Blasphemy against the Spirit

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind.' (Mar 3:20–21)

Two studies ago we saw that one of the truths Mark's Gospel reveals is how popular Jesus was with the Jewish people. This passage further illustrates that fact. Such a large crowd had gathered at the house he was visiting that neither he nor his disciples had been able to eat: our Lord was being mobbed by the crowd as celebrities are mobbed today.

V21 says: 'When his family heard about this…' People were coming to Jesus and then going away and telling others what he was doing. In this way news about him had spread through the whole region of Galilee (Mar 1:28); and had reached the ears of his family as well.

When his family heard the news they came to take charge of him because they thought he had taken leave of his senses. What they actually said was that he was out of his mind, which is not something we should say about God. But that was nothing compared to what the teachers of the law were saying.

Beelzebub

And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, 'He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.' (Mar 3:22)

That was terrible. Beelzebub is a Hebrew word which means lord of the flies. The Greek equivalent is Beelzeboul which means dung god or god of the dung heaps (flies frequent dung heaps). To say that Jesus was possessed by the lord of the flies was a vile insult. Beelzebub was also one of the names the Jews gave to Satan.

A strong man

So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: 'How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house.' (Mar 3:23–27)

Jesus said that Satan will not drive demons out of people. Demons are under Satan's authority and indwell them in order to control areas of their lives. If Satan drove them out he would be opposing himself and his kingdom (his rule over people's lives) would be weakened.

Satan will not give ground easily: Jesus described him as a strong man. Satan is a spirit being and is very powerful, but there is One who is more powerful than he. Only someone more powerful than Satan can release people from his control, and that person is the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said in Mat 12:28:

'But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.'

Every demon Jesus drove out was driven out by the Holy Spirit. That is why Jesus told the teachers of the law that they had blasphemed the Spirit of God. They had called the Holy Spirit 'the lord of the flies', which was blasphemy—blasphemy is acting irreverently towards, or speaking irreverently about, something that is sacred.

An eternal sin

'I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.'

He said this because they were saying, 'He has an evil spirit.' (Mar 3:28–30)

Jesus said that all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. I find that an amazing statement. You hear people misusing the names of Jesus and God almost daily; it's a common figure of speech for some people.

Jesus said that all such blasphemies will be forgiven them (providing they repent) but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come (Mat 12:32)—ie during our Lord's future thousand year reign on earth (Rev 20:1–10).

If you are looking for scriptures that teach the importance of the Holy Spirit, this is one of them.

God's grace

Surprisingly you don't hear people using the Holy Spirit's name (or title) irreverently. I think that's because of God's grace. If they did blaspheme the Holy Spirit they could never be saved, for that sin is even beyond the blood of Christ; it cannot be atoned for.

There are Christians who fear that before they were saved they may have blasphemed the Holy Spirit. Such fears can torment them and cause them great anguish. My own view is that such a thing is impossible.

God would not bring a person into a relationship with himself if they'd committed a sin that was unforgivable, because sin separates us from God: just one sin drove Adam and Eve from God's presence in the garden. So if a person is enjoying peace and fellowship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ, then all their sins have been forgiven, and they are saved.

A limit to God's patience

But if God normally prevents people from blaspheming his Spirit, why did he allow the teachers of the law to do it? I believe he allowed them to commit that sin because his patience with them had run out.

God had given the leaders of the Jews ample time to accept his Son. Not only had they refused to accept him, they were now looking for ways to kill him (Mar 3:6). So God removed his restraining hand from them and allowed their sinfulness to run its full course.

There is a limit to God's patience. The Bible says that God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built (1Pe 3:20). What was he waiting for? He was waiting for people to repent, for Noah was not only building an ark, he was also preaching righteousness (2Pe 2:5). But God didn't wait forever, and eventually sent a flood that destroyed them all.

Now is the day of salvation

Is God speaking to you as you read this study? Is he speaking to you about his Son, Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for your sins—the righteous for the unrighteous—to cleanse you from sin and to bring you to God (1Pe 3:18)? If he is, then don't resist his call any longer; thank him for what he's done for you and give your life to him today.

'In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation. (2Co 6:2)

Michael Graham
March 2003
Revised July 2010

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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