It always amazes me how people who say they believe in the Love of God have this idea that there’s one ‘Special Sin’ that God just can’t find it in Himself to forgive.
Like if someone insults your mother, y’know, that sort of thing.
It just doesn’t make any sense, and the passages in Mark 3:28-30 and Matthew 12:31-32 must mean something different from what people usually think, because Jesus did not deal in harshness; He dealt in love, compassion and gentleness.
But, we are told, there is such a ‘sin’, and it’s called the ‘Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’.
All you need to do is to Google ‘Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’ and you will come up with a huge swath of hits, not only of people waving this idea around condemnatorially, but equally of people worried (sometimes literally) to death that they are destined to burn forever in Hell because of a few careless words.
We must remember that the ‘angry God’ model of the Scripture always defaults to the harsh, threatening interpretation, whereas the Jesus model takes us to the better, more gentle and loving interpretation. However, today’s Pharisees, just like those of old, love to find condemning Scriptures that they can use to bash people’s heads in, and because of this they will always default to the harsher interpretation.
Naturally, they seem to revel in the idea that there’s an ‘unpardonable sin’, which seems to be tailor-made for them to wield against the latest set of hapless believers to whom they have taken a dislike: maybe those who believe in Grace; maybe the inclusionists; maybe those who don’t believe that the Bible is infallible and inerrant; certainly anyone who does not agree with them on all small points. (Which is just about everybody, when you think about it!).
The idea is that they gleefully swing this horrific weapon and leave bleeding and despairing people in their wake, feeling that they have passed forever beyond all hope of forgiveness. In truth, there are fewer Scriptures that have brought more misery than this one. Think about it. As a Pharisee, using this most beloved of all your Scriptures, you can verbally condemn someone to believing that oh they’ve really gone and done it now; they will never, ever be forgiven. What better weapon could a Pharisee want?
But this is not the way of Jesus. Of course God forgives all sin. But because this verse is wielded as such a powerful weapon, joyfully weaponized by those who are almost the Enemy’s servants in order to bring all that untold misery and despair to people, it needs to be addressed.
So, what did Jesus mean when He mentioned the ‘unpardonable sin’?
Well, here’s a beautifully simple exegesis of the Matthew passage by my friend Nathan Jennings, where he puts it really clearly. This explanation of the text closely dovetails with my own opinion on the matter. Over to Nathan:
“BLASPHEMY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Thoughts on Matthew 12:31-32
“Often, I am asked what to do with these verses in light of what we know of the grace and mercy of God through Christ. There are probably a few good ways to look at this. First we have to remember that Jesus, being the full revelation and character of God, forgave his enemies on the cross and throughout his time pre-resurrection. Also if you look at the verses leading up to this we see the Pharisees denying Jesus having the spirit of God as being the means of his healing people and said that it was the spirit of the devil. Immediately following the next set of verses, which begin with a “therefore” indicating the message about to be given is a response/result of the previous text, it states:
“Therefore, I tell you that people will be forgiven for every sin and insult to God. But insulting the Holy Spirit won’t be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Human One will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit won’t be forgiven, not in this age or in the age that is coming”
– Matthew 12:31-32
Immediately we can see and deduce that insulting /blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is unbelief in the work of the Spirit due to the passage in the text right before this.
Also the word ‘forgiveness’ is better translated as ‘freedom’ or “freedom from something” so, to me, what is basically being said here is:
“Therefore, I tell you that people will be freed from the power of every sin and insult to God. But unbelief in the power and work of the Holy Spirit and the freedom it offers you will result in enslavement, because you’re not believing the truth. And whoever speaks a word against Jesus can still see freedom because the spirit can still be seen. But whoever doesn’t believe in the work of the spirit won’t experience the freedom of their true identity, in this age or the next.
I think that’s brilliant. And, if you feel that you have ‘blasphemed the Spirit’, be reassured: you haven’t. Because the ‘blasphemy against the Holy Spirit’ means essentially a refusal to recognise that it’s the Spirit at work, if you are conscious of the Spirit’s work then you can’t be ‘blaspheming’ Her.
And, in any case, all sin was dealt with at the Cross, once and for all, forever. All sin, including this one. Don’t concentrate on sin, concentrate on Jesus. Christians today are far too preoccupied with sin; they need to leave it in the grave where it belongs!