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The Unpardonable Sin: Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

Author's Bias: Interpretation: conservative
Inclination: dispensational
Seminary: none

1. Look up the Greek term "blasphēmeō" found in Matthew 12:31; Mark 3:29-30; Luke 12:10 and define the term.

The common use of the verb "blasphēmeō" during the first century generally meant to "speak harm" in the context of to bring ill repute or slander. The noun form generally meant profane language, slanderous speech or defamation by which another person is damaged.

In the religious context of the Greeks, it meant to falsely represent a deity in order to debase the authority of the deity.

2. Besides blasphemy, can human being oppose the Holy Spirit? Study Acts 7:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-20, Ephesians 4:30-31, and Hebrews 10:26-31.

Yes we can!! Here are some examples:

Human beings can resist the Holy Spirit.

You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; (Acts 7:51-52)

Human beings can extinguish or put out the Holy Spirit.

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not quench the Spirit; do not despise prophetic utterances. (1 Thess 5:16-20)

Human beings can cause great sorrow or sadness to the Holy Spirit.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. (Eph 4:30-31)

Human beings can insult the Holy Spirit.

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay." And again, "The Lord will judge His people." It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:26-31)

It is worthwhile to note that these examples of resisting the Holy Spirit are forgivable sins. They are not considered an act of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

3. Study the context of the passages in Matthew 12:31, Mark 3:29-30, and Luke 12:10. Can you determine the meaning of blaspheming the Holy Spirit? Why is this sin unpardonable?

When Jesus speaks about the unpardonable sin, to whom is He speaking to? In all three instances (Matt 12:31, Mark 3:29-30, Luke 12:10), Jesus is speaking specifically of the Pharisees the teachers of the Law.

Matthew 12 provides the best data to understand the context of the Jesus’ comment about the unpardonable sin. Preceding His comment about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, Jesus performs a miraculous healing; He frees a demon possessed man and restores his vision and ability to speak (Matt 12:22).

The miraculous act itself was, by any standard, a wonderfully good event. Though Jesus worked through the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:28), Jewish teachers of the Law attributed to the power of Satan (Matt 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15).

Contrary to the Pharisees’ judgment, Jewish eyewitnesses of the miracle were amazed and perceived it as the work of the Messiah, "This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?" The Jews recognized that certain miracles could only be done by God such as healing a leper (Mark 1:40-45; Num 12:10-13; 2 Kings 5:1-14) and healing those who were blind from birth (John 9:1-34).

From the very beginning of His ministry in Nazareth, Jesus informed the Pharisees that He was the Messiah and attributed the source of His authority (Luke 4:16-21) to the Spirit of God. His partial quotation of Isaiah also indicated what He will do in His ministry:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." (Luke 4:18-19)

As teachers of the Law, the Pharisees knew quite a bit about the Holy Spirit. They knew that the Spirit of God was involved with: Creation (Gen 1:1-2), Creation of man (Gen 1:26-27; 2:7), and indwelt among His people and enabled them to bring glory to God (Isa 63:11-14).

Thus to attribute the work of the Spirit of God as to the power of Satan by those who are best qualified to know about the work of the Holy Spirit is a very slanderous offense. And while it was intended to discredit Jesus as Messiah, the Pharisees also intended to maintain their credibility as teachers of the Law.

Jesus’ rebuke (Matt 12:30-36) is a judgment of the Pharisees’ hardness of heart: blind for their unwillingness to see the miracles as a demonstration of His deity and deaf for their unwillingness to listen to the truth of His words. And His rebuke extends to all who would know of the Spirit of God (at this time the Jews) and blasphemes Him.

There is a consistent theme in that a higher standard is held for teachers of God’s word including parents (James 3:1; Matt 18:6; John 9:40-41). Regarding this blasphemy, Jesus is holding accountable the teachers of the Law who know the Old Testament but who willfully deceive others about the work of the Holy Spirit. While blasphemy of Jesus is forgivable, less discernible is the reason for this judgment of those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit. If anything it calls to attention the sacred and special significance of the Spirit of God who plays an integral role in the supernatural testimony of the Trinity including the human conception of Jesus.

"An old man once admonished a proud brother who blindly said, 'Forgive me, Father, but I am not proud.' 'My son,' said the wise old man, 'what better proof could you give of your pride than by denying it?'"

John Climacus (570-649), Abbot of Sinai

References:

1. Brown C, ed., The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, vol. 3, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, (1979).

2. Swindoll CR, Zuck RB eds., Understanding Christian Theology, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, (2003).

3. Grudem W, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, (2000).



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Topical Index: Holy Spirit>Deity of the Holy Spirit>Divinity


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