“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Matthew 12:22-45 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. 23 All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
25 And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27 If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.
30 He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.
31 “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil. 36 But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” 39 But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; 40 for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation at the judgment, and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. 42 The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
43 “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.”
In today’s text Jesus says: “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” What are we to understand from what Jesus says? Is the Holy Spirit more important than Jesus? Surely not Jesus is the Lord. He is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. The Holy Spirit is neither inferior nor superior to Jesus. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are One. They are equal. Why then is it that it is forgiven to speak against Jesus but not the Holy Spirit? First we need to understand that Jesus is neither surprised nor offended by those who speak or sin against Him. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. The love of God, demonstrated in the cross of Christ was extended to us while we were sinners. Forgiveness is why Jesus went to the cross. In Luke 23:34 He says: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Jesus came to forgive sin, even sin against Him.
Concerning the Holy Spirit, in John 16:8-11 Jesus says: “He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” It is the Holy Spirit who convicts people concerning sin and righteousness. When people deny the Holy Spirit, they deny the convicting influence regarding sin in their lives. 1 John 1:8-10 says: If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. When people deny the Holy Spirit as being God, they no longer experience conviction regarding their sins. They believe therefore that they have no sin. Without conviction, awareness and confession there is no forgiveness. Jesus offer, His work of forgiveness was even to those who know not what they are doing. But in order to receive the fullness of redemption, our sin must be acknowledged. We must choose righteousness through Christ.
In today’s text Jesus ends with a vital teaching, an important principle for the life of everyone who has been delivered from sin. He says: “Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation.” When we try, in our own strength, to deal with and remove sin and sinful tendencies from our own lives, even if we are successful we are empty and void. We are vulnerable to another form of temptation and sin. Genesis 1:1-3 says: In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light” We too are God’s creation. We are not meant to be void. When God created people, He created us in His image and likeness. (Genesis 1:26-27) In Acts 1:8 Jesus says: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Just as when God spoke to what was void in creation and the Holy Spirit moved to fill the void according to God’s word; so too, when we are void of evil God speaks and the Holy Spirit moves to fill what has been left void with the very presence of God Himself. In John 14:16-18 Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” So by the Holy Spirit we not only recognize sin, but we are also filled with His abiding presence so that there would be no void left in our lives. The psalmist says: Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4) As we delight in the Lord, as we abide in Him and He abides in us, there is no longer any void in our lives. We have all we need and all that we desire.
In John 3:30, when John the Baptist was asked about Jesus overtaking his ministry, he responded saying: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” We can struggle and strive to become better on our own. But without Jesus and without the Holy Spirit there will always be a void. Instead of striving to do away with and decrease the evil in us, we should seek that He would increase. We should seek that He would so fill us with Himself that there would be no void. The psalmist says: My cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:5-6)
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit, the Three in One God. Thank You for creating me in Your image and likeness. Thank You for forgiving my sins, redeeming and restoring me. Thank You for Your indwelling and abiding presence. I delight in You. Fill me to overflowing, that there would be no void left. Increase in me that I would decrease and Your image would be all that others would see. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Amen.