Matthew 12: 22-32 presents the reader with puzzling but fascinating declarations by Jesus about himself and the Holy Spirit.
The story, briefly, is that a demon-possessed man is brought before Jesus and is then healed. The Pharisees suggest that Jesus is using demonic power. Jesus counters with perfect logic: "And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?" (Matthew 12: 26). It makes no sense for Satan to do anything good.
The Pharisees commit the extreme sin of calling good evil. This leads to the remarkable statement by Jesus:
Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12: 31-32). ESV.
For those of us who have had faith struggles; who have had emotional ups and downs in our relationship with God; or who have experienced exultation as well as disappointment in our prayer life, this passage is enough to make us a little bit nervous. Did our burst of anger or disappointment or apathy somehow offend the Holy Spirit?
R.T. France writes:
These verses have been made the ground of much unnecessary fear for oversensitive Christians whose supposed "unforgivable sin" bore no resemblance to the deliberate stance adopted by these Pharisees; for a striking example see George Borrow, Lavengro Chapters LXXV-LXXVII. Ultimately only God can know when an individual's opposition to his work has reached this stage of irreversible rejection. The Gospel According to Matthew, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Vol. 1) (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans) 1985. Page 211.
A Christian with an ongoing, vital relationship with God will almost certainly have emotional ups and downs and a seeming waxing and waning of faith. Such a relationship is very different from the smug self-assurance of the Pharisees, convinced as they were of their own righteousness.
In fact, we need look no further than the Psalms to discover the mixed emotions of the faithful:
"I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am a man who has no strength,
like one set loose among the dead,
like the slain that lie in the grave,
like those whom you remember no more,
for they are cut off from your hand."
(Psalm 88: 4-5).
To accuse God of "cutting off" anyone, including oneself, is very rash. What do we know of God's plan, or the mind of God? Much knowledge is given to us through the Bible, but we can be sure there will be walls of mystery encountered from time to time.
Thankfully, it is not long before the Psalmist snaps out of his doldrums and declares:
I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever;
with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.
For I said, "Steadfast love will be built up forever;
In the heavens you will establish your faithfulness."
(Psalm 89: 1-2).
In the end, we realize our faith is not a fragile act of our own will; it is a gift from God. He will not let us go. He has plans for us, both here and in eternity. Praise the Lord!
In faith and fellowship,