2007-08-08 - Summer Questions
2007 #7: Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
Luke 12:10, "And everyone who will speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him."
Today's Question: "What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and what makes it the unforgivable sin?"
May I commend you on a well-worded question? If you had simply asked what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was, I could have said, "It is the unpardonable sin."
If you had simply asked what the unpardonable sin was, I could have replied, "Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit." When, however, you ask what makes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit the unpardonable sin, it is an altogether different kind of question. And it is not one that is easily answered.
Let us start with a little word study on blasphemy. It comes from the Greek blasphemous, which meant to "speak evil things." The Greek verb blasphemein was transmitted into ecclesiastical Latin: blasphemer. It made its way into Old French first and later into English. But doing a word study gives considerably less insight than looking into how the concept is used in the Bible. In the Old Testament (Leviticus 24:11-16) anyone who blasphemes or curses the name of the Lord is to die. It is not thought that the flippant use of the name of the Lord earned you death (it was still a punishable sin), but rather what is in view in the Leviticus passage is probably a more pronounced intentional denial of God. Blaspheme has the connotation of insulting, or denigrating, and when done deliberately against God, the punishment was severe.
I hope the above will serve as an introduction to our topic, but from here I would like to look at the New Testament passages that relate specifically to your question. There are several passages in the Synoptic Gospels: Matthew 12:24-32, Mark 3:22-30, and Luke 11:15-20, 12:10. The teaching came as words spoken in response to the Pharisees, who were saying that Jesus cast out demons by the ruler of the demons. They denied the deity of Christ in performing signs and wonders, and Jesus responded by saying, in all three instances, you can denigrate Me, and still be forgiven, but if you deny the work of the Holy Spirit, you cannot be forgiven. The Holy Spirit gives us sure knowledge of the truth, and when this truth is forsaken, there is no forgiveness. The Holy Spirit is the One who reveals Christ to us. Like we mentioned above, in the Old Testament, blaspheming was a conscious and deliberate denial of God. In the Old Testament, it was punished with physical death (and implied spiritual death). In the New Testament, this denial is punished with spiritual death.
I would like to look at a few passages, and I will give a list here: Hebrews 6:4-8, 10:26-29, 1 John 5:16, and 2 Timothy 3:8. The Hebrews 6 passage is a good starting spot, as it talks about the inability to renew to repentance those who "have once been enlightened." It speaks of someone tasting of the things of Christ, but later forsaking them. The passage has in mind someone appearing, or acting, or even faking being a Christian for a time, but ultimately turning away from the truths they have confessed and professed, and never returning again. The true believer always comes back to Christ, but the performer, who never really experienced Christ's mercy, has forsaken the Holy Spirit and cannot be renewed. The writer to the Hebrews says in 6:9, "But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you." Hebrews 10:26-29 speaks of "sinning willfully," after knowing the truth. In such a case, there is the " expectation of judgment." We conclude in verse 29 with this willful sinning being referred to as having, "insulted the Spirit of grace." It is trampling underfoot the Son of God, which the Spirit manifests unto us, and the language strongly suggest that such a practice is unto damnation.
The other verses I will let you look up in their context, but I think we can say that what makes blaspheming the Holy Spirit the unforgivable sin is that it is the deliberate rejection of the kindness of God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, in opening and giving exposure to the blessings freely offered in Christ, and we are told that this rejection leads to eternal spiritual death. The 1 John 5:16 passage says that we should not even pray for such a person.
It would be foolish to end here, without saying that if you are still breathing, you should not think that you have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit. How can I say that? I can because even if you have backslidden in the faith, you can return at any moment. If you have tasted of grace, and fallen into sin, repentance is simply the next breath away, if you so desire. The 1 John 5:16 passage does say that we should not pray for someone who has committed the sin unto death, but we don't know who may have done so. Those who have fallen away are always worthy of our prayers, because they can return if they come back to Christ. It is only those who ultimately forsake the Lord, or those who have tasted and seen that He is good, who walk away, never to return, who are beyond our prayers. We cannot know who will return and who will not, so we ought always to pray for those who have backslidden.
The common way that many writers, scholars, and pastors have reassured those who fear they have committed the unpardonable sin, is to say that you have not committed it if you are worried about it, because someone who has committed it wouldn't care about it, or even give it a second thought.
Soli Deo Gloria,