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Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost

by Charles G. Caldwell, Jr.
Via Truth Magazine XXI: 49, pp. 781-782, December 15, 1977

In Matthew 12:31,32, Jesus said, "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come."

Down through the years, this passage has been the occasion of great concern to devout, God-fearing people. This concern is the result of a gross misunderstanding of what our Lord was actually saying. It is the sequel to a perversion of His teaching and is productive of the usual effect of such perversion in depriving men of the peace, contentment, and happiness of soul and mind, and the joy that God intends for us to have in Christ. It would, in the very nature of the case, be impossible for one to "rejoice in the
Lord always
" (Philippians 4:4) if there was the slightest possibility of his having sometime inadvertently committed a sin that could not be forgiven.

All Sins Forgivable

John said in I John 1:7, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another [He with us, and we with Him, CGC], and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." I do not consider this passage to be in conflict with Matthew 12:31,32. Nor do I consider Matthew 12:31,32 to set forth an exception to John's promise. In order to the forgiveness of sins -- all sins -- there are certain conditions, divinely ordained, that must be met. If a sin -- any sin -- is not forgiven it is because the conditions have not been met. One may fail to meet the conditions either because of his unwillingness to do so or because he is unable to do so. Both of these reasons might be involved and it is my contention that such is the case with all those about whom our Lord spoke in Matthew 12. It is possible for one to reach such a state of depravity that he has no willingness to accept the truth and be governed by it, no matter how strong the evidence, and sink so low in the mire of degradation that he is unwilling and even unable because of his degenerate attitude to submit to that which is right.

Anyone, therefore, who is interested in truth and righteousness or who is concerned about his soul's well being has not committed the "unpardonable sin."

The Case in Context

An understanding of the passage under consideration is dependent -- as is almost always the case -- upon the context in which it is found. Jesus has just healed a man possessed of a demon which caused the multitudes to marvel and be amazed. But there were others of the Pharisees and Scribes who heard of it and being unable to deny that a miracle had indeed been performed sought to explain it away by attributing the power by which it was accomplished to "Beelzebub." The claim was made by them that Christ was not exercising divine power but rather Satanic or diabolical power. Christ then proceeded to disprove their contention with a number of arguments which are irresistible:

Argument Number 1: First, He showed that which is evident on the surface, that Satan would not work against his own interest because in doing so, he would destroy himself and be brought to an "end."

Argument Number 2: His next argument to disprove their contention was based upon their purported claim that their disciples, "sons," cast out demons. If it was true that they did cast out demons (which Christ did not admit) and that demons were cast out only by "Beelzebub," then it would follow that their "sons" exercised diabolical power. This He argued to show the absurdity of their contention from their own premise.

Argument Number 3: He next submitted that since He could not possibly be casting out demons by the power of the Devil, it must of necessity be by the power of God and that such exercise signaled the arrival of the kingdom of God.

Argument Number 4: His final argument in this regard was to the effect that He had entered Satan's house (the body of the demoniac) and had spoiled Satan's goods (the evil spirit in the man) and, therefore, instead of being in league with the devil, He had contested him and defeated him. The conclusion based on these arguments is that these Scribes and Pharisees were wrong in their charge that Christ was working miracles by the power of Satan rather than by the power of God. Their charge was not against the power of God, the Holy Spirit, but rather against Christ -- that He was in league with the Devil and not with the Holy Spirit. This, Christ disproved and sought to correct their misconception.

Misunderstanding the Charge

Contrary to popular opinion and acceptation, Christ did not say that these Jews had committed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, but He did say in substance that they had blasphemed against Him and He emphatically says that such will (or can) be forgiven. The circumstances surrounding the incident, however, do suggest to the mind of Christ a need for a warning to these people of the danger of the course they are following. They had said that He was casting out demons by the power of "Beelzebub" (the Devil). If they persisted in this contention and in the light of all the evidence became convinced that the power exercised was of God but nevertheless was still evil because it worked through Christ, whom they hated and refused to accept, then they would become guilty of the sin against which Christ warned. In this they would be charging the Holy Spirit with being a devil or being equivalent to the Devil. Certainly, they were not now saying that the Holy Spirit was a devil or that He was as bad as the Devil. They were not denying that the Spirit is holy or affirming that the Spirit is evil. They were simply denying that the Holy Spirit had anything to do with Christ's miracles.

If they were affirming that the Spirit of God was not holy but rather was as evil as the Devil, this would, of, course, have been blasphemy against the Spirit and there would have been no point in Christ's having attempted to correct them by presenting the arguments that He did. They would have been beyond argument and beyond the hope of correction. They were getting on dangerous ground, however. They were approaching the point of no return. They were getting near to a condition of heart and mind which would damn their souls and Christ was simply warning them to stop before they had gone too far; not to allow their hatred and their contemptuous attitude toward Him to cause them to defame the Spirit of God. To take that step and affirm that the Holy Spirit is not holy but is evil and only evil continually, that He is a devil and on a par with Satan is to sink beyond all hope. Such a frame of mind on the part of anyone would be beyond all correction. Thus, the conditions of correction and forgiveness given by the spirit have no place in the man's heart.

The Good Tree

Jesus said, "Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt" (vs. 33). If the product of the working of the Spirit is good, the Spirit, Himself, is good and holy, "for the tree is known by his fruit."