“And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 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.” (Reference: Matthew 12:31-32 )
Every once in a rather than using comments from the historic Anabaptist perspective on these passages, we need to look at the context according to biblical story. Theologian and biblical commentator Albert Barnes is my favorite go to person. It is because of Barnes’ comments on this passage that I could that the historic Anabaptist had (again) appropriated the verses for their own situation.
In actuality, Jesus was speaking against the Jewish religious leaders of the time and their charges that Jesus was not given power by God but by the evil one. Let me share with you what Barnes said.
“Jesus states the awful nature of the sin of which they had been guilty. That sin was the sin against the Holy Spirit. It consisted in charging him with being in league with the devil, or accusing him of working his miracles, not by the “spirit” or “power” of God, but by the aid of the prince of the devils. It was therefore a direct insult, abuse, or evil speaking against the Holy Spirit – the spirit by which Jesus worked his miracles. That this was what he intended by this sin, at that time, is clear from Mark 3:30, “because they said he had an unclean spirit.” All other sins – all speaking against the Saviour himself – might be remitted. But this sin was clearly against the Holy One; it was alleging that the highest displays of God’s mercy and power were the work of the devil; and it argued, therefore, the deepest depravity of mind. The sin of which he speaks is therefore clearly stated. It was accusing him of working miracles by the aid of the devil, thus dishonoring the Holy Spirit.”
Barnes also makes an interesting observation concerning Jesus’ fellow Jews.
“The Jews were offended at the humble life and appearance of the Saviour. They reproached him as being a Nazarene – sprung from Nazareth, a place from which no good was expected to proceed; with being a Galilean, from Galilee, a place from which no prophet came, John 7:52. Jesus says that reproaches of this kind could be pardoned. Reflections on his poverty, on his humble birth, and on the lowliness of his human nature might be forgiven; but for those which affected his divine nature, accusing him of being in league with the devil, denying his divinity, and attributing the power which manifestly implied divinity to the prince of fallen spirits, there could be no pardon. This sin was a very different thing from what is now often supposed to be the sin against the Holy Spirit. It was a wanton and blasphemous attack on the divine power and nature of Christ. Such a sin God would not forgive.”
The “now often supposed to be sin” is exactly what the historic Anabaptist laden on to this passage. The historic Anabaptist categorize it as a turning away from God and the Holy Spirit, which they see as sin. This stands in contrast to the actual sin that Jesus accused the Jewish religious leader, of falsely accusing Jesus of being in league with the devil, and therefore maligning the Spirit of God who was with Jesus. Barnes says the Holy Spirit “ . . . probably refers here to the “divine nature” of Christ – the power by which he performed his miracles. There is no evidence that it refers to the third person of the Trinity; and the meaning of the whole passage may be: “He that speaks against me as a man of Nazareth – that speaks contemptuously of my humble birth, etc., may be pardoned; but he that reproaches my divine nature, charging me with being in league with Satan, and blaspheming the power of God manifestly displayed “by me,” can never obtain forgiveness.”
You make think, beloved, that I have quoted Barnes at great length, and have said little of my own thinking. Although Barnes may have written a bit more than 140 years ago, he speaks/writes much the way I do, and I would write things the same way if I had his knowledge and understanding of scripture. But, I digress (again!).
Barnes emphasizes the point strongly that failing to acknowledge the divinity of God and by extension the divinity of Christ is a sin that not even the grace and mercy of God can wipe out, because it is deliberately misconstruing God and the Spirit. In this the historic Anabaptist got it right, that even if the blasphemer would to seek God, they will not find the Divine.
May you beloved, for all you sins and faults, recognize that God is God and Christ’s power and divine nature is that of God’s. Selah!