By Joshua Winslett
In this article I would like to examine the concept of blaspheming the Holy Ghost as found in Matthew 12:31, Mark 3:29, and Luke 12:10. I would also like to show how this specific sin is unforgivable.
A group of Pharisees saw Christ casting a devil out of a man that was blind and dumb. The man of whom the devils were cast out was instantly healed and both saw and spoke. Instead of rejoicing in the miracle done by God incarnate, Jesus Christ, the Pharisees accused Christ of casting out devils by the power of Beelzebub. Jesus then told them that they had blasphemed the Holy Ghost. Though Luke 12:10 may have not happened at the exact same moment as Matthew 12:31 and Mark 3:29, it still holds similar traits as it addresses the disciples concerning “the leaven of the Pharisees.”
Definition of Blaspheming the Holy Ghost:
The word ‘Blaspheme’ means “to speak evil of.” The phrase ‘Holy Ghost’ referrers to the third person of the God-head. In context, the strict definition of blaspheming the Holy Ghost is literally being in the physical presence of Christ, seeing the miracles done by Him, denying those miracles are from God, and accusing the miracles of being done by the power of the devil.
This sin is unforgivable:
Luke’s gospel records this sin as an unforgivable sin. Matthew’s account records Jesus as saying that when a person commits this sin “it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” In Mark, those that commit this sin is in danger of eternal damnation.
How this sin is unforgivable:
In this section we will consider three possible views of how this sin is unforgivable and the negatives of those views. There are certainly variations of these views, but for brevity we will only look at the more broad generalizations of these views. I will state on the onset that I hold view number 3.
Disclaimer: There is a view that proposes that there is a sin that could separate a possible child of God from being saved. The Bible undeniably states that nothing can separate an elect child of God from Christ. For that reason we will not even consider that erroneous idea. God has already successfully saved all of His children on the cross and they are preserved in Christ. Scripture references: Matthew 1:21, Hebrews 9:11-12, Jude 1:1, Romans 8:29-39.
1) Temporally Unforgivable: This view espouses that the sin committed is not forgivable in this temporal life only and has no bearing on the afterlife. The phrase “shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” would then have reference not to the afterlife, but ages or dispensations. The ‘this world’ would have reference to the age of the law that they were presently living in and ‘the world to come‘ would be the gospel dispensation. This unforgivable sin would then be pertaining to God’s children and their loss of blessings and assurance through committing this sin. The ‘day of Judgment‘ mentioned in Matthew 12:36 would then either be referring to anytime Christ judges His people or more specifically referring to God’s judgment upon Israel in 70AD. Though it is true that a regenerate can fall from fellowship (not relationship) with God, there are some immediate problems that surface while viewing this position. One instant problem with this interpretation is what then does the phrase ‘in danger of eternal damnation‘ mean? This interpretation also seems to ignore the surrounding context and the description of those who were blaspheming the Holy Ghost. In Matthew’s account, Jesus condemned these men by calling them vipers, condemned their evil heart, and called them a corrupt tree. Can such a specific and condemning description be given about God’s children? The context and descriptions seem to say too much to only be speaking of a temporal judgment. We will discuss the context and description of those specific Pharisees while reviewing position 3. I would add that there are many variations of this view, include varying preteristic views, that this specific article will not discuss. I trust that this basic explanation and the negatives given will sufficient for the reader.
2) Eternally Unforgivable – Legal: This view espouses that the sin committed is not only not forgivable in this life, but will also not be forgiven when this life ends. I classify this under the legal heading because it places specific emphasis on a person’s positional legal standing in Christ before God. The main tenet of this view is that we have an intercessor in Christ Jesus and our sins are against Christ, our mediator, and not against the Holy Ghost. Therefore any sin not covered by our mediator would be a sin against the Holy Ghost, meaning the sins of the non-elect. I will remind the reader that a child of God is preserved in Christ and can never be separated from His love. The unforgivable sin would then apply only to the wicked non-elect. This interpretation comes more specifically from Matthew 12:32, “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.” Whereas this interpretation holds some wonderful truth, that Christ is the mediator for the elect, it also does not specifically address the full immediate context and description of those who were blaspheming the Holy Ghost.
3) Eternally Unforgivable – Vital: This view, though closely related to view 2, places special emphasis on the specific nature of the individual’s hearts who blasphemed the Holy Ghost. I place this view under the vital heading because it describes the nature and essence of life of the specific Pharisees under consideration. This view espouses that only the unregenerate can commit this sin. In other words, a born again individual cannot commit this specific sin because God has changed that person’s heart. In light of this view, let’s consider the account given to us in the gospel of Matthew. Though the main content I wish to consider starts in verse 30, we will begin in verse 24 to set the context.
Commentary of the Verses:
Mt 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
Comments: The initial sin is defined.
Mt 12:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:
Comments: Two things should be considered here: 1) Jesus knew their thoughts and intentions, 2) Jesus could not have been doing the miracles by the power of the devil because He was victoriously destroying the devil’s work.
Mt 12:26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?
Comments: Again repeating that Jesus was contrary to Satan. Christ would not oppose a kingdom that powered Him.
Mt 12:27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges.
Comments: Christ exhorts them to consider the source of their own actions, considering that they were supposedly serving the same Jehovah God.
Mt 12:28 But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you.
Comments: If the miracles that Christ did were legitimate then it was the confirmation that the kingdom is come. I will remind the reader that the emphasis is not necessarily the kingdom itself. The emphasis is the King of the kingdom. Where a kingdom is present, there is also a King.
Mt 12:29 Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.
Comments: This statement illustrates that Christ was binding the wicked one and not working in partnership with him. Though not specific to this text, it is also a good illustration of God’s work in regeneration.
Mt 12:30 He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
Comments: This is a general principle of sorts but is specifically being applied to these men. So the first description of these Pharisees is that they are against Christ and will be scattered.
Mt 12:31 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.
Comments: All kinds of sins are forgiven, BUT this specific sin will not be forgiven. Notice the gravity in Christ’s words.
Mt 12:32 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.
Comments: The specific sentence is given concerning this specific sin. Whatever those worlds may be, this sin is unforgivable in the present world and the world to come. Mark’s gospel would add that those who commit this sin are in danger of eternal damnation. I would like to point out to the reader that words against the Son are forgiven. We will address this later in the article.
Mt 12:33 Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
Comments: This is a general principle that is used many different ways in scripture. Matthew 7:15-20 uses this principle for the purpose of recognizing false prophets. The principle given describes to us the fact that things produce fruits, actions, works, and evidences according to the exact nature of that thing. Notice that they are said to be a ‘bad tree’.
Mt 12:34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Comments: Christ condemns this group of Pharisees as being both vipers and of having an evil heart. He states, referring back to the principle in verse 33, that out of their evil heart the mouth speaks. In essence, the fruit of their corrupt heart is corrupt words.
Mt 12:35 A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.
Comments: Christ again repeats the principle while also comparing good trees to bad trees.
Mt 12:36 But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.
Comments: Though they seem idle, these men will be judged according to the words they are saying from their evil heart. What is the day of judgment? It will be between ‘the world that is’ and ‘the world to come’. The judgment is eternal damnation.
Mt 12:37 For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.
Comments: The word ‘justified’ means to declare righteous. The word ‘condemn’ means to pronounce guilty. These men would be pronounced guilty by their own words that they spoke these words from their evil heart.
Full description of those that blasphemed the Holy Ghost:
Since Christ said that they will be known by the fruit, or observational description, let’s lay out their description from Matthew in bullet format.
- Claimed Jesus cast out devils by Beelzebub. Verse 24
- They are against Christ. Verse 30
- They will be scattered. Verse 30
- They committed a sin that will not be forgiven. Verse 31
- They will not be forgiven in this world or the world to come. Verse 32
- These men are known by their words and actions. Verse 33
- They are vipers. Verse 34
- They have an evil heart. Verse 34
- They speak from their evil heart. Verse34
- They bring forth evil things from their evil heart. Verse 35
- By their words they shall be judged in the day of judgment. Verse 36
- Their words condemn them. Verse 37
- Mark 3:29 also adds that they are in danger of eternal damnation.
Conclusion gathered from observations of the context:
The strict definition of the sin is literally being in the physical presence of Christ, seeing the miracles done by Him, denying those miracles are from God, and accusing the miracles of being done by the power of the devil. These men committed that sin. These men spoke words from an evil and unregenerate heart. Their own words confessed more than they realized. Only someone void of God’s Spirit could see Christ performing miracles and completely, and totally, claim that they were done by the devil. This does not mean that a regenerate cannot doubt or stand in unbelief. Hebrews chapters 3 and 4 tell us that we can lose our temporal rest and assurance because of unbelief. Truly, every regenerate that hears the gospel falls into some variation of the man in Mark 9:24, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.” Yet notice the distinction. God’s children often doubt God’s word and thereby deny the Son Himself. But these men were not doubting in unbelief, they totally abhorred the Son of God. We can certainly deny Him and fall into unbelief, but God’s regenerate children cannot abhor and hate Christ. A regenerate could not view the miracles done by Christ and totally condemn the work done by Him. The regenerate child of God has the Spirit of God in him. Though the children of God may doubt and speak against the Son, they are still in a regenerate forgiven state, “And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him….” Those unregenerate men abhorred God while speaking against every action that was done by Him, and they abided in an unforgiven state, “whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” This same principle can be seen in John 3:36, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
This is not to say that someone who once committed this sin will not later be quickened by Christ. Remember, this is an at the moment observation. For example, the apostle Paul at one time hated and blasphemed Christ while also persecuting His church. But God later quickened him while he was on the road to Damascus. This is what is meant by “is in danger of eternal damnation.” Unless God had done a sovereign work on someone’s heart, they would have vitally continued in an unforgiven state and one day be judged into eternal damnation.
Can this sin be committed today?
First, we know that this sin could not be committed by a regenerate then or now. This sin only applies to those who are void of the Spirit of God in their heart. But I would also contend that this sin could not be committed by anyone today because of its strict definition. For an unregenerate to commit this sin Jesus would have to be bodily present and performing miracles. Certainly there is still unregenerate men, as well as non-elect in our present day, but again, Jesus would have to be bodily present while performing miracles for the unregenerate to commit this sin.
Exhortation to the disciple:
The section of Luke’s gospel that mentions blasphemy against the Holy Ghost begins with the exhortation, “Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” Jesus will later in the context use the concept of this unforgivable sin to motivate His disciples. In essence, He tells them to not act as those who are not forgiven, and disciples should not deny Him because that is an attribute of them that are not forgiven. These same men who were not forgiven are the same that were going to throw them in prison. In John 16:3, Jesus said that those who persecuted His disciple did these things “because they have not known the Father, nor me.”
Dear reader, as Paul exhorted the Hebrews, “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.” Let us not act as the ungodly but instead believe the promises of God and “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.”