Question:

Greetings,

I have read some of your articles on the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit on your website and I know you don't want to repeat the same topic over again, but Ido have some questions about it if you don't mind addressing them. I have held a similar conclusion as youin the past, but now I'm wondering if it is something that can be committed, repented of but not forgiven. My reasoning is this:

  • Just as a parallel:In two passages (Luke 16:18; Mark 10:11-12) there is given a general rule -- If you divorce your wife and marry another then you are committing adultery (paraphrase). But in one passage (Matthew 19:9), there is an exception to the general rule given in Mark and Luke -- You can divorce your wife and marry another without committing adultery if the reason for the divorce is because of sexual immorality (paraphrase). So what we have is multiple passages teaching a general rule (no divorce and remarriage), but a single passage teaching a specific exception to the rule (can remarry in case of sexual immorality). So I'm wondering if there is a parallel here. Meaning there are several passages teaching a general rule of God's willingness to forgive anyone who comes to Him (Matthew 11:28; I John 1:7-9; Acts 2:21; II Peter 3:9) but this sin is mentioned as a specific exception to that general rule.
  • We know that in the first part of the verse ("Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him;"), that forgiveness is conditional,upon repentance. So I've been wondering why we don't imply the same condition in second part of the verse("but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come."), meaning, even if you repent, you will not be forgiven for this sin.

I know you are busy so I really appreciate your time.


Answer:

Matthew 19:1-9; Mark 10:1-12; and Luke 16:18 are parallel passages. They all cover the same event, though focusing on different details. To understand completely what Jesus said, you need read all the accounts and blend what is being said. In this case, Mark and Luke skipped over the exception while Matthew focused on it. In other words, we can rightly assume that the exception is always implied, even in Mark and Luke's accounts.

This is not the same in the case of forgiveness. The fact that God is willing to forgive any sinner who meets His conditions is mentioned repeatedly in a variety of contexts. Matthew 12:22-37; Mark 3:20-30; and Luke 12:8-10 are parallel accounts. Jesus states the fact that a person who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, but he doesn't state why. He doesn't state whether it is God who refuses to forgive or whether it is the blasphemer who refuses to meet God's conditions. To assume that it God who refuses puts you at odds with the many passages that state that God wants everyone saved and that He is willing to forgive anyone who meets His conditions. To assume that it is the blasphemer who is preventing himself from being forgiven is consistent with other passages, such as "If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that" (I John 5:16) and "Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears" (Hebrews 12:15-17). Selecting the direction that is consistent with other passages is the proper way to understand a verse when you are making assumptions.

In noting that it is the blasphemer who is preventing his forgiveness, I am being consistent with the idea that repentance is needed for forgiveness. Someone who blasphemes the Father or the Son may be forgiven if he repents. Someone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will not repent of such a sin.

A part of the problem is that since blasphemy is not a generally used word, people tend to label everything as blasphemy. Blasphemy is the purposeful slandering of another person while knowing the whole time that what is being claimed is false. In Hebrew, the word gadhaph, comes from words meaning "to throw stones at." The slander isn't limited to words; a person who purposely sets out to defy another in order to make that person look bad, while knowing it is he who is doing wrong, is also blaspheming that person.

"But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the LORD; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him" (Numbers 15:30-31).

Thus, we can put what Jesus said in better context. "Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw" (Matthew 12:22). Such power is clearly from God, but the Pharisees refused to admit that Jesus was the Messiah and a prophet of God. Though they knew the evidence was that a miracle was done by the power of God, they sought an alternative explanation. "Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons"" (Matthew 12:24). The problem is that their explanation was illogical, which Jesus then goes on to prove.

However, Jesus pushes further to say that the Pharisees not only offered an illogical explanation, they had purposely done so to slander Jesus' reputation. But they had used too broad of a weapon. They did not think that they were also blaspheming God the Father, by whose authority Jesus was performing this miracle and the Holy Spirit who was the power behind the miracle. "Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come" (Matthew 12:30-31).

Jesus is not saying that a person who purposely slanders the Holy Spirit's work is unforgivable. It isn't that God refuses to forgive some people (II Peter 3:9). Jesus' point is when a person slanders the Spirit while knowing that he is stating a falsehood that type of person will refuse to repent of his sin. Worse, there is nothing available to turn this type of person around because the Bible is the work of the Holy Spirit and they gone beyond rejecting the Holy Spirit. They know the Spirit is the source of truth, but they deliberate make out His work to be sinful. This person never regrets what he did -- he is too arrogant to even consider himself to be wrong.