Old Testament believers (9)

We have been looking at salvation with reference to Old Testament believers. In this final study we are going to look at blasphemy against the Spirit.

'And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.' (Mat 12:31–32)

'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.' (Mar 3:28–29)

'And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.' (Luk 12:10)

In this series we've been examining some of the basic requirements for salvation—the things, the Bible says, a person must have, be and do in order to be saved. In this final part we are going to look at the one thing a person must not do.

An eternal sin

Jesus made it clear, in three of the Gospels, that blasphemy against the Spirit is an unforgivable sin. And as a person's salvation depends upon their sins being forgiven, anyone who blasphemes the Spirit cannot be saved.

In Mar 3:29 Jesus said that those who blaspheme the Spirit are guilty of an eternal sin. The Greek word used (aionios) means eternal, everlasting, forever. It's used in Rom 16:26 to describe the eternal existence of God. That means that those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven as long as God exists.

Jesus said that the words he spoke were not his own, they came from the Father who sent him (Joh 14:24). God has decreed that there is one sin even his Son's blood cannot atone for, and that is blasphemy against the Spirit. But why is it so? The Bible doesn't tell us, but God wouldn't do something without reason.

I believe that blasphemy against the Spirit is an unforgivable sin because of the importance of the Holy Spirit to our salvation. And that is not to detract from our Lord's death on the cross, which is the centre of our faith (1Co 2:2).

Jesus died so we can live; without his death there would be no salvation. But without the Holy Spirit we couldn't be saved either.

The ministry of the Spirit

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of guilt in regard to sin, particularly because people do not believe in him (Joh 16:8–9).

Our conscience tells us we've done wrong, but the Holy Spirit convicts us of our wrongs. He makes us feel guilty before God and shows us that we need a Saviour. He then gives us the faith to believe in Jesus. Salvation is a divine act; it's the moving of God upon a person by his Spirit.

At conversion the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us: we become temples of the Spirit (1Co 6:19). He then begins to transform us into the likeness of Christ (2Co 3:18). That transformation leads us to righteousness, righteousness to holiness, and holiness to eternal life (Rom 6:19,22), which is why Gal 6:8 says that it's from the Spirit we reap eternal life.

Let's look at the Holy Spirit's ministry in more detail:

And that is only a fraction of what the Holy Spirit does for us, in us and through us. Because of that the Father has said: 'People can blaspheme me, and I will forgive them; they can blaspheme my Son, and I will forgive them; but if they blaspheme my Spirit I will never forgive them.'

The Holy Spirit is the member of the Trinity moving on earth today. He is God in action, glorifying Jesus and bringing people to salvation.

Can Christians blaspheme the Spirit?

Can Christians blaspheme the Holy Spirit? I believe they can. A Christian is capable of committing any sin and I don't think our Lord would have warned his disciples about something that would be irrelevant to them. But at this point we should consider what blasphemy against the Spirit entails.

The Greek word translated 'blaspheme' in the Gospels, and elsewhere in the New Testament, is blasphemeo. It means to insult, to slander, to curse. It usually involves the spoken word. In Mat 12:32 Jesus said, 'Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.'

Is a Christian likely to speak a word against the Holy Spirit? Not if they live according to the Spirit (Gal 5:16). Paul said that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will say, 'Jesus be cursed (1Co 12:3).' In the same way, no one speaking by the Holy Spirit will blaspheme the Spirit. That is obvious.

However, there is another way in which Christians can blaspheme the Spirit. It concerns not what we say, but what we do.

Insulting the Spirit of grace

Heb 10:26–27 says that if we deliberately keep on sinning after we've received the knowledge of the truth—ie after we've been born again and know how God wants us to live—then no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

It goes on to say that those who do so have trampled the Son of God underfoot, they have treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and have insulted the Spirit of grace (v29).

You will remember that 'to blaspheme' means to insult. To deliberately keep on sinning while the Holy Spirit is trying to transform us into the likeness of Christ, is an insult to him and an affront to God. Those who do that make themselves enemies of God and will be consumed by the flames of hell.

But could this happen to Christians? Yes it could: the Letter to the Hebrews was written to Christians. There are some Christians who deliberately do wrong, reasoning to themselves that because God is a forgiving God, he will forgive them if they repent afterwards. They say, 'I know I shouldn't do this, but…. God will forgive me if I confess it to him (1Jo 1:9).'

But you cannot treat God like that; you cannot use his mercy and forgiveness as a licence to sin. He will only tolerate that sort of behaviour for so long. Such people are insulting the Spirit of grace—which is blasphemy.

The permanence of hell

I said earlier that the Greek word aionios is used in the New Testament to describe the eternal nature of God. It is also used to describe eternal life and eternal punishment (Mat 25:46). That means that those who go to hell will suffer for as long as God exists. I find that the most shocking truth in the Bible.

No wonder Jesus told us to fear him who has the power to throw us into hell (Luk 12:4–5), and to be radical with the things that cause us to sin, lest we suffer the worm that will not die and the fire that will not be quenched (Mar 9:43–48).

Some Christians believe that if, at some stage in their life, they have received Jesus Christ as their saviour and Lord, they are eternally secure and will dwell with him forever. I've endeavoured, through the studies in this series, to show that salvation is not as simple as that.

Ignorance is no defence in law and will be no defence on the Day of Judgement. It is better to find out what God requires of us now, and live our lives accordingly, than to remain in ignorance and find ourselves in hell.

I tell you there will be no way out; there will be no second chance; there is no purgatory. Hell will last as long as heaven; eternal punishment as long as eternal life.

Read the Bible for yourself

On one occasion Jesus said, 'You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures… (Mat 22:29)'. He also said, 'Have you never read in the Scriptures… (Mat 21:42)?' Do we read the Bible ourselves or do we rely on others to tell us what it says? They could be wrong.

The Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians because, even though they received Paul's message with eagerness, they examined the Scriptures daily to see if what he was saying was true (Act 17:11). The Bible is God's handbook for salvation; it shows us how to be saved. Read it for yourself, study it, believe it and obey it. God has given us his Spirit so we can do that.

Final comment

I've illustrated this series with examples of Old Testament believers who demonstrated some of the requirements necessary for salvation. Are there examples of Old Testament believers who blasphemed the Holy Spirit? No, there are not. Let's hope that will also be the case with New Testament believers.

Lord, we need your grace in our lives.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all (2Co 13:14). Amen.

Michael Graham
September 2010

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

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