With Friends Like These - Part 2

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With Friends Like These - Part 2


‘Blood is thicker than water.’ Nothing comes between family. Those of you who are part of an adoptive family know there are limits to that statement.
Our section of scripture today explores the connections and relations of people and of God.
We will look at an uncomfortable passage that might challenge our theology. That’s good, we should let the Word of God stand in authority over us and our beliefs, not the other way around!

Eternal Sin?

Mark 3:20–35 ESV
20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” 23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” 31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Outline of Passage:
Disciples (Mark 3:13-19) (pretext)
Crowd (Mark 3:20)
Family (Mark 3:21)
Scribes from Jerusalem (Mark 3:22-30)
Family (Mark 3:31)
Crowd (Mark 3:32-33)
Disciples (Mark 3:34-35)
I want to explore this middle section first. The interaction of the scribes and Jesus. Ending with this proclamation of the un-forgivable sin.
This will likely leave us with the question: What IS the unforgivable sin?!?!

Some Scribes on the Wrong Side

This interaction is with a portion of the religious leaders. Not all scribes; not all pharisees; not all; not all unbelievers.

The Accusation

‘Possessed by Beelzebul(b)’ and ‘cast out demons by the power of Beelzebul(b)’
These accusations are in summarized at the end of this interaction in verse 30. They claimed “He has an unclean spirit.”

Jesus was Satan’s agent, not God’s

They called what was the work of the Holy Spirit is Jesus’ life as being enabled by Satan! As evidence gave Jesus’ casting out demons. What they get right is that there are evil spiritual powers and some are more powerful than others. What they get wrong is that Jesus was controlled by them rather than in authority over them. The question of allegiance is paramount to trust and belief, and integrity.
Pete Rose – His love and skill for the game of baseball is unquestionable. But his inability to separate HIS interests from that of the game damaged his integrity and the game. And lead to his lifelong ban from the game. For Pete, gambling on baseball was the unpardonable sin.
They accuse Jesus of not only being in league with the devil, but of being under His Control. Was Jesus the traitor about to be banned for life from God?
Jesus, of course, has an answer.

The Answer

Satan is evil, not dumb!

The parable of the strong man and his house is a direct refute to the scribes claims.
A kingdom, or a house, cannot stand if it is in direct opposition to itself.
In 2 Chronicles 20:20-23 The people of Judah are surrounded by a league of enemy nations - Ammon, Moab, and Seir. They had come to destroy them. Judah’s King, Jehoshaphat, seeing the oncoming enemy turned to God’s house, not to the weapons storehouse. He proclaimed a fast, called all Judah to seek the Lord. They saw God’s power to overcome the enemy was greater than three armies seeking their destruction. A prophet spoke the words of the Lord:
2 Chronicles 20:15–17 ESV
15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”
So they went out the next day, Jehoshaphat encouraged the people and called them to trust the Lord. And instead of ‘being prepared’ by taking up arms, they took up song and sang worship to the Lord for His victory. What happened?
2 Chronicles 20:22–24 ESV
22 And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. 23 For the men of Ammon and Moab rose against the inhabitants of Mount Seir, devoting them to destruction, and when they had made an end of the inhabitants of Seir, they all helped to destroy one another. 24 When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, there were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped.
A kingdom, or kingdoms divided will not stand. A house will not stand.
Jesus uses the image of a strong man’s house. There is a wordplay going on with the identity of Satan. The scribes call him Beelzebul, or possibly Beelzebub. The reference is to Baal-The Lord of the House/Temple. It was the name of the local god of the Philistine city of Ekron. The Israelites didn’t want to ascribe this status to him, so they seem to have changed one letter changing it to Beelzebub – The Lord of the Dung Heap! There’s uncertainty which word the scribes used, but Jesus addresses the original name. And He identifies Beelzabul with Satan, and then with the strong man in the parable.
Jesus’ claim is that even though the Prince of Demons is stronger that the scribes give him credit, Jesus is yet stronger still. He binds the strong man and takes what He wills. If we continue the passage in 2 Chron., we see that the Lord ‘bound’ the three armies, and the people of the Lord plundered the armies.
Isaiah 53:12 ESV
12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
The scribes make a catastrophic error – they confuse the identities of God and of the Devil.

The Application

Don’t burn the bridge to Heaven

“Truly, I say…” This is certain, and spoken with authority.
Jesus starts out assuring us what IS forgivable. Basically everything! All sins… whatever blasphemies. From Matthew and Luke, we see that includes blasphemies against the Son of Man – or Jesus Himself! But there is a type, or an object, of blasphemy that can’t be forgiven – ever.
Does your theology allow for that?
Some people try to settle the two by saying blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is dying without Jesus. The problem is there are three or four other scriptures that speak to this very subject that don’t allow for that answer. Yes, dying without Jesus will condemn you to hell, but that’s not the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
1 John 5:16–21 ESV
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
Hebrews 6:4–6 ESV
4 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.
Hebrews 10:26–31 ESV
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
These are terrifying verses! But they must be true. Don’t try to mash them into a belief that is more comfortable to you.
If this was the only truth, we would live in a world without the Gospel. Let’s back up in Hebrews a few verses.
Hebrews 10:19–25 ESV
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Are we all on the verge of committing this sin? Holding each other accountable and encouraging each other so we don’t, like a cliff climber, fall off the edge at any moment?
The short answer – no. For the full answer…

What Actually IS Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

Let’s go back to the outline of the passage for clarity.
Disciples (Mark 3:13-19) (pretext)
Crowd (Mark 3:20)
Family (Mark 3:21)
Scribes from Jerusalem (Mark 3:22-30)
Family (Mark 3:31)
Crowd (Mark 3:32-33)
Disciples (Mark 3:34-35)
In these various groups are all sorts of sin and sinners. Family, friends, followers, mockers, pretenders, and accusers. None of them committed this sin, except for two: The scribes, and Judas Iscariot.

What it is not:

Not understanding – disciples and Jesus’ family/friends
Doubting – Thomas
Opposing Jesus plan – Peter
Denying Jesus for years – James Brother of Jesus
Being a selfish-seeker – many of the crowd
A curious on-looker – The crowd
A vocal doubter – Many scribes
A violent doubter – Saul/Paul
Calling Jesus absurd – His own family (possibly even Mary!)
A serial sinner – many of the disciples. (Sinning after salvation is the dying flesh. “Sin more that grace may abound” seems even within the realm of saved but knuckle-headed people. Saved people feel the weight of their sin and the pull of God’s goodness.)

What it is:

Scribes – They had full knowledge of the scripture (like seminary degree and I have no other hobbies type of knowledge), and a plentiful opportunity to see the goodness of God in the flesh. With no excuses, nothing lacking in knowledge, nothing hidden is what Jesus did, they chose to call the goodness of Jesus as the evil of Satan. It wasn’t even the verbal accusation they brought to Him, but the hardness and fixed position of opposition of their hearts.
Had they incomplete knowledge of scripture and missed who Jesus was, the story would be different. This is the possibility for unbelievers who breath deeply the truth of the gospel, then mock and curse the God who offers it. I wholly believe that once a person is saved, they can’t lose that salvation. I believe the Bible teaches that. But, knowing there are sincere and astute believers who see that a saved person can lose their salvation, I don’t hold this position as a primary belief or with such pride that it cannot be changed. Passages about this very subject do the most to convince me I’m wrong. If I am, we can extend this to those who once were saved but then deny Jesus as the Christ and mock and scorn Jesus’ sacrifice. This might very well be what Hebrews 6 is saying.
Judas Iscariot – The situation is very similar with Judas. But instead of the seminary degree, He gets a first-hand view and teaching from Jesus, God in the flesh, for 3.5 years. And what does he do with that? He betrays Jesus. If you can’t be like what I want you to be, may you be destroyed. This can even be excused from someone who has not received full understanding. Even the centurion at the cross, who participated in executing Jesus, said “Surely this was the Son of God!”
We might do many things that bring shame on the Kingdom of God. We act rashly and angrily. We speak hatefully then show our Christian T-shirt. We drive like a bat out of hell then flash our Jesus bumper sticker on the way by. But we do so ham-handedly, not for the purpose of His destruction but out of our childish and frustrated reactions.
When a puppy bits, it’s leaning. When a trained dog bits, there are consequences.
The two elements that bring guilt are full knowledge, and malice. Without either or both of these, the sin must necessarily fall into the first category Jesus spoke of. Let me read from Matthew’s account
Matthew 12:31–32 ESV
31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 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.
Even sins and blasphemies against Jesus.
This Gospel, this forgiveness is beyond profound! T
he Law of God shows us our sinfulness. God’s goodness requires sin be convicted with a punishment of death – sin cannot dwell in the presence of a righteous God.
Romans 2:1–3 ESV
1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
But Jesus kindness take our punishment for us and provides a path to be forgiven.
Romans 2:4 ESV
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
What is that kindness He show us?
Romans 5:6–8 ESV
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
This is the heart of God, even to those opposed to Him. Is He quick to condemn? NO! Is He unfair in His mercies? He is more than fair!
He hears the testimony of a heart that sees and believes. That little faith that responds to His calling is grounds for forgiveness of ALL sins!
Romans 10:9–13 ESV
9 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
If your heart resonates with this verse in any way, you are free from guilt of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
But when you let yourself fall into the mercies of this verse, you receive forgiveness, salvation, and a blood relation to the God of creation.
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