We get a lot of emails from you listeners every month, and I don’t think there’s a more common question that we get over the years than this one recently sent in from a listener: “Hello Pastor John, I read your article about the unforgivable sin of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. My questions are two: (1) Can a true believer, whose salvation is eternally secure in Christ, still be guilty of blasphemy? And: (2) Is blaspheming the Holy Spirit the same as grieving the Holy Spirit?”
Let’s put a couple of key passages in front of us about the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit so we know what we are talking about. Here is Jesus in Mark 3:28–30: “‘Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin’—for they were saying, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’” In other words, they were attributing Jesus’ deeds to the devil instead of the owner of God in him.
One more text, Luke 12:10: “And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.” Over the span of my ministry there have been several people, not a lot, but several probably—a lot more people don’t come forward, but these came forward—several people who came to me deeply convinced they had committed the sin against the Holy Spirit and were therefore beyond forgiveness, and they were terrified, as you can imagine.
Now, it seems to me that we need—in helping those people deal with what they are saying—we need to put alongside the statement that blaspheming the Spirit cannot be forgiven—which is there—the many statements like whosoever believes on the Lord Jesus will be saved, not whosoever believes—if they haven’t done a few other things. For example, Acts 16:31: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Paul didn’t ask the jailer, “Now, have you ever blasphemed against the Spirit of God?” He just said, if you believe, you will be saved. In John 6:40, Jesus said, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
It has always seemed to me that there is something about blaspheming the Spirit as Jesus intended us to understand it that has brought a person to the point where they are sinning in such a way that they are unwilling and unable to repent and believe. That is the way I am putting the two together. Esau would be an example of this. In Hebrews 12:17, it says, “You know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place of repentance.” That is a literal translation. I changed what the ESV says. “No place of repentance,” which I think means, he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t find a place in his heart of genuine repentance, “though he sought it with tears.”
So, the point here is not that Esau repented and could not be forgiven, but that he couldn’t find the place of repentance. He had come to such hardness of heart against God, such love for the world: His bowl of cereal against his inheritance. He loved the world so much, he couldn’t stop loving the world. He could find no genuine repentance. And so he perished. And his tears were not tears of repentance. They were tears of remorse that he couldn’t repent.
Let me give a quote from one of my favorite commentators, Henry Alford, about the unforgivable sin of blaspheming against the Spirit. Here is what he said, just one sentence. “It is not a particular species of sin which is here condemned”—like, oh, have I done that one thing?—“it is a definite act showing a state of sin, and that state a willful, determined opposition to the present power of the Holy Spirit; and this as shown by its fruit, blasphemy. The declaration, in substance, of what the New Testament often says.”