Question:

I was wandering what exactly is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Could you please help me with this?


Answer:

What Is Blasphemy?

Blasphemy is a transliteration of a Greek word: blasphemia. Literally it combines the Greek words for hurt and speech. It means to speak evil of someone or to slander another person. It contains the idea of having a third party involved. It is one person telling other people how bad another person is. As an example, after one miracle performed by Jesus, we read: "And all the multitudes were amazed and said, "Could this be the Son of David?" Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons"" (Matthew 12:23-24). Thus, blasphemy is not just a bad thought; it is an active attempt to destroy another person.

In the Bible, blasphemy is generally reserved for slandering deity. "And the Israelite woman's son blasphemed the name of the LORD and cursed ... Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin" (Leviticus 24:11,15). In doesn't have to be curse words. Blasphemy can also be committed when a person lowers God's stature in the eyes of others. "Even when they made for themselves a calf of molten metal and said, 'This is your God Who brought you up from Egypt,' and committed great blasphemies" (Nehemiah 9:18). By attributing the power that caused the ten plagues and allowed them to cross the Red Sea to a man-made image, they trivialized the true God. Replacing God with idols was again done in Ezekiel's day. "Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD, "Yet in this your fathers have blasphemed Me by acting treacherously against Me. When I had brought them into the land which I swore to give to them, then they saw every high hill and every leafy tree, and they offered there their sacrifices and there they presented the provocation of their offering. There also they made their soothing aroma and there they poured out their drink offerings"'" (Ezekiel 20:27-28).

There are a few exceptions to blasphemy being only about God. "Then they secretly induced men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God"" (Acts 6:11). However, as Moses was a prophet of God blaspheming Moses in his role as prophet would also be a blasphemy of God. People who worship false gods considered words against their deity as blasphemy as well. "For you have brought these men here who are neither robbers of temples nor blasphemers of our goddess" (Acts 19:37).

The Character of the Blasphemer

Frequently we see people resorting to blasphemy because of envy. "But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming" (Acts 13:45).

"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). This is not saying every act of defiance is blasphemy, but that the motivation behind blasphemy is purposeful defiance. In other words, it is not an act that is accidentally done. Inappropriate things said while drunk, high on drugs, or in a fit of anger are wrong, but they are not what is meant by blasphemy. You can see this in the Jews with Jesus. A rumor started by some scribes from Jerusalem (Mark 3:20-30; Matthew 9:34; 10:25) that Jesus casts demons out by Satan's power continued to be spread (Matthew 12:22-37; Luke 11:14-26). This lie was used despite being refuted and being warned that it may cost them their souls, but then the people spreading it didn't care. They weren't interested in the truth, no evidence would change their story. These people hated Jesus so much that they would say anything to destroy his popularity. It is also seen in Assyria's defiance of God. "Now therefore, what do I have here," declares the LORD, seeing that My people have been taken away without cause?" Again the LORD declares, "Those who rule over them howl, and My name is continually blasphemed all day long" (Isaiah 52:5). It is the nature of the blasphemer to remain in his sin.

A mark of a blasphemer is his stubborn clinging to his lie no matter what. Korah's rebellion illustrates this as well. "They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, "You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?"" (Numbers 16:3). Korah may have saw this as rebelling against Moses, but he chose to go against God as well. Moses warned them, and they should have known better; after all, they should have remembered what happened to Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10) and Miriam (Numbers 12). "Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him. Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; put fire in them and put incense in them before the LORD tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the LORD chooses is the holy one. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!" (Numbers 16:5-7). There were plenty of opportunities for Korah and his followers to back out, but he stubbornly clung to the "rights" that he claimed. Repeated warnings were issued, but in the end 250 people died along with Korah.

At its roots, blasphemy comes out of a person's pride. "Whom have you reproached and blasphemed? And against whom have you raised your voice and haughtily lifted up your eyes? Against the Holy One of Israel!" (Isaiah 37:23). It demonstrates a severe defect in character.

The result is that you rarely see a blasphemer change. The character that speaks blasphemies is not one likely to admit wrong. "Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory. ... and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds" (Revelation 16:9, 11). Paul is one of those rare exceptions. "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief" (I Timothy 1:12-13).

What About Blaspheming the Holy Spirit?

The topic of blaspheming the Holy Spirit draws people because they believe it is the one unforgivable sin. I've lost track of the number of people who are convinced that they are hopeless and so claim that they blasphemed the Holy Spirit by a stray thought, possible statements while drunk, or by committing a sin knowingly, such as fornication. By labeling their sin as blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, they make themselves into an eternal victim -- "It is not my fault! I messed up and now God won't forgive me."

I hope by now you see that blasphemy is not accidental and it is not any sin done knowingly. Blasphemy reflects a person whose character is against God -- stubborn, defiant, and unrepentant. It is a person not content with his own unbelief, he attempts to destroy the reputation of God in the eyes of others and spread his unbelief to them.

"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 12:31-32).

"Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" -- because they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit"" (Mark 3:28-30).

"And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him" (Luke 12:10).

In the event in Matthew 12, Jesus has healed a demon possessed man who was blind and mute (Matthew 12:22). This caused the crowd to begin to wonder if Jesus was the long awaited Messiah (Matthew 12:23). Because of their envy, this caused the Pharisees to tell people that Jesus only did this because he was working in league with Satan (Matthew 12:24).

Mark 3 records an earlier event where Jesus was drawing such large crowds that he didn't have time to eat (Mark 3:20). His own family thought he was crazy and tried to take him away from the crowds (Mark 3:21). Scribes from Jerusalem, probably due to their envy of the crowds, were telling people that Jesus was possessed by Satan himself or that he able to cast out demons because he is in league with Satan (Mark 3:22).

Luke's account is the same event as in Matthew 12, but told in greater detail. It started with Jesus casting out a demon (Luke 11:14) to which some repeated the claim that he did so by the power of Satan (Luke 11:15). As Jesus refuted the claim, the crowd around him increased (Luke 11:29). As the day progressed, the crowd became many thousands (Luke 12:1). It is at this time that Jesus warns the crowd against the Pharisees. He discussed confessing him versus denying him (Luke 12:8-9) and moved to the stronger opposition of blaspheming him (Luke 12:10).

We can see the stubborn, unrepentant attitude to the Jewish scribes and Pharisees because the claim that Jesus was working with Satan occurred on at least four occasions: Mark 3:20-30; Matthew 9:24; Matthew 10:25; and Matthew 12:22-32 and Luke 11:14-12:10.

Blasphemies, along with other sins, can be forgiven, though not all will be forgiven since not every sinner seeks forgiveness of his sins. This specially includes blasphemy against Jesus. As Paul demonstrated, it is possible for a blasphemer to be convicted of his sins and change his mind (I Timothy 1:12-13). However, this is not true when the blasphemy is against the Holy Spirit. This should lead us to the question of "Why?" What is different between blaspheming Jesus and the Holy Spirit given that they are both God.

The answer lies in the work that the Holy Spirit does. "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:7-8). The Holy Spirit's work convicts people that they are wrong, that there is a right way to behave and that it matters whether you are right or wrong. That conviction is produced by the Word of God that the Spirit delivered through the prophets. "Holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). Yet, such conviction will never occurs with a person who stubbornly sets himself against the Holy Spirit. A person willing to lie about the Holy Spirit's work, even though he knows the truth, is a person who will never listen to the Holy Spirit's teachings and there is no other way to the truth. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).

It isn't that God is unable to save someone who is blaspheming the Holy Spirit. "Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear" (Isaiah 59:1-2). The problem has always been on man's side. God never refuses forgiveness to men who repent. "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" (II Peter 3:9). But people who set themselves against the Holy Spirit, defiantly denying the truth, and telling lies about the work of the Holy Spirit are the type of people who won't change and there is nothing available to produce a change in them since that conviction comes from the very one they are slandering. Notice that Mark 3:29 calls it an eternal sin.

There is a variation in the manuscripts for Mark 3:29 where some have "judgment" instead of "sin." It doesn't make much difference in the conclusion. You can see it as a sin people never let go or a condemnation that never gets removed because the people never let go of that sin. The end result is the same. Therefore, one of the clearest indication that a person isn't guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is the fact that they want God's forgiveness.

Can Someone be Guilty of Blaspheming the Holy Spirit Today?

We don't see miracles today, now that the Bible is completed, so the problem of seeing irrefutable evidence of God's power and then denying it doesn't exist today. However, we still see people who are so set against Christianity and the Bible that they deny God and make it their life's work to convince others that God doesn't exist and that the Bible is nothing more than the work of men. Even when shown clear evidence that their position is wrong, they stubbornly continue to degrade God. Nothing will persuade them to reexamine their position or even consider the Bible. Such people are blasphemers of the Holy Spirit.