The Year of Public Favor, Part 5: Israel’s Unpardonable Sin (Matthew 12:22–32) -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 13:2 (Winter 2004)
Article: The Year of Public Favor, Part 5: Israel’s Unpardonable Sin (Matthew 12:22–32)
Author: David J. MacLeod


The Year of Public Favor, Part 5:
Israel’s Unpardonable Sin
(Matthew 12:22–32)1

David J. MacLeoda

Introduction

The account of Jesus’ healing of the demoniac and the accusation by the Pharisees that he had done it with satanic power has been called “one of the most astonishing texts in the Bible.”2 It is certainly an important text for at least three reasons. First, it is a passage with great pastoral importance. Christian literature and experience offer numerous examples of Christians who have become obsessed with the idea that they have committed the unpardonable sin. For example, in John Bunyan’s classic allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, the hero Christian, on his way to the heavenly city, was taken into a very dark room where there sat a man in an iron cage. The iron cage, Christian learned, is despair, and the man, once a professing Christian, had become convinced that he faced the fiery judgment of God. He believed that he had committed the unforgivable sin.3

The life of William Cowper, one of the great hymn writers of the evangelical revival in the eighteenth century, provides another illustration. He wrote words like these:

There is a fountain filled with blood,

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.4

Yet Cowper was so overcome with depression that he tried to kill himself. He became so convinced that he had committed an unpardonable sin that he stopped attending church for the rest of his life.5

In the classic autobiography, Father and Son, Edmund Gosse provides yet another example. He told of Mr. Paget, a retired Baptist pastor, who had given up his ministry “because he became convinced that he had committed the Sin against the Holy Ghost…. Mr. Paget was fond of talking, in private and in public, of his dreadful spiritual condition, and he would drop his voice while he spoke of having committed the Unpardonable Sin, with a sort of shuddering exultation, such as people sometimes feel in the possession of a very unusual disease.”6

Second, it is a passage of some importance theologically. At least four doctrinal matters are touched on: (1) The Trinity. Commentat...

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