Monday, October 24, 2022

What is Blasphemy Against the Spirit?

By Gerald Cowan       


Texts: Matthew 12:31-32, Mark 3:28-30, Luke 12:8-10


    Because the text seems to equate “blasphemy” with “speak against the Holy Spirit” some fear they have committed “the unpardonable sin.” Of course, if they can never be pardoned for it there is no need to become a Christian or try to live a righteous and godly life. Actually, the sin against the Holy Spirit is more than just words – irreverent, ignorant, or deliberate words. In context, the particular error of those to whom Jesus spoke here was attributing to Satan that which was accomplished by the Spirit of God. That same error, in reverse, can be made by attributing to the Spirit of God what is actually done by Satan (2 Thess. 2:9-12) – as in thanking God for some supposed spiritual gift, such as speaking in tongues, or for sanctioning a corrupt and unholy lifestyle (such as homosexual activity. but you can put any one of several current examples there). Attributing to God or His Spirit anything which is not actually from Him is blasphemy, and the same penalty applies.  It is essential that we understand this and several other factors that are related to the problem. Some honestly fear they have committed “the unpardonable sin” but have probably not done so. No matter what they have said or done, it is probably still forgivable if forgiveness is sought according to God’s instructions and requirements, including true repentance. 

    There are six factors to be considered in assessing the blasphemy against God’s Holy Spirit which Jesus said will never be forgiven.

    1.   It is a sin against knowledge.  It often takes the form of deliberate rejection of available knowledge (Hos. 4:6, 2 Peter 3:5a and 16-17). Notice, the blasphemy which is from ignorance can be forgiven (1 Tim. 1:12-13).

    2.    It is a sin of attitude, a matter of the heart and disposition, often seen as prejudice or hostility and hardness of heart. Note the context: the mouth speaks what is in the heart or mind, whether it is good or bad (Mt. 12:34, compare also Heb. 3:4-7 “harden not your heart”). The attitude is wrong and blasphemous, whether or not any words are spoken (Mt. 12:25).

    3.    It is a sin of the will, resisting and rejecting the Holy Spirit and His teaching or leading (Acts 7:51-52, Rom. 8:1ff).

    4.    It is a sin of action. It is willful disobedience, whether or not anything is said, any words spoken (Eph. 2:1-2, compare Rom. 8:14-17).

    5.    It is a continuing sin – unrepented and uncorrected (Heb. 6:1-8).

    6.    It is a sin of speech when it is knowingly and deliberately done, when it comes from an evil heart, a heart of disbelief – which is not the same as ignorance, unless it is willful ignorance.

    Why is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit said to be unforgivable, when similar sins or blasphemies against man and the Son of man (Christ) are said to be forgivable? Doesn’t a sin against God or Christ amount to a sin against the Holy Spirit? Of course, it does, in a way of speaking. But Jesus makes it very clear that there is a distinction, and we must be careful to notice and maintain the distinction (Mt. 12:31, Mark.3 :28-29, and Luke 12:10).

    Men against whom one might blaspheme would include prophets sent by God and apostles sent by Christ. This would also be a rejection of God. “The Son of man” (Jesus the Christ) was sent by God, and a sin against him would also be a sin or blasphemy against God and the Holy Spirit, as seen in a special dispensation (following the sending of Christ who himself followed the prophets). This dispensation of the Spirit is the final effort and offer of God for man’s salvation. There is no other offer to be made, no future addition or alternative to what has now been given through the Holy Spirit. To refuse the Spirit – and in doing so to refuse the prophets, the Christ, and the God who sent them all – would be to cut oneself off from all hope and help from God, and to be unforgivable. To accept and have the Holy Spirit is to have Christ and God the Father as well, and so to be built upon the foundation laid by the prophets and apostles (Eph. 2:20-22).  To fail to have the Spirit is to have neither Christ nor God the Father (Rom. 8:8-11; read also in John 13:20, 14:16-17, and 15:7-16:3).

    Every sin is in some way a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (in attitude, will, speech, or action). If it is repented and corrected it can be forgiven. Any sin and every sin which is unrepented – uncorrected and persisted in – is unforgivable. There will be no further offer of grace, and no other remedy – not in the present world of time and space, or under any covenant made by God. One’s own lifetime is the only opportunity one has for salvation – there will be no chance to remedy one’s situation or obey the gospel after one’s death. There will be no forgiveness in the spirit world of eternity to which all are going. Unrepented and unforgiven sins have eternal consequences (Mt. 12:30, Mark 3:29b).

- Gerald Cowan, a longtime preacher and missionary, is retired from full-time pulpit preaching. Gerald publishes an e-mail newsletter entitled GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICAL WRITINGS. He is available for Gospel Meetings and he may be contacted at

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