The Sin Against the Holy Spirit - Gospel in Life

The Sin Against the Holy Spirit

Tim Keller |  June 18, 2000

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  • The Holy Spirit
  • Repentance
  • Sin
Matthew 12:30-32
RS 115-2


Today’s sermon comes from a series on the hard sayings of Jesus. The hard sayings of Jesus, the wisdom of Jesus, are more like hard candy than chocolates. You can bite right through chocolate, but with hard candy you have to work on it, going layer through layer slowly.

Today’s “hard saying” has haunted people for a long time – the unforgivable sin. What does it mean to say that this thing is unpardonable? Even if we didn’t have this specific text to teach us about it, it’s imaginable that the issue would still come up. People would curiously ask, “Is there such a thing as an act or a deed, something so deeply wrong and wicked, that it really can’t be forgiven? We’re going to learn three things regarding the sin against the Holy Spirit: the problem of forgiveness; the power of repentance; and the danger of goodness.

Understanding Matthew 12:30–32

Matthew 12:30-32 gives us a message from Jesus, and it’s a big one. He tells us that if we’re not with him, we’re against him, and that saying bad things about the Holy Spirit can’t be forgiven. This teaches us about forgiveness, changing for the better, and the risk of doing good things for the wrong reasons. It’s important we think about these ideas deeply and understand what they mean for us.

1. The issue of forgiveness

Jesus teaches us that forgiveness from God isn’t a simple thing. It’s not like the way kings in old times would forgive. It’s important for us not to assume that we’re neutral with God–we’re either with him or against him. Forgiveness is a big deal, and it shapes how we react to Jesus’ teachings. As Christians, we’re told to be tough, like Jesus, and not to get upset easily.

2. The strength in saying sorry

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and repentance, or saying sorry for your sins, are big ideas to think about. If we resist the Holy Spirit’s help to say sorry, it can get in the way of forgiveness. The Holy Spirit helps us see our mistakes, and accepting our faults is important. It’s also important to be open to the Holy Spirit’s help, even if we’re just curious about Christianity, because ignoring these feelings can stop us from growing spiritually.

3. The risk in being good

Saying bad things about the Holy Spirit is more than just refusing to say sorry. It’s also about misunderstanding what God’s love means and how grace, or God’s mercy, saves us. The Holy Spirit shows us who Jesus is and challenges our understanding of his teachings. When religious people resist this, like the Pharisees did with Jesus, they miss the point. Jesus teaches us to love and serve others and to address our own sins first.

Saying bad things about the Holy Spirit can happen when religious people think that being good is enough, instead of understanding that we’re saved by grace. This can lead to judgemental behavior and focusing on doing good things, rather than changing from the inside and accepting Jesus’ sacrifice. The risk is in thinking that we can earn God’s love with good deeds, instead of accepting the salvation Jesus offers us.

The story of the prodigal son illustrates this risk. The older brother, who always did what he was told, is actually further from his father’s love than his younger brother who messed up. This is a symbol for how religious people can be far from God when they get the message wrong. If we’re worried about missing God’s love, that’s a sign that the Holy Spirit is working in us. Accepting this worry can help us understand God’s love and mercy better.



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