28 “Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” Mark 3:28-30 (NASB)
I am sure most of those reading this have at one time or another become concerned to some degree that they had committed the unpardonable sin. Several people who I have witnessed to have told me that they couldn’t be saved because they had blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Let’s look at the passage from the book of Matthew that parallels the one I placed at the top of this post.
22 Then a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute was brought to Jesus, and He healed him, so that the mute man spoke and saw. 23 All the crowds were amazed, and were saying, “This man cannot be the Son of David, can he?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons.” Matthew 12:22-24 (NASB)
What was the purpose of Jesus healing people, raising the dead, feeding thousands of people from a little bit of food, and casting out demons? There are many who teach that that was His primary purpose in coming at all. They take His method of teaching and performing miracles and say that that is our example for how to do ministry. That, however, misses the point entirely. What does scripture say?
1 When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities. 2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?” 4 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” Matthew 11:1-6 (NASB)
Jesus’ miracles were signs of who He is. Who is He? What was John the Baptist asking? He asked if Jesus was the one who is to come. This is referring to the Messiah. John saw and heard of Jesus’ miracles and wanted for Jesus to confirm that He is the Messiah not just a miracle worker. However, Jesus simply tells John’s disciples, “Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” Jesus probably actually performed these miracles and preached the good news in front of John’s disciples. Why? These were all fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies of the coming Messiah. (Isaiah 29:18,19; Isaiah 35:5-10) So what was the primary reason for Jesus’ miracles? It was to fulfill those prophecies about Himself thereby those who knew the scriptures, like John the Baptist, would know that Jesus was the Messiah.
Therefore, when those Pharisees heard of Jesus’ miracles and said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebul the ruler of the demons,” they were actually attributing works that only God could do, which were signs of Jesus’ Messiah-ship, to Satan and demons. They knew that they were works done by God, but they deliberately blasphemed by their rejection of those works. Here are some more examples of their blasphemy.
45 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them the things which Jesus had done. 47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” John 11:45-48 (NASB)
13 Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. 14 And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. 15 But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, 16 saying, “What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. 17 But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name.” Acts 4:13-17 (NASB)
The motive for the Pharisee’s blasphemy against the Spirit was pure selfishness. They did not want to lose the power they had over the people. When clear evidence of God working through Jesus and the Apostles was deliberately rejected by them they committed the unpardonable sin.
25 And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? 27 If I by Beelzebul cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. 31 “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. 32 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 12:25-32 (NASB)
Those who ignorantly reject Christ, who have not been exposed to the Grace of God in their heart, can be forgiven if they eventually believe and repent. Unbelief based in ignorance can be forgiven. Look at Saul of Tarsus who persecuted the Church, but became the Apostle Paul. However, those who hear the gospel call and reject Christ as Lord and Saviour do sin “against the Holy Spirit.” Why? It is the Holy Spirit who is testifying in men’s hearts about Christ. The Holy Spirit makes God’s truth known to us. The Pharisee’s guilt was that they witnessed Jesus’ works first hand and still blasphemed. They had rejected the revelation of Christ from Jesus Himself. So, unless we reject Christ in deliberate unbelief then we have not committed the unpardonable sin by blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.
Soli Deo Gloria!