|Vol. 15 No. 6 June 2013||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
The Verses and Related Passages
As they went out, behold, they brought to him a dumb man possessed with a devil. And when the devil was cast out, the dumb spake: and the multitudes marvelled, saying, It was never so seen in Israel. But the Pharisees said, He casteth out devils through the prince of the devils. (Matthew 9:32-34)
The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? (Matthew 10:24-25)
Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom is come upon you. Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house. He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. 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. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come. Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned. (Matthew 12:22-37; cf. Mark 3:22-30; Luke 11:14-26)
…Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin. (Romans 4:6-7)
Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit. For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, And have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame. (Hebrews 6:1-6)
For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:26-31)
Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converted the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (James 5:14-20)
If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death. We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not; but he that is begotten of God keepeth himself, and that wicked one toucheth him not. (1 John 5:16-18)
What Does It All Mean?
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, sinning against the Spirit and the unpardonable sin are specifically different, but fundamentally the same. Matthew 9:32-34; 12:22-37 and the companion accounts in Mark and Luke chronicle blasphemy against the Holy Spirit during the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. The Lord also forewarned His apostles that the miracles manifested through them would also be attributed to Beelzebub (Matthew 10:24-25). Therefore, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit first occurred during the ministry of Jesus Christ and His apostles.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was attributing the miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit, of which the blasphemers were eyewitnesses, to Satan. Miracles wrought by the Holy Spirit, whether by Jesus Christ, His apostles, Cornelius (and his friends and household in Acts 10-11) or those upon whom the apostles laid their hands, were ample proof to all beholders that God was with them and their words (Mark 16:20; John 20:30-31; Hebrews 2:3-4). To attribute the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit to Satan, whether manifested through Christ, the apostles or others, was a denial of undeniable evidence.
Why, then, can blasphemy against the Son of God (Jesus) be forgiven while blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven? Of the resources with which the Godhead could convince men of the scheme for their eternal redemption, Jesus Christ (in person, on earth) was central to that redemption and spokesman for the Godhead. However, the Holy Spirit represented the Godhead’s final Visitor to earthly habitations to call men to redemption. Rejecting the Holy Spirit, therefore, meant rejecting every Divine effort (including Jesus Christ) and the Godhead’s last attempt to save fallen men. As long as one continues to oppose the Holy Spirit (by attributing His miracles to the devil), and thereby also opposing God Himself, His Word and Jesus Christ, there is no hope of salvation for him.
One may ask, “Can souls today blaspheme the Holy Spirit?” The Holy Spirit’s miraculous ministry is preserved in Scripture and produces the same effect on honest hearts today (John 20:30-31). Therefore, in essence, rebellious souls who attribute the Spirit’s miraculous manifestations to Satan (or deny them entirely) can be guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. It is sure that whoever speaks evil of the Holy Spirit (attributing His work to Satan or discounting that ministry completely) today rejects God, His Word, Jesus Christ and the Godhead’s final persuasion to accept eternal redemption. In such a state of perpetual resistance of the Spirit, there is no hope for the lost.
To sin against the Holy Spirit is to refuse to do what the Holy Spirit commands, or to go beyond his commands, just as to sin against Jesus or against God was to sin against their commands. The Holy Spirit came last and gave the final sanction to the laws of God. To set them aside then was to leave nothing more to move the man. The sin against the Holy Spirit, I believe, is to persistently and finally reject his teaching and refuse his testimony. …To blaspheme the Holy Ghost is to speak reproachfully against the Spirit and its teachings, or authority. To sin against the Holy Spirit is to refuse and reject or disregard his teaching. …There are …many ways of sinning against the Holy Spirit… If we will submit to all the laws and teachings of the Spirit, both in becoming Christians and in living Christians, we need never be uneasy about committing the sin against the Holy Spirit; but if we put the doctrines and commandments of men instead of the commands of God or in any way reject or refuse the commands of God as given by the Spirit in the word of truth, we may then well be afraid. Our hope of salvation here or in the world to come is to be guided in all things by the words of the Spirit of God, the Spirit of truth. (Lipscomb and Sewell 319)
The man who has actually committed this sin never feels any alarm about it. …When a man today reaches the comprehensive state of mind that he is going to reject Jesus over any and all evidence, he has gone into the house, shut and locked the door and thrown away the key. God cannot reach him. (Sweeney 141, 143)
…to blaspheme the work of the Holy Spirit, when his testimony was offered to men in the completion of God’s redemptive plan, would constitute a final rejection of all divine overtures, and would have no clemency in this last dispensation of time, and no mitigation in eternity. (Wallace 110)
Brother Wallace also sagely linked the ‘damnation’ of Mark 16:16 upon unbelievers to the ‘damnation’ of those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit. The effect is the same in both instances; it is in essence the same.
As noted in the quotations above, no one fearfully conscious about blaspheming the Holy Spirit is guilty of this sin. He may, though, be guilty of other sins, for which if he does not repent they will ultimately result in spiritual death (Romans 6:23). If one speaks against the Spirit or refuses to comply with the Holy Spirit through disregard for the miraculously delivered and confirmed Word, he should fear.
The unpardonable aspect of blaspheming or sinning against the Holy Spirit is the impenitent nature of the sin. God cannot forgive sin for which men determine not to repent. Unpardonable sins or sins unto death for which no one may successfully pray (1 John 5:16-18) are sins for which sinners have not repented. God cannot forgive sin for which men will not repent. God does not impute sin to those who have covered their sins (Romans 4:6-7) in the divinely prescribed manner (submission to the Author of eternal salvation, Hebrews 5:8-9). The James 5:14-20 context addresses prayer for sinners in the same breath in which it commends redeeming fallen brethren from their sins. No one can be saved in spite of willful sin; repentance must be forthcoming.
The Hebrews epistle was penned to spiritually strengthen Jewish Christians who were in danger of apostasy. The Hebrews 6 statement, “…it is impossible… If they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance…,” and the similar record in Hebrews 10, “…if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation…,” refer to the same effect of blaspheming or sinning against the Holy Spirit and the unpardonable sin or sin unto death. The common factor, again, is the unwillingness of the sinner to repent. God cannot forgive sin for which one is unwilling to repent. Impenitent souls are hopelessly lost as long as they will to resist redemption.
In blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, unpardonable sins and the feared Jewish apostasy, God has not decreed that certain souls cannot repent and be saved. Souls involved in sin simply cannot be saved in their persistent failure to repent. Two factors are especially emphasized in the passages relative to these lamentable conditions: (1) There is no additional source to which one can appeal beyond the final redemptive effort of the Holy Spirit. In the case of the Jewish Christians it is said there is no sacrifice for sins beyond Christ through whom they could be saved, were they to reject the Son of God. (2) One can so reject God’s redemptive plan so as to be self-blinded from the truth, a condition from which it may be impossible to recover.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron…” (1 Timothy 4:1-2 emphasis added).
…they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned [judged, ASV] who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 emphasis added).
As in the days of Christ and the apostles, the only unpardonable sins are those for which one refuses to repent. There is, though, imminent danger in rejecting the Godhead’s call to redemption. One may not live long enough to have a future opportunity to comply with God’s plan of salvation (James 4:13-14) or repeated repudiation of God’s plan for the eternal habitation of one’s soul may harden the heart (sear the conscience) so that it is impossible to respond to the Divine invitation.
The distinction between sins in the 1 John 5:16-18 context does not concern the types of sins themselves. Both the Catholic theology of “venial” versus “mortal” sins and a similar doctrine espoused by some brethren are false, lacking any biblical support. Whether it be big “F” fellowship versus little “f” fellowship or “situation ethics,” there is no scriptural support for persisting in any type of sin (Romans 6:1). All types of sin, not repented of, will result in spiritual (eternal) separation from God (Romans 6:23).
The distinction in 1 John 5:16-18 is between types of sinners (not sins). “…whosoever is born of God sinneth not…” Though both sinners and saints commit sin and may do some good deeds, the sinner majors in sin and the saint majors in righteousness. The sinner is impenitent; the saint is penitent. The sinner’s life is one of impenitent sin with perhaps occasions of good deeds, whereas the saint’s life is one of righteousness with moments of sin for which he repents. Prayers for the former are fruitless; prayers for the latter are encouraged (James 5:14-20; 1 John 5:16-18).
No sin is safe, but blaspheming or sin against the Holy Spirit is especially dangerous because of the wretched state into which the sinner places himself. Though men may turn from their sins, it is less likely those whose consciences are seared will ever repent; they have put themselves beyond the reach of a benevolent God. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
Lipscomb, David, and E.G. Sewell. Questions Answered by Lipscomb and Sewell. M.C. Kurfees, ed. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1969.
Sweeney, Z.T. The Spirit and the Word. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, n.d.
Wallace, Foy E., Jr. The Mission and Medium of the Holy Spirit. Nashville: Foy E. Wallace, Jr. Publications, 1967.