Sunday, September 10, 2017

What Is Blaspheming the Holy Spirit?

In Mark 3 and Matthew 12 are passages where Jesus talked about blaspheming the Spirit as an unforgivable sin. I never really understood these verses because they seemed to contradict the Bible in other places where it talks about the sufficiency of Christ's sacrifice for our sins:

"For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit." - 1 Peter 3:18, NIV 

"For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified." - Hebrews 10:14, Holman

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." - John 3:16-17 

These are beautiful verses: Jesus Christ's death on the cross covers and forgives our sins - once for all time - for those who receive it by faith. That's what the Bible teaches. So what is this unforgivable sin, and why is it not clear what it is? Honestly I have been ignoring those verses because they just didn't make sense to me.

Well, I started watching a new video from Jonathan Kleck this week. He began by warning the audience about attributing insights in his videos to the work of Satan. Apparently someone had left a comment on a video saying Kleck's interpretation was from Satan. By Kleck's reasoning, since his interpretations were really from the Holy Spirit, attributing them to Satan was blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Therefore this commenter was irredeemably consigned to hell. Kleck's statement so appalled me that I shut off the video and, after praying about it, left this comment:

"Jonathan, why don't you let God condemn people to hell for not believing in his Son Jesus Christ, rather than you condemn people to hell for not believing you and attributing it to Satan." 

Kleck replied, "I'm trying to stop others from making his mistake."

Okay, I think he genuinely believes that. Kleck believes that if he says, for instance, the Vatican looks like the head of a snake, and someone comes along and replies, "Oh, what you said is satanic," then that person committed the unforgivable sin and will go to hell no matter what - based on the verses about blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

The next morning, blaspheming the Holy Spirit again appeared in a post on my friend James' blog. I took it as a confirmation that the Lord wanted me to look closely at it. So my wife and I read and discussed it and both came to the same conclusion. I will try to explain it here, though please bear with all the detail. This is not something I can explain in a cursory way.

When I encounter difficult verses like these, I tend to set them aside until God gives me more insight into how they fit in. God's truth, while it may be multi-faceted, does not contradict itself. His word in the Scriptures never changes. All of it will be fulfilled. This is why we should study the Bible as a whole, using Scripture to interpret Scripture under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to arrive at the truth. Otherwise we risk taking a verse out of context, assigning a meaning that contradicts the rest of Scripture and getting into error.

The Bible is like a complex tapestry with many thousands of colored threads woven together to form a magnificent picture of the truth of God. Each thread conveys part of the picture. But it must be woven perfectly with the other threads, otherwise it becomes a snag that that hangs out and distracts. If pulled too hard, it can unravel the picture.

Here is the full passage in Matthew 12:

"Then some people brought him a man controlled by demons who was blind and mute; and Yeshua [Jesus] healed him, so that he could both speak and see. The crowds were astounded and asked, 'This couldn't be the Son of David, could it?' But when the Pharisees heard of it, they said, 'It is only by Ba`al-Zibbul' -- the ruler of the demons -- 'that this man drives out demons.' However, knowing what they were thinking, Yeshua said to them, 'Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not survive. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself; so how can his kingdom survive? Besides, if I drive out demons by Ba`al-Zibbul, by whom do your people drive them out? So, they will be your judges! But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you! Or again, how can someone break into a strong man's house and make off with his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? After that he can ransack his house. Those who are not with me are against me, and those who do not gather with me are scattering. Because of this, I tell you that people will be forgiven any sin and blasphemy, but blaspheming the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. One can say something against the Son of Man and be forgiven; but whoever keeps on speaking against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, neither in the present age nor in the age to come. If you make a tree good, its fruit will be good; and if you make a tree bad, its fruit will be bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. You snakes! How can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what overflows from the heart. The good person brings forth good things from his store of good, and the evil person brings forth evil things from his store of evil. Moreover, I tell you this: on the Day of Judgment people will have to give account for every careless word they have spoken; for by your own words you will be acquitted, and by your own words you will be condemned.'" - Matthew 12:22-37, Complete Jewish Bible

First, let me ask a question: What if this verse and the parallel account in Mark 3 were not in the Bible? What would be the unforgivable sin? Would God forgive hatred, murder, war, adultery, abuse, theft, idolatry, deceit? Yes, He will forgive all those things - if we believe in the sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ. When we stand before God on Judgment Day, the only unforgivable sin is never accepting Jesus as our Savior. If we are with Jesus, then everything is covered by his blood sacrifice. If we are not with Jesus, then nothing is covered and God's wrath remains.

To refuse Jesus Christ as God's exclusive way of redemption is, I believe, exactly what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. To see why, read this passage in context very closely. I would suggest at least five times. Pay close attention to each phrase and how they build upon each other. Note who Jesus is talking to and what are the arguments He is making.

First of all, Jesus was talking to the Pharisees, the religious leaders who consistently opposed Jesus during his ministry. The Pharisees were learned men who felt threatened by Jesus' teaching, miracles and appeal to the masses. They were self-righteous and thought they knew it all. Therefore, the Pharisees tried to entrap Jesus in order to accuse him of blasphemy or discredit him. For instance, they cleverly asked Jesus if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not? This was a no-win question. If Jesus said yes, they could accuse him of being disloyal to the nation of Israel, because Rome was a foreign occupier. If He said no, they could accuse him of being a rebel and agitator against the state. Jesus asked to see a denarius, a coin used to pay taxes, and asked whose image and inscription was on it. "Caesar's," they replied. So Jesus told them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Wow! They were amazed at his response. He answered the question but avoided their trap.

So Jesus often dealt with the Pharisees in clever and indirect ways. He spoke in parables and used double meanings and surprising turns of logic. This passage in Matthew 12 is no exception.

In the passage, Jesus healed a demon-possessed man, which prompted crowds to ask if He might be the Messiah (Son of David is a reference to the hoped-for Messiah). The Pharisees, true to form, said no, Jesus was driving out demons by Baal-Zibbul, the prince of demons. They hoped to discredit the notion that Jesus was the Messiah or Savior. That's what this whole passage is about - whether Jesus is the Messiah and whether a person is for or against him.

Jesus refuted their argument by pointing that Satan would not tear down his own work. If he did, Satan's kingdom would fall. Next, Jesus said if He is driving out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon them. According to prophecy, who were the Jews expecting to usher in the Kingdom of God? The Messiah, the prophetic "son of David." Jesus was saying that since He drove out demons by the Spirit of God, the Kingdom of God had come and, by implication, He was the Messiah.

In verse 30 Jesus made a definitive, black-and-white statement: "Those who are not with me are against me." This is a claim He also made elsewhere in the gospels, such as in John 14:6 when He said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus offers the exclusive way of reconciliation with God. The logic and rhythm of that statement continues for the rest of this passage.

"and those who do not gather with me are scattering." Again, people are either with Jesus (gathering) or against him (scattering).

"Because of this, I tell you that people will be forgiven any sin and blasphemy [with Jesus], but blaspheming the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven [against Jesus]." Those who are with Jesus will be forgiven any sin and blasphemy. Those against Jesus are guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, because they deny Jesus operated by the Spirit of God, deny  the Kingdom of God had come, and therefore deny Jesus is the Messiah. Do you see, this is all one thought, one interconnected statement that Jesus was making.

"One can say something against the Son of Man and be forgiven [with Jesus]; but whoever keeps on speaking against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, neither in the present age nor in the age to come [against Jesus]." The logic of "with Jesus or against Jesus" continues. A person can have spoken against the Son of Man and be forgiven, like the Apostle Paul who persecuted Christians prior to his conversion. Or the Apostle Peter who denied knowing Jesus three times on the night before his crucifixion. They are "with Jesus" and therefore forgiven. Those who speak against the Holy Spirit and by extension deny Jesus is the Messiah will never be forgiven... unless they repent and believe and become "with Jesus."

"If you make a tree good, its fruit will be good [with Jesus]; and if you make a tree bad, its fruit will be bad [against Jesus]; for a tree is known by its fruit." People who are with Jesus bear good fruit. People against Jesus bear bad fruit.

"You snakes! How can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what overflows from the heart. The good person brings forth good things from his store of good [with Jesus], and the evil person brings forth evil things from his store of evil [against Jesus]." Blasphemy is a sin of speech, but Jesus pointed out that words flow from the heart. The real problem with the Pharisees was their evil, unbelieving hearts, which is why they were against Jesus.

"Moreover, I tell you this: on the Day of Judgment people will have to give account for every careless word they have spoken; for by your own words you will be acquitted, and by your own words you will be condemned." On Judgment Day, our fates will be decided by whether we spoke with our mouths and believed with our hearts that we are "with Jesus."

I apologize for such a tedious explanation, but I hope this clarifies what "blaspheming the Holy Spirit" is. Some Christians have wondered whether they might have committed an unforgivable sin by something they said and perhaps lost their salvation. I'm here to tell you that if you are "with Jesus," you will be forgiven "any sin and blasphemy." Jesus said so. Just repent and let the blood of Christ cleanse you from all unrighteousness.


Stig-Ove said...

Hello Mike

This one was a fresh insight i never thought of before. The Holy Spirit in the Old testament was given only to specific people from time to time. In New testament times all who receive Christ attain the gifts and help of the Holy Spirit. So your explanation is very logical i have to say.

When Christ said whosoever harms one of these little ones is better to have a millstone around his neck and thrown into the sea, might also contain a pointer this way as you thought in your blog!

Very good Mike My hats or pipo is off to you since i dont have a Stetson 🤓

Anonymous said...

First, how does Strong's Concordance define "blaspheming?"
#G987 Blaspheme - to vilify, to speak impiously, defame, revile, speak evil.
#G988 - Vilification (especially against Yahweh), evil speaking.

One might also put that with the commandment that says -
"You shall not take the Name of Yahweh your God in vain, for Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain." Exodus 20:7

Yahweh, the Creator of the universe and everything in it; His precious Son Yahshua Messiah, fully man, fully human; and the Holy Spirit given to the Disciples on the day of Pentecost coming like tongues of fire. Acts 2:3. Three distinct entities, each with their own unique characteristics.

The Scriptures speak throughout of the "Spirit of Yahweh."
Genesis 1:2 "The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters."

1 John 4:2 "This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, ..."

The Holy Spirit has a distinct job to do upon mankind and the gifts He bestows upon the one who love and obey the Saviour, and manifest His Commandments and seek to walk as He walked.

Matthew Henry states "There was an appearance of something like flaming fire, lighting on every one of them, according to John Baptist's saying concerning Christ; He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire."

From Gill's Exposition of the Bible - "Through this baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, the Apostles became more knowing, and had a greater understanding of the mysteries of the Gospel, and were more qualified to preach it to people of all nations and languages.

The Holy Spirit, in his gifts and graces, is compared to fire, because of its purity, light, and heat, as well as consuming nature; the Spirit sanctifies, and makes men pure and holy, purges from the dross of sin, error and superstition; and enlightens the minds of men, and gives them knowledge of divine and spiritual things; and fills them with zeal and fervour for the glory of God and Christ, and the good of his church and interest, and for the doctrines and ordinances of the Gospel; as well as fortifies them against their enemies, whom he consumes..." How true are these words!

Anonymous said...

To continue from my post just above - Per my Hebrew Bible and from "Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament" by John Wesley, Page 64. And to me, it is more about our words which we will ALL certainly be judged accordingly - whether good or evil.
(Uppercase text is as written in Scripture comment.)

"BLASPHEMY is speech or accusation knowingly made to be injurious to reputation.
In Yachanan (John) 5:19 Yahshua states that He did nothing of Himself, but he merely beheld what His Father did through Him. To condemn Yahshua personally, as a man, would be pardoned, but to condemn the ACTS OF POWER Yahshua did because of Yahweh's Holy Spirit - as the Pharisees did by saying that Yahshua cast out demons through Baalzebul, The Prince of Demons - was BLASPHEMY against the Holy Spirit of YAHWEH, and was an unpardonable sin."

Anonymous Pat. Looks like you may have a few "Anonymous" writers here!