Q1. What is blasphemy agains the Holy Spirit, and why won’t it be forgiven?
This is a common question people ask when they come across the following verses:
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but 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.”
If we look at the passage that these verses come from, we find that Jesus is saying this in response to some Pharisees stating that he is performing exorcisms by Satan’s power. This context is important to help us understand what Jesus means here.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit isn’t a particular form of words, or an expression that you say. It isn’t something you might say or think in a time of depression, or sadness or anger. Its not something you might do by accident, or in a moment of passion, and suddenly find yourself in the ‘unforgiven’ category.
Jesus is talking about an attitude, a determined position, where someone who can see recognise the good work of God (the agent being the Holy Spirit), and in then attributes that obvious good to Satan, or evil of some kind.
In the context of this passage, these Pharisees have seen and acknowledged that a person has been freed from demonic influence/possession and healed of blindness and muteness. This is an obvious good, and an obvious work of God, particularly for people who know, study and proclaim their adherence to what we call the Old Testament today.
And in spite of their biblical and spiritual knowledge, and their eyewitness testimony to what has happened, they have decided to reject the Spirit’s action here and instead attribute it to Satan. And Jesus says that this won’t be forgiven.
We aren’t talking about your average non-believer who is speaking or thinking or acting in ignorance. There are plenty of atheists who have said God is evil, who have repented and come to faith in Jesus.
We aren’t talking about people who see miraculous things, but don’t understand them, or have trouble accepting them, or are even unsure if what they are seeing is a good thing.
We aren’t even talking about a believer who mistakenly, ignorantly or misguidedly works against God – after all, Paul persecuted the church and was forgiven when he repented.
What we are talking about here is something a bit stronger.
We are talking about people who, from a position of knowledge and personal responsibility, have deliberately decided to attribute the work of God to Satan – to justify rejecting what God has revealed to them. Which leads to the reason why it won’t be forgiven – it takes a certain type of hardening of the heart against God to actually do this, and I don’t think someone in this position is likely to repent. Hence it won’t be forgiven.
There are many more questions that may arise from this, and I welcome follow on questions, but this, in a nutshell, is what this passage means when Jesus talks about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.