Insulting the Spirit

“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).

“Insult” is the Greek verb enubrizw (enubrizo), which can be translated “do spite unto.”

In the book of Hebrews, five warnings of the downward spiral of apostasy are delivered to Christians.

1. Do not drift, 2:1-4
2. Do not disbelieve, 3:7-4:7
3. Do not degenerate, 5:11-6:20
4. Do not despise, 10:26-31
5. Do not depart, 12:15-21

It is significant that the Spirit is mentioned with the warning passages; the first mention is connected to the warning to Christians not to drift from their mooring in Christ. “How will we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? At the same time, God also testified by signs and wonders, various miracles, and distributions of gifts from the Holy Spirit according to His will” (Hebrews 2:3-4).

The Holy Spirit next appears with the warning to Christians against disbelieving or doubting.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the desert (Hebrews 3:7-8).

The root of this sin is the conscious and deliberate hatred of God and of all that is recognized as divine. It is unpardonable, not because its guilt transcends the merits of Christ, or because the sinner is beyond the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, but because there are also in the world of sin certain laws and ordinances, established by God and maintained by Him. And the law in the case of this particular sin is, that it excludes all repentance, sears the conscience, hardens the sinner, and thus renders the sin unpardonable. In those who have committed this sin we may therefore expect to find a pronounced hatred to God, a defiant attitude to Him and all that is divine, delight in ridiculing and slandering that which is holy, and absolute unconcern respecting the welfare of their soul and the future life. In view of the fact that this sin is not followed by repentance, we may be reasonably sure that they who fear that they have committed it and worry about this, and who desire the prayers of others for them, have not committed it (L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 253-254).

The third warning to Christians is against degenerating. Here the Spirit reminds the readers of being partakers of the Holy Spirit and warns if one degenerates, dies spiritually, they cannot be renewed a second, third, fourth, etc. time.

For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, became companions with the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4).

The fourth warning for the believer is not to insult, despise or do spite unto the Spirit of grace, who has sanctified him through the propitiation of Christ’s blood.

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).

Interpreters debate the meaning of this verse. Is the person who commits this terrible sin a believer or unbeliever? I hold that the book of Hebrews was written to believers, and therefore, he is a believer. The verb “insult (enubrizw enubrizo) is based on the verb ubrizw (hubrizo), meaning “to insult” and the prefix en (‘in”). That prefix indicates that the believer has insulted the Holy Spirit who dwells within him.

Jesus has shed His precious blood and paid the supreme sacrifice. But this shed blood means nothing to the rebellious sinner. Not only does this person despise the person and work of Christ, but he also insults the person and work of the Holy Spirit. Hence, he has committed “the unpardonable sin!”

As we have seen, to be sanctified is to be positionally set apart to God in Christ. To insult the Spirit of grace is to cut off the only avenue of access to God’s great salvation in Christ. It is by the blood of Christ that one is forgiven. To trample His blood under foot deserves the worse punishment. Such is sin against the Holy Spirit. How dangerous, then, is every step that leads to apostasy!

The fifth warning is against departing the faith, rejecting the One who speaks—the Holy Spirit.

See that you do not reject the One who speaks; for if they did not escape when they rejected Him who warned them on earth, even less will we if we turn away from Him who warns us from heaven (Hebrews 12:25).

In this present age, the Father and the Son speak through the Holy Spirit. To turn away from the Christ, who warns us from heaven through the Spirit, is apostasy. The whole OT shows that those who refused to listen to God’s message delivered by men did not escape. How can those escape then who refuse to listen to God’s own Son and His Spirit?

Watch out, brothers, so that there won’t be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart that departs from the living God (Hebrews 3:12).

The five warning passages in Hebrews show the downward spiral that ends in an unbelieving heart that departs from the living God, the way to blaspheming against the Spirit.

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