A fresh look at the unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit
IT’S WORTH CONSIDERING
In Matthew 12 Jesus tells us of an unforgivable sin and it involves blasphemy or speaking a word against the Holy Spirit. I’ve heard a lot of explanations of what exactly this sin is, but recently I came across what is, perhaps, the best. In his commentary on Matthew, William Barclay makes a compelling case for his position, which I will attempt to summarize.
First, we must remember that Jesus’ statement was pre-Pentecost, so He wasn’t speaking about the Holy Spirit in the full Christian sense. We must interpret His statement according to the Jewish understand which viewed the Holy Spirit as having two functions:
1. to bring God’s truth to men.
2. to enable men to recognize and understand the truth when they saw it.
Next, we must understand the truth of “use it or lose it.” Whether we’re talking about physical training, practicing to become a great artist or musician, or whatever, when we refuse to use a faculty, we will lose it. Similarly, a man can lose the ability to recognize goodness and truth when he sees them. If a man shuts his eyes and ears to the messages God is sending him, preferring his own ideas, he will reach a stage where he can no longer recognize God’s truth and goodness when he sees them. In fact, he has come to the stage where his own evil seems good and God seems evil.
This was exactly the stage to which the Scribes and Pharisees had come. They could look God’s truth and goodness in the face and call it evil, which is exactly what they did with Jesus. But why would this sin be unforgivable? What separates this sin from all the others? The answer is actually rather simple. When a man reaches that stage, repentance is impossible. If a man cannot recognize the good when he sees it, he cannot desire it. If a man does not recognize evil as evil, he cannot be sorry for it and flee from it. And if he cannot, in spite of failures, love the good and hate the evil, then he cannot repent; and if he cannot repent, he cannot be forgiven, for repentance is the only condition of forgiveness.
AS I SEE IT
This description carries with it a warning. Those of us who claim to love the Lord must be so “tuned in” that we never become spiritually deaf. While we can’t lose our salvation, God can put us on the shelf if we have outlived our usefulness, and that happens when we can no longer hear His voice, recognize His truth, and discern His will. It is a law of life that we will hear only what we are listening for and only what we have trained ourselves to hear. Therefore, we must make a special effort every day to listen for God’s voice so that day by day it may become clearer and clearer instead of fainter and fainter, one day reaching the point where we cannot hear it at all. May we reach the point where the “voice” of God becomes the one sound to which our ears are most attuned.