Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people,
but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
As a young Christian, I feared I might have committed the unforgivable sin. But my dear pastor, our own Sharon’s father-in-law, said:
“Dee if you are worried about it you don’t need to be worried about it.”
In the same way, at the close of his marvelous sermon, Keller says essentially the same:
“If you are anxious about it, celebrate your anxiety.”
When we discussed this hard saying at my church, one woman said she’d always thought the unforgivable sin was suicide. How important it is that we understand this hard saying and be able to articulate it to others.
When the gospel penny dropped for Luther, he also understood that the stand the Catholic church then took against suicide (that it was damning, so the person could not be buried in the churchyard) was wrong. Watch the following and listen to Luther’s words to the congregation. (The captions should appear.) I’m eager for your thoughts.
I think all of Keller’s sermon is excellent, but the best is his last point, so please don’t miss it. For this reason, I’m spending 3 days on his last point. He makes the point that repeatedly in Scripture, and in the context of this “hard saying” that it is religious people who are in the most danger of the unforgivable sin. You’ll find out why. I really want everyone to see this — so please be sure to do Wed through Fri. even if you can’t do anything else.
Here is the link to the sermon — you can either stream it or download it. I recommend downloading as it is easier to stop and start. You’ll need to listen carefully and take notes.
Part I. The Problem of Forgiveness (From the beginning up to 16:38)
Part II. The Power of Repentance (From 16:38 to 31:30)
Part III. The Danger of Goodness (From 31:30 to the end)
God Hunt Sunday
1.How have you seen God at work in your life this week?
2. What stood out to you from Luther’s words to his congregation? Agree or disagree?
Monday: The Problem of Forgiveness
3. Read Matthew 12:31-32. What is the promise and what is the warning? At this early juncture, what do you think this means?
4. Listen to the sermon up to 16:38 and answer
A. Anything spoken or done against Jesus can be forgiven! How is that evidenced in Scripture?
B. How is Jesus different from earthly Kings when it comes to taking offense? (Think of Esther and Xerxes)
C. Keller explains the nuanced truth of verse 30, for the reverse is spoken in Mark 9 when he says, “Whoever is not against me is with me.” What does Keller say Jesus means?
D. He gives the example of someone being attacked, his attacker is caught, but in the hospital he tells the police, “Never mind — I forgive him.” But the police say, “But it’s bigger than that — we can’t let someone who does this go free.” Keller says that is true cosmically as well. What does that mean and therefore what must be done?
E. What else stood out to you from this Part and why?
Tuesday: The Power of Repentance
5. Listen to Part 2 of the sermon from 16:38 to 31:30 and answer:
A. Keller said any external sin can be forgiven, but the internal sin of refusing the Holy Spirit when He wants to lead you to repentance cannot be forgiven. Do you agree or not and why?
B. What are some of the huge sins of saints in Scripture that God forgave? What did they have in common?
C. Keller says that our power of denial is so strong that we must have the Holy Spirit to lead us to repentance. Agree or disagree?
D. True repentance is a gift, for it isn’t natural, but supernatural. What did Keller say could make a difference when you are arguing in a marriage? Have you experienced this from your spouse? Have you done this?
E. What else stood out to you and why?
Wednesday: The Danger of Goodness
6. Listen to the rest of the sermon and answer
A. “What is the danger for religious people and why?”
B. What else stood out and why?
7. During our discussion on this in church, one man said he thought there was some justification for saying suicide was unforgivable. Many of us responded with shock. Then he clarified that as a counselor he didn’t feel he should assure his suicidal clients that they would be forgiven for taking their life. I have pondered that — I’m not a counselor, but it seems in my thinking that understanding grace is vital, especially for the severely depressed. Thoughts?
Thursday: The Pattern in Scripture of Gospel vs Religion
8. What were some of the examples of “pairs” in Scripture that God uses to contrast the proud religious person who will not respond to the Holy Spirit and the humble repentant person who does respond to the Holy Spirit?
9. When you look at the context of this hard saying in Matthew 12:22-29 you see religious people refusing to repent to the Holy Spirit’s truth — that Jesus is God. What do they say instead? And how does Jesus show the irrationality of their argument?
10. How do you see in Matthew 7:22-23 (and really all over the Sermon on the Mount) that there are those who are trusting in their good works but have never repented and are not forgiven?
10. Keller contrasts the two sons of the father from the parable in Luke 15.
A. How do you see the younger son responding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and repenting in Luke 15: 18-19?
B. How do you see the older son refusing to repent and the father entreating him?
Friday: How This Sheds Light On Other Hard Scriptures!
For me, this was the most illuminating part, for I have always struggled with both of the following passages, but now I see what is happening. I’d like you to share your thoughts before you look at mine at the bottom if you can control yourself! 🙂 You may disagree with me, for indeed, these are hard passages. (I’m going to put my interpretation at the very end of Saturday.
11. How do you interpret Hebrews 6:4-6?
12. How do you interpret 1 John 5:16-17?
13. What is your take-a-way and why?
I think Hebrews 6:4-6 is talking about the religious person who is in church and has tasted the goodness of God, but has never seen the need to truly repent, but has hardened his heart against the Spirit’s conviction. He leaves the fellowship because “it didn’t work for him” but he never really knew Him for he never really repented and received forgiveness.
There are so many different interpretations of 1 John 5, and the one that previously made the most sense was wanting someone saved apart from Christ — it did no good to pray for that. I realize that was on the right track, but seeing how this is a resistance to the Holy Spirit in leading you to repentance and faith makes more sense. And now I think, but I could be wrong, that the “unto death” means they resist unto death. For after death, it is too late to pray for them, even though many do pray for the dead. Would love your thoughts!