Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

Is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit the unforgivable sin?

What Is Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit?
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Jesus refers to the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as an unforgivable sin: "But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin" (Mark 3:29, NIV). Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is also referenced in Matthew 12:31-32 and Luke 12:10.

What exactly is this sin? Why is it unpardonable? And what constitutes blasphemy? Many Bible scholars have pondered these questions. This article explores one simple explanation as well as other varied perspectives.

Definition of 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 contrast with Mark 3:29 and the concept of an unforgivable sin. So, what constitutes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and why is it an eternal sin that can never be forgiven?

A Simple Explanation

Some scholars assert that the only unforgivable sin is the rejection of Jesus Christ's offer of salvation—his free gift of eternal life, which includes the forgiveness of sin. If one does not accept God’s free gift, he or she 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.

Within this context, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can be understood as "a continued and persistently stubborn rejection of the gospel of salvation." Rejecting God’s gift of salvation would be an "unpardonable sin" because as long as a person remains in unbelief, he or she is voluntarily excluded from the forgiveness of sin God offers.

Other Perspectives

The above explanation is just one of the commonly held understandings of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Some scholars teach that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit refers to the sin of attributing Christ's miracles, wrought by the Holy Spirit, to the power of Satan. Another teaching is that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit means to accuse Jesus Christ of being demon-possessed. Even still, a sinner, once converted, could confess these sins and be forgiven.

Jesus Knew Their Thoughts

When Jesus spoke of blasphemy against the Spirit in Matthew 12:22–32 and accused the Pharisees of committing this sin, he used a key phrase that adds insight into his meaning: "But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, 'No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.' Jesus knew their thoughts and replied, 'Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A town or family splintered by feuding will fall apart' " (Matthew 12:24–25, NLT).

In verse 25, the passage says, “Jesus knew their thoughts.”  

Jesus pronounced judgment on the Pharisees as committing the sin of blasphemy from his unique perspective of not only hearing their words but knowing their thoughts as well. The Lord knew that as they witnessed the miracle of Jesus healing a blind, mute, demon-possessed man, they—like the others who saw it as well—were sensing the quickening of the Holy Spirit within their hearts that this was indeed a true miracle of God. Nevertheless, the arrogance within their hearts was so great that they willfully rejected the hastening of the Spirit.

Because Jesus knew the hardened state of their hearts, he was moved to offer a warning to the Pharisees. He wanted them to know that if they willfully rejected the leading of the Holy Spirit, they would never receive God’s forgiveness, and with it, the salvation of God in Jesus Christ.

Those who are born again receive the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit within them at the moment of salvation. The Lord knows the heart of a true believer. For the child of God, it is impossible to commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit without entirely rejecting God’s gift of salvation and his forgiveness of sin.