I recently wrote a few devotionals for a forthcoming publication and I decided to publish them at my blog as well. This second devotional is based on a section of my most recent book, What’s So Confusing About Grace?
Mark 3:29: “But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.” (KJV)
John 3:16 was the first Bible verse I ever memorized as a child. Mark 3:29 was the second. And there’s a good reason too. The first time I read that verse it jolted me like a cattle prod. Here before me written in black and white was an incredibly dire warning that salvation could be lost in a moment. Once I grasped that shocking warning, I determined that I needed to do something to protect myself.
But what was this blasphemy? When I asked around at church people had many opinions about what Jesus might be referring to, but none of the suggestions inspired much confidence. One theme did emerge, however. Blaspheming the Spirit was a trap you could fall into by mistake, kind of like stepping on a landmine. One false step and … boom!
As you can imagine, that picture haunted my youth and left me perplexed as to why a loving God would act in such an arbitrary and capricious manner.
My journey toward a different understanding began years later when I finally took the time to consider the context of the warning. Jesus has just performed a miracle which provides evidence of his authority and status. But rather than consider that evidence, the Jewish leaders suggest he acted by the power of the devil. Jesus replies with this warning.
The lesson, so it would seem, is that blaspheming the Spirit is not a hidden danger that you stumble upon like stepping on a landmine. Rather, it is borne of an ongoing obstinate rejection of God’s presence and action in the world. And that’s what you see in the critics of Jesus’ ministry who stubbornly refuse to accept the testimony of his miracles, even to the point of attributing them to the devil.
To sum up, God is not arbitrary and capricious. Rather, he is perfectly loving, good, and desiring that all people be saved and come to know the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Rather than look for landmines hidden in the ground, we should instead look inside ourselves, for the only unforgivable sin is that for which we refuse to be forgiven.