Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Matt. 12:31a (Holman) “Because of this, I tell you,. . .”
Because of what? Something in the religious leaders’ error proved they had crossed a boundary line of no return. Something made their position irreversible. Due to our topic’s serious nature, let’s reconstruct its context and recap the debate.
Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and could not speak. Seen by a crowd, the evidence was irrefutable (vv. 22-23). The Pharisees, bitter enemies of Jesus, were forced to resort to an outlandish argument against Him.
They accused Jesus of being in cahoots with Satan (v. 24). Jesus knew their thoughts (v. 25a), a fact that will have later bearing on the topic of this message.
Jesus responded to their accusation against Him by using several arguments. In this debate, Jesus began by denying His complicity with Satan, and ended by accusing them of the crime. The trouble was their complicity, not His, with Satan.
In one of the most remarkable retorts in the history of debating, Jesus demolished their argument. In verses 25b-26, He proved their premise illogical (no house divided against itself will stand). Satan wouldn’t cast out himself. He desperately wants to win. Expelling evil would hurt, not help, his kingdom.
In verse 27, Jesus proved their argument to be inconsistent (you claim your people perform exorcisms by God’s power). The Pharisees had exorcists they trusted. Who’s to say what they do is of God, but what Jesus does is of Satan?
In verse 28, Jesus showed their accusation to be impossible (God’s kingdom has come; no other conclusion is logical). If Jesus’ power came not from Satan (vv. 25b-26), and if other exorcists were of God (v. 27), all scenarios but one were impossible. The only logical conclusion was to believe Jesus was casting out demons by God’s kingdom power.
In verse 29, Jesus proved their accusation inconceivable (burglars don’t receive help from a homeowner they’re robbing). Jesus is the robber, Satan is the strong man whose house is this lost world, and whose possessions are unbelieving men, women, boys, and girls. Jesus is rescuing captives from a house of darkness.
In verse 30, Jesus showed their argument to be enmity (anyone not with Me is against Me). The leaders wanted people to think this disagreement with Jesus was religious and theological, but Jesus showed it to be personal, a thinly veiled hostility. To reject Jesus is enmity against Him, the antagonistic inner disposition being proved by an outer unwillingness to help Him in His cause. If we love Him, we help Him gather. For many of us, being lost is a memory lost. Someone else brought us into the fold. We need to be the “someone else” for someone else.
Their accusations were illogical, inconsistent, impossible, inconceivable, and enmity. This, when coupled with Jesus knowing their thoughts (v. 25a), enabled Him to speak with authority on the seriousness of their spiritual condition.
Matthew 12:31b “. . . people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but
the blasphemy against the Spirit . . .”
Some of the darkest words ever spoken, they ironically fell from the kindest lips that ever spoke. They are hard words, uttered by One infinite in love, decisive words, uttered by the King of kings, and thus irreversible and unappealable.
The leaders did not know a grim fact Jesus knew. They had transgressed the shrouded boundary between Heaven and Hell. Their eternal doom was sealed. It is extra serious to not believe once the evidence reaches the undeniable point.
The New Testament pinpoints four sins against the Holy Spirit. One, grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30a). This happens when we sadden Him by giving “the Devil an opportunity” (Ephesians 4:27b), when we flirt with evil, when we let circumstances, events, and people in our life blur the Spirit’s inward operations. All believers need and receive forgiveness for this sin regularly.
Two, resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51b). This implies a harsher attitude than grieving. This is when we, with firm resolution, act contrary to the known, written, Scriptural commands of the Spirit, and choose to live in out and out disobedience. Believers do this far too often, but can be forgiven if they repent.
Three, quenching the Holy Spirit. The Holman Bible uses here a strong descriptive verb. “Don’t stifle the Spirit” (I Thessalonians 5:19). Don’t choke or suffocate Him, don’t obliterate His voice. It is possible to become annoyed at the Spirit’s restraining influence, to grow so tired of His convicting voice which condemns our sin that we stifle the Spirit’s cries, like throwing water on a fire.
These three sins against the Holy Spirit–grieving, resisting, quenching–are sins anyone can commit. If believers persist in them long enough, they finally cross a grievous line, and commit sin unto death. “There is sin that brings death” (I John 5:16c). The first part of I John 5:16 indicates believers commit this sin.
Sin unto death is committed when a believer has gone as far away from God’s restraining influence as they can go. If they grieve, resist, or quench the Holy Spirit long enough, God either has to end their physical life or revoke their salvation. Due to His love and mercy, He does the former rather than the latter.
Moses committed sin unto death when anger caused him to violate a symbol of Christ. When he struck, rather than spoke to, the rock, God took Moses home.
The Corinthians committed sin unto death when they showed irreverence at the Lord’s Supper. When Ananias and Sapphira lied, God took them to Heaven.
Only believers can commit sin unto death. Only unbelievers can commit the fourth sin against the Holy Spirit–blasphemy, the topic of our text. Every time the Bible mentions this sin, the reference is to obstinate unbelievers. Jesus discussed blasphemy against the Spirit only when the accused were stubborn opponents.
Not all unbelievers are committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit at all times. Blasphemy means to slander, defame, and insult defiantly, but evil words by themselves are not enough to be the unpardonable sin. It includes an inner component too. Jesus heard their words. He also knew their thoughts (v. 25a).
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an inner and vocal abhorrence of all He stands for. This sin opposes all good, and can’t repent. Since good is deemed evil, a blasphemer refuses to move toward good, and thus can’t move toward God.
John Milton, in “Paradise Lost” (Book 5, line 108), has Satan saying,
“So farewell hope, and, with hope, farewell fear,
Farewell remorse; all good to me is lost.
Evil, be thou my good.”
Now listen to your Pastor, who loves you, and wants to protect your minds and hearts. If you fear you have committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, you need not be afraid. If you had committed it, you would not care, because the Spirit would not convict you. An evidence of this sin is having no more spiritual desire.
J. Harold Smith dealt with this sin in his famous message, “God’s Three Deadlines.” Over a million people made public decisions as a result of this sermon. He spent a lifetime studying and investigating this sin. His conclusions are subjective and not authoritative, but can illustrate. In all his years of study and research, J. Harold Smith concluded he felt safe in confirming only 19 men (and no women) who committed the sin. All 19 were dead within 24 hours of the deed.
Once again, I repeat, this proves nothing. It is merely one man’s opinion. But it may help illustrate how rare this sin could possibly be. Be that as it may, one fact is sure. Only one sin is unpardonable. All others can be forgiven.