Less than two months had passed since Jesus was crucified. He had risen from the grave on the third day after His death. Then during the next forty days, He presented Himself alive to His apostles by many infallible proofs, and on one occasion He was seen by over five hundred brethren before He ascended back to heaven. On the Jewish holiday called Pentecost, suddenly there came a sound as of a mighty rushing wind and it filled the building where the apostles were, and there appeared unto them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat on each of them, and they began to speak with other languages as the Spirit gave them utterance.
A multitude, composed of people from several nations who were present in Jerusalem, gathered and were both confused and amazed. The apostle Peter, standing up, addressed the crowd and said, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” and he quoted from Joel chapter 2 (see Acts 2:16-21). He drew their attention to other Old Testament prophecies with which they were probably familiar, that pointed forward to the corning of the Messiah, and then proclaimed, “Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). Many were suddenly aware of the horrible deed that had been done seven weeks previous. We can only assume that in all probability many in that multitude were also in the mob that had stood before Pilate’s Judgment Hall and chanted “Crucify Him, crucify Him.” They may have been among those who wagged their heads and mocked Him as He hung there on the cross. Can we even imagine the depth of their conviction, and their feelings of guilt, and fear?
For centuries, they and their forefathers had been looking forward to the Messiah, the Deliverer and Savior. Now this Galilean fisherman, speaking by divine inspiration, makes them aware that they have killed the One who came to save them, The Scripture reports that they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). There was probably the awful sinking feeling in the hearts of many, “Can God ever forgive me?” They were now extremely interested in what these men whom Jesus had appointed would say. Peter said to them,
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39).
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized and that day about three thousands souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41). “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
That question, “Can the Lord ever forgive me?” without doubt, has troubled the minds of many through the years. The answer depends primarily on us, whether we are submissive to the terms God has given for our forgiveness. Forgiveness is a promise (Acts 2:39) from God who cannot lie (Titus 1:2) for those willing to comply with His will, as did the three thousand on Pentecost. Men must believe and be baptized. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). But “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17, 20, 26). Men must repent and be converted that their sins may be blotted out (Acts 3:19). Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). The Scriptures say:
“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).
“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Baptism saves us (1 Peter 3:21), and puts us into Christ (Galatians 3:27). “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). And thus we are added to the church (Acts 2:47), His kingdom (Colossians 1:13).
The question arises, “Can all sins be forgiven?” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus did say, “If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:15). So it seems clear that if we want God to forgive us, we must forgive others. The Scriptures also say, “even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:13).
Some people are troubled by the statement of Jesus, “Blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men” (Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-30, Luke 12:10) even fearing they may have committed that sin. Little is written in the Scripture defining this sin, but in consideration of the setting of the statement, it seems to the writer of this article that the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit as is spoken of in this passage is not a statement of unbelief or of ignorance of the truth, but of willful perversion of the truth in effort to keep men from believing the truth. The Pharisees were well aware of the miracles of Jesus. They may have even been eye witnesses on some occasions, but in their wicked determination to keep the people from believing in Him, they went so far as accusing Him of doing miracles by Beelzebub, and it was then that Jesus gave warning about blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Such blasphemy is not because of ignorance or unbelief but willful perversion of the truth in effort to keep men from believing in the Lord.
Concerning those of us who do believe and have had our sins washed away in baptism, we still sometimes sin. We must not do so to tempt God or with the attitude that God will forgive us, but if we truly repent we have Christ as our advocate (1 John 2:1) and both He and the Spirit make intercession for us before the throne of God (Romans 8:26, 34). “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Never doubt God, or His Word, His love, or His promises.
~ Thomas D. Dennis