What is The Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?
The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, sometimes called “the unforgivable sin,” is a subject that often produces insecurity and fear in the hearts of a number of people. Their underlying question is this one: “Since there is no forgiveness for this terrible sin (whatever it is), what if I am guilty of it?” The quick answer is that God will forgive us of all sins of which we repent. Whether it is “repent and be baptized” to become a Christian (Acts 2.38) or confession and turning from sin after we are Christians (1 John 1.9), forgiveness of all sin is promised by God in these passages. For the biblical explanation, let’s read all three of the passages that mention it before proceeding to a more detailed study – Matthew 12.22-32; Mark 3.20-30; Luke 12.8-10.
Specifics in the Texts and Contexts
The sin is an expression of defiant hostility toward the Spirit. Literally it means “to rail against, to assail, to insult with vicious attacks.” Those involved in the sin were Jewish leaders, who were quite familiar with the Law with its Messianic prophecies, and eye-witnesses of the miracles of Jesus. They not only rejected Christ’s miracles as being from God, but directly and blatantly attributed them to Satan. Since the miracles were done by the Holy Spirit, these people were slandering the Spirit in their vicious accusations against Jesus and His power.
Let’s look at each of the passages and the main points they make about the subject.
And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matthew 12:31-32)
Note the key points made in this text:
· All other blasphemies could be forgiven.
· Blasphemy against the Spirit would not.
· Speaking against Jesus could be forgiven.
· Speaking against the Spirit would not.
· No such forgiveness would be given, either in this age or the age to come.
I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.” (Mark 3:28-30)
Now the key points in Mark’s account:
· All other blasphemies could be forgiven.
· This blasphemy against the Spirit would not.
· This blasphemy constituted an eternal sin.
· Note that Jesus’ warning was issued because they were saying “He has an evil spirit.”
Finally, Luke 12:8-10:
“I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
· It was related to the acknowledging or disowning of Jesus before men.
· Speaking a word against Jesus could be forgiven; blaspheming the Spirit would not be.
This sin lay at the end of a downward progression. People with open hearts saw the miracles of Jesus and accepted him and his message. Others accepted the miracles without yet accepting him as the Son of God (Matthew 16.13-17). His own family thought he was out of his mind (Mark 3.20-21). The ones guilty of blasphemy (or perhaps about to be guilty – Mark 3.30) attributed the miracles to Satan. At any point along the way, people could come to faith, but at the end of this road in question, faith was no longer a possibility.
Saul of Tarsus was once a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent man (against Jesus) – 1 Timothy 1.13. Yet he evidently had not personally seen the miracles of Jesus and claimed they were by Satan. Once you had seen the miracles and so violently rejected them, claiming they were Satanic in origin, nothing could wake you up. The more continual the sin, the more hardened one became. Those in the Pentecost audience (Acts 2) were told to repent and be baptized – every one of them (Acts 2:38). Peter did not make an exception for those guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
No one will be denied God’s grace if they truly repent of their sins and come to him. The Spirit’s invitation is to “whoever wishes” (Revelation 22:17). If you are fearful that you have committed the “unforgivable sin,” that is a sure sign you haven’t! However, becoming hardened in sin is a scary thought anyway. It can begin in carelessness, continue in indifference, and end in a point of hardening. In Hebrews, it began with drifting (2:1), progressed to a sinful unbelieving heart (3.11-12), and ultimately led to the impossibility of repentance (6.4-6).
Seen another way, the downward spiral begins by wanting to be a friend to the world (James 4:4), then loving it (1 John 2:15), then being conformed to it (Romans 12.2), and finally being condemned with it (1 Corinthians 11.32). Therefore, the issue is not whether God will forgive; the issue is whether man can (will) repent. Jesus knew hearts and knew that the ones to whom he spoke had passed the point of no return – a complete hardening. Even at that, his words may have been a warning that they were approaching that point of no return (Mark 3.30). The great miracle of the resurrection would truly be their last hope.
Blasphemy against the Spirit was a blatant, slanderous attack against Jesus and his miracles on a continual basis which led to a complete hardening. Although we are not in the same position of blaspheming the Holy Spirit in our day, any hardening of our hearts is scary business. We must realize that the first step in this direction begins with taking Christ and his word lightly. Keep your heart soft toward the Word, and you will never end up hardened by sin. With our gracious God, it is never a question of his willingness to forgive, but only of our willingness to repent – and at some point, perhaps our ability to repent. But God longs for our repentance and forgiveness, for he is indeed a good God – a perfect Father!
—Gordon Ferguson (October 11, 2009)