Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”Matthew 12:31, 32
Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”Mark 3: 28-29
And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”Luke 12: 10
The question about the sin against the Holy Spirit is an enigma to many Christians. But the Bible was not written to confuse us. So, what is it all about the sin against the Holy Spirit? Let’s keep some few clues in mind before tackling the problem.
First, we’re not going to read the verses as standalone texts. They are dependent on other verses in the episode that precipitated the pronouncement from Jesus. And in the context of Mathew and Mark, Jesus was in a conversation with the Pharisees.
Second, this sin is specifically called, “sin against the Spirit,” meaning, it’s directly related to the Holy Spirit instead of God or the Son; although indirectly related to them. From the Bible, we will know how a person sins against the Holy Spirit.
Third, whatever this sin is, it’s so grave that it has no pardon and the consequences thereof is eternal condemnation. It shows the role of the Spirit in the saving grace of God.
Reading the texts in context
The texts about the sin against the Holy Spirit should be read in context. Reading in context means you want to give an objective interpretation, i.e., from the speaker’s point of view. In this case, with the exception of Luke, both Mathew and Mark indicate the context of the statement from Jesus.
In Mathew, the episode begins with Jesus healing a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute (12: 22). While others stood bewildered and thought Jesus could be the Son of David (Messiah), the Pharisees accused Jesus by saying, it is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that Jesus drives out demons (12: 24). Jesus’ response is found between verses 25-37 in which the sin against the Holy Spirit is found (31-32).
Mark’s reason of the sin against the Holy Spirit was simple: “He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit” (Mk 3: 30).
In other parts of Scripture, the accusation of casting out demons by the powers of devils had become a negative tag on Jesus (Matt 9: 34; Jn 7: 20; 8: 48, 52; 10: 20). It directly questioned the authenticity of Jesus, and by implication, not a man of God but a fraud who works in tandem with demons, the source of his power. Jewish civil laws prohibit the practice of sorcery, which is often punishable by death (Ex 22: 18; Lev 19:31; 20:6; 20:27).
What then is the problem?
What was the driving force of Jesus’ authority to perform miracles? In responding to the Pharisees in Mathew 12, Jesus made reference to the source of his power: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (12: 28 cf. Lk 4: 18; Acts 10: 38). The Holy Spirit was the performer of the miracles through Jesus. To accuse Jesus of acting in the power of demons was the veriest insult or affront to the Holy Spirit. In such a frame of mind, the whole personality and mission of Jesus is disfranchised, making him “Satan’s counterfeit Messiah”1 which directly renders the instrumentality of the Holy Spirit ineffective among the people. As one theologian says:
Sinning against the Spirit is a grave matter because Jesus possesses this Spirit as a consequence and result of God’s design. Hence, sin against the Spirit is committed by those who would deny the presence of the Holy Spirit in Jesus and instead, accuse him of being possessed by Beelzebul/ Satan, the prince of demons, and of being in collusion with him (3:22). Those who claim this are committing blasphemy, since they deny the power of the Spirit in Jesus and make him out to be an ally of Satan, a false prophet who deceives people with presumed exorcisms and whose expulsions of demons are totally fraudulent. This is to deny that Jesus’s δύναμις [power] is divine and that his ἐξουσία [authority] comes from God. From this perspective, sin against the Spirit is equally sin against the Son and against the Father. The presence of the Spirit in Jesus is a determinative element of his mission, the basis of his δύναμις [power].Armand Puig i Tàrrech 2
In conclusion, any act of unbelief or denial of the Holy Spirit working “with” and “through” the people of God is a sin since it leads to a rift that disconnects people from God, and shuts the door to receive Jesus for the forgiveness of sin and salvation. Ellen White’s comments on this is helpful:
They [the Pharisees] attributed to satanic agencies the holy power of God, manifested in the works of Christ. Thus the Pharisees sinned against the Holy Ghost. Stubborn, sullen, ironhearted, they determined to close their eyes to all evidence, and thus they committed the unpardonable sin. 3
“To ignore the Spirit of God, to charge it with being the spirit of the devil, placed them in a position where God had no power to reach their souls. No power in any of God’s provisions to correct the erring can reach them.”4
With that in view, we should be careful of being judgmental.
- S. K. Weber, Matthew (Vol. 1). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000, p. 176. ▲
- Armand Puig i Tàrrech, “Holy Spirit and Evil Spirits in the Ministry of Jesus,” in: Dragutinović, Predrag, Niebuhr, Karl-Wilhelm, Wallace, James Buchanan, Karakolis, Christos, The Holy Spirit and the Church according to the New Testament, Sixth International East-West Symposium of New Testament Scholars, Belgrade, August 25 to 31, 2013, Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament. 1. Reihe (WUNT.1 354). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016, p. 389. Italics are mine ▲
- Ellen G. White, Our Words—No. 1.” The Review and Herald, January 18, 1898. ▲
- Ellen G. White, Article read in the Auditorium of the Battle Creek Tabernacle to a large assembly, at the General Conference of 1890 . 1888 materials, p. 911. ▲