There are dramatic reasons for eye shadow. Whether applied by a stage actor, or an adolescent looking for attention, or even by a prostitute, there is something well known about carefully applied eye shadow: it draws greater attention from others to the eyes, and thus to that person.
Like looking for the proverbial polar bear in a snowstorm, it is the need for the distinguishing influence of shadows that often helps us to better identify a subject. In this regard, as shadows help to highlight features in a scene or of a person, so the extent of God’s amazing grace is also highlighted by considering the dark boundaries along its outer edges.
It is not comfortable territory into which many like to travel, but it is biblical and can be extraordinarily helpful in recognizing truth.
When it comes to understanding amazing grace, there is a dark shadow along its outer space. Grace, for a Christian, involves the recognition of the shocking mercy of God in dealing with the penalty for our sins through Jesus’ all-sufficient sacrifice. That grace, however, is neither universal, nor without exception. There is a dark and ominous underbelly to our human condition that not even grace will remove.
Hear the word of the Lord:
“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Mt 12:31)
Whether or not preachers are willing to speak this truth, the Word of God remains clear: there is a sin that not even grace will remove. It is a dark truth of ugly rebellion, so despicable and so rotten, that not even the sacrifice of Jesus will remove it—not by repentance, not ever!
“Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (v.32)
The unpardonable sin cannot be forgiven. Grace has a boundary; it is not endless, as many like to teach. There exists a dark shadow where Jesus’ sacrifice will not ever cross.
If you want to truly understand the grace of salvation, you need to listen very carefully to what God whispered three times in the shadows. Blasphemy is a very big deal to God. It is a line, that if crossed, renders a person beyond salvation.
In addition to Matthew’s recording, it is repeated by Mark:
“I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mk 3:28-29)
“And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Lu 12:1)
All sin can be forgiven, except one. Is that what you believe? Is that what is taught in your church? Grace has a limit, imposed by the will of God, and declared by the Lord himself. Even blasphemy can be forgiven up to a point, but somehow, in some way, some expression of blasphemy creates a line-in-the-sand between God’s grace and his eternal wrath of Hell.
All sin can be forgiven, but not all sin will be forgiven, because when it is all said-and-done, every human sin will be exposed to the Cross and a choice will be forced: Bow the knee in surrender, or bow the knee in defiance. That choice will expose the sin of blasphemy, for how God measures it, as either forgivable or eternally unforgivable.
The sad truth is that most Christians have been deceived away from the truth of blasphemy. Some are taught to effectively ignore the unpardonable sin, and are thus deceived into thinking that no sin is beyond the grace of God. But even more likely, Western orthodox Christianity has elevated the doctrine of the Trinity above the foundation of the gospel taught by the Apostles in Scripture, causing centuries of believers to think that the unpardonable sin has something to do with speaking against the Holy Spirit as the third person of the Godhead.
Jesus was not teaching about the Holy Spirit, when speaking of the unpardonable sin. He was speaking about himself! Blasphemy is a distinction about how a person views Jesus for who he is.
Notice the wording in Matthew’s Gospel. The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, to which our Lord reminded them that a divided kingdom cannot stand. However, once a thief ties up the strong man, then he can rob his house: meaning that once Jesus deals with Satan, then the possessions he seeks can be safely taken. It is this context which the Lord then says:
“But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Mt 12:28)
The subject being highlighted is not the power behind the healing as much as the identity of the One doing the healing. This is why he continues in the next verse saying: “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters” (v.29). The focus is emphasizing Jesus who displays the power of the Spirit of God, because that is a dead give-away about who he is as Lord God.
This truth, about recognizing Jesus for who he really is, is why he then says, “And so I tell you”. This statement regarding blasphemy is a distinction about knowing Jesus. Either people accuse him falsely as a man, or they accuse him falsely as God. Notice in the text (quoted earlier), that those who blaspheme against him with the view that he is the Son of Man—that sin has a chance of eventually being forgiven, once God enables a person t realize what they have done and then repents.
However, if a person knows who Jesus is as divine, as one born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit, then they are not deceived or ignorant in their understanding. Such a defiance against Jesus as the Son of God, is unforgivable! As the Mosaic Law revealed, sacrifices where only allowed to take away sin, if they were “sins of ignorance”. Willful sin could never be forgiven; can never be forgiven, and never will be forgiven.
Notice how Mark summarizes this truth (quoted above) in his Gospel.
“He said this because they were saying, ‘He has an evil spirit.’” (Mk 3:30)
The focus is their accusation against who they think Jesus is, not about how they dishonor the Holy Spirit. In each gospel account, this warning about blasphemy is not a declaration that they actually committed this unpardonable sin at that time. If this was about dishonoring the Holy Spirit in distinction to dishonoring Jesus, then they would have committed an unforgivable sin at that point, but there is absolutely no evidence to that in Scripture. In fact, as we shall see, Jesus was actually protecting them from such a sin. Stay tuned for this amazing grace.
Mark then records an event immediately following this, which helps to clarify the meaning just recorded about blasphemy, when Mary and Jesus’ brothers come to rescue him from working so hard (Scripture says that they were concerned that he was not eating). She was trying to impose herself as his mother, showing that her view of him was as her boy, rather than as her Lord God. She got publicly corrected by Jesus because, although he was certainly her son, he should have been approach by her primarily as Immanuel.
Luke, the master historian, introduces this section by talking about things concealed in shadows that will eventually be disclosed, things whispered in the dark which need to be proclaimed from the rooftops. It leads into a warning about Hell, in which God will destroy both body and soul. This is the context for presenting this teaching about an unforgivable blasphemy, to which our Lord says:
“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God.” (Lu 12:8-9)
The focus is about who we think we are professing or rejecting. How a person views Jesus is the key here. Most people at that time viewed Jesus as a man, a powerful teacher and rabbi, but nothing more. Not even his disciples began with a correct view of his origin or his identity. This truth about a limited, natural, fleshly view of Jesus was entirely intended by God.
The angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would have a child when the Holy Spirit over-shadowed her. Jesus was human by Mary, and divine by the Holy Spirit. Who else would believe such a thing, even if Mary had tried to share this truth? Instead, the Bible tells us that “she pondered these things in her heart”. For this reason, no other people knew where he was truly from, nor who his Father really was. That was God’s gracious plan to hide his Son in skin, at least to start with.
Whenever Jesus healed someone, he often gave explicit commands that they not tell anyone. Doesn’t that seem strange? Jesus’ brothers thought so. At one point, they even instructed Jesus that if he wanted to be famous, he needed to stop hiding and go up to the Feast in Jerusalem to be seen openly by his followers.
God incognito. Jesus intended to skirt the shadows and hide his real identity to protect people.
At one pivotal point in Jesus’ earthly ministry, Jesus asked his 12 disciples who others thought he was. Some were saying one thing, others another, but all were claiming material, earth-bound, fleshly, natural, human origins. And then the Lord asked, but what about you?
Peter responded, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”. The shadows were retreating. The Lord responded, “no human told you that”, because such a divine view of Jesus could only come from God the Father. But then another shocker:
“Peter answered, ‘the Christ of God’. Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone.” (Lu 9:20-21)
Why? Why would Jesus repeatedly tell people not to share who he was? Grace, my friends. All because of grace! Stay with me here.
Then came the demons. “We know who you are, the Son of God”. Every time, the Lord shut them up. Time and time again, evil spirits tried to announce the full identity of Jesus, but our Lord protected people from being exposed to such a damning truth.
Then consider the revelation on the Mount of Transfiguration, where God himself thundered, “This is my Son”. As the three Apostles walked off that holy mountain with Jesus, he commanded them to tell no one what they saw or heard, until Jesus rose from the dead. Seeing him as the Son of Man was allowed, but his identity as Son of God remained hidden, for a very important reason: to keep all people within reach of grace.
Jesus allowed people and followers to see him as a man, as a teacher and rabbi, as a miracle-worker, a fulfillment of promise as the Son of David, and even as a lord and master, but his divinity presents a one-way-door.
Then came the Cross, which changed everything. The curtain was torn in two, showing that the way to God through Jesus was wide open. The Spirit glorified Jesus as God-with-us by raising Jesus from the dead to eternal life again at the right hand of God.
While upon the Cross, our Lord prayed specifically about grace.
“Father forgive them, they do not know what they are doing.”
The Jews, the Romans, and by extension every human being who has ever existed, all have sinned, all have fallen under the penalty of death, all are in desperate need for grace made possible through the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus.
All humans have blood on their hands. We have all rejected Jesus. However, his grace is more.
Jesus protected all those Jews who spit on him. He protected all those Romans who ridiculed him and beat him. He spared those who turned away from his teaching about eating his flesh. They all rejected a man, but not one of them is recorded within Scripture of having knowingly rejected God in Christ.
If Peter could deny Jesus, even after having declared him as Christ, and still be forgiven, then his own understanding must have been still under developed in fully recognizing Jesus as the very Presence of God. That may well be the very same limited understanding in which Judas sinned in betraying Jesus–for only blaspheming against God is unforgivable.
They didn’t know that they were crucifying and rejecting the Son of God, because Jesus, in his incredible mercy hid that truth from them while they all remained vulnerable to eternal blasphemy.
This is the same act of grace behind why Jesus commands faithful Christians to “not give what is holy to the dogs.” They can’t handle it without the Spirit’s activity and the truth could expose them to eternal condemnation. Grace gives God to those the Spirit reveals are open to Jesus and mercifully withholds the truth about Jesus from those absent of the call of God. Only those led by the Spirit can navigate this commission rightly.
Grace protected people from their own eternal failure. Sin can be forgiven, but rejecting Jesus with the understanding of who he is as Lord God is unpardonable. That truth didn’t gain the light of day until after the resurrection of Jesus.
Then came the Spirit on Pentecost.
Without the Spirit of God, Scripture declares that it is impossible for humans to understand the things of God. The same is true about knowing Jesus. The only way to rightly follow Jesus for who he eternally is as Son of God, is to have his very life dwelling in us through that same impregnating Spirit. You must be born again through baptism!
Then, and only then, is it possible to worship, follow, and represent Jesus with the power to not cross that dark line at the far edge of grace. It is what the Bible refers to as having the eyes of the Spirit, of sharing in the Holy Spirit, and of living by the Spirit.
This truth about the identity of Jesus, and the distinction about blasphemy, is confirmed again by the word of God which says,
“The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (1 Cor 3:17)
This declaration is rejected in the way many theologians try to teach the Trinity, namely that “Lord is not the Spirit”, and “the Spirit is not the Lord”. In one sense, it is supportable in Scripture to teach the distinction of person between Lord and Spirit and Father, but it is a direct violation of the inspired word of God to teach against the above quote breathed by God: “The Lord is the Spirit”. To speak against the Lord who is the Spirit is to blaspheme against Jesus and commit an unforgivable, eternal sin that will damn such a person to Hell.
As Paul wrote to the Roman Christians,
“the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature [flesh] was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 1:2-4)
Again, this isn’t a truth about understanding the Trinity, as otherwise helpful as that doctrine can be. Rather, this is a truth about the identity of Jesus as the God/Man. The gospel is about knowing Jesus. How we approach Jesus is extremely important. Now that he has been revealed as the eternal Son of God, there is no going back for any Christian.
Christians who have the Spirit are not like those early disciples or Jews who thought of Jesus as just an amazing man. We have been granted the glory of God in the face of Christ. We know Jesus as Lord God, the Son of God, the Spirit of Truth. We have put our hands to the plow and must never look back.
Most people remain void of the Spirit, and so remain void of being able to receive him as he truly is. Think of all those people around the world and throughout time who have not known Jesus as Lord God and Savior…their sins can still be forgiven. Grace can even reach across the divide of life and rescue those in darkness, because grace is powered by the resurrected, life-giving, and eternal Living One. Grace is that amazing and that powerful, that not even death can limit its reach.
Being told that Jesus is Lord God is not the same as accepting that as true. Many go to church, hear the truth preached, and may even mouth the words, but only God knows whether or not they “get it”. This is why Paul turned some fellow Christians over to Satan “to be taught not to blaspheme”, in hopes that even if they die, they in spirit may still be forgiven when raised to life.
To come to actually recognize Jesus as Lord God, but while either void of the Spirit, or when quenching the Spirit, is to step into the abyss of impending Hell, with no hope or further sacrifice. Blasphemy against Jesus as Lord God is unforgivable.
Satan can never be forgiven! The Beast and False Prophet, identified in Revelation, can never be forgiven, for their fate is the Lake of Fire which will also consume all the other enemies of God whose sin will never be forgiven. The reason? They know Jesus is much more than just a Son of Man; he is the eternal Son of God and Creator of Life.
Such blasphemy is not some idle threat. It is a dire warning. Sins of ignorance can be forgiven, but rebellion against the Spirit is willful and eternal. This is why ministers who get off course and start teaching things that undermine the truth of Jesus are identified as worse off than those who never knew the truth about Jesus.
“If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit.’ And, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.’” (2 Pet 2:20-22)
In the same way, it is impossible for grace to cross over to re-save those who have had their eyes opened to accept Jesus, but then turn away:
“It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace…in the end it will be burned.” (Heb 6:4-8)
Notice this unforgivable denial is against the Son of God, no longer against the Son of Man.
Those who claim to follow Jesus as the Spirit-revealed Lord, but who do not do so according to the will of God, will be rejected from his Kingdom. Those who are considered his virgins, but who don’t maintain full lamps of oil, will be rejected at the eternal gates of salvation. Those gifted the Spirit with talents, but who bury it even though they know he is a hard master who reaps where he has not sown, will have their gift taken away and be thrown out of his Kingdom. Those who know the good they ought to do, but don’t do it, commit eternal blasphemy.
In the Ten Commandments, one command stood out with a warning not connected to any of the other commands. The third command reads:
“You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.” (Ex 20:7)
Blaspheming the Lord with the recognition of him as God, is a misuse of what his name represents and such a person can never be freed from such guilt. It is unpardonable. Many have assumed this is a command against swearing, cussing, or mispronouncing YHWH, but that is not the context of scriptural revelation. For example, consider Moses who disobeyed by striking a rock for water, when God told him to speak to it. God revealed his specific judgment against Moses in refusing him entrance into the Promised Land, because “you did not uphold my name as holy before my people”.
Misrepresenting Jesus to others, by twisting Scripture, by living hypocritically against Christian faith, by adding opinions and interpretations that are not from him, by offending little believers away from God, by living in sin even while claiming to have the seed of the Spirit of God in you, misrepresents the name of God. Continuing to live in sin without truly repenting and changing, knowing that such attitudes and actions dishonor the Lord, is willful rebellion, and is guaranteed a place in raging fire. Such blasphemy against God will result in eternal damnation, under both the Old Covenant as well as under the New Covenant.
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:26-27)
Notice how the author includes himself when addressing the Christian believers in his audience, because this possibility can occur in anyone. There is no such thing in Scripture as a guarantee against committing the sin of eternal blasphemy. This is the same reason why Paul warns believers not to be arrogant in their claims of salvation, but rather to be afraid of their own natural inclination toward apostasy.
Those ministers who teach that “a person cannot out sin grace”, are lying to you. Telling people at a funeral that God’s grace will grant mercy and entrance through the pearly gates to anyone, no matter whatever a person has done in this life, are speaking attractive deception to the crowds. Those who stand up in church and encourage believers that there is no sin they could ever commit that could separate them from Christ, are preaching Satanic words. The idea of an unlimited or unconditional grace is not Christian. The biblical gospel declares that anyone who continues to live in sin, after having come to know Jesus as Lord God, will be thrown out of the Kingdom for eternity.
In a phrase, this blasphemy is judged upon a rebellious believer as one who has “fallen away from grace” because they have known better. Unpardonable blasphemy is not a specific sin; rather, it is any sin committed with the Spirit-enabled knowledge of Jesus as Lord God.
The Lord is full of grace and longs to show mercy, but his grace is not without shadow. His grace is truly amazing. His name is worthy to be praised. His words are the very breath of God and not to be ignored or replaced with personal ideas.
Christians have been given a glorious truth of God in Christ. We are also on notice to endure in faith, showing Jesus as holy and Lord God of our lives, without shadow of turning.
Walk in the light, and you will not stumble. Amazing Grace.