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Article 0112 - Sin Against the Holy Spirit

What Is the Sin Against the Holy Spirit?

Jon Gary Williams

In Matthew 12:31,32 (and also in Mark 3:28,29 and Luke 12:10) is mentioned the sin against the Holy Spirit. Distorted teachings have caused much confusion concerning this sin - - teaching which has caused many to wonder, "Am I possibly guilty of this sin?" This is unfortunate because this subject is not difficult to understand. To properly identify the sin against the Holy Spirit, it is important to first see what this sin is not.

What The Sin Against The Holy Spirit Is Not

It is not - a persistent rejection of a "direct operation" of Holy Spirit. Pentecostal-type preachers are heard to tell people, "You'd better watch out, because if you keep on rejecting the baptism of the Holy Spirit, you will commit the unpardonable sin!" Such an idea is far removed from the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

It is not - a hardened heart. Indeed, man can harden his heart (Heb. 3:12), but this has nothing to do with being guilty of the sin against the Holy Spirit. Even hardened hearts can be softened.

It is not - a rejection of the gospel. Many have thought that a rejection of the gospel until one's death is sinning against the Holy Spirit. However, this does not fit the description given to this sin as stated in the gospels.

It is not - the "sin unto death" found in I John 5:16. Some have argued that this is the sin against the Holy Spirit. But, even if it was, we would still not know what the sin is. This text simply says, "there is a sin unto death." Note also that John said they could "see" whatever sin is intended here. They could identify it as either a sin repented of or not repented of. The sin "not unto" death is contrasted with the sin "unto" death. So, this is not referring to a sin against the Holy Spirit, but rather to any sin which is not repented of.

It is not - apostasy. Some have used Hebrews 6:4-6 to claim that apostasy must be the sin against the Holy Spirit. Yes, some may fall away and so sin as to reach the point of no return. Yet, this does not fit the sin described in the gospels. Also, this text clearly points out the sin mentioned here is a sin against Christ.

It is not - backsliding. Galatians 6:1 is used to support this belief. However, this text eliminates backsliding as sin against Holy Spirit, for it clearly shows that one who has been "overtaken" by sin can be restored. And, after all, this is what repentance in the Christian life is all about -- recovering from backsliding.

It is not - murder. Since murder seems so cruel some have thought this must be the sin against Holy Spirit. But, it is easy to show this is not the case. For example, people on the day of Pentecost were called murderers, yet they could be forgiven - - and many were. Also, at one point in his life the apostle Paul was guilty of having Christians murdered - - but he was forgiven.

It is not
- adultery or fornication. This is easily disproved, for in I Corinthians 6:9-11 some of those who were among the saved had been guilty of both adultery and fornication.

What, Then, Is The Sin Against The Holy Spirit?

In the chapter in which we find the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, Jesus was healing many people (Matt. 12:13-15, 22, 23). This greatly disturbed the Pharisees, who made an extremely caustic accusation. "This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons" (v. 24). Mark's account adds that the scribes also made this accusation, saying, "He has Beelzebub and by the ruler of the demons He cast out demons" (Mk. 3:22).

They were calling the Holy Spirit an extremely wicked spirit. They were saying that the Holy Spirit, by whom Jesus healed people and cast out demons, was the ruler (prince) of the demons - - Satan himself.

What was this sin? Clearly, it was attributing the power of the Holy Spirit to Satan! This is why Jesus called it "blasphemy." To help clarity this, note carefully the wording of Mark's account:

"...but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal damnation - - because they said, He has an unclean spirit" (Mk. 3:29, 30). The words, "because they said" shows exactly what this sin involved. Simply put, the sin they were committing was saying that Jesus was working through the power of Satan.

The Lord's purpose in identifying the repulsive nature of this sin is obvious. If this blasphemous teaching had gone unchallenged and had then been accepted and believed by the Jews, the miracles performed by Jesus would have convinced no one. Furthermore, this means that Christianity would have had no foundation. It was imperative that the seriousness of this false teaching be pointed out and severely rebuked.

How important were the Lord's miracles? The answer is simple - - to convince people that Jesus was indeed the Son of God. "And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (Jn. 20:30, 31).

Can The Sin Against The Holy Spirit Be Committed Today?

Since Jesus is no longer here on earth performing miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit, no can attribute such a power to Satan. Therefore, no one today should be concerned about being guilty of this sin.