Sermon: Do Not Be Afraid To Acknowledge Christ Before Men, Luke 12:8-12

Old Testament Reading: Daniel 3:8-30

“Therefore at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and maliciously accused the Jews. They declared to King Nebuchadnezzar, ‘O king, live forever! You, O king, have made a decree, that every man who hears the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image. And whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These men, O king, pay no attention to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’ Then Nebuchadnezzar in furious rage commanded that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego be brought. So they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, bagpipe, and every kind of music, to fall down and worship the image that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be cast into a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands?’ Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, ‘O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.’ Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with fury, and the expression of his face was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He ordered the furnace heated seven times more than it was usually heated. And he ordered some of the mighty men of his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their cloaks, their tunics, their hats, and their other garments, and they were thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Because the king’s order was urgent and the furnace overheated, the flame of the fire killed those men who took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell bound into the burning fiery furnace. Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?’ They answered and said to the king, ‘True, O king.’ He answered and said, ‘But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.’ Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the door of the burning fiery furnace; he declared, ‘Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out, and come here!’ Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men. The hair of their heads was not singed, their cloaks were not harmed, and no smell of fire had come upon them. Nebuchadnezzar answered and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set aside the king’s command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God. Therefore I make a decree: Any people, nation, or language that speaks anything against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb, and their houses laid in ruins, for there is no other god who is able to rescue in this way.’ Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.” (Daniel 3:8–30, ESV)

New Testament Reading: Luke 12:8-12

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” (Luke 12:8–12, ESV)

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Please excuse any typos and misspellings within this manuscript. It has been published online for the benefit of the saints of Emmaus Reformed Baptist Church but without the benefit of proofreading.

  1. Introduction
    1. This passage that we are considering today goes with the previous one. In Luke 12:4-7 Christ warned his disciples about the fear of man. He spoke to his disciples, saying, “I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do.” Instead, we are to fear God “who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell” (Luke 12:5, ESV). It is God we are to fear, not man.
    2. Here in our passage today Christ continues to address the danger of the fear of man, but in this text, he turns his attention to the inevitable result of this heart sin, namely, the denial of Jesus Christ before men. Those who fear man supremely, and not God, will deny Christ when faced with pressure and persecution. Here Christ addresses that temptation and gives his followers every good reason to acknowledge him before men and never to deny him.  
  2. Those Who Deny Christ Will Be Denied; Those Who Acknowledge Christ Will Be Acknowledged
    1. The first reason Christ gives to acknowledge him before men and never to deny him is found in verse 8. There Christ says, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”
      1. The words, “And I tell you…”, connect what is said in this passage to the previous one. Jesus transitioned straight from his warning against the fear of man into this exhortation to his disciples to acknowledge him before men. Those who wish to follow after Jesus must not allow their fear of man to hinder them from acknowledging him before men. 
      2. To acknowledge Jesus is to profess that he is the Messiah, the Redeemer that God has provided. To acknowledge Christ is to confess that he is your Lord and your Savior. And where is this profession or confession to be made? It is not a private or secret confession but a confession that must be made before men.
        1. Paul the Apostle speaks of this in Romans 10:9-10. There he says, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” 
        2. You see, it is in the privacy of the heart that we first believe in Christ. But this inward and private belief must then be confessed. To confess Christ is to “express openly one’s allegiance” to Christ (Louw Nida, 417). Paul says, that to be saved, one must believe in Christ in the heart and confess with the mouth that Jesus is Lord. 
        3. That little phrase, “Jesus is Lord”, is loaded with meaning, isn’t it? It is an example of a very early creed or confession. You would be badly mistaken if you think that salvation will come to those who merely say the words, Jesus is Lord, as if they were magical. No, this confession must be made with understanding and heartfelt conviction. If this confession is to bring salvation to the sinner it must be preceded by belief in the heart and mind.
      3. This is also how we are to understand the teaching of Christ about acknowledging him before men. This is no casual acknowledgment that Christ is speaking of. Christ is not saying that those who greet him casually or show some respect to him in public will be saved. No. To acknowledge Christ is to openly express one’s allegiance to him (the same Greek word is behind the English word “acknowledge” in Luke 12:8 and “confess” in Romans 10:9, which we have just considered). To acknowledge Jesus is to confess him as Lord. To acknowledge Christ is to believe what he has claimed concerning himself and to confess that he is the Messiah, the Redeemer of God’s elect, the Savior of the world, the eternal Son of God incarnate, the only Mediator between God and man. As I have said, this is no casual acknowledgment that Christ is speaking of, but a thoughtful and sincere expression of faith and allegiance to Jesus Christ as Lord.   
      4. Here in our text, Christ gives his disciples good reason to express their allegiance to him before men and not shrink back due to the fear of man. Look again at verses 8 and 9. “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”
        1. Here Christ directs our attention to the realities of the heavenly realm and especially to the final judgment and he urges his followers to make wise choices.
          1. The reality is that those who openly express their allegiance to Christ before men will have Christ openly express his allegiance to them before the angels in heaven. But those who deny any relationship of association with Christ before men will have Christ deny any relationship of association with them before the angels in heaven.
          2. It’s as if Christ says, take your pick. Choose wisely. Would you rather have the temporary approval of men on earth or the eternal approval of Christ in heaven? One would have to be a fool to choose the momentary approval of man on earth over the everlasting acknowledgment of Christ before the angels of God in heaven.     
        2. There is a sense in which Christ acknowledges those who have professed faith in him before the angels of God in heaven now. Christ represents his people in heaven now. He intercedes for them now. But this warning that Christ gives is ultimately about the final judgment.
          1. Baptist catechism 41 is correct in its answer to the question, What benefits do believers receive from Christ at the resurrection [that is to say, on the last day when Christ returns to judge and make all things new]? Answer: At the resurrection believers, being raised up in glory, shall be openly acknowledged, and acquitted in the day of judgment, and made perfectly blessed, both in soul and body, in the full enjoyment of God to all eternity. Matthew 10:32 is listed as a proof text. That is a parallel passage to Luke 12:8-9. There Christ says, “So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven…” (Matthew 10:32, ESV). On the day of judgment, those in Christ will not be publicly exposed and condemned (see Luke 12:1-2) but will instead be openly acknowledged as God’s redeemed children and acquitted, that is to say, publicly declared to be not guilty. 
          2. This is to be contrasted with the fate of those who die in their sins and apart from Christ. Baptist Catechism 43 asks, What shall be done to the wicked, at the day of judgment? Answer: At the day of judgment the bodies of the wicked, being raised out of their graves, shall be sentenced, together with their souls, to unspeakable torments with the devil and his angels forever. This is the true teaching of Holy Scripture (see Matthew 25:31-46). 
          3. Notice Christ refers to himself as the “Son of Man” in our text. This, as you might know, was Christ’s favorite title for himself. It is a Messianic title. When Christ referred to himself as the Son of Man he was claiming to be the Messiah. In this instance, I do believe it is also a reminder that Christ, the Son of Man, will judge the world on the last day. We are to think of the vision that Daniel the prophet saw, as recorded in Daniel chapter 7 concerning the Son of Man coming with the clouds on the last day (see Daniel 7:14-15). We should also pay attention to the use of the title, the Son of Man, in the remainder of Luke’s gospel. Often, the title is used in the context of Christ returning to judge on the last day (see for example Luke 12:40; 17:29-37).  
        3. When Christ says, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God”, he is reminding us of the judgment day aging us to make wise choices in light of it. What will you choose? Will you choose the momentary approval of men on earth today or the everlasting approval and acknowledgment of Christ before God and his holy angels on the day of judgment?
      5. Before we move on to verse 10, I must ask you, have you acknowledged Christ before men? Have you professed your allegiance to him? Have you confessed, or openly acknowledged, him to be your Lord and Savior? 
        1. Before there can be a credible profession of faith in Christ there must be belief in the heart (remember Romans 10:9-10). And so I ask you, do you know enough about Christ to profess faith in him? Do you know about God, his creation and covenant, man’s fall into sin, and God’s plan of redemption? Do you know about Christ and the work he has done to accomplish our redemption? Do you know how the benefits of the redemption purchased by Christ are received? In other words, do you know what the Word of God teaches? Do you know the fundamentals of the gospel and the Christian faith?  If you do not, it is time to learn. You are in a church where these things are taught. You’d be foolish to neglect these teachings. 
        2. And if there is faith in your heart – if you do indeed believe in your heart that Christ is the Savior that God has provided, that he has accomplished our redemption, and that God has raised him from the dead – then I ask you, have you openly acknowledged Christ to be your Savior? Have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord?
          1. It is right for you to make this confession first to God in prayer. It is right for you to confess your sins to God and to ask God to forgive you in Jesus’ name. And in prayer, it is right to say to God, Jesus is my Lord! I trust in him. I rest in him. I will follow him and serve him. All of this must be said, and it is right to start by saying it to God in prayer.   
          2. But Jesus Christ must also be acknowledged before men. You need to tell others that you believe in Jesus Christ and that he is your Lord. If you are a child, start with your Christian parents. After that, tell other Christians. Very soon, you will need to tell a pastor. 
          3. And where is the public profession of faith in Christ to culminate except in the waters of baptism? It is through the waters of baptism that those who have faith in Christ say to God and to all who witness that Jesus is Lord! And it is in baptism that the name of the Triune God is placed upon those who have pledged allegiance to Jesus. In other words, it is in the sacrament of baptism that we publicly acknowledge Jesus, and it is in baptism that Jesus acknowledges that we belong to him.
            1. Baptism, dear friends, is not a private thing. It is not a family thing. It is an ordinance of the church to be administered by a pastor or elder ordained to the ministry and before the believing community. 
          4. And do not think that our acknowledgment of Christ ends with baptism. It continues in a sacramental way through our observance of the Lord’s Supper as we gather together on the Lord’s Day in Jesus’ name. Baptism signifies our union with Christ in the Covenant of Grace. The Lord’s Supper signifies our continuance in Christ in the Covenant of Grace. In Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we openly acknowledge Christ as our Lord and Savior, and in the sacraments, we are marked off as belonging to Christ.
            1. Just as baptism is not a private affair to be administered in private or in families, but in public by the ministers of the church, whom God has made stewards of the mysteries of God, so too the Lord’s Supper is to administered when the church is assembled in Jesus’ name and by ministers.  
          5. And you should know that our open acknowledgment of Christ before men is not to be restricted to the church through the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper but is to extend into every aspect of our lives. The world must know that you are Christian because you claim to be with your mouth and show yourself to be by your way of life. 
          6.  Whenever you are tempted to conceal your allegiance to Christ – whenever you are tempted to talk like the world, dress like the world, or act like the world, being driven by the fear of man to do so, then remember Christ’s words, “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” 
  3. Christ Distinguishes Between Two Types Or Degrees Of Denial
    1. What Christ says in Luke 12:10 is a clarification of Luke 12:8-9. In verse 10, Christ distinguishes between two types or degrees of denial and teaches that one is forgivable whereas the other is not. There Christ says, “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Luke 12:10, ESV)
      1. The words, “but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven”, have haunted some.
        1. Some who lived a particularly sinful life before turning from their sin and placing their faith in Christ have wondered, did I commit this unforgivable sin before believing? They wonder, in the midst of all of the terrible things I did, did I unknowingly commit this sin? Am I beyond God’s reach, therefore – beyond redemption and repair? And some who professed faith in Christ in the past then walked away from Christ for a time and afterward returned to him, will wonder if they committed this sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit during their time of rebellion. I’ve ministered to people who were tormented by this thought. They are professing believers who, when they look to the past, wonder if they have committed the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
        2. I’m confident that this fear in the lives of those who are currently professing faith in Christ and living a life marked by repentance and progressive sanctification is the byproduct of a poor interpretation of this passage. Truly, I do not believe that someone who has committed this unforgivable sin will care at all about having committed it. So heard-hearted and closed off are they to Christ and his gospel, that the possibility of having committed this sin does not even cross their mind, much less, trouble their heart. The very fact that a professing Christian is worried about having committed this sin in the past is powerful evidence that they have not committed it. Now what they must do is interpret this passage properly and continue to grow in Christ and their sense of assurance of God’s love for them.    
      2. So what did Christ mean when he said, “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” The key to properly interpreting this verse is to pay attention to the context.
        1. The first question we should ask is, why did Christ say this here? Answer: to distinguish between different kinds or degrees of denial.   
        2. Christ has just said, “everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.
        3. The question then becomes, do all denials of Christ result in Christ’s denial of the denier before the angels of God in heaven? In other words, are all who have denied Christ or spoken a word against the Son of Man hopelessly lost? If Christ did not say anything more than what he said in verse 9, we might conclude that all who have ever denied Christ are forever lost and doomed. This saying of Jesus found in verse 9 would have troubled many had Christ not offered this word of clarification in verse 10.
          1. Think, for example, of the many in the crowd who were curious about Jesus, who heard of the mighty deeds he performed and encountered his teachings and his claims, who up to this point in Jesus’ ministry, were not willing to profess allegiance to him or confess him as Lord. Perhaps they had even spoken against Christ, the Son of Man. We know that many did this. Matthew 11:19 says, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” John 7:12 says, “And there was much muttering about [Jesus] among the people. While some said, ‘He is a good man,’ others said, ‘No, he is leading the people astray.” In John 9:24 some of the religious leaders spoke of Jesus saying, “We know that this man is a sinner.” All of these people had denied Christ. They had spoken words against the Son of Man. The question is, were these people who had denied Christ and spoken a word against the Son of Man eternally damned?
          2. Think, in particular, of the Apostle Paul. Think of who he was before Christ saved him. In Philippians 3:5 he tells us that he was a Pharisee. That little comment makes me wonder how much he knew about Jesus during Jesus’ earthly ministry. Did he ever see Jesus? Did he ever hear Jesus’ teachings? Or did he simply hear about Jesus from his fellow Pharisees? The Scriptures do not say (though 1 Timothy 1:13 gives us a hint). One thing we know for sure is that Paul the Pharisee was very much opposed to Jesus before his conversion. He even violently persecuted the church. When Christ appeared to him on the road to Damascus, he confronted him saying, “Saul, Saul (Saul being the Hebrew name for Paul) why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4). To persecute the church is to persecute Christ. Paul had denied Christ and persecuted him. The question is, were Paul (and others like him) hopelessly and eternally lost given Christ’s words, “the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.”
          3. And what about Peter, the leader of the Apostles? In Luke 22 we learn that Peter denied Jesus three times on the night of Jesus’ arrest. The first to question him was a servant girl. She looked closely at him and said, “‘This man also was with [Jesus].’ But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’” (Luke 22:56–57, ESV). Christ had said, “the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.” Peter denied Christ. The question is,  was Peter hopelessly lost when he denied Christ?  
        4. This saying of Jesus found in Luke 12:10 is, first of all, a clarification of what was said in verse 9. Here Christ distinguishes between two different kinds or degrees of denial. “Everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven”, Christ says. Of course, repentance and faith in Christ is implied. The meaning is that those who turn from their sins to trust in Christ and openly acknowledge him as Lord will be forgiven even if they had denied Christ or spoken a word against the Son of Man in the past. 
        5. Next, we find a warning. “But the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven,” Christ says. The question we must ask is, What does it mean to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit? 
          1. To blaspheme is to speak against, revile, or defame.
          2. Clearly, there is a difference between speaking against, or blaspheming, the Son of Man, and speaking against, or blaspheming, the Holy Spirit. The account of this saying of Jesus in Matthew’s gospel is more detailed and clear. There Christ says, “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31–32, ESV).
          3. What then is the difference between blaspheming the Son of Man and blaspheming the Holy Spirit? Why is the one more serious than the other? The answer is found in the immediate context of Luke’s gospel (and in the context of Matthew’s gospel where this same saying of Jesus is found).
            1.  Do you remember the story was told in Luke 11:14-23? Christ had cast a demon out of a man, and “some of [the people] said, ‘He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons…” (Luke 11:15, ESV). “But [Christ], knowing their thoughts, said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Luke 11:17–20, ESV). 
            2. When we considered this text many weeks ago. Then it was said that the “finger of God” is a reference to the Spirit of God. God the Father was in those days overthrowing the kingdom of Satan through Christ the Son and by the Spirit. It was by the finger of God, or the Spirit of God, that Christ cast out demons. It was by the Spirit that he worked signs and wonders. All of this is to remind us of the mighty deeds that God worked by the finger of God in the days of Moses when he redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt. Israel was redeemed by the finger of God (see Exodus 8:19), that is to say by the mighty working of God’s Spirit. Signs and wonders were performed by the Spirit of God before Pharaoh and all the people, but Pharaoh hardened his heart and would not surrender to the Lord. He witnessed the signs performed through Moses by the Spirit of God, but he dismissed them, hardened his heart, and forever remained in rebellion and unbelief. 
            3. The same thing happened in the ministry of Christ. Christ was working signs and wonders by the finger of God. By the Spirit, he healed the sick, calmed the stormy sea, fed the multitudes, raised the dead, and cast out demons as a sign that he is the Lord’s Messiah. Some acknowledged Christ to be the Messiah. Many denied him. But there were some who went a step further. When they were thoroughly confronted with the mighty deeds that Christ performed by the finger of God, that is to say, by the Spirit of God, and when they could not longer deny the reality of these miraculous deeds, they found themselves pressed to make a decision about Jesus and his claims. They were so opposed to him – so hard-hearted in their denial of him – that they attributed the signs and wonders performed by him by the power of the Holy Spirit to Satan. 
            4. This is what it looks like to blaspheme the Spirit. To blaspheme the Spirit is not a sin that is committed unknowingly, or accidentally, or in ignorance. Many have spoken a word against the Son of Man out of ignorance only to repent and trust in Christ later, being moved (effectually called) by the Holy Spirit to do so. But those who blaspheme the Spirit are first fully confronted with the truth about Christ and exposed to the external testimony that the Spirit brings, and yet they persist in their rebellion against Christ and the Spirit, even attributing the works of the Spirit to Satan. These turn the light they have received through their encounter with the common operation of the Holy Spirit into darkness. At some point, these blasphemers of the Spirit are confirmed in their unbelief and thus never forgiven, not in this life or the life to come.
            5. Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit worse than blasphemy against the Son of Man? Is the Spirit of God greater than Christ, the Son of God? No. But it is the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal the truth about God and Christ. This he does in an effectual and inward way for all of God’s elect. We call this effectual calling or regeneration. But the Spirit also reveals Christ in a common way. The Spirit testified to Christ through the miracles Christ performed. Many thousands witnessed these miracles. Only some believed. Many rejected the testimony of the Holy Spirit. Some even blasphemed the Spirit. And the same is true today. The Spirit testifies to Christ in a common way through the preached word and the sacraments in the life of the church. This is not effectual calling that we are talking about, but the common operations of the Spirit. You see, it is one thing to reject Christ out of ignorance or to deny him in a moment of weakness, it is another thing to sit under the ministry of the word and to enjoy life in the church where these common operations of the Spirit are present (see Second London Confession 10.4), to remain in sin and rebellion, and then to knowingly and willingly blaspheme the Spirit, turning whatever light you have received into darkness.  
            6. When Christ said, “everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven”, it was a warning to all who encounter these common operations of the Spirit. To encounter them and to remain in unbelief is a very dangerous thing.
              1. The Hebrews who were alive in the days of Moses, who witnessed the signs and wonders worked through Moses by the finger of God leading to their redemption, were in danger of commiting this unforgivable sin.  
              2. The Jews who were alive in the days of Jesus,  who witnessed the signs and wonders that he worked by the finger of God in fulfillment of the Scriptures, were especially in danger of committing this sin. These common operations of the Spirit had to be interpreted and required the response of faith and obedience. Some believed in Christ. Many did not. Some even blasphemed the Holy Spirit. It was to those who remained in disbelief that Steven said, “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you” (Acts 7:51, ESV).
              3. But is the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit a danger to us today? I say, yes, it is. It is especially a danger to those who have spent time in the covenant community, who have enjoyed the testimony of the Spirit to Christ in the word preached and through the administration of the sacraments. To encounter these common operations of the Spirit and yet to remain in unbelief, sin, and rebellion against God is a very dangerous thing. 
              4. Though I do believe that Hebrews 6:4-6 was addressed especially to Jews who were familiar with the Old Testament, had professed faith in Christ, and were tempted to return to Judaism, I do believe it applies to Christians today. There the Apostle warns us with these words: “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4–6, ESV). 
          4. I have said that Luke 12:10 is a clarification and a warning. It is a clarification because Christ here distinguishes between different kinds or degrees of denial.
            1.  In a moment of weakness, Peter blasphemed Christ when he denied him three times on the night before his crucifixion. But never did Peter blaspheme the Holy Spirit. No, the Spirit effectually called Peter to faith and repentance before he denied Christ. And Christ restored Peter after his denial. His denial of Christ was driven, not by a thoughtful and willful rejection of Jesus as the Messiah, but by a momentary weakness involving the fear of man. Although Peter denied Christ and these people who attributed Christ’s works to Satan denied Christ (see Luke 11:14-16), these denials were of a different kind. Peter blasphemed the Son of Man and was forgiven. But these people blasphemed the Holy Spirit, were confirmed in their unbelief, and never forgiven.      
            2. Paul also blasphemed Christ when he rejected him and persecuted his church. But listen to how Paul spoke of that time in his life. He wrote to Timothy, saying, “Though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief…” (1 Timothy 1:13, ESV). In other words, Paul’s blasphemy was directed towards the Son of Man, not the full testimony of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s blasphemy was rooted in ignorance.
            3. Things were different with Judus, though. When Judas betrayed Jesus to the authorities, it was not driven by fear or ignorance. No, his decision was rooted in unbelief. It was cold and calculated. It was a thoughtful and wilful denial of Christ. Judas saw and heard everything the other disciples of Christ saw and heard. He was exposed to the full weight and glory of the external witness of the Holy Spirit to Christ, and yet he rejected it all, knowingly and willingly. Judas did not only blaspheme Christ, he blasphemed the testimony of the Spirit. Never did he repent. He was not forgiven in this life or the life to come. 
          5. This warning that Christ delivers to us must be taken seriously. We must not toy around with Jesus in the church. We must not toy around with the Spirit’s common operations in our mist, lest we trample the Son of God underfoot (see Hebrews 10:29) and blaspheme the Spirit to our eternal shame. Instead, we must recieve with meekness the implanted word of God which is able to save our souls (see James 1:21), walk by the Spirit and put to death the desires of the flesh (see Galatians 5:16), and “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling, [knowing] it is God who works in [us], both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13, ESV).
  4. Christ Will Preserve Those Who Are His Even In The Face Of Persecution
    1. I have not left much time to comment on Luke 12:11-13. The meaning is simple, I think. Christ has warned us that those who deny him before men will be denied by him before the angels of God in heaven. He has assured us that those who acknowledge him before men will be acknowledged before th angels of God in heaven. He then offered a word of clarification by distinguishing between different degrees of denial. Here in verses 11-13 Christ offers a word of encouragement and comfort. “And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:11–12, ESV).
    2. Here we have another reason not to fear man or to deny the Son of Man. Christ will be with his people to sustain them through the trial. More than this, the Holy Spirit, who resides with every true disciple of Christ, will be with us to teach us in that very hour what we ought to say.
  5. Conclusion
    1. When all is considered, those who are friends of Jesus have every good reason to acknowledge Christ before men and not deny him. 
    2. The question I wish to press you with as we conclude is this: have you acknowledged Jesus Christ to be your Lord and Savior? Do you believe in him in the heart and have you told someone? If you have, soon, you will need to say that Jesus is Lord through the waters of baptism. After that, you will need to say that Jesus is Lord by your approach to the Lord’s Table. And you will need to acknowledge Christ as your Lord as you live in the world.
    3. The truth is, some of you might be tempted to hide your allegiance to Christ being driven by a fear of man. May the Lord grant you the fear of God, true faith in Christ, and the boldness to stand before men and boldly proclaim that Jesus is Lord!  Indeed, God has promised to never leave or forsake us. “So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:5–7, ESV)

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"Him we proclaim,
warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom,
that we may present everyone mature in Christ."
(Colossians 1:28, ESV)

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