Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

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Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Post by steve » Sun Jan 26, 2014 10:47 pm

A friend wrote to me asking to explain the "Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit." I sent the following answer:

Since Jesus seems to have only spoken once (or possibly twice) about this "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" (Matt.12:31-32; Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10), and since no other biblical writer mentioned it (notwithstanding the desire of some to find it alluded to in 1 John 5:16-17), it is very difficult to draw much understanding of the subject beyond what is found in Jesus' statement. It is fraught with difficulties because:

a) Jesus contrasts the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit with all other blasphemies (even against Jesus), saying that the others will be forgiven while this one sin will not be;

b) How is one to recognize the distinction between "blaspheming Jesus" and "blaspheming the Holy Spirit"? It can't be so simple as merely speaking the name of the Holy Spirit (rather than that of Jesus) in a blasphemous remark—since no one in the context had mentioned the Holy Spirit by name;

c) It is not clear whether Jesus is insinuating that the Pharisees had actually committed this sin, or that they were only getting dangerously close to doing so, and needed to be warned about it (if they had already done something unpardonable, what would be the point of giving them further warnings)?

d) It is not clear whether this "blasphemy" is regarded as a one-time indiscretion, or as a habitual pattern of disrespecting the Holy Spirit.

e) It is not clear whether this sin is something that can be committed only by the Pharisees, only by unbelievers, or by Christians as well;

f) These ambiguities make it difficult to know how we are expected to recognize that we (or someone else) may have committed this sin;

g) The rest of the scriptures seem to indicate that all sin, without exception, can be forgiven upon the condition of repentance and confession (e.g., Psalm 103:3; Prov.28:13; Acts 13:38-39; Col.2:13; 1 Tim.1:15; 1 John1:7, 9). In order to win our confidence, any interpretation of this passage would have to harmonize with the general teachings of Christ and scripture.

Because of these difficulties, there have been a variety of interpretations of this sin. The two most commonly heard ones are:

1. The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. This is what the Pharisees had done, in the immediate context. This may be understood as, essentially, calling the Holy Spirit "Satan." While this fits the contexts well enough, it is hard to see this as the best interpretation. This would suggest that someone might accidentally commit this sin by making an honest mistake (e.g., if someone believed that divine healing was not a phenomenon for our time, and were to say that a certain instance of the same was "of the devil," but was mistaken). It seems unlikely that a sin that could be committed so "innocently" could be the one that God would, above all others, hold someone unpardonably accountable for. This particular interpretation would gain credibility if modified to include only such cases as those in which the perpetrator knows that the work is that of the Holy Spirit, but deliberately calls it the work of Satan. Arguably, the ability to do such a thing might be seen as an evidence of a heart so hardened as to be beyond repentance—and, hence, beyond pardon.

2) Since the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin and of the reality of Christ, one who rejects this testimony and lives his whole life failing (or refusing) to become a Christian, has done so (it is suggested) by continual resistance to the Holy Spirit's urging. Therefore, many people argue that blaspheming the Holy Spirit simply refers to the life-long neglect of salvation, and squandering the opportunity for repentance before death. In this case, everyone who dies in unbelief would be the ones intended by Jesus' words. One problem I have with this explanation is that Jesus does not sound as if He is speaking of neglect, but of the commission of an act—the speaking of a word against the Holy Spirit (Matt.12:32). It sounds as if Jesus has something more specific in mind than merely neglecting to do something.

Similar to the above view (or perhaps combining parts of both views mentioned above) would be a third option that currently appeals to me. On this view, speaking against the Son of Man would refer to the present campaign of the Pharisees in Jesus' lifetime. They were seeking to undermine Him at every turn. Yet, their last chance to repent and be forgiven had not yet come. Jesus would leave and would send His Holy Spirit, who would continue His work through His Apostles, and who would bear witness of Christ to the consciences of Pharisees and other unbelievers (John 15:26-27). If they would keep hardening themselves, and continue their resistance to Christ even in the age of the Holy Spirit's testimony, this would prove their last opportunity for repentance. There would be no third witness.

On this view, Jesus would be saying, "Go ahead and reject and resist me, if you like. You can still be forgiven, if you later repent. Soon I will be gone, and the Holy Spirit will take up the witness concerning me. While you may still find forgiveness in that day, despite your current blasphemies against me, your continuing blasphemies in the face of the Holy Spirit's testimony, will squander your final opportunity to come into my kingdom, and you will die without forgiveness."

This is the way I am currently inclined to understand His comment. It is similar to the second view mentioned above, but more specifically alludes to the transition from the "age of Christ's presence" to the "age of the Holy Spirit" (post-Pentecost). This would be the reason for Jesus' words, "either in this age or in the age to come" (Matt.12:32).

I hope this may shed a bit of light on a difficult passage.

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Re: Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Post by Paidion » Sun Jan 26, 2014 11:26 pm

Steve, concerning the first interpretation, you said:
This would suggest that someone might accidentally commit this sin by making an honest mistake (e.g., if someone believed that divine healing was not a phenomenon for our time, and were to say that a certain instance of the same was "of the devil," but was mistaken).
I am wondering whether the Pharisees' blasphemy of the Holy Spirit could have been an honest mistake in the same way. After all, the Pharisees considered Jesus to have been an imposter, and not the true Messiah. So they might have truly believed that the only way this "imposter" could have healed someone was through the power of Beelzebul.

Now you might say that if they had been truly honest, they could not have missed the fact that He was the Messiah. But one could also say that those in our day who were truly honest, could not miss the fact that the people though whom divine healing is taking place, would not be performing the work of the devil.

If my reasoning is valid, then these current blasphemers of the Holy Spirit could not be forgiven in this age or the age to come.

The solution to the problem may not lie in what is or what is not the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, so much as the significance of not being forgiven, and for how long. I read no indication that the consequence of this non-forgiveness is being cast into hell. Our thinking that it does arises from the current evangelical and fundamentalist position on the matter of salvation—that it's all about forgiveness of sin, rather than deliverance from sin.

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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Re: Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Post by robbyyoung » Mon Jan 27, 2014 11:05 am

I think the idea is that the adversary WILL NOT and DOES NOT cast out himself or demons (Matt 12:26). Therefore, The Holy Spirit is the ONLY cause to this effect (vs.28). By denying this truth, the guilty proves the uttermost evil and wickedness of their heart. This goes way beyond an honest mistake. I believe, in every case, the truth was delivered to the culprit of THIS SIN and evilness of heart remained unchanged (vs. 27 [their hypocrisy] & vs. 34-37).

In summary: The same power behind THEIR ability to cast out demons was being used by Jesus to do the same thing, and yet they rejected THAT SAME HOLY SPIRIT of the work being performed. Verse 27 is the key to their hypocrisy and outright rejection of Jesus. Sadly, they hated him so much that they rejected The Holy Spirit as well, knowing it's work was legitimate by the testimony of their own account and practice.

Also, I think some of these people are mentioned in Matt 7:23. Note the references to the casting out demons, good fruit & evil fruit. These terms are used here in Matt 12. I think there is much to be gained here as we study this out.

God Bless!

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Re: Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Post by Roberto » Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:10 am

Does the fact that God "commands all men everywhere to repent" factor in? For if He is still commanding, it seems like it would still be possible for all men everywhere to do so......

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Re: Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Post by Singalphile » Sun Jul 02, 2017 1:13 pm

I was going to say something similar to what Paidion wrote above.

As I understand it, "blasphemy" is slandering, profaning, cursing, or reviling, or just speaking against God or the sacred. That word is not hard to understand, is it?

So the plain meaning would be that if a person blasphemes the Holy Spirit, some kind of punishment will eventually be required of him or her. In other words, God will not forgive it (i.e., release or send it away, as it were). As Paidion wrote, that doesn't necessarily mean that the person will perish or be destroyed. Christ (and the Father, of course) took care of that particular punishment or outcome, and God gives the gift of eternal life (John 3:16). So we don't have to wonder about that, but couldn't it be that there will be some lasting judgement consequence or loss that will remain as a result of that particular blasphemy sin?

God does forgive our sins, of course, but regardless of how you interpret those forgiveness passages, we still have to acknowledge Jesus' exception, regardless of how you define the exception.

So I guess I favor that plain reading unless someone could convince me that it's just impossible. If it is impossible, then I suppose I'd have to acknowledge the the gospel writers did not communicate Jesus' statement or meaning very clearly for us. In any case, the obvious and most important takeaway is this: Don't slander, profane, curse, revile, or speak against the Holy Spirit!
... that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. John 5:23

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