Four Worst Words
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 12:31c (Holman) “. . .will not be forgiven,. . .”
It is alarming to hear the four worst words fall from the lips of Him who is forgiveness incarnate. The serious finality, the irreversible verdict, of these four words demands our careful attention. We don’t want to try to explain them away, but also don’t want to try to make them mean anything more than Jesus intended.
We must camp at our text awhile, and take extra time to examine it, for it is often misunderstood. It is an understatement to say misinterpretations of our text have caused much alarm. Many believers secretly fear for their salvation due to it.
Some believers have needlessly and tragically become mentally ill, thinking they have committed the unpardonable sin. Sadly, this terror usually grips people with sensitive consciences, the mental and spiritual condition farthest removed from the sin of blasphemy against the Spirit. All who fear they have committed it have not. This sin is rooted in, rises from, and thrives in the soil of unconcern.
Do you regret your sins, and want to repent? If yes, you are not guilty of the unpardonable sin. This sin is not one of seeking pardon and not receiving it, but rather a sin of not seeking pardon. Blasphemy is not knocking on the door of forgiveness, and having no one answer, but rather never knocking on the door.
Spiritual concern is a trait of spiritual life, and only the Spirit can produce spiritual life. If He is absent, our spirits are dead, and anything dead feels nothing.
Many unnecessarily fear they impulsively spoke words in anger that made them guilty of this sin. However, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is more the result of an ongoing condition than of a single act. This is not a sin of impulse.
The Pharisees did not on the spur of the moment plunge by a whim to this degrading, despicable level. It was preceded by a long, slow, tedious process.
Jesus knew their thoughts (v. 25). This critical fact helps us understand this sin. This ultimate evil was rooted in their hearts, in their innermost essence.
Before being verbalized, blasphemy is an inward rejection of all the Holy Spirit stands for. It is not simply an outward sin of words, but occurs when words of the mouth express a long-held and deeply fixed determination of the heart.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a distortion so blurring reality that repentance becomes impossible. Whittier described the doom,
“(Wilt) thou a willing captive be,
Thyself thine own dark jail?”
Its downward spiral follows a trek similar to what Paul described in Romans 1 as the downhill slide of sin. People reject truth and are without excuse (vv. 18-20), leading to unnatural passions and perversion (vv. 21-27). Ending with a “worthless mind,” they do what is morally wrong, and applaud other evil doers (vv. 28-32). Thus evil is good, and good evil, leaving little chance of repentance.
This painfully describes our declining secular society. A Bible question haunts me. I find it essentially unanswerable. “When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (Psalm 11:3). The only possible answer is to rebuild the foundations, a daunting feat almost impossible to accomplish.
Let me suddenly and abruptly change the tone of this sermon. Our text ends with one unpardonable sin, but begins by citing all other sins; they are pardonable. This one dark cloud is huge, but don’t miss its multiplied massive silver linings.
I pray God will help us find comfort in the fact this verse begins with a gracious statement by our Master regarding the abundance of God’s pardon for sins. Jesus said, “People will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy.”
Murder, adultery, profanity–forgivable. Rape, incest, thievery–pardonable. Cheating, temper fits, tax evasion–forgivable. Drunkenness, drug abuse, spiritual rebellion–can be cleansed. Injustice, not helping the poor, not reaching the lost–pardonable. Failing miserably in worship, serve, and/or go–can be removed. However grievous or gruesome, all sins but one can be forgiven.
“‘Come, let us discuss this,’” says the Lord. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are as red as crimson, they will be like wool’” (Isaiah 1:18). “You have thrown all my sins behind Your back” (Isaiah 38:17b). “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (PS 103:12). Our God is in the forgiving business.
Saul was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man” (I Timothy 1:13), yet was forgiven. Peter denied Jesus three times and, for added emphasis, he used profanity (Matthew 26:74). Peter knew if he cursed, no one would accuse him of being a friend of Jesus–the same is true today–but God forgave him.
Thomas, though the evidence was strong and overwhelming, doubted. Jesus reclaimed him. Samson, among other sins, married an unbeliever, but God forgave him. One of the saddest sentences in the Bible, “He did not know the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:20) is followed two verses later by one of the happiest, “His hair began to grow back after it had been shaved” (16:22). The Lord restored Samson, and let him go out in a blaze of glory.
David committed adultery, murdered, and lied. He committed these terrible evils, though a man after God’s own heart. “Oh self, steady thyself. Know we are also capable of outward sin, but trust God to spare us.” When Nathan thundered, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7a), David collapsed in repentance. Nathan said, “The Lord has taken away your sins” (2 Samuel 12:13b). David suffered terribly the rest of his life–consequences of sin remain–but was forgiven.
The four worst words can strike terror in a soul. Believers can be paralyzed by it, as Robinson Crusoe was when he first saw a human footprint. For 18 years he did well and was at peace on his lonely deserted island. But he knew cannibals lived on nearby islands, and after he saw the footprint, he long lived in terror.
Are you afraid you have committed blasphemy? Fear not. Consciousness of sin is evidence the Spirit is still doing what only He can do, convicting of sin.