for It" 2009 part 4
What Is Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
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.
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.
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
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?
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.”
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…
βλάπτω (blas-) – I injure; harm
φήμη (-phēmiā) – Speech
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.
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
Misusing the name of God
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
Insulting or slandering God
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
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
Viewing yourself as equal or superior to God
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
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…
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
Matthew 12:32 (NLT)
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.”
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?”
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
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?”
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
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…
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
Mark 3:29-30 (NLT)
who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven…” He told them
this because they were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.”
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…
“Will not” be forgiven does not mean it “cannot” be forgiven
[Mark 3:28-29 (NLT)
tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone
who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven.”]
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
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
Acts 3:19 (NLT)
Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped
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.
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.
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.
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit prevents us from turning to Him in
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)
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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
~ from the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry
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.”
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)
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
May our prayer be the same as King David who wrote…
Psalm 19:13-14 (NLT)
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.