4 “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? Yet not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.
8 “And I say to you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will confess him also before the angels of God; 9 but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him. 11 When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Tying back into the previous verses, remember the context for Luke’s grouping/inclusion of these quotes.
The church has been under persecution from the Jewish religious leaders nearly from its inception. Depending on the date accepted for Luke’s authorship, it’s also possible that the church is undergoing persecution from Nero or from the Emperor Domitian. So there is a lot of pressure on Christians to recant their faith and return to a more conventional religion, be it the Imperial cult, idol worship, or Judaism.
The previous passage was a warning and a reminder that religion was not what God wanted from us. The way Judaism was practiced by the Pharisees was full of contradictions, impure motives, and hypocrisy.
This passage is a reminder to Christians to hold fast and have a proper perspective. Things are bleak and they face peril, but God is in control. He is aware of the situation and He is aware of you: your feelings, emotions, fears, worries. And He cares.
So the advice is to commit yourself anew to God in the face of the death. This is apt to these Christians (and to us) because the example of Christ and His resurrection which was fresh in some of their memories. The thought is to continue to trust God even as you are being put to the sword, because God has the power to preserve your life and raise you up, just as He has the power to judge those who unjustly attack you.
The promise is given to the Christian that if he stands fast before men, proclaiming his discipleship to them and holding fast to Jesus, that Jesus would welcome him and acknowledge him before the Father and the angels. Those who held fast would be honored. While those who fell away would be turned away by Christ and shamed.
Lastly, we hit upon what is often called the Unpardonable sin. In the context of Matthew, I interpreted this as willful unbelief because of the example that predicated the discussion, which was the Pharisees seeing the good Christ was doing, but refusing to acknowledge it and attributing it to the devil.
In context here, it’s similar. Having discussed falling away, the idea is of a denial of their faith. They know it to be true, but in the face of death, they fall short and willfully renounce their faith. In both cases, there is an idea of a willful denial of the truth, that is a willful refusal to believe that which the Holy Spirit has shown someone to be true.
Instead, the Christian is to rest with confidence in God, that God will give them the words to say to confound and refute their accusers; save them; or if He allows their death, welcome them personally into eternity.