What is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”? What is “unforgivable sin”? Discover the connection here.
We should begin with simple answers. What is “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”?
A simple definition of “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” is “saying or doing something that dishonors or disrespects the Holy Spirit”. Obviously, speaking or acting directly against the Holy Spirit would be blasphemy. However, there are other forms of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
What is “unforgivable sin”? A simple answer is “sin that will never be forgiven”. It is mentioned in the Bible in several different ways; and to really understand the concept, we should think about each of these Biblical points of view.
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
The most direct reference to unforgivable sin was made by Yeshua [Jesus] Himself.
“28 I am saying to you ‘Amen!’, that all the penalties of sins will be forgiven to sons [and daughters] of humanity; also blasphemies, as much as they may ever blaspheme.
29 Nevertheless, whoever may blaspheme toward the Holy Spirit is not getting forgiveness in this time, but is subject to eternal damnation.
30 (Because they said, ‘he [Yeshua / Jesus] has an unclean spirit’.)”
“30 The one that is not being with me is against me; and the one not gathering with me is scattering.
31 So I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven to people, except blasphemy of the Spirit[: it] will not be forgiven to people.
32 And whoever may speak a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven to him [or her]; but whoever may speak against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven to him [or her], neither in this time, nor in the one to come.
33 Either make the tree whole, and its fruit wholesome; or make the tree rotten, and its fruit rotten; for from the fruit, the tree is known.”
(This is also touched upon in Luke 12:10.)
Note that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will NEVER be forgiven: “…will not be forgiven… …neither in this time, nor in the one to come” (Matthew 12:32b). So blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an “unforgivable sin”.
Also, note that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the ONLY sin for which there is no possibility of forgiveness: “…every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven to people, except blasphemy of the Spirit[: it] will not be forgiven to people” (Matthew 12:31).
Putting these two facts together, we discover an “Unforgivable Sin” Rule, which can help us to understand the Bible.
“Unforgivable Sin” Rule: EVERY “unforgivable sin” is a form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
This is really important, because there are several sins mentioned in the Bible that appear to be different “unforgivable sins”. Knowing that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the only “unforgivable sin”, it follows that each of those apparently different “unforgivable sins” is actually some form of the same sin: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Let us now look at some of those “apparently different ‘unforgivable sins’”.
Rejection of Jesus
Even in these passages from Matthew and Mark we see what might appear to be two different sins which are actually both blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. We know from Mark 3:30 that the reason Jesus was talking about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was “because they said, ‘he [Yeshua / Jesus] has an unclean spirit’”.
Saying that Jesus had an unclean spirit (or, more generally, being against Jesus) might seem to be a different sin from blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, but Jesus regarded them as the same. This is made clear in Matthew 12:30-31.
“30 The one that is not being with me is against me; and the one not gathering with me is scattering.
31 So I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven to people, except blasphemy of the Spirit[: it] will not be forgiven to people.”
The word translated as “so” at the beginning of Matthew 12:31 is the koine Greek word “dia”. Just like “so” in English, “dia” means “for this reason”. Thus, Yeshua [Jesus] spoke in this verse about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit “for this reason”, that “the one that is not being with me is against me; and the one not gathering with me is scattering.”
Note: Some people will wonder about Matthew 12:32a, which says
“and whoever may speak a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven to him [or her]”.
Doesn't this mean that the sin of being against Jesus IS forgivable?
There is a component of being against Jesus that is a sin
against Jesus Himself, and that component is forgivable.
However, there is always another component of being against Jesus that is also being against the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus immediately follows Matthew 12:32a with Matthew 12:32b, saying
“but whoever may speak against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven to him [or her], neither in this time, nor in the one to come”.
Therefore, with regards to the partial verse Matthew 12:32a, the complete verse essentially tells us that if the sin were only a sin against Jesus, it would be forgiven; BUT such a sin is not only a sin against Jesus: it is also a sin against the Holy Spirit.
Together, Mark 3:28-30 and Matthew 12:30-31 tell us that speaking lies about Jesus, and being against Him, is a form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. And, since simply not “being” with Jesus--not “siding”, or “agreeing”, with Jesus--is being against Jesus (Matthew 12:30), it follows that disagreeing with Jesus is a form of the “unforgivable sin” of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
This is very reasonable. The Holy Spirit bears witness that Jesus [Yeshua] is the Christ, the Son of God (1 John 5:5-6). For this reason, failing to agree with Jesus implies a rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit, which is tantamount to believing the Holy Spirit is a liar. Such dishonoring and disrespecting of the Holy Spirit is clearly blasphemous.
We can now see, through some careful reasoning, that rejecting Jesus is actually a form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Now let us consider this issue again, this time using the “Unforgivable Sin” Rule.
“6 Jesus says to him, ‘I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life; no person comes to the Father except through Me.’”
If someone always rejects Jesus, they will never come to God the Father,
because there is no other way to God “except through Me [Jesus]”. This
means that to always reject Jesus is to always reject God, which is an obvious sin.
Because such an eternal rejector of Jesus will never come to God, this sin of rejecting God will never end, and is therefore an “unforgivable sin”.
Therefore, by the “Unforgivable Sin” Rule, rejection of Jesus is a form
of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
This rejection of Jesus may not become apparent immediately. Sometimes people seem to accept Jesus, but then just “wander away”.
“4 [It is] Impossible for those once being enlightened; tasting [sampling] also of the gift of Heaven, and having become associates of the Holy Spirit;
5 And tasting [sampling] the excellent utterance of God, as well as the powers of the coming time;
6 --and yet, wandering away again--to be renewing into repentance. Those crucify again to themselves the Son of God, and publicly dishonor [Him].
7 The land drinks the rain often coming upon it; and bringing forth useful plants to those through whom it is tended, obtains blessing from God.
8 But bringing forth briers and thistles, [it] is rejected, and soon cursed--of that which ends in burning.”
This “wandering away” is also touched upon in Hebrews 10:32-39.
These are the same people John wrote about in 1 John 2:19.
1 John 2:19
“19 Out of us they came, but they were not ‘out of us’; for if they were ‘out of us’, they would have remained with us. But by that they may be known, that they are not all ‘out of us’.”
John meant that these people were physically among us, and then left us; and in that physical sense, they did come “out of us". However, they never truly believed what we believe; and in that spiritual / philosophical sense, they were never really a part of our group, and hence, did not--could not--come “out of us".
Peter was also inspired to write about “turn(ing) away”.
2 Peter 2:20-22
“20 For if those fleeing from the defilements of this world, through knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; [if] to these [defilements] yet again, being entangled, they are reduced; [then] the last [situation] has become worse than the first.
21 For it was better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, knowing, to turn away from the holy commandment given to them.
22 Yet to them has happened the true proverb: ‘the dog returns to its own vomit, and the bathed pig to rolling in the mud.’”
We see that, for those who “wander away”, “it was better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, knowing, to turn away” (2 Peter 2:20-22), since it is “impossible for those once being enlightened… …--and yet, wandering away again--to be renewing into repentance” (Hebrews 6:4-6).
And repentance is necessary for sins to be forgiven:
“19a Repent, then, and turn yourself around, into the wiping away of your sins”
So with this “wandering away” rejection of Jesus, it is impossible for sins to be forgiven: the sins are “unforgivable sins”. Thus, by the “Unforgivable Sin” rule, this “wandering away” is also a form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
The Great Transgression
David also wrote about a most terrible sin, in Psalm 19:12-13.
“12 Who can perceive unintentional sins? Hold me innocent of these hidden ones!
13 Also, restrain your servant from insubordinations! They must not control me. Then I will be perfect; and I will be innocent of the great transgression.”
In contrast to “unintentional sins”, King David wrote that being “restrain[ed]” from “insubordinations” would lead to “perfect[ion]”, and an avoidance of “the Great Transgression”. If any sin can be considered the singularly worst, “Great Transgression”, it must logically be “the only sin for which there is no possibility of forgiveness”, which is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Verse 13 links “insubordinations” with blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. A synonym for “insubordination” is “rebellion”.
King Saul was declared guilty of “rebellious witchcraft, and vanity, and insolent idolatry”; and of rejecting the word of Yehovah [God].
1 Samuel 15:22-29
“22 And Samuel said, ‘[Do you think] Yehovah [God] delights in offerings and sacrifices--as much as listening to the Voice of Yehovah? Notice! To listen? [It is] Better than sacrifice. And to heed, than ram’s fat.
23 That [which you have done]? The sin of rebellious witchcraft, and vanity, and insolent idolatry. Because you rejected the word of Yehovah [God], He is rejecting you as king.’
24 And Saul said to Samuel, ‘I sinned by trespassing the bidding of Yehovah [God], and your words; because I feared the people, and I obeyed their voice.
25 And now, please, lift up [pray for] my sin, and return with me! And I will bow myself down [in worship] to Yehovah [God].’
26 And Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you, because you rejected the word of Yehovah [God]; and Yehovah is rejecting you from being king over Israel.’
27 And Samuel turned to go; and he [Saul] held tightly the edge of his [Samuel’s] robe; and it was torn.
28 And Samuel said to him [Saul], ‘Yehovah [God] tore the kingdom of Israel from you this day, and He gave it to your associate, [someone] better than you.
29 And also, the Faithful One of Israel lies not, and He is unrelenting; because not human, [is] He, to relent.’”
Despite the fact that King Saul begs the Prophet Samuel for forgiveness, Samuel insists that God will not relent. What Saul did would not be forgiven: it was an “unforgivable sin”. The act of Saul, whose offerings and sacrifices “to God” were no better than “the sin of rebellious witchcraft, and vanity, and insolent idolatry”, would never be forgiven.
By the “Unforgivable Sin” Rule, we know that since Saul’s sin was unforgivable, it necessarily was a form of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Another rebellion, the rebellion of the Israelites in the desert (prior to King Saul), is mentioned in the Book of Hebrews. Upon their arrival, most of the people of Israel initially refused to enter Canaan, the land given to them by God.
In Hebrews 3:7-4:11 , we find a passage which is based on Psalm 95:7-11. Hebrews 3:16-19 are of particular interest here.
“16 For some, [upon] hearing, rebelled (but not all those coming out of Egypt with Moses).
17 Yet, with whom was He [God] disgusted forty years? [Was it] not those who sin, whose corpses fall in the desert?
18 Yet, with whom does He swear to not be entering into His rest, if not the disobedient?
19 Indeed, we see that they cannot be entering because of faithlessness.”
In this passage, we see that God was “disgusted forty years” with those that rebelled against Him. Their rebellion was a “sin”; and because of that sin, God swore that they would “not be entering into His rest”. This means that their
rebellion was an “unforgivable sin”; and thus, by the “Unforgivable
Sin” Rule, we know this rebellion was also a form of blasphemy against
the Holy Spirit.
The rebellion of the devil against God is also mentioned in the Bible.
“7 And war arose in Heaven: Michael and his angels fight down [suppress] the dragon; and the dragon fights, and his angels.
8 And they [the dragon and his angels] are not strong; neither is their place found thereafter in Heaven.
9 And the great dragon was forced out (the original serpent, the one called “Devil” [“slanderer”] and “Satan” [“accuser”]): the one deceiving the whole world was forced into the Earth. And his angels with him were [also] forced out.”
Ultimately, the Devil will be punished forever.
“10 And the Devil, the one deceiving them, was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur with the beast and the false prophet; and they will be tortured day and night into the eons of the eons.”
“14 And death and Hades were thrust into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
15 And if any [one] was found not having been written in the Book of Life, [that person] was thrust into the lake of fire.”
devil will be tortured in the same “lake of fire” as everyone not
“written in the Book of Life”. Thus, just as for those people, the
devil’s sin will never be forgiven: it is “unforgivable sin”.
Among those that join the devil’s rebellion against God are the devil’s beast; and the false prophet of the devil; and others, who accept the beast. All of these will also be punished forever.
“20 And the beast is arrested; and with this one [with the beast], the false prophet, the one doing the signs in view of it [the beast], in which he deceives the ones accepting the mark of the beast and the ones worshiping the image of it [the beast]. These two were thrust alive into the lake of fire: these, burning in the sulfur.”
“9 And the third angel follows them, saying in a loud voice, ‘If any [one] worships the beast, and its image; and accepts the mark on his [or her] forehead, or on his [or her] hand;
10 Then he [or she] will drink from the wine of the fury of God, having been blended without dilution in the cup of His indignation; and he [or she] will be tortured in fire and sulfur before the holy angels, and before the Lamb.
11 And the smoke of their torture rises into the eons of the eons; and they have no intermission day and night, those worshiping the beast, and its image, and whoever accepts the mark of its name.”
Please note, the phrase “the-eons-of-the-eons” is an idiom for “eternity”.
All of these rebellions involve “unforgivable sins”, which are (according to the “Unforgivable Sin” Rule) forms of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
That these rebels are indeed blasphemers is directly confirmed by the Scriptures. For the devil, the word “devil” literally means “slanderer”; and Yeshua [Jesus] states that the devil is the “father” of lies (John 8:44).
We can read about the blasphemy of the beast in
Revelation 13:1-6 and 17:3. The blasphemy of “…any [one] that worships
the beast, and its image; and accepts the mark on his [or her] forehead,
or on his [or her] hand…” is noted in Revelation 16:8-21. So we find blasphemers worshiping a beast that is “full of names of blasphemy” (Revelation 17:3), which is sent from the “father” of lies (including blasphemies), the devil.
Thus far, we have looked at the connection between blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and unforgivable sin. We have seen that certain types of sin, such as “rejection of Jesus”, “insubordination” and “rebellion”, are unforgivable sin; and therefore, are forms of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Each of these sins is also an “intentional” sin. We will consider the importance of intentionality in sin, and come to a very clear understanding of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, in Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit, Part 2: Intentional Sin Vs. Unintentional Sin.
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