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.