Blasphemy of the Spirit – the Unpardonable Sin

From the Gospels, we can draw conclusions from Jesus’ teaching on sin.

1. Sin is universal
2. Sin is internal
3. Sin is enslavement
4. Sin is unbelief
5. Sin is mortal
6. Sin is ignorance
7. Sin is lawlessness
8. Sin merits condemnation
9. Sin is forgivable, except for one

Because of this, I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven (Matthew 12:31).

“Blasphemy” is a transliteration of the Greek blasfhmia (blasphemia), which denotes railing, evil speaking, abusive language, slander, detraction, speech injurious to another’s good name, and impious or reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty.

There are five Hebrew words translated “blasphemy.” The most common is Uan (na’ats), which means to spurn, scorn, despise, or abhor.

The name of God in the OT was the personal revelation of His character and so to defame or defile the sacred name, the tetragrammation (J/Y H W H = Jehovah/Yahweh), was to reject the mercy and power of God (“Blasphemy,” ZPEB).

Such was Caiaphas’ response to Jesus’ affirmation that He is God.

But Jesus kept silent. Then the high priest said to Him, “By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!” “You have said it,” Jesus told him. “But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Look, now you’ve heard the blasphemy! What is your decision?” They answered, “He deserves death!” (Matthew 26:63-66).

In the OT, blasphemy ranks among the gravest sins because it denies the Creator’s sovereignty, power and majesty. Blasphemy is equated with destruction in the NT.

Bold, arrogant people! They do not tremble when they blaspheme the glorious ones; however, angels, who are greater in might and power, do not bring a slanderous charge against them before the Lord. But these people, like irrational animals—creatures of instinct born to be caught and destroyed—speak blasphemies about things they don’t understand, and in their destruction they too will be destroyed (2 Peter 2:12).

Hence, this solemn warning of Christ against the danger of blasphemy against the Holy Sprit is to spurn and abhor the sovereignty and power of God over the demonic realm and Satan. It is directly related to the preceding incident in which Jesus was accused of casting out the demon by Beelzebub, the prince of the demons. In Mark 3:29, Christ’s words are even weightier.

But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin (Mark 3:29).

In Mark’s Gospel, “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” means to assign to Satan the works of the Holy Spirit. It was therefore a direct insult, abuse, or evil speaking, against the Holy Spirit—the Spirit by which Jesus worked His miracles.

What is the logic of these terrifying words? To assign the work of Christ, the administrative work of the Spirit, to Satan is to deprive Jesus of His work of salvation—the saving power and grace of God released through Jesus.

The deepest meaning of blasphemy against the Spirit may consist in resisting His striving until the person becomes completely insensitive to His appeals as presented in the warning passages of Hebrews. Certainly, the person who fears he might have committed the unpardonable sin is the one who has not; the Spirit is still striving with him about sin.

There is a vast difference between a sin of ignorance and enmity and wickedness, which is deliberate, with one’s eyes wide open.

I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry—one who was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an arrogant man. Since it was out of ignorance that I had acted in unbelief, I received mercy (1 Timothy 1:12-13).

In Paul’s unsaved life, he was a blasphemer and a Pharisee. However, he did not blaspheme the person of the Holy Spirit. He did not commit the same sin, in either word or essence that the Pharisees in Jesus’ day committed. He rejected the messiahship of Christ and persecuted the church, but apparently, he never believed that Christ performed miracles by Satan.

In the third gospel, the context concerns disowning Jesus, crossing the line from forgiveness to condemnation.

And I say to you, anyone who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God, but whoever denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God. Anyone 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 12:8-10).

Luke does not refer to any particular instance, and seems to connect it with the denial of Christ, although he, too, gives the saying that “who shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven.” But which of Christ’s acts are not acts of the Holy Spirit, and how therefore is a word spoken against Him not also blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? John identifies the Holy Spirit with the exalted Christ (John 14:16-18, 26, 28). The solution generally offered of this most difficult problem is concisely put by Plummer (Luke ad loc.): “Constant and consummate opposition to the influence of the Holy Spirit, because of a deliberate preference of darkness to light, render repentance and therefore forgiveness morally impossible.” A similar idea is taught in Hebrews 6:4-6, and 1 John 5:16: “A sin unto death.” But the natural meaning of Christ’s words implies an inability or unwillingness to forgive on the Divine side rather than inability to repent in man. Anyhow the abandonment of man to eternal condemnation involves the inability and defeat of God. The only alternative seems to be to call the kenotic theory into service, and to put this idea among the human limitations which Christ assumed when He became flesh. It is less difficult to ascribe a limit to Jesus Christ’s knowledge than to God’s saving grace (Mark 13:32; compare John 16:12, 13). It is also noteworthy that in other respects, at least, Christ acquiesced in the view of the Holy Spirit which He found among His contemporaries (“Blasphemy,” ISBE).

There is a “sin unto death,” which John implies cannot be forgiven.

If anyone sees his brother committing a sin that does not bring death, he should ask, and God will give life to him—to those who commit sin that doesn’t bring death. There is sin that brings death. I am not saying he should pray about that (1 John 5:16).

We are compelled to understand “sin that brings death” as the blasphemy against the Spirit, since it is the only form of sin that will not be forgiven. A penitent backslider will receive forgiveness, but a willful rejecter of the Holy Spirit’s ministry cannot receive it. Sin has no remedy but in the sacrificial death of Christ (Hebrews 9:26; Acts 4:12) availed of by faith (Acts 13:38-39). Sin may be summarized as threefold: An act, the violation of, or want of obedience to the revealed will of God; a state, absence of righteousness; a nature, enmity toward God.

The word “death” is used in three ways in the NT.

1. Death of the physical body, Matthew 20:18
2. Spiritual death—“dead in trespasses and sin,” Ephesians 2:1
3. The second death—the eternal state in the Lake of Fire, Revelation 20:14

In the case of God’s chastisement of the believer, which is leading to the death of the body, prayer is appropriate. At the request of the offender and his confession of sin, the elders’ prayer of faith will bring about healing.

Is anyone among you sick? He should call for the elders of the church, and they should pray over him after anointing him with olive oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The intense prayer of the righteous is very powerful (James 5:16).

However, a time comes when God will not listen to prayers on behalf of people, who willfully reject Him, as seen in Yahweh’s command to the prophet Jeremiah.

As for you, do not pray for these people. Do not offer a cry or a prayer on their behalf, and do not beg Me, for I will not listen to you (Jeremiah 7:16).

After having tasted the good things of Christianity, the apostate completely renounces them and repudiates the Lord Jesus Christ. In Hebrews 6, we learn that this is sin leading to death. Those committing this sin have no way of escape, since “they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.” In First John, the apostle has been dealing with the danger of Gnosticism. Those who accepted their teaching were in danger of turning their backs on the Lord Jesus and accepting a teaching, which completely denied His deity and the sufficiency of His atoning work. A Christian cannot have liberty in praying for the restoration of such because God has already indicated in His word that they have sinned unto death.

Since all sins will be forgiven, except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, “sin unto death” best fits the conditions described in Hebrews.

If anyone disregards Moses’ law, he dies without mercy, based on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think one will deserve who has trampled on the Son of God, regarded as profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:29).

Spiritual death and the second death are the obvious interpretations of “sin unto death.” Therefore, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the willful and wicked rejection of God’s saving power and grace ministered by the Spirit. Repentance is not present, onfession of sin is not offered. Forgiveness and salvation in Christ administered by the Holy Spirit is spurned, scorned, despised, abhorred, or renounced. It is blasphemy to renounce and revile the power of the Spirit—His convicting of sin, righteousness and judgment in one’s life. There is no remedy if the testimony of the Spirit is refused and rejected—the Spirit insulted.

It seems that Jesus’ allegory of the Vine and the Branches should be read in this light since it is sandwiched between His teachings on the Holy Spirit (John 15:1-17).

I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is thrown aside like a branch and he withers. They gather them, throw them into the fire, and they are burned (John 15:5-6).

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