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What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
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What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and Is This Sin Unforgivable?
One of the sins mentioned in Scripture that can strike fear into the hearts of people is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. When Jesus talked about this, the words he used were indeed frightening:
“And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but 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 ).
What Does "Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" Mean?
These are truly sobering words which should not be taken lightly. However, I believe there are two important questions to ask regarding this topic.
1. What is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit ?
2. As a Christian do you need to worry about committing this "unforgivable" sin?
Let’s answer these questions and learn more as we look into this very important topic of blasphemy.
In general, the word blasphemy according to Merriam-Webster means “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.” Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is when you take the true work of the Holy Spirit and you speak evil of it, attributing his work to the devil. I don’t believe this is a one-time thing, but it is an ongoing rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit, of over and over again attributing his precious work to Satan himself. When Jesus addressed this topic, he was responding to what the Pharisees had actually done earlier in this chapter. Here is what happened:
“Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, ‘Could this be the Son of David?’ But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, ‘It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons’” ( Matthew 12:22-24 ).
The Pharisees by their words were denying the true work of the Holy Spirit. Even though Jesus was operating under the power of the Holy Spirit, the Pharisees were giving credit for his work to Beelzebub, which is another name for Satan. By doing this they were blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Deagreez
Why Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit an "Unforgivable" Sin?
In Matthew 12 Jesus says that whoever commits the sin of blasphemy will not be forgiven. However, knowing that doesn’t really address the question of why this sin is unforgiveable? You could just say because Jesus said so but I think there is more to the answer.
To help you understand the why you must recognize how the Holy Spirit works in the heart of an unbeliever. The reason why I am focusing on the unbeliever is because I don’t believe a Christian or true believer can commit this sin, but more on that later. Let’s look at how the Holy Spirit works and you will understand why the person who commits this sin can never receive forgiveness .
According to John 16:8-9 one of the primary works of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of sin. Here is what Jesus said:
“When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me.”
The “he” Jesus is referring to is the Holy Spirit. When a person does not know Jesus as Savior the primary work of the Holy Spirit in that person’s heart is to convict them of sin and point them to Christ with the hopes of them turning to Christ for salvation. John 6:44 says that no one comes to Christ unless the Father draws them. The Father draws them by the work of the Holy Spirit. If someone constantly rejects the Holy Spirit and speaks evil about him, attributing his work to Satan here is what is happening: they are rejecting the only one who can convict them of sin and move them towards repentance.
Consider how Matthew 12:31-32 reads in The Message Bible:
“There’s nothing done or said that can’t be forgiven. But if you deliberately persist in your slanders against God’s Spirit, you are repudiating the very One who forgives. If you reject the Son of Man out of some misunderstanding, the Holy Spirit can forgive you, but when you reject the Holy Spirit, you’re sawing off the branch on which you’re sitting, severing by your own perversity all connection with the One who forgives.”
Let me summarize why this sin is unforgivable.
All sin can be forgiven. However, the key to forgiveness is repentance. The key to repentance is conviction. The source of conviction is the Holy Spirit. When a person blasphemes, slanders and rejects the true work of the Holy Spirit, they disconnect their source of conviction. When this happens, there is nothing or no one who will move that person to repentance and without repentance there can be no forgiveness. In essence, the reason why they won’t be forgiven is because they can never come to the place where they can ask for it, because they have rejected the Holy Spirit. They have cut themselves off from the one who can lead them to repentance. By the way the person who falls into this sin would probably not even know that they are beyond repentance and forgiveness.
Also remember this was not a sin limited to biblical times. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is still happening today. There are people in our world who are blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Whether they realize the severity of their actions and the consequences attached to them I don’t know, but unfortunately this still goes on.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Anthony Tran
Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit Different Than Taking the Lord's Name in Vain or Swearing?
Though they can appear to be similar, there is a difference between taking the Lord’s name in vain and blasphemy of the Holy Spirit . To take the Lord’s name in vain is when you do not show proper reverence for who God is, which is similar to blasphemy.
The difference between the two lies in the heart and the will. Even though people who take the Lord’s name in vain often do so willingly, it is usually born out of their ignorance. Generally speaking, they have never had a true revelation of who God is. When someone has a true revelation of who God is, it becomes very difficult to take his name in vain, because they develop a deep reverence for him. Think of the centurion in Matthew 27 when Jesus died. The earthquake happened and he proclaimed “surely he was the son of God.” This revelation created the reverence.
The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is different because it is not an act of ignorance, it is an act of willful defiance. You must choose to blaspheme, slander, and reject the work of the Holy Spirit. Remember the Pharisees we mentioned earlier. They saw the miraculous power of God at work because they saw the demon possessed boy completely healed. The demon was cast out and the boy who was blind and mute could now see and talk. There was no denying the power of God was on display.
In spite of that they willfully decided to attribute that work to Satan. This was not an act of ignorance, they knew exactly what they were doing. That’s why to blaspheme the Holy Spirit has to be an act of the will, not a passing ignorance. In other words, you can’t do it by accident; it is an ongoing choice.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/RalphRenz
As a Christian Do You Need to Worry about Committing Blasphemy?
Here is good news. As a Christian, there are many sins you may fall victim to, in my opinion this is not one of them. Let me explain why you don’t have to worry about this. Jesus made a promise to all his disciples:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” ( John 14:16-17 ).
When you gave your life to Christ, God gave you the Holy Spirit to live and dwell in your heart. This is a requirement to be a child of God. If the Spirit of God is living in your heart then the Spirit of God will not deny, slander, or attribute his work to Satan. Earlier when Jesus was confronting the Pharisees who attributed his work to Satan, Jesus said this:
“If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?” ( Matthew 12:26 ).
The same thing is true of the Holy Spirit, he is not divided against himself. He will not deny or blaspheme his own work and since he lives in you he will keep you from doing the same. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about committing this sin. I hope this puts your mind and heart at ease.
There will always be a healthy fear about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and there should be. However, if you are in Christ, you don’t have to be afraid. As grievous and dangerous as this sin is, as long as you remain connected to Christ you will be fine. Remember the Holy Spirit lives in you and he will keep you from falling into this sin.
So don’t worry about blaspheming, focus instead on building and growing your relationship with Christ as the Holy Spirit helps you to do that. If you do that you will never blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Naassom Azevedo
What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
What is the unpardonable sin?
Jesus Himself said in Matthew 12:31, “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.” If a person truly listens to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and asks for pardon and forgiveness that person is not guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Let’s discover more about the second part of the verse below.
Is there a sin that cannot be forgiven?
Yes, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is any sin that a person clings to by continually resisting the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. Keep in mind that there is not one specific sin that is unforgivable, such as lying, stealing or murder, but rather a perpetual hardening of the heart and willfully sinning against God and man (1 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:15). In Acts 7:51, Stephen says the following to the Pharisees, "You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.” In a nutshell, the unpardonable sin is any sin that a person doesn’t want to give up, confess, or even ask forgiveness for and additionally doesn’t want to hear any more about it from the Holy Spirit.
Any sin mankind wants pardon for is forgivable. However, if we turn our backs on the voice of the Holy Spirit we begin to silence His convictions and eventually we cannot hear His convicting power. This effectively blocks the working of God in our lives because we have reached a point where we are unable to respond to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.
Consider this illustration of the unpardonable sin. Imagine you are tired of the Holy Spirit convicting you of a particular pet sin. You want to completely remove His promptings even though the voice is warning you of danger and lovingly trying to show you the right path. So what do you do? You begin building a theoretical brick wall to block your conviction. Each brick in the wall represents a singular time you reject the conviction of the Holy Spirit. As you continue to reject the Holy Spirit, the “voice” you hear gets softer and softer. You become more and more confident in your current pathway of life. Eventually, as you lay more and more bricks down you cannot hear the Holy Spirit anymore, thus effectively cutting off your way of repentance and therefore salvation.
The good news is this—if a person still desires forgiveness and confesses their sins, those sins will be forgiven and blotted out. As long as you are under conviction, which is the Holy Spirit’s job (John 16:8) and you want to be forgiven you are not guilty of the unpardonable sin. Consider the following Bible verses.
Abundant pardon for all
- 1 John 1:9 = "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
- Ezekiel 33:11 = "Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?’”
- 1 Timothy 1:13-15 = “Although I [Paul] was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief."
Take a look at your life
Do you have any bricks that need to be removed? Do you hear the Holy Spirit calling you to remove some walls in your life so that Jesus can freely communicate and spend time with you? Why not follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit right now and ask for help breaking down any wall of separation between you and God.
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What Does It Mean to Blaspheme the Holy Spirit?
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Blaspheming the Holy Spirit means denying the power of God and is mentioned by Jesus in connection with the unpardonable sin. It is not something that a person can say or do in a moment by accident or ignorance. Rather, blaspheming the Holy Spirit is a mindset that is firmly set against God and unwilling to acknowledge Him even when one knows that they should.
The phrase "blaspheme the Holy Spirit" is found only in Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-29 and Luke 12:8-10, and all three of these passages convey the same teaching by Jesus Christ. In this article, we will examine the meaning of this phrase in more detail. For more information about how blaspheming the Holy Spirit can become the unpardonable sin, please see What is the unpardonable sin? What sin won't God forgive?
The word "blaspheme" comes directly from the Greek blasphemia , which most nearly means "evil speaking." This Greek word can actually refer to any kind of profane words or sinful use of language, but when directed toward God in the New Testament it most nearly means to deny the power and authority of God. Notice how this understanding fits with Jesus' introductory comment just before He discusses blaspheming the Holy Spirit in Luke 12:8-9: "Whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man will also confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God."
Jesus states clearly that those who deny Him before men—that is, who deny His identity as the Son of God and the position of rulership accompanying that status—will also be denied before God the Father (see also Matthew 10:33). In other words, a person who refuses to accept Jesus will eventually be condemned if they do not repent. The same thought is simply repeated in the next verse:
"And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven" (Luke 12:10).
The Holy Spirit is the power and essence of God, not a separate entity or person that must somehow be held in higher esteem than Jesus Christ (for more clarification, see Is the Holy Spirit a Person? ). Therefore, this verse is best understood as a restatement of the reality Jesus had just pointed out: "Blaspheming the Holy Spirit" means to deny the power of the true God and salvation through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. But why then does it make a distinction that speaking against the Son of Man will be forgiven while blasphemy against the Spirit will not?
There were many Pharisees who “spoke against the Son of Man” while He was there with them in the flesh because they did not truly understand who He was. Later, when they were convinced by the apostles that Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God, many of these repented and were indeed forgiven!
This is evident from Peter's moving sermon in Acts 2:36-38, where he urges those who demanded Jesus' death to open their eyes and realize that Jesus actually was the Son of God as He claimed to be so that they could repent and receive forgiveness. Until they recognized that Jesus was in fact the Messiah sent from God, they could be forgiven for not believing in Him. By contrast, God holds people accountable for blaspheming the Holy Spirit if they continue to reject Jesus even after recognizing that He is the Son of God.
This difference in accountability based on one's knowledge explains why both Luke 12:9 and Matthew 10:33 state that denying Christ will result in being denied before God, which might appear to contradict being forgiven for speaking against Jesus in Luke 12:10 if not properly put in context. At this time, not all people are called to understand who God and Jesus Christ are, the power that They have and the work of salvation that They have done—and it is impossible to blaspheme the Holy Spirit without this understanding.
We can gain more perspective by examining the parallel accounts in Matthew and Mark. Both passages explain that Christ was responding to an accusation from His detractors, who said, “He has an unclean spirit” in Mark 3:30 and, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons" in Matthew 12:24. These accusers were implying that Jesus' authority came from Satan rather than God. Jesus explained how illogical and knowingly false their accusation was: "If I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matthew 12:25-29).
Jesus was telling them that they knew better, or at least they should! The sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit in the verses that follow was therefore not merely about insulting the power of God in ignorance, but because they knew Jesus was the Son of God and refused to admit it out of selfish pride. Like all sin, this was completely unacceptable to God; therefore, Jesus warned them that they would not be forgiven if they did not repent.
While Jesus' teaching about blaspheming the Holy Spirit may sound like an absolute condemnation of a one-time sin, He was actually warning against a persistent failure to submit to the power of God when one comes into the knowledge of God's existence and sovereignty. For a more detailed explanation of what it means for blaspheming the Holy Spirit to become the unpardonable sin, please see What is the unpardonable sin? What sin won't God forgive?