Thursday: Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

Read Mark 3:28-29; Luke 12:10; and Matthew 12:31-32. If all sins and blasphemies can be forgiven, what is it that cannot be forgiven?

Perhaps no other sin has caused greater uncertainty and anguish among Christians and has been more misunderstood than has the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Angry man

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Some think that Jesus has in mind some specific sins that are particularly grievous. We do well to remind ourselves, however, that all sins are heinous to God, even though some sins might have more drastic consequences than do others. But what did Jesus mean when He spoke about the unforgivable sin?

Actually none of these texts say that this sin cannot be forgiven; just that it will not be forgiven. Let’s remember: the work of the Holy Spirit is to lead sinners to an awareness of their sin and to awaken in them the desire to accept Jesus, who alone forgives sin. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, therefore, must be understood as the deliberate and persistent repudiation of Jesus’ saving work. It occurs when an individual willfully and obstinately resists the Spirit’s testimony to Christ and His salvation and grace.

Jesus isn’t talking about someone uttering a few slanderous words. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is committed only in the context of an attitude of persistent unbelief and open hostility toward Jesus. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is not a single episode; it is a determined way of life.

“In the place of receiving the evidence offered them, in the place of recognizing in Christ’s works the endowment of heaven, they held right on to their wicked purposes, and said, He performed this wonderful work through the devil. This was the sin against the Holy Ghost.” – Ellen G. White, Loma Linda Messages, p. 156.

When the human heart is settled in stubborn opposition to God and, thus, consciously refuses to give Jesus His due, the heart is hardened and fails to acknowledge the truth of the Holy Spirit’s testimony to God’s saving sacrifice in Jesus Christ. This sin is beyond the possibility of forgiveness, not because God is powerless or unwilling to forgive, but because the person is not able to recognize his/her sin. Therefore, he/she does not accept forgiveness through Jesus. This attitude, of course, has eternal consequences.

How can we be sure that, regardless of whatever we profess about ourselves, we are not living in opposition to God and resisting the Holy Spirit? (See, for instance, 1 John 5:3 and Rom. 8:14.)


Thursday: Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit — 28 Comments

  1. Jesus spoke these words to the Pharisees, who, instead of recognizing that Jesus' miracles of healing and deliverance from demons was the work of the Holy Spirit in Him, they attributed these miracles to Satan, thus blaspheming against the Holy Spirit by saying that the Lord had an unclean spirit (Mark 3:22ff; Luke 11:14, 15; Matthew 12:22 -24ff). It's always good to know to whom or to what group the Lord is speaking and what the individual(s) did to elicit His response.

    Today, there are some denominations that still teach that deliverance from demons is of the devil and that the baptism of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, and the other gifts of the Holy Spirit are sourced in Satan. These folk would learn something from the Bereans. Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts.

    • And true to your words the Bereans searched
      the scriptures to verify the teachings and when we do the same on the above statements we find the following truths:
      1. In Matt 24:24 and in Rev 16:14. We are clearly told that even Satan gives people power to do miracles therefore a miracle is not a sign of the presents of the Holy Spirit. Especially now in the last days Satan will hold people in captivity and cause disease and will then publicly release them from that captivity through his human agents in order to deceive people and lead them away from Christ. The Great Controversy page 589.
      2. Speaking in tongues is not a sign of Baptism of the Holy Spirit but rather a gift given by the Spirit to enable people to preach the word to a people of a foreign language so that they too should understand the message and come to repentance. Acts 2:7-11.
      3. We must bear in mind that Satan has a counterfeit of almost everything that is True that was established by God and he is using these counterfeits to deceive people. Jesus on responding to a question on the signs of his coming His first warning was take of DECEPTIONS. Matt 24:4. Deception is the order of the day and we need the Holy Spirit to help us discern Truth and error. The erroneous seems so real that even the very elect of God may be deceived. Matt 24:24. The presence of the Holy Spirit will always lead us to obedience to God's law and always searching to know His will.

      • I think that we should be clear that the unpardonable sin is not the result of being deceived. We all have deceitful hearts and are wicked by nature (Jeremiah 17:9). The unpardonable sin is knowing the truth and rejecting it anyway… willfully… repeatedly… and despite the many pleadings of the Holy Spirit to the contrary. It is insisting that “I am more important to me than God is important to me.”

        It is for this reason that Satan could never be happy in heaven and why he is destined for the lake of fire.

        As Inge Anderson has stated previously, these people wouldn’t be happy in heaven anyway and would reject heaven even if they were given a tour first. They would feel tortured in heaven where self is willingly surrendered, a sacrifice they are stubbornly unwilling to make on earth or in heaven. Thus, insisting to remain sinful and evil, God must with great sorrow finally acknowledge their refusal to surrender self-worship, their persistent rejection of heaven, and their resolute rejection of God and the salvation He freely offers as a gift through Jesus. This is the unpardonable sin.

    • I agree with you but at the same time speaking in tongues should be clear and understandable to the person that needs to hear don't just speak in tongues just to speak in tongues. There must be a message being conveyed.

    • The lesson is about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, so this is somewhat diverging, but there are two "heresies" related to speaking in tongues. One is that it is an essential characteristic of receiving the Holy Spirit. Paul addresses that in 1 Cor 12 - 14. Note that he doesn't call out what the Corinthians were doing as wrong, but rather tactfully "shows them a better way"--which is what Ch. 13, right in the middle is all about, and sets boundaries that would have stopped at least 90% of what they were doing (and what happens in some churches today. We could benefit from emulating his tact.

      The other extreme is saying that it is foreign language for the purpose of spreading the gospel. I'm sorry, but there isn't one word in 1 Cor 12 - 14 that can be interpreted "foreign language". That may come under the umbrella, but Paul is clearly discussing (without condemning) something very different, and anyone who wants to treat scripture honestly and with integrity must acknowledge that.

      I believe Paul is not condoning the practice, but is taking their level of spiritual development (low) into account and diverting their attention from a self-serving practice to more Godly things.

      • Wilton, much of what you write resonates with me.
        But I'd like you to consider a rule of biblical interpretation -- that the first reference/mention should be used to understand the meaning of a phrase or experience. In this case, Jackson Chibwezo did just that by referring to the first time speaking in tongues is mentioned in the Bible - in Acts 2:7-11. The effect of this gift was that all the people coming from different parts of the world to celebrate Pentecost in Jerusalem each heard the disciples in their own language. So, it is true that the letter to the Corinthians does not specifically define what "speaking in tongues is," but the phenomenon must have been the same as what happened at Pentecost because it is referenced in similar words and in somewhat similar circumstances - in that believers in Christ were involved. And if you will examine all the instances where the gift of tongues was dramatically given in the New Testament, I think you will find idea of evangelizing corroborated. Certainly, it was dramatically illustrated at Pentecost. The apostles were simple Galileans who could not naturally communicate with all the people coming from foreign countries.

        When the gospel touched people in a new area, they were given the gift of tongues so they could reach all the people around them. Corinth, for instance, was a cosmopolitan city, kind of a hub of trade and culture, kind of like New York city and some other cities of the world are now. People of many different languages would either pass through or settle in Corinth. But it seems that the Christians of Corinth were misusing the gift - apparently showing off their gift of tongues in a congregation where no one understood them. It was, indeed, immature. Note that Paul said that the gift of tongues was a sign to non-believers, not believers. That makes good sense if the gift was given for evangelism.

        Another thing to keep in mind as we consider this subject is that the phenomenon of ecstatic utterance was not uncommon in the day, being recorded in literature, specifically regarding the Delphi oracles. Neither is the phenomenon limited to Christians nowadays. It is a common experience in the various occult movements. The Holy Spirit's gift of tongues at Pentecost was distinct from ecstatic utterance because people from different parts of the world understood the apostles as speaking their familiar language.

        • Thanks for the comments. Particularly the Delphi oracles part was enlightening.
          The principle of first reference is not one that I am familiar with, and while I can see it could have some applicability, I don't believe it is a fundamental principle. Part of my reason for saying that is that the Bible isn't chronological, which places an undue burden on identifying first reference. The gospel of John, for instance was probably written later than the book of Acts, although covering earlier events and located before Acts in the Bible. Likewise the book of Esther was both written later and covered later material than Job, Psalms, Proverbs and many other books located after it.
          In the case of tongues, clearly the Acts 2 event preceded even Paul's initial contact with the Corinthians, so could have had some influence there. But that is not the sense I get from reading the letter (book) as a whole.
          I see a young immature church, composed mostly of new, gentile converts, who although converted and loving Christ, still had much of self lurking just below the surface. Most of the book is devoted to getting them to focus on Christ and not "look at me". In chapters 12 - 14, Paul addresses abuses of spiritual gifts to bring glory to the person rather than being a functional part of the body. The two gifts that appear to be most abused are tongues and prophecy. It is easy for me to imagine baby Christians trying to "fake" some "heavenly" language to impress others or prove their "spiritual mettle". Indeed it would appear that something very similar is happening in many charismatic churches today.
          But Paul, trying to not condemn or discourage these immature Christians doesn't simply call their bluff or criticize their behavior (we badly need to take lessons here). Instead he casts a vision that simultaneously encourages them to "reach for the better gifts" and creates boundaries that virtually eliminates the possibility of continuing their behavior. Note his approach:
          1. The gifts are for ministry, not self exaltation
          2. Not everyone gets the same gifts. (Those today who claim tongues is a necessary indication of receiving the Holy Spirit need to re-read this one.)
          3. Everything done in an orderly manner.
          4. There must be an interpreter (so much for faking it).
          As far as being for unbelievers as opposed to believers, supernatural events have been used in many different settings by God to get people's attention. But believers need "solid food". Christian growth can't occur by listening to something unintelligible. So other gifts, such as teaching and wisdom are more valuable for the growth of believers than supernatural manifestations. I think that is a fair paraphrase of what Paul says.
          In summary, I have to conclude that what was going on in Corinth was distinctly different than what was going on at Pentecost, but Paul chose not to directly attack it, but rather to focus on the root cause (spiritual immaturity and self centeredness) and give them a vision of the healthy body they could/should become instead.
          Also, I don't believe the language used in Acts resembles that of 1 Cor. Cor uses the term glossa throughout, and while Acts 2:4 uses that term, verse 6, which is germane to understanding what was happening uses dialektos. Further, the context of the story (a few men talking and hundreds, maybe thousands listening) strongly suggests that the miracle occurring was at the hearer's end of the communication, not the speaker's end in this particular situation.
          I realize that many evangelists have painted the other picture for years, but we have to recognize that we are humans, handling the word of God as carefully as possible, but sometimes we get details wrong. Major religious battles have occurred in our denomination's past over things like who were the ten toes of Daniel 2. I believe our past position on this matter was driven more by fear of charismatics than by honest exegesis and we should be open to consider other options. I don't for a moment conclude that Paul (or any other part of the Bible) is advocating speaking in unknown or heavenly languages, but I don't find the explanation of the Corinthians engaging in dialektos fits the recorded story. Paul is taking the high road and raising our sights above such petty things to the true reason the Holy Spirit gives gifts--the greatest of which is love. I suspect we would gain more traction in conversations with charismatics by following his example than by trying to convince them that the Corinthians were actually speaking Arabic (or something).

  2. The Holy Spirit is a measurement or ruler for someone so as to know his/her sin in order to pray for mercy and help

  3. I've heard an SDA Christian say not too long ago, that they were involved in ministry and spreading the gospel. Almost in the same breath they announced a sin that they cherished that they weren't going to give up.

    I was surprised at first when I heard them because it sounded like they refused to believe the Holy Spirit could help them overcome. At the same time they seemed to have a warped belief that somehow God would excuse them because this particular sin was difficult for them to gain the victory over.

    I tried to share with them provision God has made for us in such situations but it seemed that habit might win over conscience.

    Praying for them even to this day I wonder if this is how the enemy often gets us to juggle and possibly lose our grip on Christ.

    An overt denial of Christ and open rejection of the power of the Spirit of God almost without remorse or shame.

    We are not entitled to salvation because of the hard work or sacrifices we think we're making for Christ. We are saved by grace, it is a gift, with the promise of holiness and righteousness thru the transformation of God's Spirit.

    We must accept and believe God's promise of this precious gift to be subject to it.

  4. I see this as quite helpful...

    No one need look upon the sin against the Holy Ghost as something mysterious and indefinable. The sin against the Holy Ghost is the sin of persistent refusal to respond to the invitation to repent (The Review and Herald, June 29, 1897).

    The children of God are to shine as lights in the midst of a perverse and crooked generation. But if right habits are not cultivated, they will give way to natural tendencies, and will become self-sufficient, self-indulgent, reckless, covetous, revengeful, independent, self-willed, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. As one who loves your soul, I would warn you not to delay, waiting for a time when you will be more inclined to serve God than at the present time. Every hour that you delay, you bind yourself away from God, erect barriers against Him in your habits and practices, and make more difficult your repentance and return to the paths of righteousness. May God help the backslider and the sinner no longer to remain in the entanglement which the evil one is strengthening around them. Wait not to reason, wait not to measure possibilities and probabilities. Break with the deceiver at once. Insult no longer the Spirit of God. Press your way to the throne of grace through the opposing powers of hell. You are standing on the brink of the eternal world. Make a rush for the kingdom of God. It will require every energy of mind and purpose of soul. Delay not, saying, “I am not religiously inclined.” This very fact should make you fear lest the Spirit of God is being grieved away for the last time. Dare you run the risk? (The Review and Herald, June 29, 1897)

    The unpardonable sin, or the sin against the Holy Spirit, is persistent rejection of light, the persistent rejection of what Christ has done for us. This rejection inevitably blinds the spiritual eyes and hardens the rejecter's heart to the wooings of the Spirit, as the example of those leaders in Israel. Finally, there is utter darkness in the soul, and the person is eternally lost because he or she has ruined his or her soul's perceptivity to the promptings of the Spirit. (From Lesson 12, 2006b)

  5. Being sure that Christ can save me is different than being proud that I'm already saved! While I am here on this planet I'm in need of changes! The HS is of great help on this sense! At the moment I think of myself as being good enough with no need to get better I'm probably denying His power over me. Yes, I need to do my part, but I also need to believe that within His will I can truly become a new person every day!

  6. Interesting thought-blasphemy of Holy Spirit is not something that cannot be forgiven because Jesus' death covers all sin, but rather it will not be forgiven! God allows free choice, my repentance applies Jesus' blood to my sin and cleanses me, but my resistance of His means of bringing conviction to my heart means the sin will not be forgiven! Now is the time to accept His conviction and cleansing power to create in me a clean heart! Woo Hop praise God!

    • Hi Sharon. I don't agree with the statement in the lesson which implies that the unpardonable sin "can be" (but won't be) forgiven. This would be equal to claiming that Satan "could be" forgiven and allowed to live in heaven despite his continuous rebellion against God.

      For God to overlook ("forgive") active, ongoing and resolute rebellion is equal to God allowing evil in heaven and He has already said that will not happen (Nahum 1:9). Since God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18; Numbers 23:19), He cannot change (Malachi 3:6; Psalm 102:27; Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17) and He cannot break a promise (Psalm 89:34; Psalm 12:6–7; Matthew 24:35), active and ongoing rebellion CANNOT be overlooked or forgiven.

      • I beleive a great illustration on being unpardonable would be found in Jesus telling Peter that he should forgive "70 times 7", as God did toward Israel, as clearly referenced in Dan 9. So what does this mean? Some say: "you don't keep count", yet Jesus gave a very specific and countable number(490).

        The reality is that when the 490 years ended, God's people were no longer repentant as they crucified Jesus, then worked to destroy all those who followed Him, rejecting the truth to the bitter end. No repentance = no forgiveness possible. God is fair and gives to each the desire of their heart.

        Unpardonable is simply the sin never acknowledged as being a sin by the perpetrator, as I believe Jesus eluded to in His "70 times 7". Not one soul will be in heaven who does not wish to "fear God...give glory to Him....and worship Him" with supreme love, devotion, thanksgiving and joy.

        • Robert, The one illustration of the unpardonable sin, that has the ultimate authority, is found in Matthew 12:22-32. I fail to see any other meaningful methods of speculation that differ.

          • I'm not sure how Jesus' response to Peter and His pointing to the example of God's forbearance would be speculation Paul. It is very fitting and reveals how sin becomes unpardonable. You must keep in mind Peter's question to understand Jesus' answer.

            If you believe this illustration fails, perhaps you could elaborate on how and why?

          • I can't speak for Paul, Robert, but in my view the tying of Christ's words to Daniel's prophecy fall into the category of speculation. (Hence my reference to "biblical numerology.")

        • I'm not a great believer in biblical numerology, since I have not been able to see any salvific benefit. However, I appreciate your conclusion that

          Unpardonable is simply the sin never acknowledged as being a sin by the perpetrator ... Not one soul will be in heaven who does not wish to "fear God...Unpardonable is simply the sin never acknowledged as being a sin by the perpetrator, as I believe Jesus eluded to in His "70 times 7". Not one soul will be in heaven who does not wish to "fear God...give glory to Him....and worship Him" with supreme love, devotion, thanksgiving and joy.

          The good thing is that this opens heaven up to the worst of sinners who recognize their fallen condition and throw themselves fully on the mercy of Christ. Surely all such will be filled with gratitude and "give glory to Him....and worship Him" with supreme love, devotion, thanksgiving and joy."

  7. Everybody is being sealed. At the last day everybody on earth will be sealed. Some are sealed for redemption and others for damnation. Every time we ignore a clear thus says the Lord we add one more strand to strengthen the seal of damnation. A point comes when one is sealed so deep into the enclosures of damnation that he can no longer hear the Silent Voice of the Holy Spirit. Confession of every transgression is our only way out to remain within hearing range. Obedience is our assurance of remaining at that place and prayer is the key.

  8. will a person know that he or she has committed an unpardonable sin or theyr not aware of it??can christians corperately grieve the Holy Spirit and how???

    • Pamela, for your first questions, I don't believe that unbelief(rejecting the Holy Spirit's convictions) is seen as unbelief by the unbeliever, or they would repent.

      For your 2nd question: any departure from God's will by a group where God has made His will known, grieves the Holy Spirit. Many specifics could be named, but our best focus should be on the study of God's word that we might be always in harmony with it. Any departures will be self-evident to those who walk in the light of Truth, as Jesus taught.

    • Pamela,To cut to the chase so to speak, the only way that the unpardonable sin, or "blasphemy", is intentional and not accidental, one must " speak " or choose to never want or need the Holy Spirit. Intentional rejection of the Holy Spirit is unpardonable.

  9. this action of blaspheming the holy sprity is a continuously process because when your thought about something which is not good for holy life may be your just refuse to follow it so if you continue in that situation without pray forgiveness to God,u might to blasphemy th holy sprit or your against the holy sprity

  10. The Holy Spirit brings conviction and tells us right from wrong. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is simply those who have continuously rejected the promptings and convictions of the Holy Spirit which then causes a hardening of the heart. We then silence the convictions and this is what blasphemy really is.Rejection darkens the understanding. When a person cherishes sin, doesn't confess sin, or does not ask forgiveness a theoretical brick wall is built and therefore the access is cut off and this is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

    • Maria, one point that I wanted to make is, some think that Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, is a concerted effort to discredit, and intentional denial of the Holy Spirit. It is helpful to read the account recorded in Matthew 12:22-32 to understand the reason for Matt 12:32.

  11. Now a question closer to home. Is unintentional sin or say repetitive sin, because of our fallen nature a sin against the Holy Spirit? Now Robert, is the time for 70X7.

    • Paul, the Holy Spirit(who never fails) confronts every sinner directly and brings sure conviction, meaning they are convinced beyond doubt. Refusing this conviction results in God's pardon being impossible to receive. It will always be intentional.

      Forgiveness/pardon/justification is offered on condition of repentance(fully understanding the meaning of "repent") and nothing else. Hence, the unrepentant remain unpardonable, and the end of probation is reached, as in the 70 sevens determined upon Israel as a favored nation.


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