Introduction. Read Matthew12: 30-37

In this difficult passage Jesus is still dealing with the religious leaders who accused him of healing the demon-possessed man who was blind and mute by Beelzebub the prince of demons.

Jesus' forthright warning to his enemies can be dealt with under three headings:

(1) Neutrality is not without consequences. v30.

Many people think it is perfectly acceptable to be neutral about Jesus. They may well attend church, without protest, for the sake of their parents, wife or children. If pressed, they might admit that Jesus was a good man whose teaching exerts a beneficial influence without making a personal commitment to him as Saviour and Lord. The person who sits on the fence and keeps their options open misses out on the blessing that full surrender to Jesus brings.

Jesus said that a detached attitude was not good enough. "He who is not with me is against me." Throughout his earthly ministry Jesus urged his hearers to:

  • Make a decision about him. He said: Anyone who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." Mt10v18.

  • Make a commitment to him. Jesus' disturbing words to the crowd who followed him for loaves and fishes demanded a total, unreserved, wholehearted commitment: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up at the last day." Jn6v54and55. You cannot make a greater commitment to a slice of bread than to eat it or to a glass of wine than to drink it!

  • Obey him. As Jesus approached the end of his ministry he told his disciples: "Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I obeyed my Father's commands and remain in his love." Jn15v9and10.

    It is extremely demanding to obey Jesus. See exposition on Matthew5v38to42. Our tendency to dismiss Jesus' teaching as unrealistic is a sure sign that we lack belief in him!

  • Put the interests of God's Kingdom first. Jesus said: "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness." Mt6v33. AV. Our priority should be the welfare of Christ's church.

So, if we remain undecided about Jesus; if we are uncommitted to him personally; if we do not love him and have no intention of obeying him; if we fail to prioritise Jesus' interests THEN in no meaningful sense are we for him. Our life is a negation of all Jesus demands. We are against him.

Jesus reinforces this truth by employing a colourful illustration whose meaning is not too clear: "He who does not gather with me scatters."

Sometimes during my time as a school teacher I had to supervise a class doing a litter pick. No one on the pick actually threw litter around! However, some children did not take the collection of litter seriously and stood around chatting or messed about. The example of these pupils affected others and contributed to most of the litter remaining where it was - scattered about the school grounds.

On a Geography field trip the time came when I needed to collect all the children together, get them on the buses and back to school. Now, if my colleagues didn't help but just stood around chatting to one another or to a group of pupils, it made my task of gathering the children together very difficult. My laid back colleagues removed all sense of urgency from the process. Their very inertia worked against the effort I was making to gather the children together.

So, Jesus seems to be teaching that people who are neither for him or against him do have a negative effect on others. They actually deter others by their example from being highly committed. Such individuals do not campaign against Jesus but their lack of true belief has very much the same effect. This can often be seen in families where the mother is a keen Christian and the father, a cool dude, is undecided. The sons of the family tend to adopt the same attitude as their father! See my story on 'Obfuscation'.

(2) Neglect is not without consequences. v31to33.

I take enormous comfort from some of the great assurances found in John's first epistle. For example: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from ALL unrighteousness. If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from ALL sin. 1Jn1v9 and 7. I take heart from the little word, 'ALL'.

According to Jesus we can even be forgiven for opposing him, speaking against him and persecuting those whom the Saviour loves. "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven." v32.

Paul claimed that he was forgiven his persecution of Christians and his hostility toward Jesus because he acted in ignorance. Even thought I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 1Tim1v13.

Bearing this in mind, what is the sin that cannot be forgiven? Jesus said, "Blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven." I think we have a clue to what this sin is in: 1Jn1v10: "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him (Jesus) out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." 1Jn1v10.

If we claim to have no sin we shall never repent and ask Jesus to forgive us our sins. So, the sin we cannot be forgiven, is the sin of never asking to be forgiven. But why is this sin called speaking against the Holy Spirit? There are three reasons:

(a) It involves dismissing the work of the Spirit in converting and changing a person. An alternative and false explanation has to be found for the transformation that occurs when a man or woman surrenders to Jesus.

Jesus healed a blind and mute man in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus received this power at his baptism when the Spirit descended on him like a dove. However, Jesus' enemies would not acknowledge this. They had an alternative explanation for what happened: "It is only be Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons." This was a terrible blasphemy against the Spirit. The Pharisees were equating the Spirit's healing activity with satanic intervention.

Today the work of the Spirit in times of revival and spiritual awakening is explained away in terms of the evangelist playing on people's emotions. The critics of Billy Graham accused him of doing this and forecast that the converts would soon fall away from their new found faith. Some doubtless did but a lot of the seed sown fell on good ground!

When an individual is born again by the Holy Spirit, unbelievers may ascribe the wonderful change that occurs to a friend exerting undue influence or a group of keen Christians applying pressure to conform to their values.

If a person consistently poo-poos the work of God's Spirit they are never going to be open to him themselves.

(b) It involves suppressing the Spirit's prompting and the opportunity this gives of repenting and asking Jesus to forgive us our sins. My father used to call chapel goers of this type, gospel hardened. They are among the very hardest to convert. This is because if you keep putting something off which you know you should do, it gets harder and harder to do it.

Many people know that they should make a will - but never get round to doing it and then it is too late! I need a new fire alarm. I have needed it for years now! If I don't get one soon it may be too late! A woman has a tiny lump in her breast. It doesn't amount to much. She should have it investigated but she puts it off - and off - and off - until it is too late!

There is NOTHING more dangerous than suppressing the promptings of the Spirit and ignoring the opportunities of getting right with God. By doing so a person negates the work of the Spirit and denies the Spirit the power to deliver new life in Christ.

There can be no forgiveness for those who never seek it and eventually lose ALL desire to be a child of God.

(c) Nullifying the Spirit's work. A lot of Christians avow that if you exercise saving faith and receive new life from the Spirit you can never be lost. This is not my view. It was not the view of the author of the epistle to the Hebrews who was concerned that Jewish Christians were apostatizing and going back to Judaism. This is what he wrote: 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 this 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. Heb6v4to6. See also: A call to persevere. Heb10v19to39.

If we nullify the work of the Spirit in our lives and drift back into the world, we commit the unforgiveable sin. I don't know anyone who has turned their back on Jesus, having once experienced his power to save, who has repented and returned to the fold.

(3) Nothing we say is without consequences. V33to37.

We need to remember that in these verses Jesus is still responding to the religious leader's slanderous accusation that he healed the blind mute with power given him by Beelzebub the prince of demons.

Jesus said that the quality of a tree can be told by its fruit. A crab apple tree might look pretty much like a cox's orange pippin - but the fruit is very different. Jesus called the religious leaders a brood of vipers - so rotten at the core they could say nothing good. The words they spoke testified to the sorry state of their hearts. A person is known not only by their deeds but by their words.

A person's conversation reveals what is stored up in their hearts. For instance it tells us about their:

(a) Interests. A person talks about what interests them. I began my teaching career at the King Edward VI Grammar School in Bury St Edwards. I did so at the same time as Roger Loose, another Geography graduate. We spent hours and hours talking about subject matter and teaching methods. We were keen - interested in Geography and how to make it appealing to our pupils. Anyone listening in to our conversation could be in no doubt of our enthusiasm.

So what do we talk about? I can remember giving an old man who lived in my village of Brockley a lift to Bury St Edmunds. He talked throughout the journey about the drinks he had the night before. He could remember each of them in sequence - such was his all consuming interest in anything alcoholic.

So what do we talk about? Is it our health, work, sport, sex, money or a hobby? A lot will depend on whom we are talking to but if we are in conversation with a fellow Christian surely it should be largely on spiritual matters.

(b) Judgment or discernment. Most religious leaders were unable to discern that Jesus was a godly man and inspirational teacher. But a few could. Nicodemus, for all his caution, said,"Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him." Jn3v2.

A Centurion whose servant was sick recognised that Jesus was a man with authority. He sent Jesus a message: "But say the word, and my servant will be healed." Lk7v7. Jesus said, "I have not found such great faith even in Israel."

A dying thief revealed his belief in the crucified Christ when he ASKED Jesus to remember him when he came into his kingdom.

Several of the Christians at Corinth spoke disparagingly of the apostle Paul. They showed very poor judgement in dismissing him for his unprepossessing appearance and lack of eloquence.

I am afraid some Christians are readily taken in by a good looking leader with a sparkling personality and the gift of the gab.

Preachers who sound off against those who teach an old earth model of creation just reveal their ignorance. How could the continental land masses with their immense variety and complex arrangement of rocks be formed in 24 hours? A great many Creationist lectures given to evangelical Christians amount to the blind leading the blind.

Ignorance is a bad plank to have in the eye but there are others! A man will show his bias, prejudice or self-love in his conversation.

(c) Character. The words we utter will show what we are like at heart. Boastful words reveal a proud heart; complaining words an embittered heart; judgmental words a self-righteous heart.

When Alan was a teenage Christian one of the elders of his church said to his Sunday School teacher: "There's nothing spiritual in him." When asked to justify this criticism the man of God replied, "I've seen him with his eyes open during prayer time."

This old hypocrite perhaps forgot that he wouldn't have seen anything during prayer time if he had kept his OWN eyes shut.

A person's words also reveal a good heart; one that is humble or courageous or charitable. We can speak words of encouragement, appreciation or comfort to build hope and demolish doubt.

Jesus emphasises the importance of our idle words. These are the sort of words we speak when we are with our mates or our families or with people we think we can trust. Idle words can more truly reveal what a man thinks, and what he is truly like, than words uttered under public scrutiny. What a politician says in a TV interview will not be as revealing as what is said off camera to confidants. Donald Trump got caught out in this respect during the United States Presidential election.

God will judge us by our idle words because these are the ones that reveal our hearts. So at the Last Judgment the words we have spoken, especially those spoken in ungaurded moments, will be to our credit or discredit. The words we speak reveal whether we are genuine believers or unbelievers.

We need to gaurd our tongues - particularly those of us of a garrulous disposition.