The subject of blasphemy bears a thorough look at the context in which it was declared by Jesus. First, let's look at what Jesus said about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
In Matthew 12, Jesus and His disciples had just entered Jerusalem after an encounter with the Pharisees, who condemned them for plucking and eating grain on the Sabbath. Jesus confronts them, stating (emphasis added), “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless? Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple. But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is attributing to the devil what has clearly been done by the Spirit.
The Pharisees were supposed to be masters of Old Testament law, and Jesus called them out regarding their misunderstanding of the Sabbath. The Pharisees (which means, “separate ones”) were strict adherents to the law and had great influence over its role in the lives of the Jewish people at that time.
After the confrontation in the grain field, Jesus went into the synagogue and was again accosted by the Pharisees, who asked if a man could be healed on the Sabbath. Jesus once more demonstrated His authority and healed a man who had a withered hand. “Then the Pharisees went out and plotted against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Matthew 12:14, Mark 3:6, Luke 6:11).
That they wished to destroy Him is evident also in John 10:33, which takes place later in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus tells the Pharisees they do not believe (in Him) because they are not of His sheep. He also tells them “I and My Father are one” (John 10:25-30). The Jews then took up stones to stone Him and when Jesus asked them why, they replied, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33). In John 11, we read the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. Because of that, many of the Jews believed in Him (John 11:45). The Pharisees, however, took exception and sought the counsel of Caiaphas, the high priest that year, who said, “…one man should die for the people…” John 11:53 says, “Then from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.”
Their hypocrisy is manifested in their reaction to Jesus healing the demon-possessed man as recorded in Matthew 12:22-24. The people were amazed and asked if he could be the “Son of David.”
The Pharisees, seeking to maintain their status and lord their authority over the people (Matthew 20:25) perpetrated blasphemy of the Holy Spirit when they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” (Matthew 12:24). Jesus “knew their thoughts” (Matthew 12:25) and challenged them with the truth of their hypocrisy. He said, “And 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.” He goes on to underscore their separateness, yet not as leaders, but as separate from the kingdom of God, “He who is not with Me is against Me…” (Matthew 12:30).
The stinger comes in verses 31-32, when Jesus says, “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or the age to come” (cf. Mark 3:28-30, Luke 12:10).
Therefore, the Pharisees committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit because they knew the work was that of the Spirit, yet willfully rejected it.
Why Is Blasphemy the Unforgivable Sin?
Uttering blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable because only an unsaved person who is aware of who God is can do it (Romans 1:18-32). It is an act of one’s will, and those who know and believe His claims are true and still choose to attribute what He does to the devil will not be forgiven.
When a person commits his life to the Lord Jesus (realizes he is a sinner, confesses his sins, asks forgiveness, repents of his sins, and makes Jesus Lord of his life), he is immediately indwelt with the Holy Spirit, who has sealed us in Him and has been given as a guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:19-22).
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit can only be committed by an unsaved person because no one who knows and loves Jesus would attribute His works to the devil or his demons. If your heart is so resistant to the point of attributing His works to the devil, it will remain impermeable. It’s the Spirit who convicts of sin and if you are so hardened to it that you can say it’s of the devil and not of God, there’s no hope of coming to a saving knowledge of the truth of who God is.
How Can We Avoid Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
The easy answer is to say, “get saved,” and, while that is true (it’s the only way one cannot), there is much more to the story than that. It takes the work of the Father to draw men to Himself through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 6:44). Men, however, are culpable. They must perform an act of their own will to receive what the Lord is offering. We, as Christians, are forgiven, not just for past sins, but for present and future sins as well (Ephesians 1:2-8). When we do sin, “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). 1 John 2:12 tells us we are little children; God calls us His children (1 John 3:1), we are now of Him, and we are for Him.
John 14:17 attests to this truth, that the world cannot receive the Spirit because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But we who are His, know Him for we are filled with Him.
To blaspheme the Holy Spirit, therefore, cannot be enacted by a believer, for the Holy Spirit indwells him already. As Jesus said in Matthew 12:25, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.” Jesus is answering the Pharisees’ accusation that He is casting out demons by the power of the leading demon, Beelzebub.
Why Is it So Important to Be Aware?
Some Christians struggle with their assurance of salvation and wonder if they have committed an unforgivable sin. Knowing the nature of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit ministers to the body of Christ—the church—to encourage and strengthen them regarding assurance of salvation.
As we evangelize—as we share our faith with others—the realization that our unsaved friend, family member, or an acquaintance may be condemned to hell, should drive us with love and compassion to share the truth of Jesus. Just as He testified to the truth (John 18:37), we too are to do the same. It may impact how one interacts with a non-believer because maybe an unbeliever thinks they have spoken against God and equates it with the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Removing that stumbling block can give them hope to come to Christ.
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Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.
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