By Daniel F. May
Over the years, there has been a great deal of discussion on the subject of the “unpardonable sin” or blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Many have been confused over the apparent contradiction between two widely accepted facts: (1) That blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable (Matt. 12:31, 32; Mark 3:29) and (2) That the blood of Christ can wash away all sin (Acts 22:16; 1 John 1:9). This confusion has led some to fear that they may have committed this sin unknowingly, and thus are destined to an eternal Hell. Such confusion and subsequent fear is sad and totally unnecessary. It is this writer’s hope to dispel such in the clear light of God’s word.
The difficulty with this subject lies in two areas: (1) Who and what are involved in God’s law of pardon, and (2) What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? When these two areas are examined and understood, the apparent contradiction is shown to be non-existent and confusion and fear are eliminated.
Who And What Are Involved In God’s Law Of Pardon
There are four persons involved in the action of forgiving sins. First, there is God. He is the One who is sinned against (Acts 5:4). He is the One who has set the conditions for removing sin and gaining salvation (Matt. 7:21). And He is the One who ultimately forgives the sin (Luke 23:34). Next there is Christ. He is the One who “offered up Himself” for sin (Heb. 7:27). And He is the One who is ever at the right hand of God, making intercession for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25). Next, there is the Holy Spirit. He is the One who was sent to “convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). He is the One who delivered the glorious gospel concerning the sacrifice of Jesus and God’s conditions of forgiveness (Eph. 3:1-5). Finally there is Man. He is the one who commits the sin, either by falling short of, or going beyond what God has said. He is the one who must believe the message of the Holy Spirit. He is the one who must take advantage of the sacrifice of Jesus by complying with the conditions of pardon that God has outlined in the revelation of the Holy Spirit. The conditions for the man who is not a Christian are: (1) Belief in Jesus as the Son of God; (2) Repentance of sin; (3) Confession of faith; (4) Baptism in the name of Jesus (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Rom. 10:10; Acts 22:16). For the erring Christian, God’s law of pardon demands: (1) Repentance of sin; (2) Confession of sin; (3) Prayer for forgiveness of sin (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).
When these things are accepted and acted upon, then God has promised to pardon us of our sin. The slate is clean and it is as if we had never sinned. If we fail in any part, then we remain in our sin. That too is a part of God’s law (Matt. 7:21; Luke 6:46).
What Is Blasphemy Of The Holy Spirit?
Jesus warned the Pharisees that they were in danger of committing this sin in Mark 3:28-29. He said, “Verily I say unto you, All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme; but whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (see also Matt. 12:31-32). In the context of this statement by Jesus in Matthew’s account, one can clearly see the actions of the Pharisees which brought on this warning. A man was brought unto Jesus, “one possessed with a demon, blind and dumb” (Matt. 12:22). The text simply say, “and he healed him.” The multitudes were amazed and wondered if this Jesus really was the promised Messiah. The Pharisees, fearful of losing their &4preeminence” in the eyes of the people, claimed that Jesus cast out the demon by “Beelzebub, the prince of the demons.” In so doing, they hoped to discredit Jesus as being a man of God and, consequently, as the Messiah. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, first showed them how illogical their argument was by the illustration of a house being divided against itself and its ultimate failure. He then warned them concerning the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. To speak evil of Christ, to reject Him as the Messiah and even to kill Him could be forgiven. On the other hand, to speak abusively and contemptuously concerning the Holy Spirit, to attribute the power of the Holy Spirit to Satan, and to reject the witness of the Holy Spirit who was given to prove that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:30, 31), was a sin that would never be forgiven. The reason for this was that there would be no other witness given to cause them to accept Jesus, and repent of their sins. Having rejected the final witness, there being no other witness to “convict” them “in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment,” they would not repent. And without repentance there is no forgiveness (Luke 13:5).
How does such relate to us today? Is it possible to commit this sin still today? Yes! Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit occurs when one has viewed all the evidence that the Holy Spirit has revealed (i.e., the Bible) and rejects that evidence as being false and of man or Satan. With no evidence left, it having been “once for all delivered” (Jude 3), there is nothing to convince us or convict us and cause us to repent. Again, without repentance God will not forgive us of any sin.
Perhaps if we notice some other passages of Scripture which deal with this sin and this type of sinner, we can better understand it. In Hebrews 10:26, the writer says, “For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins.” Literally the writer is saying if we “go on sinning willfully. . . .” The context fully describes the character and actions of this type of individual, who knowing the truth, discards it and willfully continues in sin. Notice verse 29. He is a person who (1) trods under foot the Son of God, (2) counts the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing, and (3) hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace. Instead of honoring Christ, he walks on Him, treating Him like dirt. Instead of thankfulness for the blood of Christ, he treats it as being common and unclean. And instead of respecting and honoring the witness of the Holy Spirit, he blasphemes. In this case it is easy to see why the sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. It is because the testimony of the Holy Spirit, the “truth” of Hebrews 10:26, has been rejected. That “truth” included the atoning sacrifice of the blood of Christ. That sacrifice being “once for all” (Heb. 7:27), when it is rejected “there remains no sacrifice for sins” and consequently no forgiveness.
In Hebrews 6:4-6, essentially the same thing is stated as in the gospel accounts of Matthew and Mark and in Hebrews 10. Jesus said that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven, but He did not go into detail as to why. In Hebrews 10:26, we saw that in rejecting the witness of the Holy Spirit, the acceptance of the sacrifice was also rejected, and so there remained no sacrifice for sin, and thus, no forgiveness. Here in Hebrews 6, the reason why forgiveness is impossible is because, having “once been enlightened. . . . made partakers of the Holy Spirit. . . and then fell away,” rejecting the evidence as false, it is now impossible to renew them unto repentance. Why? Again, because there is no other witness given to convince one of the truth and convict him of sin. When one rejects the Holy Spirit and His testimony, he effectually closes the door to repentance and forgiveness. That is why Peter said “the late state is become worse with them than the first” (2 Pet. 2:22). There is no new witness, sacrifice, or condition of pardon waiting to be revealed. Such a sin “hath never forgiveness.”
One can never know if another has, in fact, blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. God only knows. It may be that there is some evidence, some witness of the Holy Spirit contained in Scripture that that person has not seen, and when he is shown it he will have his eyes opened to the truth and believe, repent and submit to God’s law of pardon. That is why we must continue to preach and teach God’s word.
We need not fear that we may have, at one time or another, inadvertently committed this sin. It is not a sin that one slips into, but one that is done in high-handed rebellion against God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. It is hoped that the purpose of this article has proved to be fulfilled in understanding what the “unpardonable sin” is.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 4, pp. 116-117
February 16, 1984