Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It’s the unforgivable sin. If you’ve done it, is it true you should just give up? It’s the eternal sin! No matter how much you repent or ask for forgiveness, will you go to your grave with that sin still held against you?
While we discuss two questions in this lesson, we will discover two things that will help us not only discover the answers to our questions, but also—if our hearts are right—be able to rest well tonight, safely in the hands of the Good Shepherd.
Have you ever used the word “God” or “Jesus” as a swear word? Have you ever said or typed “OMG” as an expletive? If so, repent! Those are serious things. When you speak of God, mean it. Don’t speak in vain. The good news is, God is willing to forgive you. Here’s another question: Have you ever blasphemed the Holy Spirit?
When I first became a Christian, a close friend advised me to read through the gospel accounts and the book of Acts as soon as I could. I started with the gospel of Mark, because it was the shortest one. I read about how Jesus healed people. I read about when He chose the Twelve. Then, one of the scariest things in my life happened—I encountered the passage where Jesus says:
Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.Mark 3:28–29
I had to put my Bible down for a minute and think. Yes, I had yelled out Jesus’ name when I was angry, but I had repented of that. God had forgiven me. But had I ever misused the words “Holy Spirit”? Or had I ever directly blasphemed Him? My stomach turned to knots while wondering if it was all worthless. I mean, I had faith, had repented, and had been baptized. But, if on the judgment day, God was still going to call up a time I had blasphemed the Holy Spirit, and therefore give me eternal condemnation, then what use was it all?
I am not the only one this passage has frightened. There are folks who struggle with this question every day. In this lesson, let’s explore these two questions:
- What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit?
- Is it possible to blaspheme the Holy Spirit today?
What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit?
To blaspheme simply means to speak against. If Jesus could forgive those who blasphemed and even crucified Him, then why can He not forgive someone who speaks against the Spirit, whether intentionally or carelessly? Is the value of the Spirit somehow greater than Jesus’ value?
You’ve heard it before, and you’ll hear it again: the first step to understanding a Scripture is to read it in its context. Even though the first time I read the passage, I did read it in context, I did not pay attention. It scared me, so I isolated it and wondered how it applied to me directly. But the question I should have been asking first is how did it apply to the first audience?
Jesus’ popularity was growing due to His miracles and public teaching. The first miracle of Christ that Mark records is the casting out an unclean spirit—a demon (Mark 1:23–28). Leading up to the passage where Jesus condemns those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit, Mark tells us how the Pharisees, Herodians, and scribes were all conspiring to trap and destroy Jesus. Then we read:
And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house. “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation”—because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”Mark 3:22–30
Reading the greater context helps us understand this startling saying of Christ. Here is what happens in this passage:
- Jesus performs miracles by the Holy Spirit, notably, the casting out of demons.
- The scribes say Jesus is possessed by and gains power from the ruler of the demons.
- Jesus asks pointed questions to prove the absurdity of their accusations.
- Jesus makes His statements about blasphemies and the unforgivable sin, which is where our questions come from in this lesson.
- Mark, inspired by the Holy Spirit, gives Jesus’ reason for saying all of this. Did you catch it? It was “because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’” (v. 30).
That last one should stand out as a big hint to answering, “What does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit?” The “bookends” to this passage show us what Jesus was dealing with: a resistant force claiming He was filled with a demon and wielded Satan’s power. In reality, Jesus was not possessed by a demon, but “full of the Holy Spirit” (Luke 4:1). When these people claimed Jesus was possessed by a demon, they were calling God’s Holy Spirit an unclean spirit, even Satan himself. Among the list of unwise things to say, this must be near the top.
God was giving Jesus’ audience—the Pharisees, Herodians, and scribes—conclusive proof that their Messiah was among them. That proof was the work of the Holy Spirit that Jesus demonstrated through miracles. They admitted that He truly was a miracle-worker. However, instead of accepting God’s proof, they resorted to blaspheming the Holy Spirit, calling Him Satan. They were calling the Holy Spirit Satan! At that point, there was nothing else that would convince them. Their hearts were set on denying the One who came to save them. They had rejected their last chance for forgiveness.
Jesus came with miracles to prove who He was, to testify of the gospel of the kingdom. Some saw the signs and believed, like Nicodemus in John 3. He said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (v. 2).
Others, such as the audience in Mark 3, saw the signs and blasphemed, and Jesus told these people that indirectly calling the Holy Spirit a demon was an eternal sin. Those who truly believed Jesus was casting out demons by the ruler of the demons would never accept the testimony of the Holy Spirit. They would continue believing Jesus to be a messenger of Satan. Therefore, they would never go to the true source of forgiveness—Jesus Himself. And if they never had faith in Jesus, should they ever expect to receive forgiveness? No. Instead, they would receive, just as Jesus warned them, “eternal condemnation.”
So, what does it mean to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? In context, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was not using God’s name in vain. It wasn’t saying the words “Holy Spirit“ as an expletive. In the context of this passage, it was rejecting the Holy Spirit’s testimony, and thereby rejecting the Christ, and calling the Holy Spirit the ruler of the demons after witnessing Jesus’ miracles.
Is it possible to blaspheme the Holy Spirit today?
Before we get into that, in case you didn’t know, I’ve written a book on the Holy Spirit called Clouded by Emotion. It goes into detail on this topic, as well as twelve more. Check it out here.
When we encounter Scripture, when we read of the work and words of Jesus, the Holy Spirit is providing evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and ignoring, refusing, or speaking against His testimony, we too will face God’s judgment. In that sense, yes, we can be condemned with the folks who rejected their Messiah in Mark 3.
Compare Hebrews 10:26–31 with what we saw in Mark 3:28–30.
For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.Hebrews 10:26–31
This passage isn’t a parallel passage to Mark 3. The two passages have different audiences. In Mark 3, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, Herodians, and scribes. The passage in Hebrews was written to warn Christians (those who had already received God’s forgiveness) of the dangers of sinning willfully after entering into a saving relationship with Christ. The author even uses the personal pronoun we. However, the state of the heart of the two different condemned people is the same:
- They go on sinning willfully after being exposed to the truth.
- They trample the Son of God under foot.
- They regard the blood of the covenant as unclean.
- They insult (blaspheme) the Spirit of grace (the Holy Spirit).
- They will fall into the hands of the living God.
We are not in the exact same situation the scribes were in. In that sense, we cannot be guilty of the same exact sin. They saw Jesus in the flesh, whom the Holy Spirit had confirmed through His miracles—“Look! This is the Son of God whom you should serve with your life!” Yet, they were closed-minded and said the power within Jesus, which the Holy Spirit had provided, was the power of Satan.
We, on the other hand, are not witnessing first-hand the miracles worked by Jesus Himself. That does not mean, though, we are less accountable for our faith. We have the Scriptures, which the Holy Spirit has confirmed through His miracles, essentially saying, “Look! The living word of God! Be devoted to learning from and obeying Him!” Far be it from us to snub Jesus’ works, or to view the Scriptures as “just a book,” man-made, or one of many ways to know God’s truth. To the person who would do that, let Jesus’ words be your call to action:
he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.
Hear the warning from the author of Hebrews:
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?Hebrews 2:1–4
We must not neglect such a great salvation—that salvation that calls you to put your entire trusting faith in Jesus the Christ, who calls all people everywhere to repent and be baptized.
If you are in Christ, you don’t have to go to bed worrying if you have some unforgivable sin on your soul. No, the Scriptures promise:
if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.1 John 1:7
His blood cleanses us from what? All sin! So the two things that will help us rest well in the Good Shepherd are:
- A solid understanding of what Jesus meant when He talked about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and
- Faith in Him who has promised continual cleansing.