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Christian Biblical Studies
BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE SPIRIT
All Scripture references are to the New International Version UK edition unless stated otherwise.
Question: Matthew 12: 31, 32:
31 And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 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.
What does Jesus mean by ‘blasphemy against the Spirit’? Why can it not be forgiven?
Answer: Many conscientious Christians experience great fears and distress, and think they have committed or may accidentally commit this unpardonable ‘blasphemy’. Such fears are groundless, and result from a misunderstanding of the Scripture texts. The word blaspheme in this instance means to viciously and wilfully insult God’s power and character, as these are revealed through His Word and works.
The Case of the Pharisees
Just prior to our Lord’s warning against blasphemy, He healed a demon-possessed blind mute (Matthew 12: 22). The people were amazed (v. 23) and wondered if Jesus could be the Messiah. The Pharisees asserted He had performed this miracle with help from Satan (v. 28), to which Jesus replied, ‘I drive out demons by the Spirit of God’. He rebuked them for maliciously and consciously ascribing His good deed to an evil source.
In ignorance one might blaspheme God by teaching, for example, that He will eternally torment the unrepentant in hell, which impugns His character; or that Jesus was just like any other man; or that He lied when He claimed to have had a pre-human existence with the Father. Such ‘blasphemies’ can be forgiven on one’s being enlightened and repenting of the error. How so? Because ignorance in thought and action is largely a result of the Adamic fall, which Christ’s ransom-sacrifice offsets.
The vilification against Jesus by the Pharisees sprang from their wicked hearts. The Pharisees were not confused, they could not plead ignorance – they were bitterly resentful of Him and, as they demonstrated later, wished Him dead. This was no accidental sin from which Jesus could absolve them. They had reviled the obvious power of God at work through Him.
‘Mixed’ and ‘Wilful’ Sins
Generally speaking, some sins are mixed, meaning there is a degree of wilfulness involved as well as a degree of fleshly weakness or ignorance. We are all guilty of such sins at one time or another; usually we are aware of it. Like the man who is tempted to steal a wallet: his being tempted may not be his fault – he is not perfect – but his stealing the wallet is a fact, and he must be punished for that fact. So with the mixed sins we commit as Christians: the wilful bit cannot simply be forgiven or excused in the sense that – in the interests of Divine justice – it requires disciplinary measures, ‘stripes’, often in some form of chastisement (Luke 12: 47, 48). However, for the Christian, the Lord’s chastening is a demonstration of His love and care, as a father for a child (Hebrews 12: 4-11).
Copyright March 2012 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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