Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

What Is the Unforgivable Sin?

What Is Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?
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A site visitor, Shaun writes:

"Jesus refers to sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as unforgivable sin. What are these sins and what constitutes blasphemy? Sometimes I feel I may have sinned."

The verse Shaun refers to is found in Mark 3:29 - But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin. (NIV) (Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is also referenced in Matthew 12:31-32 and Luke 12:10).

Shaun is not the first person to be challenged with questions about the meaning of this phrase "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" or "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost." Many Bible scholars have pondered this question. I have personally come to peace with a very simple explanation.

What Is Blasphemy?

According to Merriam - Webster dictionary the word "blasphemy" means "the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God; the act of claiming the attributes of deity; irreverence toward something considered sacred."

The Bible says in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness." (NIV) This verse, and many others that speak of God's forgiveness, seem to be in contrast with Mark 3:29 and this concept of an unforgivable sin. So, what constitutes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the eternal sin that can never be forgiven?

A Simple Explanation

I believe, the only unforgivable sin is the rejection of Jesus Christ's offer of salvation, his free gift of eternal life, and thus, his forgiveness from sin. If you don't accept his gift, you cannot be forgiven. If you deny the Holy Spirit's entrance into your life, to work his sanctification in you, you cannot be cleansed from unrighteousness. Perhaps this is too simple an explanation, but it is the one that makes the most sense to me in light of the Scriptures.

Therefore, "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" can be understood as a continued and persistently stubborn rejection of the gospel of salvation. This would be an "unpardonable sin" because as long as a person remains in unbelief, he voluntarily excludes himself from forgiveness of sin.

Alternate Perspectives

My opinion, however, is just one of the commonly held understandings of this phrase "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost." Some scholars teach that "blasphemy against the Holy Ghost" refers to the sin of attributing Christ's miracles, wrought by the Holy Spirit, to the power of Satan. Others teach that this "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" refers to accusing Jesus Christ of being demon-possessed. In my opinion these explanations are flawed, because a sinner, once converted could confess this sin and be forgiven.

One reader, Mike Bennett, sent in some interesting insights on the passage in Matthew 12 where Jesus talked about blasphemy against the Spirit:

...if we read the context of this sin [blasphemy against the Spirit] in chapter 12 of Matthew's Gospel, we can better understand the specific meaning derived from Matthew's account. In reading this chapter, I believe that the key phrase to understanding Jesus' words within the passage is found in verse 25 which states, "Jesus knew their thoughts..." I believe that once we realize Jesus was pronouncing this judgment from the unique perspective of knowing not only their words, but their thoughts as well, what he then said to them opens up an additional perspective to the meaning.

As such, I believe that it becomes obvious that Jesus knew that the Pharisees, upon witnessing this miracle [healing of a blind, mute, demon-possessed man], were like the others who witnessed it as well—they were also sensing the quickening of the Holy Spirit within their own hearts that this was indeed a true miracle of God, but the evil pride and arrogance within their hearts was so great that they willfully rejected this quickening from the Spirit.

Because Jesus knew this to be the state of their hearts, he felt moved to offer the warning to them so that they would know that by willfully rejecting the leading and quickening of the Holy Spirit, they could never receive the forgiveness, and with it, the salvation of God in Christ, because just as we who are now born again know, the salvation of God is received at the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us.

Like many other challenging Bible topics, questions about the unforgivable sin and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will probably continue to be asked and debated between believers as long as we are living on this side of heaven.

  • Check out additional Reader Feedback on the Unforgivable Sin - "I Disagree with Your Definition"