One of the most common questions people have about the Holy Spirit is what it means to blaspheme him. People are curious about this because they know it’s an unforgivable sin, and some fear they have committed it. Knowing the statement’s context, including the exorcism Jesus performed and how the Pharisees responded to it, will help readers understand what he said about blasphemy and why.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is when a person ascribes the works of God to Satan, calling good evil and evil good when they are aware of Jesus’ true identity. Such a sin is unforgivable because it’s done to reject and destroy the Holy Spirit’s work, not in ignorance, but consciously and purposefully.
Have you blasphemed the Holy Spirit? Do you have fear and anxiety that you’re guilty of it? How did the Pharisees’ response to an exorcism lead Jesus to call them blasphemers? Why is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit unforgivable, but blasphemy against Jesus isn’t? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Also, see What Are the Gifts of the Holy Spirit? to learn more.
Have I Committed the Unforgivable Sin?
Unfortunately, what drives many Christians to explore the meaning of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is fear that they have committed an unforgivable sin. They worry that Jesus hasn’t truly saved them because of mistakes they made in the past. The saying of Jesus that causes them to dread reads in Matthew 12:31.
|ESV||Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.|
|KJV||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.|
|NASB||Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven.|
|NIV||And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.|
|NLT||So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven.|
Many Christians ask, “What if I did something unforgivable before I became a Christian, like sexual immorality, divorce, drinking and driving, murder, using God’s name as a curse word, mocking and hating Christians and churches?”
For some people, the fact that there is such a thing as committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and that it’s an unforgivable sin conjures up feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety.
What if I fear I am guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
Before the discussion about blaspheming the Holy Spirit continues, it’s important to know that God has truly forgiven those who have responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ in faith and with repentance (Mark 1:15; John 3:16). Therefore, they don’t need to fear (see Rom. 8:15; 1 John 4:18).
Because of Jesus’ death on the cross, God cleanses believers from the behaviors listed above and countless others (Isa. 53:5; Rom. 4:25). 1 John 1:9 reads, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (cf. Psa. 32:5, ESV).
As many pastors, theologians, and scholars have said, if a sincere Christian is concerned they may have committed an unforgivable sin in the past, it’s a sign that they aren’t guilty of it.
Yet, sadly, those who are guilty of this unpardonable transgression aren’t worried that they have committed it but are indifferent about it. Please keep reading to understand why.
Also, see What Is Spiritual Warfare? to learn more.
Jesus Exposes the Illogical Blasphemy of the Pharisees
Jesus’ teaching about blaspheming the Holy Spirit is surprising to many readers. New Testament scholar D.A. Carson articulates this when he writes, “[Jesus’] statement is remarkable because one of the glories of the biblical faith is the great emphasis Scripture lays on the graciousness and wideness of God’s forgiveness.” 
So why is God’s forgiveness so free-flowing, except for the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
What led to Jesus’ teaching about blaspheming the Holy Spirit? First, the passage’s context is that Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute (Matt. 12:22).
This supernatural act caused some people to consider if Jesus was the promised Messiah from the line of David (Matt. 12:23). However, the Pharisees’ reaction to what Jesus did, exposed their hard-hearted disbelief and led to their extraordinary abuse of basic logic.
How did the Pharisees explain the exorcism that Jesus performed? Matthew reports that when the Pharisees heard about it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons” (Matt. 12:24, ESV).
This explanation is confusing and lacking reason. Thankfully, Jesus responds to their ridiculous accusation with clear, sane thinking that refutes their explanation easily.
Matthew writes, “Knowing their thoughts, [Jesus] said to them, ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?'” (Matt. 12:25-26).
In summary, Satan would not instigate a civil war against demons, for they have the same ambition, purpose, and goals.
Also, see What Does the Holy Spirit Do? to learn more.
Why is Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit Unforgivable?
What did the exorcism truly signify? The actual explanation for the exorcism, according to Jesus, is that the kingdom of God had arrived (Matt. 12:28). The exorcism was part of Jesus’ defeating the work of Satan in the world (Matt. 12:29; Satan is the “strong man”).
Part of the application for people is for them to choose sides. They are either on Jesus’ side or Satan’s; there is no neutrality, as even indifference opposes God’s work (Matt. 12:30).
Then Matthew records Jesus’ teaching that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.
“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:31-32).
|Definition||slander, abuse, insult|
|Noun use||18x times in the New Testament|
|Verb use||34x times in the New Testament|
Why can people be forgiven for blaspheming the Son of Man? Many New Testament scholars believe this statement refers to rejecting the gospel of Jesus Christ, for which there is forgiveness.
For example, not all Christians decided to follow Jesus when they first heard the gospel. Some had to listen to it multiple times to respond in faith. Such hesitation, doubt, and second-guessing are forgivable.
Also, see What Does It Mean To Worship In Spirit and Truth? to learn more.
Why is Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit Not Forgivable?
Matthew scholar R.T. France writes that committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is “to declare oneself against God.” 
Carson explains that this sin is rejecting the person and work of Jesus “in full awareness that that is exactly what one is doing — thoughtfully, willfully, and self-consciously rejecting the work of the Spirit even though there can be no other explanation of Jesus’ exorcisms than that.” 
In the context of Matthew 12:31-32, people who commit blasphemy against Jesus do so because of disbelief and ignorance. Such people can ask for forgiveness, repent, and receive the salvation that Jesus freely offers them.
However, people who commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit do so with knowledge of who Jesus is. They know him, yet obstinately, publically, and purposefully reject him.
Carson adds that people guilty of committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit have a “self-conscious perception of where the truth lies, and the light shines — and a willful turning away from it. This is very different from Paul’s persecution of the church (1 Cor. 15:9), which was not unforgivable.” 
Readers of the New Testament can find another passage that probably refers to the unforgivable sin in Hebrews.
Hebrews 6:4-6 reads, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” (cf. Heb. 10:26-29)
Number 15:30 and 1 John 5:16 also refer to the unforgivable sin:
- Numbers 15:30, “But the person who does anything with a high hand, whether he is native or a sojourner, reviles the Lord, and that person shall be cut off from among his people.” People guilty of this kind of sin committed them knowingly and defiantly.
- 1 John 5:16, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.” Some scholars debate whether or not this verse refers to the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Matthew scholar Leon Morris adds, “It is not that God refuses to forgive; it is that the person who sees good as evil and evil as good is quite unable to repent and thus come humbly to God for forgiveness. And there is no way to forgiveness other than by the path of repentance and faith.” 
Is apostasy an unforgivable sin?
Apostacy describes someone who professed faith in Jesus at one time and may have reformed their life to a certain degree, attended church, and in many ways behaved and spoke like a Christian.
However, then they abandoned their relationship with God and renounced their faith. Apostates have different motives for rejecting Jesus, the gospel, the Bible, and salvation.
Theologian Sinclair Ferguson writes, “Yes, apostasy happens. Sometimes the catalyst is flagrant sin. The pain of conviction and repentance is refused, and the only alternative to it is wholesale rejection of Christ.”
He continues, “But sometimes the catalyst is a thorn growing quietly in the heart, an indifference to the way of the Cross, a drifting that is not reversed by the knowledge of biblical warnings.” 
According to some, like those who hold to Reformed or Calvinistic theology (e.g., Ferguson), such a person was never truly saved in the first place but only had the appearance of it. According to others who favor Arminian theology, such a person could have been a genuine believer but lost their salvation.
Also, see What Does the Holy Spirit Feel Like? to learn more.
 Matthew by D.A. Carson. EBC. p . 291.
 The Gospel According to Matthew by R.T. France. NICOT. p. 483.
 Carson. p. 291-292.
 The Gospel According to Matthew by Leon Morris. PNTC. p. 319.
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