There has been a misconception and a lot of confusion over this scripture that is also known as “The Unforgivable Sin”. Too many good people are scared that they might have committed this sin and are now forever doomed. There is record in the Gospels where a situation came up. Jesus saw it play out. What happened caused Jesus to respond saying that what they did is a SIN that will never be forgiven, EVER.
It’s a serious crime against God. Think its a sin you should probably know more about? You bet ‘cha!
It's known as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit; a sin punishable by death under Old Testament law. Discussing this subject is one of the few things that caused Jesus to lose his good composure. Jesus was a cool guy, so much so that very little rattled his cage, ruffled his feathers, and got him upset. But in this instance… He went on a tirade.
When we read the accounts of the events that transpired in his life, it’s important that we keep in mind that these events ACTUALLY happened to REAL people. We have to mentally put ourselves there in the picture to get the feel of the true emotional impact. You know, Jesus was human like you and me, with emotions and all. He didn’t go around floating over the ground, hands clasped in eternal prayer with a halo over his head talking in a calm wispy voice. He was a real dude, a flesh and blood tough guy. Sometimes he got mad! Did he over react this time, or was what happened really THAT bad? Let’s find out.
This particular event, where certain people committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is recorded in Matthew 12:22-37, Mark 3:20-30 and Luke 12:8-10. We’re going to be focusing on the account in Matthew 12. Before we dig into these scriptures, let’s make sure we have a clear understanding of the words being used.
What is the Definition of Blasphemy according to the English Dictionary?
1. to speak disrespectfully of (God or sacred things).
2. to speak evil of; slander; to abuse someone’s good name.
Synonyms (other words similar in meaning): revile, denounce, irreverence, hateful, swearing remark
Antonyms (words meaning the opposite): bless, cherish, commend, elevate, exalt, favor, glorify, praise, promote
What is the definition of sin?
Sin – noun and verb (depends on usage)
1. transgression of divine law. (breaking the laws of God, i.e. His commandments)
2. any reprehensible or regrettable action, or behavior, a great fault or offense
Basically, in the context of the bible, sin is anything that separates us from God. To make is easy, sometime I substitute the word separation for the word sin. This helps me to better understand certain passages.
Which Holy Spirit is Jesus referring too?
Remember the administrations. During the time in which this event took place, people were still under the Law of Moses. In the timeline of this record Jesus had not yet died on the cross and ascended.
As such the gift of holy spirit being inside us, as we know it today, had not yet been made available. So put that out of your mind for now. Focus on what the Jews knew during the time that Jesus Christ was alive on Earth.
The Holy Spirit Jesus refers to in the following scripture is the same Holy Spirit that God placed upon certain elect individuals who lived perfect according to the law in order to deserve the high honor of having God's power of Holy Spirit upon them. People such as: Moses, King David, King Solomon, and all the prophets including Elisha and Elijah. And yes, also Jesus Christ. Holy Spirit, as the Jews understood, is essentially the power of God.
Matthew 12:22-41 Blaspheming Holy Spirit Verses (NIV)
Setting the stage for what’s going on: Jesus is in someone’s house and a large crowd gathers to see him. Like usual, his enemies are following him around and join the crowd.
22) Then they [believers in the crowd] brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see.
23) All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” [Meaning, could this man Jesus be our promised Messiah?]
24) But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub the prince of demons that this fellow drives out demons.”
25) Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
26) If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?
27) And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. [Basically saying ‘Right back at you’]
28) But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29) “Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man’s house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.
30) “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.
31) And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
32) Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. [It was a figure of speech at the time meaning ‘forever’]
33) “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. [My favorite part coming next]
34) You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. [Jesus is speaking to the religious rulers of the town, surrounded by their people. He is saying to them some of the most disrespectful and worst things one could ever say to a Pharisee]
35) The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.
36) But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.
37) For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
38) Then some of the Scribes and Pharisees answered him saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
They just saw a man healed by Jesus. They’ve been following him around for months witnessing many other miracles. What more do they need to see? Two things are going on here,
- They are sarcastically mocking and tempting him to perform at their command, and
- They’re in full damage control mode right now, trying to be cool in front of the people but deep inside they must be seething with rage.
39) He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign!"
Jesus Spewed Four Insults in Two Words!
- Wicked is the Greek word ponērós; it means pain-ridden, emphasizing the inevitable agonies and misery that always go with evil.
- Adultery was punishable by death. Jesus is saying they deserve to die for what they just said.
- He is comparing their approach to religion is like a marital affair. Saying they outwardly serve God but are secretly “servicing” another.
- Also, the Greek word moichalis (moy-khal-is') is used. It’s the feminine form of the word meaning “adulteress” Essentially calling them whores!
39) He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.
40) For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
Jesus is saying I’m NOT doing any tricks on command to convince or entertain you. He doesn’t say, okay, bring me someone else to heal, or just watch, I’ll do them later as God directs me. No! He reminds them of scripture concerning the Messiah as final proof that he will someday undeniably prove to the world that he is who he claims to be.
41) The men of Nineveh [who were known to be very evil] will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; [yet another really big insult] for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. [Meaning himself, their Messiah]
So what conclusion can we draw from this account,
other than Jesus was majorly PO’d?
These Scribes and Pharisees committed against God the most heinous crime ever. They publicly credited the devil with the godly miracle of healing. In effect, charging Jesus Christ with sorcery; one who is in league with Satan, which is a sin punishable by death under the Law.
The Absurdity of their Claim:
Following him around as much as they did, they had lots of opportunity to witness the works of Jesus Christ. They observed him doing undeniably powerful miracles that were, at the very least, clear evidence of power supplied by God. These impressive miracles were freely given in pure loving kindness to release people from obvious suffering and the oppression of horrible evil.
However, the Pharisees had so firmly set their hearts against accepting Jesus as the Messiah, or at the very least a prophet from God, that they were blinded and/or rejected the obvious truth before them and perversely twisted it to influence the crowds because of their own inflated egos and selfish desires.
The Pharisee's blasphemy was not by any means casual or mistaken. It was deliberate, willful, knowledgeable, repeated many times, and done in full view of the demonstration of God's power. That’s the main thing to recognize here, they were committing this sin on purpose, not by accident!
Since this sin is punishable by death, and all the Jews knew it, why was nobody calling them on it? Because the Pharisees and Scribes were the “powers that be” among the people. Everyone was afraid of them. It’s like trying to call out our government on their crimes. Good luck.
So then, WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) Would he just let it go, politely bless them, maybe turn the other cheek? No way! He got mad, got in their faces and handed their butts to them on a platter… in front of everyone! THAT’S what Jesus would do! That’s my Lord, and I’m proud of him!
Why Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is So Bad
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the ultimate from of betrayal to God. These religious elders knew (or least should have known) the difference between the power of God and the power of the devil. It’s their job and their life’s work to know! Their pride and arrogance got in the way of them giving God and Jesus proper credit for the miracles.
Why Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unforgivable under Old Testament Law: It is unforgivable due to its very nature. It’s more than just separation from God, it’s severing the relationship.
According to the law, the penalty for EVERY sin is death. To escape that punishment, someone or something innocent had to die in the sinners place. That’s why God set up the whole sacrificing thing. But there were some sins that called for the death penalty WITHOUT the option of a sacrificial atonement for the sin.
Blasphemy was one such sin. And the real kicker is that the Scribes and Pharisees KNEW that! If you want to see one of many examples you can read Leviticus 24:10-23. When Jesus reminded them of the sin they had just committed, they didn’t argue the point. That’s why Jesus followed up by saying the men of Nineveh will look upon the Pharisees and say, “We were bad, but you guys are WAY beyond us. At least we repented!”
Blasphemy is a sin that will not be forgiven,
not a sin that cannot be forgiven.
This is an important, if subtle distinction, because many sins will not be forgiven, not because God cannot or is unwilling to forgive the sins, but because the sinner has removed himself from the realm of worshiping God. His sacrificial atonement would not be accepted and therefore the sinner must die.
God will not go against our free will. If we do not change our hearts to accept forgiveness, then God will not force it upon us. Therefore it will not be forgiven automatically, because it stops the mechanism of forgiveness from working.
Luckily, there was a way out of it: True repentance. To repent means to regret, feel sorry for the action, want to correct the error and make it right. Old Testament scripture promises forgiveness to any wicked person who repents and turns to God. Isaiah 55:7 “Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to God, and he will have mercy on him… for he will freely pardon.” Our God is a loving God.
And that’s under the Law. How much more willing is God to forgive now under grace? According to 1st John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from unrighteousness.”
The key thing for us to remember, when reading these records in the gospels about the "unforgivable sin" is that Jesus was speaking as one under the Law of Moses to others under the Law.
There are passages in scripture recording things that were "unforgivable" under the Law but were forgiven under certain circumstances involving repentance. But even if that were not the case, we who have received grace through Jesus Christ are no longer under the Law.
Therefore, the fact that something may not have been forgivable under the Law does not mean that it is unforgivable now. Consider the testimony of the "apostle" Paul on this matter:
38) “Be it known unto you therefore, men [and] brethren, that through this man [Jesus] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:
39) And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”
Through Christ, we can be made righteous even from sins that were unforgivable under the Law of Moses!
Conditional on IF we repent!
This is a sticky subject because repentance is NOT conditional for forgiveness. Sound like I’ve contradicted myself? I haven’t. Wrap your mind around this: Forgiveness comes first. It is freely offered by God… but not forced upon us. We are free to refuse forgiveness. Sure you’d be a fool to do that, but is available to do so. And you’d be surprised at how many actually people do refuse it.
Although forgiveness is freely offered; repentance is your acceptance of that forgiveness. Remember we still owe the penalty for every sin we’ve committed that we don’t repent from.
In Matthew 12, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
- Blasphemy is a sin of the tongue; it’s said out loud.
- It is public slander against the good name of God.
- It is deliberate, not accidental.
- In this particular case, God was knowingly slandered by attributing His good power to the devil.
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is Not:
- Continually rejecting Jesus all your life.
- Speaking against Jesus
- Merely stating that you reject Jesus or God.
- Stating that you reject the holy spirit.
- It’s not suicide.
- Not instant eternal damnation.
- Not sin in general
- Not a passing evil thought or a one time evil feeling in your heart
- Not refusal to accept God’s love or mercy
Under the law, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit becomes unforgivable as long as the one doing it never repents.
It is commonly believed that it’s impossible for a born again Christian to commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. I believe this is dangerously wrong. Anyone is capable of committing this sin, born again or not.
So if you’ve ever worried that you might have committed the “Unforgivable Sin”, you probably haven’t unless you deliberately credited a miracle of God to the devil, out loud in public out of your own selfish desires. If you did commit that sin then know that forgiveness is available to you through Christ when you truly repent AND accept forgiveness.
Personal Prayer: Dear father in heaven, I thank you this day for you graciously forgiving my sins against you as I repent from them in my heart. I accept Christ as my Lord and savior and accept your forgiveness made available through our Lord’s great sacrifice for me. In Christ Jesus’ name I pray. Amen!
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About the Teacher:
Daniel Sweet is an ordained minister of Christ, a world renowned author on the subject of Leadership and a big fan of the Lord Christ Jesus. He is an avid dirt biking enthusiast who makes the bible easy for everyone to understand by using humor and fun personal stories from his own life experiences. Daniel enjoys sharing with others how to gain strength through the knowledge and truth of God's Word.