God speaking to me today but I have rejected God in my own ignorance.” And I just want to challenge you today. If you’re here today and you have never put your faith in Christ and repented of your sins, I want to ask you like the apostle asked the Corinthian church, today is the day of salvation. Today, you need to put your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Have you done that? Because if you haven’t done that—don’t miss this—there will come a day in your life when the lights will go out, when the call will stop speaking, when the preacher will stop calling, when the word will not be available. And there will come a time in your life when it’s too late.
You know, my favorite thing to say in the world when people would tell me about Christ is, “Listen, I’m going to party it up and then I’ll come to God one day.” One day may never come. Friends, I beg you today, listen to me, if you’ve not repented of your sins, you’ve not turned from the world and turned to Christ, this morning I beg you, dear brother and sister, would you do that today? “Jesus, I know you’re real. I know you’re God. I know the power on you is not from the devil but of God and I need that power in my life to live today and to live for eternity as I repent of my sins and believe in you.” Would you do that this morning?