Old Testament believers (9)

'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 12:31–2)

'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 3:28–9)

'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 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.

An eternal sin

Jesus made it clear, in three of the Gospels (see opening texts), that blasphemy against the Spirit is a sin that will not be forgiven. And as salvation comes through the forgiveness of sins (Luk 1:76–7), anyone who commits that sin will not be saved.

Jesus said it's an eternal sin (Mar 3:29). The Greek word used (aionios) means eternal, everlasting, forever. The same word is used in Rom 16:26 to describe God. That means that those who blaspheme the Spirit will not be forgiven as long as God exists. Why is that? We are not told, but there will be a reason.

I believe that blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven 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. Jesus died so our sins could be forgiven (Mat 26:27–8), but without the Spirit we couldn't be saved either.

The ministry of the Spirit

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin (Joh 16:8). 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 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 in 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): we reap eternal life from the Spirit (Gal 6:8).

Let's look at some other aspects of the Spirit's ministry:

And that is not all the Spirit does in us, through us and for 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?

The Greek word translated 'blaspheme' in the New Testament is blasphemeo. It means to insult, to slander, to curse. It involves the spoken word. 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 (Mat 12:32).'

In Matthew and Mark's Gospels, Jesus made his statements about blasphemy against the Spirit after unbelieving Pharisees and teachers of the Law had accused him of driving out demons by Beelzebub (another name for Satan: Mat 12:22–4; Mar 3:22), when he always drove them out by the Spirit of God (Mat 12:28).

That was an insult to the Holy Spirit and made it impossible for them to be saved. But can a Christian blaspheme the Spirit? Yes, they can. A Christian can commit any sin: we still have a sinful nature and free will.

Are we likely to speak against the Spirit? Not if we live according to the Spirit (Gal 5:16). Paul wrote 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 Spirit will blaspheme the Spirit. However, there is another way in which Christians can blaspheme the Spirit: it concerns what we do.

Insulting the Spirit of grace

Heb 10:26–7 says that if we deliberately keep on sinning after we've received the knowledge of the truth (after we've been born again and know how God wants us to live), 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 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 so make themselves enemies of God and will be consumed by the flames of hell.

Could a Christian do that? Yes, they could. 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 behaviour 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 existence 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 9:43–8).

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 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.

This life is not a rehearsal, it's the performance. If we don't get it right this time, that is it. Hell will last as long as heaven; eternal punishment as long as eternal life.

Read the Bible 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 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 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) now, and forever. Amen.

Michael Graham
September 2010
Revised October 2018

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

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