Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.
And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
This verse has troubled many people. Why are sins against the Holy Spirit unforgiveable, when every other sin is forgivable? What is the difference?
Because of the power-emphasis model of God that we assume according to our flesh, we tend to read this as: “You can insult the Father; you can disrespect the Son; but don’t you dare mess with the Holy Spirit!” We make assumptions about the personality and character of the Holy Spirit, as if He is unforgiving and tough in a manner that the Father and Son are not.
This is a total misunderstanding of what the Holy Spirit is and does. Let us first look at the Hebrew and Greek for “Spirit” and see what the meaning of it is.
- The Greek word for “Spirit” is G4151 “Pneuma” which can mean current of air, breath, mind…
- The Hebrew word for “Spirit” is H7307 “Ruach” can mean wind, breath, mind…
Oftentimes the word is not even translated as “Spirit,” and the reader of the translation, whether it be into English or any other language, doesn’t know that the Spirit is being mentioned! For example:
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath (Ruach-spirit) of his mouth. (Psalm 33:6)
So we see hear that the translators have decided to translate the word Spirit to be “breath.” Should breath here be capitalized to a signify a distinct being to God? We shall see that the concept is complex enough without us adding to the text terms like God the Holy Spirit (a phrase nonexistent in the Bible), which allows our imagination to run rampant in ways that stray from the Hebrew understanding of the word “spirit” (For example: Does this God the Holy Spirit sit at the left hand side of God, if Jesus is on the left? Is He the father of Jesus, since he descended onto Mary? Should we pray to this being? Who is more powerful of the three? Who is more forgiving? Are they for different situations? Do they argue with one another, seeing one forgives and another doesn’t? Etc. etc)
Then said Jesus to them again,
“Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, “Receive ye the Holy Ghost:”
Is a separate being coming out from Jesus here? Notice also, as we compare this verse to Psalm 33:6, that there is a connection and parallelism between speaking words and breath coming out. That is because whenever words are spoken, breath naturally comes out!
So we can say that The Spirit of God is the breath of God.
The Spirit of God is also described as the Mind of God. Notice how Paul quotes Isaiah 40:13 in Romans 11:34 –
Who hath directed the Spirit of the LORD, or being his counsellor hath taught him? (Isaiah 40:13)
For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? (Romans 11:34)
Paul chooses to translate the word Spirit as mind to make the verse clear. He makes this same connection in this passage:
But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God:
for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
But he that is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
(1 Corinthians 2:14-16)
The unreconciled man doesn’t understand the things of the Spirit of God, but the spiritual man – the believer – has the mind of Christ so that he IS able to understand the things of the Spirit of God. It is having the mind of Christ, which is given to us through us receiving the Holy Spirit, that makes us spiritual. Thus we see that spirit can mean mind. One more verse on this:
And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. (Daniel 2:1)
Nebuchadnezzar’s “spirit was troubled.” Here it obviously means that his mind was troubled; he himself was troubled!
The Holy Spirit is also the presence of God. The word Spirit and the word presence are interchangeable in these verses (classic Hebrew parallelism):
Where shall I go from thy spirit? or where shall I flee from thy presence? (Psalm 139:7)
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. (Psalm 51:10-11)
And he said, My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest. (Exodus 33:14)
So God is with us through His Spirit. His Spirit is His presence.
To summarize the Spirit can be:
- The Spirit as the breath of the Lord • The Spirit as the mind of the Lord • The Spirit as the presence of the Lord
What does all this mean? Does this help us answer our question why sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven? Let me speak from my own experience.
I didn’t grow up a Christian. I was taught that creation was a myth and that Christianity was made up of fables. I mocked Jesus and those who believed in Him. I also mocked the idea of Holy Spirit as nonsense and mumbo-jumbo. Could I be forgiven of that?
Later events happened in my life where I came to realize many of my old ideas were wrong. I started to have conviction of sin. Where did that conviction come from? It comes from when God speaks to us, in our conscience, through His Spirit! When we have pangs of guilt for stealing, lying, abusing our neighbors or parents, etc. – does that come from within us? Impossible, for the Scriptures declare “nothing good lives within me” (Romans 7:18) and “no one does good, not even one” (Romans 2:12). Repentance is a gift from God (Acts 5:31).
It is when the Holy Spirit comes and speaks to us, which He does to all men, that we start to recognize our own sinfulness.
And when he (the Holy Spirit) comes,
he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment (John 16:8)
The Spirit is the method that God uses to speak to our conscience and to bring us to Him. It is the Spirit that tells us that we can change, that there is a better way of living, that God loves us, that God forgives us. When we reject the Spirit’s pleadings on our heart, what else can God do?
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering;
not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? (Romans 2:4)
The Spirit comes to us to show us God’s goodness, to assure us that God wants to forgive us and give us the power to overcome our flaws in character. It is the Spirit of Jesus, the way and truth and life to the Father. Christ is with us through His Spirit, trying to bring us back to His Father!
If we respond by saying: “I don’t believe God can forgive me. I don’t believe God can change me. I hate this feeling of conviction. I want to drown this voice in my conscience. I will have my own way…” What can God do more for such a man? That man doesn’t believe God’s tender fatherly touch that He loves Him. He has hardened his heart. Sin of this sort is unforgiveable because man himself doesn’t believe God’s assurance of forgiveness! It is man that decides he himself cannot be forgiven, not God; and God respects that decision. He will not force himself on man.
So we see the issue has nothing to do with disrespecting a being named the Spirit, as if this imagined 3rd being named Spirit is somehow the harsh, scary member of the Godhead in comparison to Christ, the Son of God. It has to do with man willfully and stubbornly rejecting the MEANS by which God reaches us – His Spirit.
Oftentimes a man can be blaspheming God terribly, but He has yet to fully reject God’s speaking to his soul. There are still many things he can learn and many experiences God can take him through that can help him to realize that God loves him. Such was my case; I saw I was wrong about God and I accepted that and humbled myself.
Other men though might even seem to be Christian, soft-spoken and nice, but are rejecting and ignoring God’s voice in many unseen and more subtle ways. The Spirit of God could be pleading with that man to understand some point or trying to point out some character issue, but this man refuses to listen. God, according to His timing and His wisdom, knowing what is for our own good, may push harder saying “Don’t worry; I love you; let it go; I forgive you…” But this, consistently refused, means we decide to break our relationship with God. Thus a professed Christian may blaspheme the Holy Spirit and lose eternal life.
We see the issue is not a matter of power on the part of God, or a difference in character between the Spirit of God and the Father and the Son. The Spirit of God brings God’s character to us; it is how Christ dwells within us.
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:9-10)
God has given us the freedom to reject or accept Christ living in us. This happens at a deep soul level, not just at an intellectual level. When a man says “the Holy Spirit is a garbage lie; God’s spirit doesn’t affect our world” – it doesn’t mean automatically that he is blaspheming the Holy Spirit and that we should consider what he has done as unforgiveable. The statement could be coming from a place of ignorance, just loose thoughts, silly talk; it may not (and probably does not) represent the deep existential soul hate and rejection of Christ and His ways.
It is the shutting out God’s voice, His pleadings, His teachings in all manner of ways and over a length of time, that leads to a man being fully hardened in sin and impossible for God to reach. God has tried ever possible way, and instead of responding with repentance, the reprobate man has become fully hardened in his own ways. He has chosen sin over God, and thus he has decided to crucify the presence of God in him to allow him not to feel guilty about it. When it reaches this point, he has made himself unforgiveable, because he has determined not to be forgiven. Such is the state of Lucifer, who has seen all the goodness of God and has decided to reject it. Thus there is nothing more that God can say or do to change his mind.
Let us not reach that point. Let us believe that the Spirit that comes to us so gently wants to help us. Let us recognize that we are “poor in the spirit” and need more of that precious spirit of God. The conviction of sin is a gift given to us to allow us to have a proper understanding of our sin ridden condition, that we may ask God to change us. Without conviction of sin, we would never know what to change! But Satan tells us that the conviction that comes with the Spirit is a weak feeling, something pathetic; or that it is proof that God hates us and that we aren’t loved or saved. That is a lie. It is a good gift, the best gift God can give us – His very life and presence and mind – and to reject that is to leave nothing left for us except death.
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)
Some research taken from Niklas Smars’ booklet The Comparison.