The Unforgivable Sin

(Matthew 12:29-32)

There are many wrong things a person might do which the Lord will forgive them for when they turn to him in repentance. However there is only one thing that the Lord ever said would not be forgiven. We see it here in vs. 31-32 where he says, “Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Jesus and the Father are prepared to forgive men of virtually anything they might do, even if they blaspheme Jesus who is the Son of God. But they will not forgive any person who blasphemes the Holy Spirit. Let us look at this in some more detail.

What is blasphemy? There are numerous dictionary definitions that include: to speak impiously, use profane words, revile, and curse. In short it is to call something evil when it is good. As regards blasphemy of the Holy Spirit it is to say that the good works and actions of the Holy Spirit are demonic or of the devil. We saw in the section just leading up to this that the Pharisees had said that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of Satan. This is exactly what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is. Jesus was casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit and these Pharisees said he was using satanic power. They had committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit Jesus was warning the people of the seriousness of this sin.

Why is it that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven when Jesus said if a man blasphemed Jesus they would be forgiven? To understand that we need to understand something about whom the Holy Spirit is, and more importantly, what the role of the Holy Spirit is in the New Covenant.

The Holy Spirit is our teacher, comforter, counsellor and guide to bring us to the Lord. (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7-15) The work of the Holy Spirit is to transform us from our evil ways and nature into the image of the Son of God. This is accomplished by the spirit who changes us gradually from one degree of glory to another as it says in 2 Corinthians 3:18, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Now we saw that the Holy Spirit was first received by the disciples at Pentecost in Acts 2:2-4 like this, “And suddenly a sound came from heaven like the rush of a mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire, distributed and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” So the Holy Spirit is received and enters a man to dwell within him and work with him individually.

Jesus spoke of this indwelling of the Holy Spirit too, “…even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.” (John 14:17) Paul also wrote of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in several places, saying in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” He also warned Timothy to, “…guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.” (2 Timothy 1:14) And he also wrote of the indwelling spirit in Romans 8:9-11.

Now why is this matter of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in man significant in relation to the sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? Consider the nature of man for a moment. We know that there is nothing good dwelling in man’s nature as Paul said in Romans 7:18, “For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.” We may wish to do good but we often fail. The passions of a man are evil and we know that many people will do whatever they can get away with. This is not God’s nature. The nature of man is described by Paul as, “Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like.” (Galatians 5:19-21)

We know that the Holy Spirit is holy and given to us individually as a gift from God. And we know also that, “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11:29) So when God gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit he does not take it back.

But we see also that, “… the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would.” (Galatians 5:17) And again, “…the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Romans 8:7-8) So knowing that our human passions and desires are opposed to the desires of the Holy Spirit, how awful a job is it for the Holy Spirit to have to do in us? We are being transformed into the nature of God, but until that state is achieved the Holy Spirit has to put up with all manner of unholiness, strife and evil passion in the human nature as he dwells within each individual.

This must be a terrible job for one who is holy. To have to put up with all manner of evil in man while he works to change man into the nature of God must be the most difficult task ever given to anyone. It is for this reason that I believe that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only unforgivable sin. It is just retribution for the filth and rubbish that the Holy Spirit has to put up with as he dwells within us to do the work of change. And praise God that he is prepared to do this horrible and awful task for it is for our benefit and we should thank the Lord daily for his compassion and be mindful of the Holy Spirit as we live our lives.

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4 Replies to “The Unforgivable Sin”

  1. John, I tend to agree with Francis in regard to blaspheming the Holy Spirit. I think the first thing we need to understand is what does the Holy Spirit do, especially in regard to humanity. His job is to edify Jesus Christ and His work on the earth which was to take away the sins of the world. To blasphemy the Holy Spirit, you despise the work of Jesus and you deny He took away your sins by the shedding of His blood and thus, you die in your sins and are eternally separated from God, the Father. Hebrews 9:22 says, “There is no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood.” Thus, when you blaspheme the Holy Spirit, your sins are not forgiven because you have denied His work in your heart to point out Jesus paid the price that you couldn’t pay. I think that’s why Jesus spoke so often about “for those who have ears to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying”. That hearing is “hearing the Holy Spirit” speak to our hearts so that we will know God loves us and be saved by what Jesus accomplished on the Cross by shedding His blood.

    1. Thanks for your comment. What you have said is right in that those who reject and deny the work of God in Jesus Christ to save us from our sins by the shedding of His blood is their loss. However, this is not blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It is rejection of the truth of the New Covenant and the power of God to save in Jesus Christ.

      Blasphemy, as described in the section of scripture and the post, is when we call the work of God or in this case the actions and work of the Holy Spirit evil. The religious leaders had stated that Jesus was casting out demons by the power of satan rather than the Holy Spirit and thus blasphemed. This is quite different to those who reject Christ for a person who rejects has the opportunity to repent and receive forgiveness if they later come to Christ. But one who blasphemes the Holy Spirit is in a worse position for as Jesus said, this is the one sin that will not be forgiven.

      It is an interesting subject and again, I thank you for your comment.

  2. You make a complex and confusing explanation for something which is simple.
    No man comes to God through the power of his intellectual comprehension of God. He comes because the Spirit convicts him. The Holy Spirit is at work all the world over and all the time. He is whispering into our inner man calling us to surrender and walk with him. The outworking of a surrendered man is that he responds to the Gospel, or does what God inspires him to do like Abraham.
    Even when we are cornered by an evangelist it is not words which convicts, it is the Holy Spirit at work with our spirit, and not necessarily with words.
    When Jesus was talking about blaspheming the Holy Spirit, he meant those who refused the advances and the wooing of the third person of the trinity. He has blasphemed the Holy Spirit. He has turned down the offer of salvation and decided that he does not need God. He remains therefore carrying his sins, unforgiven in this world and the next.
    He through pride has made that choice.
    It is therefore obvious that a believer has passed from death into life and cannot possibly commit the unforgivable sin.

    1. Hi Francis,
      I appreciate your comment and an interesting point of view. It is my opinion that blasphemy is a more direct attack on the Holy Spirit than simply refusing the advances or rejecting the working of the Holy Spirit in ones life. Those who do refuse and reject will certainly suffer the consequences of their refusal and be judged accordingly, but I do not see that as a position that cannot be recovered.
      However blasphemy of the spirit cannot be reversed and it is my belief that such an act is a deliberate and considered attack where the person in question fully understands what they are doing, not simply rejecting something they don’t understand. If such were the case then Paul himself as an example should have been rejected for opposing the Lord initially when he was refusing the calling of the Holy Spirit in his life up until the Damascus Road experience.
      Still, yours is a valuable input and insight worthy of consideration and I welcome it as well as any others who wish to add to this discussion. At no time do I claim to have perfect knowledge and it is by considering all views that we unearth new learnings.
      God bless.

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