Of all the questions that I have been asked over almost 40 years, the most frequent and passionate inquiry has always been about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The greatest fear has been by those that were panicked that they had accidentally committed this unforgivable sin. In the following you will see that it cannot accidentally be done. And more to the point, since it is a sin that is done it in complete cognizance, it is done by an individual that has made up their mind in such a way, that they are not concerned that they violated this particular offense.
Many times I’ve told people, if you’re concerned that you’ve done it; this provides evidence that you have not. This is a sin that is done in complete awareness of what they are doing, as seen in the actions of the Pharisees which provided the only example that God provides in His Word.
What people forget is that Paul committed blasphemy against God, but he says he was forgiven because he did it in ignorance. Not that he accidentally did it without meaning to; he meant to accuse the Christians of heresy, for following a false God. He not only did this, but he was the one that persecuted the Christians by death for their belief. So it is not that he accidentally blasphemed the Holy Spirit when he accused Jesus of functioning as an emissary of the devil (who do you see a similarity between this and the Pharisees, but what is the difference), and killed his followers. Paul did it unknowing because he was not aware that he was accusing the true God of the universe, the Holy Spirit Himself of this.
To commit blasphemy of the spirit you must knowingly accuse someone who you completely comprehend is functioning for the Holy Spirit, of doing evil and doing it in the power of the devil; such as the Pharisees. And you have to do it for your own personal gain, as they did. They called him master, and stated that he had to be a man of God because of his teaching (Luke 20:21), and when one of His miracles went against one of their rules, they accused Him of doing it in the name of Beelzebub, when they knew it was a lie. They slandered the Holy Spirit on purpose because it affected their position in the community.
Matthew 12:30-35, says:
“He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. 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. Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”
Starting with Matthew 12:10, we see that the Pharisee’s plan to entrap Jesus. Jesus “went into their (notice the emphasis that the Holy Spirit places on identifying the synagogue as “their synagogue,” as opposed to “God’s synagogue,” or even simply “the synagogue” ~ Matt. 12:9) synagogue“ on the Sabbath, and having a man with a withered hand presented to Him (“…behold…” & “…And they asked him…” – the Greek grammar is more precise how the Pharisee set the situation up), the Pharisees asked Jesus if it was legal to heal on the Sabbath.
Jesus answered them, and then healed the man, and later a man possessed by a demon was brought to Jesus who was blind and dumb. Jesus also healed him and in response to this situation, as seen in verse 23, the people said, “is this the ‘Son of David’?”, which is a Messianic title.
When the Pharisees heard the people asking if Jesus was the Messiah, they retorted that Jesus cast out a devil by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils.
Jesus responded to their accusations, as well as their thoughts, stating that a house divided falls, and then used an illustration that it is God who is more powerful than Satan, and therefore has empowered Jesus to do this miracle.
Next we have verse 30, where Jesus says that He that is not for me, is against me (notice that there are only two positions, and no mention of going back and forth between them – consider this in reviewing the bold paragraph below regarding verses 34 and 35). And it is in response to the accusation that He is empowered by the devil, that Jesus goes on to respond to them in verse 31. And Jesus states:
“All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.”
Jesus states that everything is forgivable except for blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which is exactly what these Pharisees had just done.
First, we must define what blasphemy is, according to Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology:
Text: In general the word means simply slander or insult and includes any action (e.g., a gesture) as well as any word that devalues another person or being, living or dead. This general secular idea was made more specific in religious contexts, where blasphemy means to insult, mock, or doubt the power of God.1
There must be a deliberate and calculated determination to slander, it cannot be accidental, but must be a premeditated insult of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is to speak evil of, or slander the Holy Spirit with the deliberate intent of doing so, this cannot be accidentally committed; it must be a conscious and calculated determination to slander with full intent.
An example of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit WITHOUT intent can be seen in the actions of Paul who unintentionally did so according to 1 Timothy 1:12-13, which states:
“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.”
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit cannot be a mere slip of the tongue, but must be a deliberate and thought-out accusation against the Holy Spirit (this answers the question of those that fear that they can accidentally commit this most grievous sin of all sins), by knowingly attributing to the power of the Holy Spirit as having come from Satan, not God; knowing that this is a lie.
One other point that must be understood is that the blasphemy must be against the Holy Spirit, as opposed to God the Father, or Jesus Christ the Son; apparently both of these forms of slander are forgivable; but why. The answer is that the Holy Spirit is the power of God that functions upon the earth; it isn’t some kind of superstitious or mystical function, the Holy Spirit is God’s power exhibit here – in the scene world.
When God moves supernaturally upon the face of the earth, He does so through the orchestration of the Holy Spirit.
Even when Christ was incarnate on the Earth, He did not function within His own power as deity, He did so when the power of the Holy Spirit came upon Him from upon high. This is why He did no miracles until after He was baptized in the Holy Spirit. This is why He said He could do nothing in Himself, and that He truly became a man (Phil. 2:7-8), concerning his attributes, yet he always maintained is deity in his essence (the incarnation is a mystery, yet we know that Jesus was fully God, and fully man. He displayed the human attributes of limitation, voluntarily while maintaining the essence of deity, which can never be stripped from Him. Please see our essay concerning the “Attributes & Essence of God” in order to grasp this more fully LINK).
Therefore, to slander the Holy Spirit is to slander the display of God’s power – When the Holy Spirit moves it is a visual exhibit of God, and to slander Him is to slander God fully knowing you are slandering the true God of the universe, the real God, without acceptation.
You’re NOT slandering some idea of god, some religious system, some MAYBE something - you are knowingly slandering the real deal because you see the miracle, the wonders, the power, and known the source is real – is God.
Personal Note: I have been approached by many people on this subject, those that had been fearful that they had accidentally blasphemed the Holy Spirit, which according to the above example cannot be accidentally done. We must take the Scripture at face value without presumptions, and if the only example we have of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is when the Pharisees attributed a miracle of God done through Jesus, and state that He’s doing it in the power of the devil, knowing it is a lie (Remember Paul, he accused Believers of working for Satan, of doing what they did in Satan’s power; He did not know it was God that was behind their actions – he did it in ignorance), we cannot extend it beyond that.
I hold a singular view (that I did not learn from another, but have found one, only one other person to agree with me concerning this understanding of “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,” Dr. Ron Rhodes) concerning blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, it is:
I believe that the only way to commit blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (which only has one example in Scripture); is to knowingly and falsely accuse Jesus Christ, during His “First Coming” of committing a miracle in the power of Satan, and do it for personal gain (the Pharisees did this because of the jeopardy of losing their position and holding with the people – they did it for personal gain, not because they actually believed that Jesus was of Satan, otherwise it would not have been slander – it would’ve been an accusation, and could have been said in ignorance – which is what Paul did prior to his conversion, and was forgiven. We must not forget Paul’s example - you have to know that you are slandering the work of the Holy Spirit, if you truly do believe that a miracle could be an act of Satan, you have not slandered the Holy Spirit – Paul truly did believe that the Christians were following a false god, which would a demon or Satan himself), rather than the power of God in the Holy Spirit; when it is Biblically obvious according to the prophecies concerning Jesus being the Messiah, as well as clearly opposed to the Biblical teaching that God is more powerful than Satan.
I view this Scripture the same as Hebrews 6:4-6 (Please see “Limited Partnership” at: LINK), in that it could only be fulfilled during a certain time in history, and under certain conditions; which are now past and not possible. Otherwise, if to truly commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit means that you knowingly understand that an individual is doing a miracle in the power of the Holy Spirit, and then knowingly accuse them of what you know is a lie. How would you know this unless the individual is fully accredited of God as being a person that only acts for God, and never for the flesh or the devil?
The only one qualified person to fit this description is Jesus Christ Himself. If a faith healer claims to be a representative of God, and does healings, how do I know that he is really working for God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, I do not. And, it is in knowing that what you are saying is actually a lie that makes it blasphemy, you must slander the Holy Spirit, which means that you must positively know that the human doing the miracle in the name of the Holy Spirit, is truly His representative.
I would never give any human being this type of credit. I believe in healings, I’ve been healed, and I’ve seen healings. But no man receives carte blanche acceptance that what he is doing at any individual time, is an authorization that he is the Holy Spirit’s representative (how do you think that the False Prophet will present himself if not as a messenger of God – his deception is not in the miracles, but him who he really is, and who is his master). How many times have we seen in the Old Testament God’s representatives acting in ungodly manners and doing things wrong? How can you trust that every act that a person that presents himself as a prophet is done so according to God’s will and in the power of the Holy Spirit. If a miracle happens; praise God, but don’t praise the man, or even assume he is beyond question. If the miracle goes against Scripture, then it is subject to question.
But the point is, there’s only one human being that has ever lived on this earth who we know 100 percent of the time functions only as God’s representative, and that when He does a miracle, it can only be attributed to the Holy Spirit – it is Jesus. It is this individual – Jesus, that if we chose to knowingly accused of functioning in the power of Satan, while understanding that He is functioning in the power of the Holy Spirit, it is this type of slander that is specific to the sin of blasphemy of the Holy Ghost, and doing so for personal profit as the Pharisees did.
I see no place in Scripture that further addresses “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” by name, and to expand it beyond the scriptural reference made by Jesus, so as to extend a definition beyond Jesus’ words would be presumptuous upon the Scripture. – it would be “reading into the text.” And the language does not appear to extend it beyond its local application.
There are passages which SEEM to alluded to this sin. However, if God has chosen not to specifically instruct us concerning this sin, we should not play with such a dangerous subject – to do so is reading into the Scriptures, and placing yourself in a position of grandiosity; where it is only God who condemns.
1 John 5:16
And obviously, 1 John 5:16 is not a reference to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, in that it is not named, nor referred too. We also note in the next verse (17) that John seems to note that the sin as being nonspecific. We know there are sins unto death such as disrespecting the manner that you take the Lord’s supper as seen in 1 Corinthians 11:29-30, as well as Ananias and Sapphira deception as seen in Acts 5:1-11. Yet, neither one of these sins that lead to death are as serious as the sin that leads to eternal damnation and is unforgivable, such as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
God does nothing unfair, if there is a sin that you and I can commit that is not forgivable, would our loving Father not be sure to warn us in such a way that we would not accidentally commit it? To read into 1 John 5:16 that it is a reference to blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, is to extend into this passage meaning beyond its intended meaning by the writer, and is therefore incorrect and unbiblical.
There is a principle within the Bible of repetition (some have called it the “Principle of Repetition”), wherein God repeats Himself to assure that He’s not misunderstood. The Torah is riddled with examples of this, to the place of exhaustion. This principle can be found all through the Scripture (the apostle specifically taught about the principle of repetition – Philippians 3:1; Titus 3:8, 2 Peter 1:12-13, 2 Peter 3:1-2). If God states something only once, there is a specific reason for it, which is manifested when the passage is understood.
However, when it comes to danger and warnings, God is always repetitive, as any good parent would be, so since the issue of the so-called “unforgivable sin,” or better stated “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit” would be one of these dangerous examples, and God has not produced more Scripture to warn us, it makes no sense that it is something that is so easily done unknowingly.
Concerning this view, Dr. Ron Rhodes states:
“The backdrop of this passage is that the Jews who had just witnessed a mighty miracle of Christ should have recognized that Jesus performed this miracle in the power of the Holy Spirit. After all, the Hebrew Scriptures, with which the Jews were all familiar, prophesied that when the Messiah came He would perform many mighty miracles in the power of the spirit (See Isaiah 35:5-6). Instead, these Jewish leaders claim that Christ did this and other miracles in the power of the devil, the unholy spirit. This was a sin against the Holy Spirit. This shows that these Jewish leaders had hardened themselves against the things of God. I believe that Matthew 12 describes a unique situation among the Jews, and that the actual committing of this sin requires the presence of the Messiah on the earth doing his messianic miracles. In view of this, I don’t think this sin can be duplicated today exactly as described in Matthew 12. I think it’s also important to realize that a human being can repent of his or her personal sins (whatever they are) and turn to God as long is there is breath still left in his or her lungs. Until the moment of death, every human being has the opportunity to turn to God to receive the free gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8,9).”2
One Other Thought
What is also in view here is that if someone denies that Jesus did His miracles according to the power of God in the Holy Spirit, then they equate Him with sin, as well for lying, which also calls into question the Deity of Jesus Christ. Therefore, they cannot place faith in Christ as the Son of the living God, as their propitiation for sin – and be saved – this is an unforgivable sin. This would also mandate a predetermined mindset, which could not be an accidental sin of omission or commission. And this would circumvent any opportunity for repentance having thought through the position and concluded that Jesus was not the Messiah.
Jesus Himself spoke about the necessity for changing one’s mind, which is repentance3 (A changing of mindset and life pursuits from carnality to God’s Will), and any refusal to accept God’s only propitiation for sin necessitated damnation, and therefore was unforgivable.
Easton‘s Bible Dictionary states:
Text: In the sense of speaking evil of God this word is found in Ps. 74: 18; Isa. 52:5; Rom. 2:24; Rev. 13:1, 6; 16:9, 11, 21. It denotes also any kind of calumny, or evil-speaking, or abuse (1 Kings 21:10; Acts 13:45; 18:6, etc.). Our Lord was accused of blasphemy when he claimed to be the Son of God (Matt. 26:65; comp. Matt. 9:3; Mark 2:7). They who deny his Messiahship blaspheme Jesus (Luke 22:65; John 10:36). Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (Matt. 12:31, 32; Mark 3:28, 29; Luke 12:10) is regarded by some as a continued and obstinate rejection of the gospel, and hence is an unpardonable sin, simply because as long as a sinner remains in unbelief he voluntarily excludes himself from pardon. Others regard the expression as designating the sin of attributing to the power of Satan those miracles which Christ performed, or generally those works which are the result of the Spirit’s agency.7
To reiterate - you cannot commit Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit by accident, without intent, it is God you are slandering and you know it because the Holy Spirit is the proof of God right in front of you. You are calling what you know is divine, evil. That is why it is unforgivable, because you know 100% what you are doing, no mistake; you are telling God, He is evil and you want nothing to do with Him. When a person does this, he is not going to change his mind – it is done!
1. ELWELL’S EVANGELICAL DICTIONARY OF THEOLOGY, Walter A. Elwell, Baker Book House Company, 1984, Software Edition.
2. THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BIBLE ANSWERS, ANSWERING THE TOUGH QUESTIONS, Ron Rhodes, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene Oregon 1997, page 81.
3. Matthew 4:17 – “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”.
The difference between ‘involvement’ and ‘commitment’
is like an eggs-and-ham breakfast:
the chicken was ‘involved’ – the pig was ‘committed’