Is the Holy Spirit Greater Than Jesus?
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
These are some of Jesus’ sternest words, spoken after His tone changed from debate to warning. Joseph A. Alexander profoundly wrote of blasphemy:
There is a time, we know not when,
A point we know not where,
That marks the destiny of men,
For glory or despair.
There is a line, by us unseen,
That crosses every path;
The hidden boundary between
God’s patience and His wrath.
May God guide our words and thoughts as we again discuss the downward step that can never be retraced, the Hell-ward free fall that can not be stopped.
Matt. 12:32a (Holman) “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it
will be forgiven him. But whoever speaks against the Holy
Spirit, it will not be forgiven him,. . .”
Jesus gave honor to the Holy Spirit. Don’t miss our Master’s humility. Imitate it. Does our text mean the Holy Spirit is greater than Jesus? No. This was Jesus’ way of honoring the Spirit’s unique role in salvation. Jesus honored His Father as the One who drew salvation’s plan. Jesus honored the Spirit as the only One who can bring down salvation to us.
The Spirit is essential to our ability to rightly receive, recognize, and respond to God’s truth. Jesus described the Spirit’s role as being to “convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment” (John 16:8b). Only the Spirit can convict us, convince us of our guilt before God, and then show us how to respond.
People may admit they have flaws and weaknesses, but a human heart won’t turn to God in full repentance until it senses a deep-seated need, far beyond human help. This can happen to sinners only if they let the Holy Spirit work on them. If the Holy Spirit is refused, God has no other way, no plan B, to provide salvation.
Blasphemy against the Spirit is unpardonable because it proves a sinner is unwilling to walk the only path to pardon. This makes forgiveness impossible.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit severs us from the only One who can negotiate our forgiveness, the last, best, only hope for us to trust Jesus and be saved. B. H. Carroll, a powerful Baptist voice from the past, said if we blaspheme the Spirit, nothing remains, but if we blaspheme the Son, the Spirit remains.
Pentecost illustrated this. Mockers who called for Jesus to be crucified, who denied the One holy and just, who desired a murderer to be granted to them in his place, and who killed the Prince of Life, had repentance and forgiveness of sins offered to them in Peter’s sermon. God forgave 3000 of them. Why? Because, though they had sinned grievously against Jesus, and rejected Him, the Holy Spirit was still available, present to do what only He can do, woo them back.
The Spirit is blasphemed when a sinner says no to Him until He is driven away, till there is no more conviction, no desire for salvation. If we say the Holy Spirit is the source of evil, we reject the fact the Spirit is the only One appointed by the Father to discuss with our spirit the terms of the Son’s forgiveness.
To ascribe the Holy Spirit’s work to the Devil is to overturn all moral values. Light is night, night is light. Truth is a lie, lies are truth. It is pictured by the witches in Macbeth, who say, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” (Act 1, Scene 1).
Henry Ward Beecher said the best genius was being able to distinguish right from wrong. Lacking this trait is deadly. If good is not seen as good, it will not be pursued. If evil is not deemed evil, it will not be regretted or repented of.
To refuse God’s provision of the Holy Spirit in salvation is to say, in effect, what He offers is not a good, but an evil, work. This is what the Pharisees did. They lost ability to recognize God’s inner voice when confronted by it. They were so obstinate that they could not recognize the Holy Spirit when He came in full display. Once they fell to this level, they had no hope of salvation, for they turned the only medicine of salvation into a deadly poison in their estimation (Calvin).
God did not shut the Pharisees out. They shut themselves out. Anyone who calls the Holy Spirit Beelzebub, as they did, will never solicit His saving help, for forgiveness always entails renewed communion. It is not an isolated commodity, separate from relationship. If life is closed to God, forgiveness can’t be received.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a mystery too deep to fathom with one hundred percent certainty. Difficult to understand fully, it is made extra baffling due to the huge emphasis Scripture places on the wideness of God’s forgiveness.
We need to analyze this sin humbly. A haze hovers over it. Leave the fog there. Mist over rocks at sea causes a sailor to steer clear, to be extra safe. The same needs to hold true of this sin. We’re not 100% sure what’s in this fog, but let’s steer clear of committing it. We don’t even want to come close. “Lord, help me feel Your prompting. Don’t let me confuse good and bad. Keep me sensitive.”
We can’t in this lifetime know for sure we have crossed the line, but danger signs abound. The shrouded line is close to skeptics who shut their eyes to evidence, near scorners who sneer at the sacred, near Gospel-hearers who grow more unimpressionable every Sunday, not far from people who enjoy sin more and more, who feel no guilt or remorse, close to those who care not one whit about God or His Word. These are huge danger signs, but even they can be forgiven.