by Mike Ratliff
28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-30 ESV)
I am sure most of those reading this have at one time or another become concerned to some degree that they had committed the unpardonable sin. Several people who I have witnessed to have told me that they couldn’t be saved because they had blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Let’s look at the passage from the book of Matthew that parallels the one I placed at the top of this post.
22 Then a demon-oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” (Matthew 12:22-24 ESV)
What was the purpose of Jesus healing people, raising the dead, feeding thousands of people from a little bit of food, and casting our demons? There are many who teach that that was His primary purpose in coming at all. They take His method of teaching and performing miracles and say that that is our example for how to do ministry. That, however, misses the point entirely. What does scripture say?
1 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities. 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matthew 11:1-6 ESV)
Jesus’ miracles were signs of who He is. Who is He? What was John the Baptist asking? He asked if Jesus was the one who is to come. This is referring to the Messiah. John saw and heard of Jesus’ miracles and wanted for Jesus to confirm that He is the Messiah not just a miracle worker. However, Jesus simply tells John’s disciples, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Jesus probably actually performed these miracles and preached the good news in front of John’s disciples. Why? These were all fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies of the coming Messiah. (Isaiah 29:18,19; Isaiah 35:5-10) So what was the primary reason for Jesus’ miracles? It was to fulfill those prophecies about Himself thereby those who knew the scriptures, like John the Baptist, would know that Jesus was the Messiah.
Therefore, when those Pharisees heard of Jesus’ miracles and said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons,” They were actually attributing works that only God could do, which were signs of Jesus’ Messiah-ship, to Satan and Demons. They knew that there were works done by God, but they deliberately blasphemed by their rejection of those works. Here are some more examples of their blasphemy.
45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” (John 11:45-48 ESV)
13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. 14 But seeing the man who was healed standing beside them, they had nothing to say in opposition. 15 But when they had commanded them to leave the council, they conferred with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For that a notable sign has been performed through them is evident to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But in order that it may spread no further among the people, let us warn them to speak no more to anyone in this name.” (Acts 4:13:17 ESV)
The motive for the Pharisee’s blasphemy against the Spirit was pure selfishness. They did not want to lose the power they had over the people. When clear evidence of God working through Jesus and the Apostles was deliberately rejected by them they committed the unpardonable sin.
25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks 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. (Matthew 12:25-32 ESV)
Those who ignorantly reject Christ, who have not been exposed to the Grace of God in their heart, can be forgiven if they eventually believe and repent. Unbelief based in ignorance can be forgiven. Look at Saul of Tarsus who persecuted the Church, but became the Apostle Paul. However, those who hear the gospel call and reject Christ as Lord and Saviour do sin “against the Holy Spirit.” Why? It is the Holy Spirit who is testifying in men’s hearts about Christ. The Holy Spirit makes God’s truth known to us. The Pharisee’s guilt was that they witnessed Jesus’ works first hand and still blasphemed. They had rejected the revelation of Christ from Jesus Himself. So, unless we reject Christ in deliberate unbelief then we have not committed the unpardonable sin by blaspheming the Holy Spirit.
Soli Deo Gloria!