Mark 3:28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is an issue that seems to be misunderstood by many Christians. It often seems to take Bible readers by surprise when we see it in scripture, and it leaves us wondering first, what is it? And then, am I guilty of this? Not surprisinly, this is an issue that has been confused and fretted over by many in the Church throughout Christian history. It is not uncommon for a person to hear the words of Christ in Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:29, or Luke 12:10 and become paranoid that perhaps they have committed this eternal sin. Immediately we may wonder…is He talking about blasphemy? Because I’m pretty sure at some point I’ve been guilty of that. If not now, before I was a believer. It seems reasonable that most Christians prior to coming to Christ would have, in some way, committed the sin of thinking a thought or committing an act that insults, contempts, or demonstrates lack of reverence for God and His Spirit. Obviously, before conversion we walked in irreverence toward God with our every step. Fortunately for those in the Body of Christ, merely insulting God, or showing lack of reverence towards Him, is not the unforgivable sin. The unforgivable sin is actually an act that a truly saved Christian, whose heart is inhabited by the Holy Spirit, is not actually capable of committing. Rather than being fearful of this sin, Christians should find supreme comfort in knowing they can not perform it. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit happens in the following ways:
First is denial of the Holy Spirit – denying the Spirit the ability to come into ones heart and perform His regenerative work. When the gospel is preached, and the call goes out to an unbeliever, the Spirit of God calls, declaring the need for Christ. Until a person repents and turns their life over to Christ they are rejecting the Holy Spirit. This rejection of the Holy Spirit is effectually calling the Holy Spirit a liar. The Holy Spirit declares that a person needs Christ, and the person declares back, “Holy Spirit, you are wrong. I do not need Him.” This is blasphemy against the Sprit. By rejecting the Spirit of God, you reject His ability to save, justify, and sanctify. You deny Christ’s offer of propitiation to bring you to rightstanding with God. You deny the Spirit the ability to transform you and press you on toward righteousness and good works for the Kingdom. Without the Spirit you can not be reborn, can not be released from the bondage of sin, can not be justified to God, can not be brought to glory, and ultimately can not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Rejecting the Spirit of God with finality leaves no possiblity for future salvation.
Further, Christ says speaking slanderously against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable. Slandering the Holy Spirit is a clear evidence that the Spirit does not reside in a person’s heart. No one, after receiving God’s grace, truly being saved, and being filled with the Holy Spirit, then has the ability to speak out against the very Spirit that guides them. It is by this very Spirit believers have been healed, and born into new life. It is by the guiding of the Spirit that the Christian is empowered, begins overcoming sin, and performs good deeds. It is not so much that speaking against the Holy Spirit merits eternal condemnation, rather it is the speaking against the Spirit that shows clear evidence that the Holy Spirit is not present in the person’s heart. See the way that Jesus explains the house divided against itself:
Matthew 12:22 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. 24… when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This (Jesus) casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.”
Here the Pharisees blaspheme the Holy Spirit, both by denying the Spirit’s call to Christ and by slandering the Spirit’s work – attrituting the origin of Christ’s miracles (performed by the aid of the Spirit) to Satan.
Matthew 12:25 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?
Christ here explains that He could not perform works against demons if He were empowered by Satan. Evil does not destroy evil. In the same way, good does not destroy good. The Pharisees attacking the Spirit here is evidence that they are not good or a part of all that is good. They are divided from the Kingdom of God. They do not know God – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and can not recognize Him. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.” If the Pharisees do not recognize Christ as the Son of God, they do not have the Spirit of God within them. If they had the Spirit of God within them they would have had faith in Christ, and they would not have spoken out against Him and the power by which He performed His miracles.
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.
Christ speaks about blaspheming the Holy Spirit again in Luke 12, and we receive more context here…
Luke 12:9 …but the one 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 will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. 11 And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, 12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
Here we see that Jesus says it is possible for a person who has not yet received the Holy Spirit to see Christ, but not recognize Him as God, and speak against Him. Jesus said, “You have seen me and yet do not believe (John 6:36). In John 6:37 and 38, Christ says that all of His followers have been given to Him by the Father, and He will lose nothing the Father has given Him. Christ teaches us that it is not until God has sent His Spirit upon a person that they may not just see Him, but believe. The Holy Spirit is sent upon men by the grace of God as a gift.
John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”
John 6:65 And (Jesus) said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God
Then in Luke 12:12 (above) Christ goes on to tell us that, as believers, we need not worry about denying the Spirit. Because we can’t. We need not worry about what we will say when we are called to defend ourselves before our oppressors. We need not worry that we will cower under the pressure, or fold in our fear. Christ tells us the Holy Spirit will speak through us on our behalf. At this time it will not be possible for a true believer to deny the Holy Spirit, because the house can not be divided against itself, and if the Holy Spirit is in us, He will speak out on our behalf.
Matthew 10:19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
It would seem then that the real concern should not be whether or not we have been guilty of blasphemy, but whether or not we have truly submitted our lives to Jesus Christ, and truly been transformed by the Holy Spirit. A hardened heart that permanently rejects the Spirit is a heart that permanently rejects any opporutunity for future forgiveness and salvation. Any other sin can be forgiven upon repentance and submission to Christ. This includes hating God and Christ, speaking against them, even killing God’s children. See the Apostle Paul who persecuted and killed Christians before his salvation, or Peter who, in fear, denied Christ 3 times before receiving the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Both men were guilty of heinous sins, but went on to be reconciled to Christ and to burn with the Spirit, performing good works in Jesus’ name. These men were the very founders of Christ’s Church. This demonstrates that all sins are forgivable by faith in Christ. If you are a true believer, you have not denied the Holy Spirit, and you have been forgiven your sins. If the Holy Spirit truly burns inside your heart, you do not have to fear that you would blaspheme Him under any circumstance. As true believers we should be able to take supreme comfort and rejoice in the fact that we are not capable of committing the only sin that Chirst says is truly unforgivable.
Chad W. Hussey is an average Jesus loving iconoclastic non-conformist neighborhood hope dealer – a husband, father, urban missionary, community group leader, Master of Divinity student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Community Life Intern at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, KY.