"You Asked for It" 2009 part 4
What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 30, 2009

Every summer since Sunrise began, we have spent the month of August dealing specifically with requests that you have made. And over the years we’ve received some pretty interesting requests. So far this year, we’ve talked about spiritual warfare, angels, and the family of Jesus. And in past years, we’ve addressed topics ranging from the Trinity to unanswered prayer to predestination to princesses of the Bible.

And every once in a while, we get a real doozy. And such is our topic today: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

The reason this is such a doozy is that nobody seems to agree on what it is. Try to do a little research in this area, and you’re going to get a whole array of opinions about what blasphemy is. Trust me, I read dozens of them over the past week or so.

And the real confusion that people seem to have about blasphemy comes down to that passage that Jen just read for us… where Jesus talked about how blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

So what’s up with that? I mean, we love to talk about the forgiveness of God that is offered to every person, no matter what they’ve done. We use examples of people from the Bible like Moses, who was a murderer and is now considered a hero of the faith. Or like David, who had an affair with a married woman and then conspired to have her husband killed in battle. Or like Peter, a coward who denied he even knew who Jesus was.

These are the stories we love to tell. And message is clear; no matter what you’ve done, no matter what secrets lie in your past, God can and will forgive you. Even when you feel like no one could possibly love you or accept you, Jesus loves you and accepts you, and He died so that you could be forgiven. That’s the message we proclaim. That’s the message we believe.

So what’s this deal here about a sin that won’t be forgiven? What’s that all about? Well, that’s the question we’re going to explore here this morning. So let’s first of all try to understand what blasphemy is, and we’ll get around to talking about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Okay?

Understanding Blasphemy:

1.    There are different kinds of blasphemy

Going to what Jesus said…

Mark 3:28-29 (NLT)
“I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.”

So Jesus is saying, “All blasphemy can be forgiven… no matter what form it takes.” And then He talks about one specific kind of blasphemy. Which is the kind of blasphemy that people struggle to understand. And we’re going to get to that.

But what other kinds are there? Well, the Bible never gives a clear definition of what blasphemy is. But we can get a pretty good idea by looking at the word itself. The word “blasphemy” comes from a Greek word…

βλασφημέω (blasphēmiā)
βλάπτω (blas-) – I injure; harm
φήμη (-phēmiā) – Speech

Which basically means that you injure or harm the reputation of someone else, primarily through speech, but it can be extended to describe any display of vulgar irreverence or mockery toward someone who actually deserves to be praised and exalted and respected.

Most often, you hear the term used in reference to what someone says about God, so from that perspective, here are a few examples of what we understand to be blasphemous…

Blasphemy includes…

•    Misusing the name of God

For the Jews, this was about misusing the Hebrew name of God, “YHWH”. For us, it’s about using the name of Jesus, or the or even the titles “God” or “Lord” or “Christ” as swear words. Or maybe not using them as profanity, but just using them flippantly… meaninglessly.

In other words, you can equate this kind of blasphemy with the third of the Ten Commandments… Do not misuse the name of God, or don’t take His name in vain.

So why is this important? Because it’s a blatant show of disrespect to misuse someone’s name. How many of you when you were at school on the playground had your name misused? How many not-so-complimentary rhymes were the other students able to make with your name?

For me, I was okay with “Handsome Hanson”… in fact, I may have started that one myself. But I had some other nicknames that I didn’t like so much and I’m not about to share them with you this morning. ☺

And this is a big problem that I see on the Internet… it’s become a breeding ground for misusing the name of God. Take Facebook, for example. I use Facebook… I’m not against Facebook. But you just have to read a few walls or check out the comments under a few pictures to discover how widespread the misuse of God’s name has become.

Well, God is God, and His name and His titles should be treated with respect and with reverence… They certainly shouldn’t be used as expressions of anger or surprise. And they shouldn’t be used just as meaningless chatter.

And this might sound legalistic, but to me, I think even using the abbreviation OMG is showing disrespect toward God. But then, I’m someone who always uses a capital “H” when I use words like “Him” or “His” in reference to God.

So when is it appropriate to use the name of God? When you are speaking to Him or about Him. Anything else is misusing His name, and is a one form of blasphemy.

•    Insulting or slandering God

This is often done by someone who is angry at God. Maybe something terrible has happened in their lives, they blame God, and so they let loose and hurl insults at Him.

I think a lot of Atheists would be guilty of this kind of slander. Back in 2006, a group of Atheists issued what they called the “Blasphemy Challenge” urging people to make a video of themselves committing blasphemy and upload it to YouTube. And they had hundreds, perhaps thousands of responses.

And Atheists and others often do this… They accuse God, if He even exists, of being an evil, malicious God who is guilty for all kinds of crimes against humanity. So I think that may be a form of blasphemy.

•    Elevating other “gods” to be equal or superior to the one true God

Whether it’s material possessions that you’re so attached that they prevent you from obeying God, or that recreation that distracts you from honouring God, or that busyness that prevents you from worshipping God, or that career that occupies all your time so you don’t have time to talk with God… whatever it is, is there’s something in your life that has risen to the status of being a “god” for you? Something that, given the choice, you would choose it over Him?

That can be a form of blasphemy because of how it disrespects and belittles God. And connected to that, there’s another form of blasphemy I want to talk about…

•    Viewing yourself as equal or superior to God

This is when you disregard what God wants you to do, the way He wants you to live, because you think you know better and His ways are too old fashioned. It’s diminishing Him by elevating yourself. And you may not do it on purpose… you may not even be aware you’re doing it… but you still do it.

People who didn’t understand who Jesus was accused Him of this kind of blasphemy. Remember one time when Jesus told someone that their sins were forgiven, and the religious leaders heard Him? What did they say?

Luke 5:21 (NLT)
But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”

You know, there’s a guy in the New Testament who actually did come to think of himself as a god, and he was struck dead because of it. Well, just so you know, I would prefer that not happen to you.

Okay, so the common tie between these different kinds of blasphemy is that they degrade and belittle God… whether it be the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit. They diminish Him, His holiness, His righteousness, His purity, His authority.

And any form of blasphemy is evil and needs to be confesses to God and forgiven by God. But there’s one form of blasphemy that Jesus singles out as one that will not be forgiven…

2.    Only blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven

Jesus said it this way…

Mark 3:29 (NLT)
“…Anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.”

In a parallel passage over in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said it this way…

Matthew 12:32 (NLT)
“Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.”

So Jesus basically says, “You can say whatever you want about Me… you can slander Me, you can insult Me, you can accuse Me of all kinds of evil… you can be forgiven for all of that. But you’d better watch it when you talk about the Holy Spirit.”

So what does this mean? What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Well, this is where the confusion begins. Just Google it, and you’re going to get a whole bunch of different opinions. Ask around, and most people will just give you a blank stare. And the people who do answer will often say something completely incoherent, or will contradict what the next person will say.

This week while we were on vacation in New Brunswick, I got together with a good friend of mine… actually, one of my best friends from when I was a teenager and young adult… and I asked him what he thought blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is. And understand, this friend of mine has been a Christian for probably 25 years, he’s served on the church board… He’s a devoted Christ-follower and someone I respect… and this was his answer:

“Good question… what is it?”

And can I be honest with you? In the process of preparing for this message this morning, my own understanding of it has changed. I thought I knew what it was, but I had never really researched it before and I hadn’t read what other people had written and more importantly, I hadn’t studied the context of what Jesus said. So before I tell you what I now understand blasphemy of the Holy Spirit to be, let’s take a look at that context. Jen already read it for us from the book of Mark, so let’s look at the same story from the version in Matthew… This is what happened leading up to Jesus’ warning against blasphemy of the Holy Spirit…

Matthew 12:22-24 (NLT)
Then a demon-possessed man, who was blind and couldn’t speak, was brought to Jesus. He healed the man so that he could both speak and see. The crowd was amazed and asked, “Could it be that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah?”
But when the Pharisees heard about the miracle, they said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.”

And it’s to these Pharisees that Jesus issues His warning about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. So what were these Pharisees doing that was so wrong? They were seeing the miracles of Jesus… seeing the sick healed, seeing the blind receive sight, seeing the possessed set free… seeing all of these spectacular, powerful miracles. But instead of recognizing that the power to perform those miracles came through the Holy Spirit, they said He was tapping into an evil, demonic power. So, from that context, this is what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is…

3.    Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is accusing the Holy Spirit of being evil

And you really see this when you look at the passage from Mark, verses 29-30…

Mark 3:29-30 (NLT)
“…Anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven…” He told them this because they were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.”

From the context… which is the best way to understand any passage in the Bible… blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is basically accusing the Holy Spirit of being evil. In fact, Isaiah warned of this 400 years earlier when he said…

Isaiah 5:20 (NLT)
What sorrow for those who say that evil is good and good is evil, that dark is light and light is dark, that bitter is sweet and sweet is bitter.

So calling the Holy Spirit evil is obviously a bad thing to do. But what makes it so unforgivable? I mean, isn’t God in the forgiving business? Well, I want you to notice that Jesus says blasphemy of the Holy Spirit “will not” be forgiven. And…

4.    “Will not” be forgiven does not mean it “cannot” be forgiven

[Mark 3:28-29 (NLT)
“I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.”]

Jesus says all blapshemy can be forgiven, but there’s one blasphemy that won’t be forgiven – blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. And I think this is a very important distinction. Because I don’t think anything we could say or do could ever remove us from the love of God or preclude His desire to extend His forgiveness to us. It’s my opinion that even blasphemy of the Holy Spirit can be forgiven. But for some reason it won’t be.

But what reason could that possibly be? Well, let’s try to work this through. Just talking about sin in general, what do you need to do to receive the forgiveness of God? I mean, His forgiveness is always offered… but what needs to happen before you receive it?

Acts 3:19 (NLT)
Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away.

What’s the keyword here? What do you need to do in order to be forgiven? You need to repent. In fact, there are lots of sins that will not be forgiven. Not because God is unable or unwilling to forgive them, but because the person who committed the sins will not repent.

So what does it mean to repent? Does it just mean that you say “I’m sorry”? No, you have to mean it. Literally, the word “repent” means to change direction. So when you repent, you don’t just say you’re sorry and then keep right on doing it; you change your direction.

And if you truly repent for any sin, I believe you can and will experience the forgiveness of God. Which means, if blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, it must be something that prevents that person from repenting.

5.    Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit prevents us from turning to Him in repentance

It’s not God saying, “I’m not going to forgive you.” It’s us saying, “I’m not going to repent and receive that forgiveness.” It’s us putting ourselves in the position where we cannot or will not repent and therefore will not be forgiven. After all, if we truly believe the Holy Spirit is evil, why would we ever turn to Him?

And see if you can follow this: God the Father has already sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. So if you blaspheme the Father, then you’re doing something evil but you are not cutting off the source of salvation. Jesus the Son has already served as the sacrifice to pay the penalty for your sinfulness. So if you blaspheme Jesus, you’re doing something evil, but you’re not cutting off the source of salvation. But it’s the Holy Spirit who works in our lives today, convincing us of the sin in our lives and of our need for God… it’s the Holy Spirit who brings us to the point of repentance… And when we do repent, it’s the Holy Spirit who applies the work of salvation in our lives. So if you blaspheme the Holy Spirit, you are rejecting the one who can bring you to repentance and therefore eliminating the only source of salvation.

Titus 3:5 (NLT)
…He saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.

That’s why blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven… because you’ve cut yourself off from the One through Whom that forgiveness is given. That’s why it’s so dangerous. That’s why it will not be forgiven.

And I’ve got to tell you, it’s very hard to get to this point. A lot of people… not just a few, but a lot of people… worry that maybe they’ve committed this kind of sin. But I don’t think it’s as easy as they think to commit that sin.

Even the people that Jesus was talking to that day… the religious leaders… He wasn’t necessarily telling them that they had committed that sin. He could have merely been warning them that they were treading on dangerous ground. Because we know that there were Pharisees… including some who may have been there with Jesus that day… who eventually came around and became Christ-followers themselves.

And we’ve already mentioned the apostle Paul. Here’s someone who hunted down Christians. I’m sure that He said all kinds of nasty things about Christians and about Jesus Himself, and would have accused Jesus of tapping into evil or demonic powers to perform His miracles.

But is there any doubt that Paul became a great champion of the Faith? That he was completely forgiven by God and empowered by the Holy Spirit?

No, in order to commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, I think you’ve really got to believe that Holy Spirit exists… which means not even an atheist can commit it… you’ve got to know what you’re saying… so it’s not going to happen by accident or be done by people who are just uniformed… you’ve got to really believe that He is evil… so people just kind of playing around trying to insult God, like a rebellious teenager sitting in their room aren’t going to be able to do it… and it really has to be malicious… an expression of hatred or spite to the core of their being. Jesus issued His warning to people in a position of authority or influence over others, so perhaps that plays a factor – after all, the Bible does warn that teachers will be judged more harshly than others.

Plus, I expect it has to be done over a period of time… not a one time thing… where you continually reject the Holy Spirit until you’ve completely purged Him from having any influence in your life. Going back to that passage from Mark…

Mark 3:30 (NLT)
…They were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.”
– imperfect tense, implying it was continual; ongoing

It’s not that “they said”… it’s that “they were saying.” It was an ongoing thing. And you see that in the Bible, where Jesus was repeatedly accused of tapping into demonic powers.

So all those people who lie awake at night worrying that they may have committed this blasphemy that will never be forgiven, I don’t think they really have to worry. They may have done or said things that do need to be confessed and forgiven, but I sincerely doubt that they would be beyond forgiveness.

“If you are worried that you may have committed the sin and can't be forgiven, then don't be concerned. If you are worrying about it, then you haven't committed it. If you are worried about it, then that is a sign that you have not committed it. If you had, you wouldn't be concerned.”
~ from the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry

So the words we say are important. The words we say about God, but really all the words we say are important. I don’t expect any of you have the intention to go out and blaspheme the Holy Spirit… at least, I hope you don’t… but we do all take part in conversations everyday. And the words we say are important.

Let me show you something… after Jesus gave this warning about blasphemy, He went on to give a more general word of caution…

Matthew 12:36 (NLT)
“And I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak.”

The words we say are important. Words can cut deeply. Words can tear down, words can build up. Even the words… or perhaps especially the words… you use about God are important.

So watch what you say. And I’m not just talking about profanity. I’m talking about the meaningless, flippant ways we refer to God, I’m talking about the disrespectful ways we gossip about each other, I’m talking about controlling your tongues and only saying things that are positive and beneficial.

Ephesians 4:29 (NLT)
Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.

May our prayer be the same as King David who wrote…

Psalm 19:13-14 (NLT)
Keep your servant from deliberate sins! Don’t let them control me. Then I will be free of guilt and innocent of great sin. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.



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