Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 12:31-37.
Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men (Matthew 12:31).
Christ begins in v. 31a with a sweeping declaration that magnifies the great mercy and forgiveness of the Lord: “All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men.”
That is an amazing statement. God forgives all kinds of sin, and implied in this is the fact that he forgives all kinds of sinners.
Consider David in the Old Testament, how he committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged the murder of her righteous husband Uriah the Hittite. Nathan the prophet confronted him and said, “Thou art the man” (2 Sam 12:7). But David repented of his sin. He said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD” (v. 13). Nathan then responds, “The LORD hath put away thy sin” (v. 13).
Think about Christ’s own ministry. He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matt 9:2).
Several notoriously sinful women described in the Gospels were forgiven by Christ.
First there was the sinful woman of Luke 7, who washed his feet, through tears, with her hair and precious ointment. Christ said to her, “Thy sins are forgiven” (v. 48).
Second, there was the Samaritan woman at the well. She told those of her city, “Come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?” (John 4:29).
Third, there was the woman taken in the very act of adultery in John 8. When her accusers melted away, Christ said to her, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (v. 11). Some in later generations were so offended by this radical forgiveness that they even tried to suppress this account and remove it from the Gospel!
Notice that Christ especially singles out the fact that the sin of blasphemy, among these “many sins,” can be forgiven. According to the law, the penalty for blasphemy was death by stoning (see Leviticus 26:16). But Christ proclaims that even blasphemy may be forgiven!
Think about the apostle Peter who, when Christ was arrested, three times denied that he even knew him, crying out with curses swearing and saying, “I know not the man” (Matt 26:74). And what happened after the resurrection, as recorded in John 21? Christ fully restored and re-commissioned Peter.
Beyond the Gospels, think about Saul/Paul who held the clothing of the men who stoned Stephen, breathed out murderous threats against the church, and was prepared to drag men and women believers off to prison for their faith, before he met Christ on the Damascus Road (Acts 9).
This Paul would later describe himself as one who “was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief,” adding, “And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 1:13-14).
Christ proceeds in Matthew 12:31 to describe the sin that will not be forgiven: “blasphemy against the Holy Ghost [lit. “blasphemy of the Spirit”]” (v. 31b). That teaching usually gets most of the attention.
Before moving on to that teaching on the limits of God’s forgiveness, however, one should nest upon the spectacular declaration from our Lord that goes before it: The Lord forgives all manner of sin and blasphemy.
Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle