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Lesson 12: The Sin Against the Holy Spirit *

Introduction: You are constantly making decisions. When you make those decisions you are not just saying "yes" or "no," you sometimes say, "Absolutely," "this will make me popular," "this will make me rich," or "this could really be a disaster." This week we discuss the worst disaster imaginable in a decision. We are discussing how we can choose to commit the "unpardonable sin." Is such a thing possible? Let's jump into the Bible and find out!

  1. Can a Sin Be Unpardonable?

    1. Read 1 Timothy 1:15. If the worst of sinners can be forgiven, that precludes an "unforgivable sin," right? If there was a "worse" sin, one that was unforgivable," then Paul (the writer) would not be the worst sinner, right?

      1. Or, is Paul just teasing us about being the worst sinner?

    2. Read Matthew 12:31-32. What sin does Jesus say cannot be forgiven? (Speaking against the Holy Spirit.)

      1. This text tells us that we can speak against Jesus and be forgiven, but we cannot speak against the Holy Spirit and be forgiven. Since they are both God, since they are both part of the Trinity, how can this make any sense? (Logically, the problem cannot be with the nature or status of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. They are the same in importance. This suggests that we are not in trouble for speaking against the Holy Spirit because He is God. Instead, it must be some other quality of the Holy Spirit that creates the problem.)

  2. The Unpardonable Sin

    1. Let's look at the context of Jesus' statement to figure out this "other quality" of the Holy Spirit which creates the problem. Read Matthew 12:22-23. What are the people suggesting when they say, "Could this be the Son of David?" (They are suggesting that Jesus could be the long-awaited Messiah.)

    2. Read Matthew 12:24. What answer did the Pharisees have to this question about whether Jesus could be the Messiah? (He could not be the Messiah because he uses the power of Satan and his demons.)

    3. Read Matthew 12:25-28. What logical argument is Jesus making? What is the point of His argument? (How can Satan get ahead by harming his own work? This is unlikely and illogical. Thus, the logical answer is that I am the Messiah.)

    4. Read Matthew 12:29. Who is the "strong man?" Who is the "robber?" (Satan is the strong man and Jesus is the "robber!")

      1. What is Jesus "robbing?" (He is stealing souls from Satan. You probably never thought of it that way. Notice that in order to defeat Satan, you have to bind him ("tie [him] up"). Have you ever asked God to bind the power of Satan?)

    5. Read Matthew 12:30-32. The only words that I read were against Jesus. Did you read any attack on the Holy Spirit? What is Jesus talking about?

    6. Read Mark 3:28-30. How does Mark's account make clear the attack upon the Holy Spirit? (Mark explains to us that Jesus' discussion about the unpardonable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was caused by the Jewish leaders attributing the power of the Holy Spirit to Satan.)

      1. Do you think that the Jewish leaders in this story had committed the unpardonable sin? Was Jesus announcing their eternal damnation?

  3. The Logic of the Unpardonable Sin

    1. If you decided that the Jewish leaders had committed the unpardonable sin by saying ( Matthew 12:24)or even thinking ( Matthew 12:25)"It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons" - then you need to carefully guard your words and your thoughts. Is that the way it is? You slip into the wrong thought and, boom, you have committed a thought sin which cannot be forgiven? One wrong word and you are toast?

    2. Let's take this out of the context of the story in Matthew 12. I'm reading a Christian book about "Boundaries." One of the interesting suggestions in this book is that we can have a conscience that is "mis-formed" in such a way that our conscience causes us to think things are sins that are not really sins. Is this possible? Or, is our conscience the Holy Spirit speaking to us? If it is the Holy Spirit, then it could hardly be "mis-formed."

      1. Read Romans 14:22-23. The entire chapter of Romans 14 is devoted to a discussion of what we should do if our conscience does not bother us about something that bothers the conscience of someone else. Remarkably, Paul calls the one whose conscience bothers him "weak" in faith and the one whose conscience does not bother him strong in faith. Who or what do you think is troubling the conscience of the "weak" in faith Christian? The Holy Spirit or Satan?

      2. Read Romans 14:1. What kind of matters is Paul speaking about in Romans 14? (This is a point that is not to be missed: Paul is writing about "disputable matters." I think the "Boundaries" book has it right - we can have a conscience which is something other than the Holy Spirit speaking to us.)

      3. If the Holy Spirit is not speaking to us, then logically this lends support to the conclusion that some demon is whispering in our ear to tell us not to do something that God allows. Read Romans 14:5-7. Does it seem to you that the "weak faith" ( Romans 14:1) Christian is being led by a demon? (It hardly seems that if demons were leading the weak in faith, Paul would write that the weak faith person "does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God." This gets back to Jesus' Matthew 12 argument that Satan will not undercut his own work.)

      4. Consider the discussion you have just had. Consider your thoughts. Have you not just been treading on the same ground as the Jewish leaders in Matthew 12? Have you not just been debating in your mind if the actions of the Holy Spirit could be the actions of Satan and his demons?

        1. Have you "tripped the wire" into thinking the unpardonable sin?

    3. Read John 16:7-8. This is a review of what we have studied in earlier lessons in this series. What is one of the primary works of the Holy Spirit? (To convict the world of sin, righteousness and judgment.)

    4. Read Jude 1:17-19. If a person cannot distinguish between their "natural instincts" and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, what kind of spiritual future do they have?

    5. What does this suggest about the nature of the unpardonable sin: is it a single act? Or, is it a gradual process of refusing to listen to the Holy Spirit until you cannot distinguish between natural instincts and the prompting of the Holy Spirit?

      1. Is it possible that at some point the Holy Spirit will simply stop working with a person?
      2. Read Genesis 6:3 because I know these words are going to pop into your mind as an answer to the previous question. This text seems to say that the Holy Spirit will not "contend forever" with a person. What is the length of the time of this contention? (The person's entire life! This text seems to say that the Holy Spirit leaves the field of battle for an individual when that person dies. On close examination, the text does not seem to say what you thought it said, right?)

    6. Read Hebrews 10:26-29. Recall last week our discussion of Romans 7:14-24? How do you reconcile these two Bible passages? (Paul says that he finds himself doing the things he does not want to do. Hebrews says that if you keep on sinning you are toast - no sacrifice for sins is left. The key to this apparent conflict is found in Hebrews 10:26 "if we deliberately keep on sinning." Paul clearly did not want to keep on sinning. It is hard to describe his sin as "deliberate.")

      1. Do you have any deliberate sins?

      2. Notice in Hebrews 10:29 the phrase "who has insulted the Spirit of grace?" What does this mean? (The picture in Hebrews is of a person who has refused to listen to the Holy Spirit to the degree that it is insulting. This person deliberately keeps on sinning after knowing the truth. The conclusion is that the unpardonable sin is a gradual, deliberate matter. The person comes to the point where they no longer listen or want to listen to the Holy Spirit. At that point, they have made the decision to cross over into eternal death.)

    1. Friend, will you pray to be open to the Holy Spirit? Will you determine to have a "soft heart" which seeks God's will and desires to do His will?

  1. Next week: The Holy Spirit in the Last Days.
* Copr. 2006, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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