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The meaning of the blasphemy against the Spirit

 

Guy P. Duffield/N. M. Van Cleave comment on the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

What is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Note Mt. 12:22-30). The Pharisees had accused Jesus of working miracles by the power of the Devil. Jesus had cast out that demon by the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, it is attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to the Devil. Note Mark 3:28-30, especially verse thirty: “Because they said,” referring to Jesus, “He hath an unclean spirit.” This sin could be committed by a Christian, as well as unsaved person, if he is not careful. (Guy P. Duffield/N. M. Van Cleave, Foundations of Pentecostal Theology, p.325.)

Billy Graham comments on the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

One of the most solemn themes in all Scripture concerns sins against the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Believers and unbelievers alike can and do sin against the Holy Spirit. Of all the sins men commit against the Holy Spirit is none of worse than that of blaspheming Him. The reason for this is clear: It is the one sin for which there is no forgiveness. All other sins against the Holy Spirit are committed by believers. We can repent of them, be forgiven, and make a new start. Not so with blaspheming the Spirit. This sin is committed by unbelievers and is often called “the unpardonable sin.” It was committed by the enemies of Jesus when they accused Him of casting out devils by the power of Satan after Jesus had clearly stated that they were cast out by the power of the “Spirit of God.” He then continued: “Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of God, it shall be forgiven; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come (Matt 12:31,32). Resisting the Spirit is a sin committed only by unbelievers. But it is a sin that, when carried on long enough, leads to eternal doom. Only certain judgment remains for those who so resist the Spirit. The unpardonable sin is rejecting the truth about Christ. We now come to two sins against the Holy Spirit which can be committed by Christians. One is to grieve the Holy Spirit, and the other is to quench the Spirit. To blaspheme the Spirit is a sin committed by unbelievers. Grieving and quenching the Spirit are sins committed by believers. (Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit, p.153-4,155,156,157,162.)

     The statement mentioned above is a mixture of biblical and unbiblical elements.

What does Matt. 12:22-42 say about the nature of sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit?

Matt. 12:22-24   Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” (NKJ)
Matt. 12:28      But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. (NKJ)
Matt. 12:30-32,38  He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come. Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” (NKJ)
Mark 3:22,28-30   And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebub,” and, “By the ruler of the demons He casts out demons.” “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; “but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.” (NKJ)

     The texts say that the Pharisees accused Jesus of casting out demons only by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons. But Jesus said that He cast out demons by the Spirit of God. And Jesus added, “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”
     Here, it can be simply concluded that if anyone declares that Jesus drives out demons by the power of the prince of demons, he does not blaspheme against Jesus but against the Holy Spirit who works through and in Jesus. Likewise, if any one declares that the disciples of Jesus drive out demons by the power of Satan but not by the power of the Holy Spirit, he does not blaspheme against Jesus or the disciples of Jesus but against the Holy Spirit who works through and in the disciples of Jesus. So Jesus said that anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
     The words, “If I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges....” confirm that Graham’s claim, “To blaspheme the Spirit is a sin committed by unbelievers,” is based on the misunderstanding of Matt. 12:22-24. Here, Jesus confirms that the Pharisees drove out demons not by Beelzebub but by the Spirit. It is confirmed that to blaspheme the Spirit is a sin committed not by unbelievers but by believers, in this case, by the Pharisees who believe in God.

“To blaspheme the Spirit is a sin committed by unbelievers” is thoroughly unscriptural.

Luke 18:9-14  To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men–robbers, evildoers, adulterers–or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (NIV)
Matt. 5:20      For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (NIV)
Matt. 23:1-3  Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what…(NIV)
Acts 23:6      Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, “My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee. I stand on trial because of my hope in the resurrection of the dead.” (NIV)

     Billy Graham’s claim, “To blaspheme the Spirit is a sin committed by unbelievers,” is thoroughly unbiblical since it is from the misinterpretation of Matt. 12: 22-28. To blaspheme the Spirit is a sin committed not by unbelievers but by believers, that is, by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, the scribes. (See Matt. 5:20; 12:24; 23:1-3; Mark 3:22; Luke 18:9-14; Acts 23:6.) The Pharisees and the teachers of the law believed in God but did not accept Jesus as the Messiah sent by God. In Acts 23:6 the apostle Paul says, “I am a Pharisee.” He implied that the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were believers in God, not unbelievers. Unbelievers do by no means make distinction between devils and the power of Satan, or the Holy Spirit and the power of the Spirit of God. Therefore, unbelievers cannot accuse Jesus and Christians of casting out devils by Satan or by the Spirit of God. Thus, it is impossible for unbelievers to commit sin against the Holy Spirit. This fact confirms that to blaspheme the Spirit is by no means a sin committed by unbelievers. It should be inferred that to blaspheme the Spirit is a sin committed only by believers.
     Billy Graham’s claim, “Grieving and quenching the Spirit are sins committed by believers,” is right, but there is no scriptural reference that would indicate that both are sins against the Holy Spirit. It should be inferred that believers can repent these sins and be forgiven. The note, “The unpardonable sin is rejecting the truth about Christ,” is quite erroneous.  Matt. 12:31-32 and Mark 3:22, 28-30 say that to speak against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven. The unpardonable sin is not rejecting the truth about Christ Jesus but speaking against the Holy Spirit. After rejecting the truth about Christ Jesus, anyone might later accept that truth, so that his former rejection of the truth would be forgiven.

John F. MacArthur comments on the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit.

What is the sin against the Holy Spirit in Matt. 12:22-31? As Isaiah predicted, the Spirit came upon Jesus and he preached and did wonders (Isa. 61:1-2). Yet the Pharisees concluded exactly the opposite–that his power was satanic. One might speak against–the way he looked, spoke, or acted–but if one claimed that his miraculous works, done by the Holy Spirit to prove Christ’s deity, were actually done by Satan, that person was in hopeless state of rejection. He or she could not be saved. That is what Jesus was saying. If those Pharisees had seen and heard all that Jesus had said and done, yet still were convinced it was satanic, they were hopeless. (John F. MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, p.118.)
 
     The note, “If one claimed that Christ’s miraculous works done by the Holy Spirit were done by Satan, it is the sin against the Holy Spirit,” is right since Matt. 12:22-31 describes so. John F. MacArthur continues:


What does ‘the sin against the Holy Spirit’ say to us? What is the application for today? In the first place, this was a unique historical event that occurred when Christ was physically on earth. That is not presently true. So in a primary sense, there is no application now. Perhaps there will be in “the age to come” (the millennial kingdom), when Christ is again on the earth. The sin against the Holy Spirit was first of all a historical event. Secondarily, it can be applied to anyone who rejects the work of the Holy Spirit in presenting Christ’s divine credentials. (John F. MacArthur, Ibid., p.118-119.)

     The note, “In the first place, this was a unique historical event that occurred when Christ was physically on earth. That is not presently true. So in a primary sense, there is no application now. The sin against the Holy Spirit was first of all a historical event,” is thoroughly unbiblical. It is from the misunderstanding of the word of God. The  sin against the Spirit is certainly more than a mere historical event. There is application now and presently true. The note, “Secondarily, it can be applied to anyone who rejects the work of the Holy Spirit in presenting Christ’s divine credentials,” is right. But it should be said that it can be applied to any Christian believer who rejects the work of the Holy Spirit, not only in presenting Christ’s divine credentials but also in preaching the gospel. If any Christian believer does not accept the present miraculous works of the Holy Spirit, including divine healings, as His works, it is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. John F. MacArthur continues:

I also believe that God is always operating on a supernatural level. He intervenes supernaturally in nature and in human affairs even today. I believe God can heal people apart from natural or medical remedies. I believe all things are possible with God (Matt. 19:26). His power has not diminished in the least since the days of the early church. Certainly salvation is always a supernatural act of God. (John F. MacArthur, Ibid., p.131.)
   
     This statement is right and biblical since it is from the correct interpretation of the Bible. But the following are quite erroneous. John F. MacArthur continues:

I do not believe, however, that God uses men and women as human agents to work miracles in the same way he used Moses, Elijah, or Jesus. I am convinced that the miracles, signs, and wonders being claimed today in the charismatic movement have nothing in common with apostolic miracles. And I am persuaded by both Scripture and history that nothing like the New Testament gift of miracles is operating today. The Holy Spirit has not given any modern-day Christians miraculous gifts comparable to those he gave the apostles. (John F. MacArthur, Ibid., p.131.)

     The claim, “I do not believe, however, that God uses men and women as human agents to work miracles in the same way he used Moses, Elijah, or Jesus,” is right. But it should be understood that God used Moses, Elijah and Jesus to work miracles not in the same way but in different ways. Likewise, even today God uses men and women as human agents to work miracles through the Holy Spirit just as He uniquely used Moses, Elijah, Jesus and the apostles. When anyone does not allow that even today the Holy Spirit uses men and women as human agents to do miracles, including healings through His power for preaching the gospel, he commits a sin against the Holy Spirit, that is, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The note, “I am convinced that the miracles, signs, and wonders being claimed today in the charismatic movement have nothing in common with apostolic miracles. I am persuaded by both Scripture and history that nothing like the NT gift of miracles is operating today. The Holy Spirit has not given any modern day Christian miraculous gifts comparable to those he gave the apostles,” is thoroughly unbiblical. The Holy Spirit wants to give His power in the different ways to Jesus’ present disciples that they might preach the gospel just as He did the apostles of the first century. This will continue until Jesus’ second coming. John F. MacArthur continues:

The late David du Plessis, known by Pentecostals and charismatics as “Mr. Pentecost,” believed that the age of miracles never ended. He wrote, “The first church was a creation of the Holy Spirit, and He has not changed; but in every generation He wants to repeat what He did in the first Christian Church through the first leaders and members.” Du Plessis was saying that the miracles and events described in the book of Acts should be normative throughout the church’s history. His view reflects the thinking of most Pentecostals and charismatics. Many Pentecostals and charismatics talk about the restoration of “New Testament Holy Spirit power” through their movement. What the apostles did in the first century, they say, Christian believers are doing today. (John F. MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, p.133,134.)

     The claims of Plessis and Pentecostals and charismatics are thoroughly biblical since the Holy Spirit continues to work through His power until Jesus’ second coming. If the present works of the Holy Spirit through Pentecostals and Charismatics are not accepted, including divine healing, it will be sin against the Holy Spirit because it rejects the continual working (miraculous signs) of the Holy Spirit. John F. MacArthur continues:

Tongues, healings, and miracles all served as sign to authenticate an era of new revelation. As the age of revelation came to a close, the signs ceased also. Here is a clear biblical word that the miracles, wonders, and sign gifts were given only to the first-generation apostles to confirm that they were messengers of new revelations. Indeed, Christians who pursue miraculous signs are setting themselves up for satanic deception. (ohn F. MacArthur, Ibid., p.141,143,144.)

     “Tongues, healings, and miracles all served as sign to authenticate an era of new revelation. As the age of revelation came to a close, the signs ceased also,” is quite erroneous. 1 Cor. 14:26 refutes the claim: “Here is a clear biblical word that the miracles, wonders, and sign gifts were given only to the first generation apostles to confirm that they were messengers of new revelations.” This is unbiblical. The claim, “Indeed, Christians who pursue miraculous signs are setting themselves up for satanic deception,” also is thoroughly unbiblical. If this is accepted as truth, it will be sin against the Holy Spirit. John F. MacArthur continues:

The temporary sign gifts included prophecy (revelatory prophecy), miracles, healings, tongues, and interpretation of tongues. The sign gifts had a unique purpose: to give the apostles credentials, that is, to let the people know that these men all spoke the truth of God. Once the Word of God was inscripturated, the sign gifts were no longer needed and they ceased. (John F. MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, p.243.)

     The claim, “Once the Word of God was inscripturated, the sign gifts were no longer needed and they ceased,” is quite erroneous. This statement rejects the works of the Holy Spirit to heal the sick even today. If a Christian believer rejects the continual working of the Holy Spirit to heal the sick and to cast out the demon by the power of the Holy Spirit even today, he will commit sin against the Holy Spirit.

Chuck Smith comments on the modern days’ healings.

There are those who say that the miraculous manifestations of God ceased with the apostles. In a book of called The Ministry of Healing, Dr. A. G. Gordon, founder of the Christian Missionary and Alliance churches, reviews church history from earliest times. He shows that through church history there have been remarkable manifes tations of healing among certain groups. Even John Wesley saw many people healed through believing prayer. Gordon concludes that to say healing ceased with apostles is to deny what has been recorded by many reliable witnesses. Beyond that, it doesn’t seem consistent that God, who healed sicknesses in answer to believing prayer throughout biblical history–from Genesis to Revelation–would suddenly stop healing the sick. Surely no one can make a biblical case that God has ceased this ministry. People can be healed today by the touch of God upon their lives. God is not limited, nor has He limited Himself. People who are sick can still be healed in response to believing prayer. (Chuck Smith, Living Water, p.132-3.)

     This comment is quite biblical. Gordon’s claim, “to say healing ceased with apostles is to deny what has been recorded by many reliable witnesses,” is right. Here, it can be said that to say healing ceased with apostles is to deny the continual working of the Holy Spirit. To deny the continual working of the Holy Spirit is to reject the works of the Holy Spirit. To deny and reject the works of the Holy Spirit is to commit sin against the Holy Spirit. If anyone rejects the claim of Chuck Smith, how can Ex. 25:26 and James 5:14-18 be understood? If the above mentioned claim of Chuck Smith is accepted as unbiblical truth, the words of Ex. 25: 26 and James 5:14-18 are for only the believers of OT days and of the first century. Then, it makes no sense at all.

Ex. 25:26    He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.” (NIV)

     If MacArthur’s claim, “Tongues, healings, and miracles all served as sign to authenticate an era of new revelation. As the age of revelation came to a close, the signs ceased also,” (John F. MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, p.243) is accepted as biblical truth, it is impossible to understand Ex. 25:26. If John F. MacArthur’s claim is accepted, the word of God “I am the Lord, who heals you” (Ex. 25:26) was applied only to the children of God who lived in OT days or in the first century. Then, it makes no sense at all. But the promise of God, “I am the Lord, who heals you” (Ex. 25:26), must be applied to all God’s people and all Christian believers who will live until Jesus’ second coming.
     God healed His people in OT days and in the first century. And He will heal His people who believe in Him and obey His words even today through the power of the Holy Spirit. If any Christian believer rejects the Holy Spirit’s healings through Jesus’ disciples even today and tomorrow, he will commit sin against the Holy Spirit.

James 5:14-18  Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effecttive. Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops. (NIV)
Is. 53:5       But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. (NKJ)
Matt. 8:17  that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.” (NKJ)
NIV           This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.”

     If MacArthur’s claim, “Tongues, healings, and miracles all served as sign to authenticate an era of new revelation. As the age of revelation came to a close, the signs ceased also,” is accepted as biblical truth, it is impossible to understand James 5:14-18, Matt. 8:17 or Isaiah 53:5.   Every sickness can be healed and must be healed by the works of the Holy Spirit even today and tomorrow because the word, “Jesus Christ took up our infirmities and carried our diseases,” must be applied to all believers until the second coming of Jesus. Du Plessis declares that the miracles and events described in the book of Acts should be normative throughout the church history. This must be accepted as biblical truth until the second coming of Jesus Christ. The word of God for healing in James 5:14-18, Matt. 8:17 and Isaiah 53:5 must be applied to every Christian believer until Jesus Christ comes again. To reject this Word as applicable to every Christian believer is to commit sin against the Spirit since he rejects the continual works and power of the Spirit.