Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit
by Lucien LeSage
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matthew 12:31-32).
What is this Sin?
The context of this sin is that the Pharisees attributed the power by which Jesus cast a devil out of a man to Beelzebub, the price of the devils which is Satan according to Jesus words in verse 26 of that same chapter. In verse 28 Jesus said that it was done by the Spirit of God and so these Pharisees were attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan himself. This is the context in which this amazing statement by Jesus Christ was made. Milburn Cockrell in his article on the same subject points out that this sin is one of speech and not of simple thought. Notice the words of Christ; "whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost,".
In Mark's account we see much the same context. One thing that might be added is that the Pharisees said that Jesus was possessed of an "unclean spirit" (Mark 3:30). In Mark's account Jesus said, "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation." The word for "in danger" does not suggest a mere possibility but "under obligation" to eternal damnation. The Lexicon says "bound, under obligation, subject to and liable." The Greek word translated "in danger" in Mark 3:29 was also translated "guilty of" and "subject to".
Who then can commit this sin?
Let us say emphatically that none of God's elect whether they have been called yet in time or not can commit this sin. By God's grace they will be restrained from ever committing this sin. Only by understanding God's eternal decree in election can one truly understand the reasoning in this statement, but I assure you it is true.
A question came to our attention lately in which it was asked, "what if a person commits this sin and then repents of it?" Our simple answer to that is that they never will repent of it. They cannot repent of it. You see repentance is a gift of God as much as faith (see Acts 11:18). If this sin is never forgiven in this world or the world to come, as Jesus indicated, then the person that is guilty of it will never be granted repentance. It is the Holy Spirit that quickens sinners to life and thereby gives repentance and faith and it is the Holy Spirit that has been blasphemed.
Saul of Tarsus
The reason I bring up Saul of Tarsus is because he was a Pharisee and a blasphemer according to his own words. If you will remember that Saul persecuted the Christians at first. He persecuted the followers of Jesus with zeal. He consented to the stoning of Stephen while Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and this after Stephen had done great wonders and miracles by the Holy Spirit. After the stoning of Stephen Saul went to Damascus to bring Christians bound to Jerusalem that they might be brought before the Sanhedrin and be judge severely. Certainly Saul thought Stephen was an evil person and that Jesus Christ was an imposter and not the Christ promised to Israel, yet the Lord stopped him on the road to Damascus and arrested him and made him a believer and a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ when before he was convinced it was heresy. So Saul never committed this sin and yet he certainly thought Christianity was a false way. He could not have ever been guilty of this great sin because it does not have forgiveness even in this world, let alone the world to come. So what was the difference between Saul and the Pharisees, or at least some of them, that blasphemed the Holy Spirit? The difference was that Saul did it in ignorance. In other words he was convinced that Jesus was a false christ and that his followers were false teachers and guilty of heresy.
1Timothy 1:12-13 "And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief."
So Paul tells us that what he did he did in ignorance of the truth. Surely ignorance was not the foundation or cause for God having mercy on Paul. It is not that ignorance will get you into heaven, but Paul is saying that his persecution and blasphemy was done in ignorance. He had not committed the unpardonable sin. However this cannot be said of certain of the Pharisees. If he had done what some of the Pharisees had done in blaspheming the Holy Spirit then God would have never had mercy on him and he would have just simply gave proof and evidence that he was a reprobate. Just as God given repentance and faith in Jesus Christ is proof and evidence of God's eternal election, so blasphemy of the Holy Ghost in the truest sense is proof of reprobation.
The Pharisees' Great Sin.
The Pharisees that were guilty of this sin of sins did not blaspheme in ignorance but knowing full well that Jesus cast out demons by the Spirit of God and yet still said He did it by the power of Satan. Nicodemus, a Pharisee, verified what I am saying when he said to Jesus "we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him". You see they loved their position over the people more than they loved God to the degree that they would set up false witnesses against the very Son of God. They manifested that they did not belong to God and therefore were reprobates. Gamaliel, a Pharisee, seems to indicate that some of them were perfectly willing to fight against God (Acts 5:39).
Jesus spoke this parable against them. Listen to His words:
"Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen, and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and beat one, and killed another, and stoned another. Again, he sent other servants more than the first: and they did unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying, They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him, and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons" (Matthew 21:33-41).
Notice that the men in this parable knew that He was the Son and the heir and yet they loved his inheritance more than him and killed him. They would have never said "this is the heir" if they had not known he was the Son. Saul of Tarsus was never guilty of this but certain Pharisees were. They knew that Jesus worked miracles by the Spirit of God and still they blasphemed Him. These men were more in love with their position and rule over the people than they ever were in God. Jesus told the Pharisees "But I know you, that ye have not the love of God in you." I realize the Bible says that no man loves God without the grace of God but these men in the face of proof knowingly and maliciously blasphemed God's Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit they will never repent.
The Baptist theologian, John Gill, wrote about this unpardonable sin spoken of by Jesus Christ. He wrote, "such was the sin of the Scribes and Pharisees; who, though they knew the miracles of Christ were wrought by the Spirit of God, yet maliciously and obstinately imputed them to the devil, with a view to obscure the glory of Christ, and indulge their own wicked passions and resentments against him; which sin was unpardonable at that present time, as well as under that dispensation then to come, when the Spirit of God was poured down in a more plenteous manner." He went on to write, "it shall not be forgiven him: not because the Holy Ghost is greater than Christ; or for want of efficacy in the blood of Christ; or because God cannot pardon it; but because such persons willfully, maliciously, and obstinately oppose the Spirit of God, without whom there can be no application of pardon made; and remain in hardness of heart, are given up to a reprobate mind, and die in impenitence and unbelief, and so there is no forgiveness for them."
Gill rightly states that these men die in impenitence. That is, they will never repent of it. If a man truly repents of saying anything wrong against the Spirit of God then he never has blasphemed the Holy Spirit in the first place. Many Christians before they were saved did not even know whether there was a Holy Spirit of may have been agnostic or even an atheist and in time were saved by God's grace. Before they may have had all sorts of ideas in their mind concerning Christians and the work of the Holy Spirit and yet they would have never blasphemed the Holy Spirit as did these Pharisees.
The Unpardonable Sin
This sin is sometimes called the unpardonable sin, but it is not that God is unable to pardon, but that it is never pardoned. Jesus did not say that it cannot be forgiven but simply that it "shall not be forgiven". It is unpardonable by God's decree and not by His inability.
What this Sin is not
Some have said that the unpardonable sin is the final rejection of Jesus Christ. That is not what this sin is. This is a sin that if committed has no forgiveness in this world. As long as a man is alive one may think that though he is in unbelief perhaps one day he will repent and believe. But this sin once committed hath not forgiveness in this world. That means there is no later repentance, whereas with simple unbelief of the gospel there is always opportunity for repentance and faith in this world and then opportunity is closed at death. But with this sin a man may live another hundred years and yet never be able to repent.
The Apostasy of the Pharisees that Blasphemed the Holy Spirit
According to the dictionary "apostasy" is a "renunciation of a religious faith" or an "abandonment of a previous loyalty". The Greek word "apostasia" that was translated "falling away" means exactly that. It is a defection. But a person must defect or fall away from something. For something to be abandoned then that something must be there in the first place. While no true child of God that has been regenerated and brought to life by the Holy Spirit will ever abandon the faith, yet there are those who know the truth and yet will abandon it. The Jewish faith was the correct faith at Jesus' coming. Jesus said, "for salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). He is that salvation and He is of the Jews. All of the Jewish prophets foretold of him.
Certainly these Pharisees were of the Jewish religion. It was not that they were pagans. They thought that they worshiped the God of Israel. Jehovah was the God they thought they worshiped. The God of Abraham, Moses and David the king. They knew the scriptures. They were jealous for the Mosaic Economy but as Jesus said Moses wrote of Him. Abraham, Moses and David were believers and Abraham saw Jesus Christ's day, but these men had left the faith of Abraham, Moses and David else they would have believed Jesus. Jesus said so. The true Jewish faith looked to this great day when Jesus would come into the world. There was a just and devout Jew named Simeon who was "waiting for the consolation of Israel" and who when he saw Jesus said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation" (Luke 2:29, 30). Simeon was a true Jew. A Jew inwardly. Concerning a true Jew Paul wrote, "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God" (Romans 2:28-29).
So in that sense these Pharisees had left the faith. These men had left the true Jewish faith that looked for the "consolation of Israel". They knew that Jesus was from God. Nicodemus said so. They knew He cast out demons by the Spirit of God and yet still blasphemed God's Holy Spirit for their own wicked reasons. They were apostates and guilty of apostasy. They were of their father the devil.
A Warning to Professing Christians.
"Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12).
In the book of Hebrews the writer told the Hebrew Christians "let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering" (10:23). That solemn acknowledgment which is made by a person when he or she publicly claims that they have trusted in Christ as their righteousness was a path to be continued without wavering. If any man be in Christ he is a new creature and what God hath begun he will perform it unto the day of Jesus Christ, so how can a true child of God depart from the living God. But an enlightened professor may.
"For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." (Hebrews 10:26-31).
We must remember that this epistle was written to Hebrews who were brought up in the Jewish religion who were called God's people. The old economy had passed and Jesus had made propitiation for sins. Another Christ is not coming to die for man's sin. There was "no more sacrifice for sins" and to now reject Christ and return to the old economy would be to apostatize along with the Pharisees who rejected Jesus. They would be guilty of trodding under foot the very Son of God. Not just a man, but God's only begotten Son and would count that precious blood that Jesus was sanctified with as nothing but an unholy thing. And then sin against the Spirit of grace or the Holy Spirit. The word "despite" means to "insult" and is from a word that means to "entreat spitefully" and the lexicon says "of one who injures another by speaking evil of him". Did not the Pharisees speak evil of the Holy Spirit with malice? Gill says concerning the phrase "done despite unto the spirit of grace" in Hebrews 10:29 as "treating his extraordinary gifts as illusions; and ascribing his miracles to Satan". Yes, this was that great sin that some of the Pharisees committed. But again this is not something that is done in ignorance but with knowledge and willful malice. I know the writer uses the word "we" here but Gill points out that sometimes the writers of the scriptures speak that way and are not referring to themselves. Gill says, "Moreover, the apostles use this way of speaking, when they do not design themselves at all, but others, under the same visible profession of religion, and who belonged to the same community of believers".
If this speaks of a willful rejection of Jesus Christ in the face of knowing the truth; If this is not an ignorant rejection but a malicious and willful rejection knowing full well that Jesus is the Messiah, then there seems to be no recovery. John Gill and A. W. Pink both agree that this passage of scripture in Hebrews does not speak of any sin of the flesh but "intends a total apostasy from the truth, against light and evidence, joined with obstinacy" (Gill).
"For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. For the earth which drinketh in the rain that cometh oft upon it, and bringeth forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, receiveth blessing from God: But that which beareth thorns and briers is rejected, and is nigh unto cursing; whose end is to be burned." (Hebrews 6:4-8).
I realize there are a few different views on this section of scripture. The Arminian will use it to show that a born again Christian can lose their salvation. But these same people "get saved" over and over again. If this scripture teaches anything it teaches that salvation is a onetime event. If this passage is speaking of a true regenerated child of God, then if it were possible for them to fall away they can never be renewed again unto repentance.
This brings us to another view in that the statement is hypothetical. In other words it is speaking of a regenerated child of God and is speaking hypothetically in that if it were possible for them to fall away, which it is not, then they could not be brought back to repentance because they would have to crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh and put him to open shame. Well, we know that Paul said that God would perform the work He started in His children unto the very end. It is not possible for them to fall away but they are kept by the power of God through faith (1Peter 1:5). There are many sections of scripture that teach this fact and to deny it is to deny the power of God's grace. Where sin did abound grace did much more abound. Grace abounds over sin in the lives of God's children.
Then there is another position. John Gill and A. W. Pink both take this third position. That is that this passage is speaking of apostasy. There can be an enlightenment by teaching and yet not a possession of Christ. The writer did not say "we who were once enlightened" but "those". According to Pink it is only a natural knowledge and it falls far short of that spiritual enlightenment which transforms a believer. Gill says concerning this enlightenment, "who are so enlightened as to see the evil effects of sin, but not the evil that is in sin; to see the good things which come by Christ, but not the goodness that is in Christ; so as to reform externally, but not to be sanctified internally; to have knowledge of the Gospel doctrinally, but not experimentally; yea, to have such light into it, as to be able to preach it to others, and yet be destitute of the grace of God."
Then they "have tasted of the heavenly gift." It is possible to taste and not eat for nourishment. It is even possible to taste and not like.
"And were made partakers of the Holy Ghost"; but this does not mean that they had the Holy Spirit dwelling in them or were born of the Spirit but only means that they were made companions in the work. They may have even preached the Gospel and yet apostatize and depart from the faith as Gill said. The Greek word for "partakers" only means a partner or companion in a work.
If indeed that Gill and Pink are right on their interpretation of this passage of scripture in Hebrews 6:4-8, that is, that it speaks of apostasy and is not hypothetical, then this is very sobering indeed. It would mean that those who are guilty of this kind of apostasy have no possible opportunity for repentance, ever. Gill says concerning the impossibility to renew these apostates unto repentance, "yea, it is impossible to God himself, not through any impotence in him, but from the nature of the sin these men are guilty of; for by the high, though outward attainments they arrive unto, according to the description of them, their sin is the sin against the Holy Ghost, for which no sacrifice can be offered up, and of which there is no remission, and so no repentance." Gill links this scripture passage to Matthew 12:32 and Hebrews 10:26-27. Gill goes on to say, "because to renew such persons to repentance, is repugnant to the determined will of God, who cannot go against his own purposes and resolutions."
Finally, this passage in Hebrews is not speaking of a child of God that has fallen into sin. Every Christian can be guilty of that. This is a complete departure. Peter even denied his Lord three times but he did it out of the fear of man. He wept bitterly afterwards. This is not even speaking of someone that thought they were saved and then through sin just "got out of church" and eventually later on was brought to Jesus Christ in repentance and faith. A person that does that never had malice toward Jesus Christ or the Holy Spirit in the face of knowledge. No, this speaks of a willful departure in the face of knowledge due to an evil and uncircumcised heart and reprobate mind.
This however is a sober warning for us who profess to know Jesus Christ to examine ourselves whether we be in the faith and to make our calling and election sure. The warnings of scripture are not intended to bring doubt in our minds but to keep us by faith.
2Peter 1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:
May God Bless!
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726