Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit, Part 2: Intentional Sin Vs. Unintentional Sin

Does God view intentional sins differently from unintentional sins? What is the relation to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Find the answers here.

In Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit, Part 1: Unforgivable Sin, a simple definition of "blasphemy of the Holy Spirit" was given: "saying or doing something that dishonors or disrespects the Holy Spirit". A simple definition of "unforgivable sin" was also given: "sin that will never be forgiven". It was then shown that unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Here, in Part 2, we will present a more sophisticated understanding of these concepts. This presentation will make very clear why "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" / "unforgivable sin" is so different from other sins.

Intention: Intentional or Unintentional

Of all the ways in which sins may differ from each other, intention is mentioned in the Bible more often, and more clearly, than any other. Contrary to the belief of some people, it is the most important way of differentiating sins--even more than action (commission or omission).

In the Book of Leviticus, chapters 4 and 5 are filled with laws governing unintentional sins. The last three verses of chapter 5 refer to both chapters.

Leviticus 5:17-19

"17 And if a person sins, and does any one of that which God (Yehovah) commands must not be done, and he [or she] is unaware, nevertheless he [or she] is guilty, and bears his [or her] depravity.

18 And he [or she] will bring from the flock a perfect (in your appraisal) ram [male sheep] to the priest; and the priest will cover over his [or her] unintentional sin which he [or she] unintentionally sinned, and was unaware; and it [the sin] will be forgiven to him [or her].

19 The guilt offering; the guilty [person]. He [or she] was guilty to God [Yehovah]."

(The King James Version uses the phrase "sin through ignorance" (i.e. Leviticus 4:2), a phrase which may be somewhat confusing. Such a "sin through ignorance" does NOT occur by someone "ignoring" God's Law--that would actually be intentional sin. Instead, the person is unaware that his or her act is a violation of the Law: the violation is unintentional. The context of these chapters makes this clear.)

Unintentional sins are again discussed in Numbers 15:22-29.

This is followed immediately by laws governing intentional sins.

Numbers 15:30-31

"30 And the soul that acts defiantly, from the native to the foreigner, that person blasphemes Yehovah (God); and that soul has to be cut from among its people.

31 It despised the Word of Yehovah (God), and it broke His Commandment. That soul, it is to be completely cut off, its sin with it."

Note, "defiant" acts against God's Commandments are, by definition, acts of intentional sin.

Also note that, according to Numbers 15:30, this "defiant", intentional sin is blasphemy. That is very important, and more will be said about it a little further down this page.

These two verses are followed immediately by the story of a man that intentionally broke the Commandment to rest on the Sabbath, and his execution (Numbers 15:32-36).

A command intended to help people remember God's Laws is found in Numbers 15:37-41. By obeying this commandment, the number of unintentional sins is reduced (partly due to avoidance of unintentional sins; but also partly because sins that would have been unintentional become intentional acts of disobedience).

After this, chapters 16 and 17 tell of another incident of intentional sin against God, commonly known as the "Korah rebellion", as well as how God responded to this intentional disobedience.

As mentioned in Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit, Part 1: Unforgivable Sin, King David was also inspired to think, and write, about the difference between intentional and unintentional sins.

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."

Note again, "insubordinations" against God are, by definition, acts of intentional sin.

The importance of the difference between intentional and unintentional sins is not limited to the Old Testament: it remains important in the New Testament, too. Paul wrote about this in Hebrews.

Hebrews 10:26-31

"26 For if we voluntarily sin after accepting the Knowledge of the Truth, a sacrifice for sins no longer remains;

27 rather, a most fearful expectation of condemnation, and fiery jealousy, which will be devouring the enemies.

28 Anyone ignoring the Law of Moses dies without pity by two or three witnesses.

29 How much worse punishment, do you suppose, will someone be considered deserving that stomps on the Son of God; and counts vulgar the Blood of the Covenant, by which he is sanctified; and insults the Spirit of Grace?

30 For we have perceived the One saying '"vengeance is Mine, I will punish", says the Lord'; and again, 'the Lord will be judging His people'.

31 Frightening, to fall within the Hands (power) of the living God!"

Paul was clearly writing about intentional sin, since "voluntarily" sinning (Hebrews 10:26) causes voluntary sins which are, by definition, acts of intentional sin.

Also note that, according to Hebrews 10:29, this voluntary, intentional sin "insults [blasphemes] the [Holy] Spirit of Grace". That is very important, and more will be said about it a little further down this page.

Paul also writes that "anyone ignoring the Law of Moses dies without pity by two or three witnesses" (Hebrews 10:28). It is important to notice that the words "ignoring" and "dies" are both of a present tense. This is a more accurate ancient (koine) Greek to English translation than the past tense (i.e. "ignored" and "died") translations found in many English versions of the Bible.

Technical grammar arguments can be made to show that a present tense translation is more accurate. However, it may be easier to see this by noticing that executions for "ignoring the Law of Moses" were still happening in Paul's time. At (or near) the time of Paul, we know from the Bible that:

  • people tried to stone to death a woman for adultery (John 8:3-5);
  • people called for Jesus to be executed for what they wrongly called "blasphemy" (Matthew 26:59-66; Mark 14:60-64; Luke 22:66-23:25; John 10:32-39; John 19:5-16);
  • Stephen was stoned to death for being a Christian (Acts 7:55-60), on the false charge of "blasphemy" (Acts 6:8-14);
  • Paul himself, when he was still known as "Saul", was present at the stoning of Stephen, and agreed that the stoning was the right thing to do (Acts 8:1); and helped in the murder of other Christians on similar false charges (Acts 9:1-2; Acts 21:39-22:5; Acts 26:1-12).

From these examples, we know that people convicted of violating the Law of Moses were still being executed in Paul's time. Therefore, when Paul was writing this passage in Hebrews, he was not writing about the past; rather, he was writing about what was presently happening at that time.

The incorrect use of the past tense words "ignored" and "died" may cause people to believe that this passage is only speaking about how things were in the past, such as "Old Testament times". However, the truth is that Hebrews is obviously a part of the New Testament itself, intended to speak to these "New Testament times".

This passage from Hebrews therefore shows--in fact, emphasizes--that the difference between intentional and unintentional sin is still important now, in these "New Testament times".

Intentional Sin and Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

We have now built up a list of words and phrases:

  • "defiance";
  • "insubordination";
  • "voluntary sin";
  • "rebellion"; and
  • "rejection of Jesus".

We have seen that all of these are names for the same thing: intentional sin. We have also seen that they all lead to being "completely cut off" (Numbers 15:31): that is, to unforgivable sin, and to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

Therefore, to avoid blasphemy against the Holy Spirit; to avoid unforgivable sin; and to avoid being "completely cut off",

we must completely stop intentionally sinning.

We must become free of ALL intentional sin.

In Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit, Part 1: Unforgivable Sin, I wrote:

"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."

The Holy Spirit also bears witness that the Commandments of God are good. When we intentionally violate those commandments, it again implies a rejection of the witness of the Holy Spirit, which is again tantamount to believing the Holy Spirit is a liar. Again, such dishonoring and disrespecting of the Holy Spirit is clearly blasphemous.

To intentionally disobey God ("act defiantly") is to "despise the Word of Yehovah [God]", according to Numbers 15:30-31.

To be guilty of intentional sin ("insubordination") is to be guilty of "the great transgression", according to Psalm 19:13.

To intentionally ("voluntarily") sin is to:

  • "stomp on the Son of God";
  • "count vulgar the Blood of the Covenant"; and
  • "insult the Spirit of Grace" (blaspheme against the Holy Spirit),

according to Hebrews 10:26-29.

God has ordered a TOTAL ban on sin. To the extent that we can refrain from sinning--that is, to the extent that the sin is intentional--we must refrain from sinning.

The Scripture is clear, and every true believer will agree, that to refrain from sinning is good; and that every effort made to refrain from sinning is also good.

For each opportunity to sin in our lives, either we have a choice--a real choice--about committing the sin; or, we do not.

If we have no choice with regards to the sin, then the sin is unintentional: we do not intend to commit the sin.

However, if we do have a choice with regards to a particular sin, our choice is not just about the sin: it is also a choice about who we serve. We can choose to serve God, and obey Him; or we can choose to sin, and obey the devil.

As Yeshua [Jesus] said:

Matthew 12:30

"30 The one that is not being with me is against me; and the one not gathering with me is scattering."

Some people say that everyone must choose to sin: that we all must intentionally sin. When I hear this, I am reminded of Romans 11:6, which says:

Romans 11:6

"But if 'grace', no longer from 'works': otherwise, the 'grace' no longer is being 'grace'. But if from 'works', no longer is it 'grace': otherwise, the 'work' no longer is 'work'."

Paul was inspired to insist that words have definite meanings. "Grace" is not the same as "works".

In the same way, I must insist that if there is a "choice", then we are NOT "forced". "Must choose" is contradictory, since "must" implies force; but there is no force in a true choice. We are NOT forced to choose sin: we are NOT forced to intentionally sin.

Following the model given in Romans 11:6,

if we "must" choose to sin intentionally, then it is no longer a "choice": otherwise, "must" is no longer "must". But if intentional sin comes by "choice", then it is no longer a "must" situation: otherwise, "choice" is no longer "choice".

What Yeshua [Jesus] Said About Intentions

The Bible tells us many times that Yeshua [Jesus], who is God the Son, knew the "thoughts"--and thus, the intentions--of those around Him (for examples, Matthew 9:4; Matthew 12:25; Luke 5:22; Luke 6:8; and Luke 11:17).

In Matthew, we read what Jesus said about the sin of adultery.

Matthew 5:27-30

"27 You hear that it was declared to the ancients 'You must not be committing adultery';

28 yet I am saying to you that everyone looking toward a woman to lust for her already commits adultery with her in his heart.

29 So, if your right eye is hindering you, pull and throw it from you! It is preferable for you to be destroying one of your members, and your whole body not being cast into Gehenna [hell].

30 And if your right hand is hindering you, cut off and throw it from you! It is preferable for you to be destroying one of your members, and your whole body not being cast into Gehenna [hell]."

Here, Jesus tells us that if a man looks on a woman with lust, and then commits the physical act of adultery, the man does NOT become "more" guilty of adultery. The man becomes entirely guilty of adultery based solely on the sin "in his heart".

Of course, if the sin is physically acted out, then the woman will also be guilty of sin, so the total amount of sin does increase. Nevertheless, for the man himself, it is NOT the physical act of sin that makes the man guilty; rather, it is the man's desire, his "lust"--his intent--that makes the man guilty of sin.

Obviously, adultery is NOT the only sin for which intent causes guilt (for women, as well as men). Jesus was speaking here of adultery simply as an example. For any sin, if a person's intent is to sin, then the person is guilty of sin, regardless of whether or not the intent of the person is ever realized.

This perspective is usually accepted even by the courts of this world. For example, if a person attempts to rob someone, the person's attempt may fail; nevertheless, the person may be charged with "attempted robbery". The failure of the attempt to rob does not absolve a person of guilt: the person's intent to rob is important.

Jesus also spoke about intentional sin in Matthew 15:1-20 / Mark 7:1-23.

Is There Any Hope?

We now understand that we must stop all intentional sinning. In fact, we must always have good intentions. As we read above (Matthew 5:27-30), a bad intention ("lust") is itself an intentional sin.

From Hebrews, chapters 10 and 6, we know this:

Hebrews 10:26-27

"26 For if we voluntarily sin after accepting the Knowledge of the Truth, a sacrifice for sins no longer remains;

27 rather, a most fearful expectation of condemnation, and fiery jealousy, which will be devouring the enemies."

Hebrews  6:4-6

"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..."

Realizing that intentional sins are blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, we recall what Jesus said about such blasphemy.

Mark 3:29

"29 Nevertheless, whoever may blaspheme toward the Holy Spirit is not getting forgiveness in this time, but is subject to eternal damnation."

Matthew 12:31-32

"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."

Does this mean that everyone who has ever intentionally sinned "is subject to eternal damnation" (Mark 3:29)? Is all that "remains" for those that have "voluntarily sin[ned]... ...a most fearful expectation of condemnation, and fiery jealousy, which will be devouring the enemies" (Hebrews 10:26-27)?

Does everyone who ever intentionally sinned go to Hell to burn forever?

Is there any hope left?

The disciples of Jesus also once wondered if any person could be saved.

Mark 10:26-27

"26 And they were extremely astonished, saying to themselves, 'So who can possibly be saved?!'

27 But looking at them, Jesus says, 'With people, impossible; but not with God. Because anything is possible with God.'"

(See also Matthew 19:25-26 and Luke 18:26-27.)

On the next page, "Hope After Blasphemy", we will see just how it is possible for even someone who has intentionally sinned, and blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, to be saved.


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