“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.” Matthew 12:31-32
Jesus healed and cast demons out of a man by the power of the Holy Spirit. God performed this healing by his Holy Spirit through Jesus to show that Jesus was the promised Messiah (Christ) who had come to defeat Satan, inaugurate God’s kingdom on earth, and be the Savior of the world. The Jewish leaders (Pharisees) did not believe that this miracle was evidence from God that Jesus was the Savior of the world. They believed that this miracle was evidence from Satan that Jesus was possessed by the devil.
In an act of astonishing love, while being blasphemed by the Jewish leaders who did not yet know that Jesus’ power was from the Holy Spirit, he took them aside to warn them that they were approaching a very dangerous line they must not cross at risk of their own eternal peril. In this warning, Jesus told the Pharisees that every sin and blasphemy, including their unknown blasphemous words about him, can be forgiven by God. But if they knowingly reject and speak against the revelation of God’s Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Savior of the world, they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit and will not be forgiven.
These Jewish leaders apparently did not believe that the healing power of Jesus over demons was a true testimony by God’s Holy Spirit that Jesus was the Savior of the world. Their consciences and hearts were not enlightened so they unknowingly and unintentionally said that Jesus’ miracle was evidence from Satan that he was possessed by the devil. This kind of unconscious sin will be forgiven.
But when their conscience and heart is enlightened, and when they believe that the healing power of Jesus over demons is a true testimony by God’s Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Savior of the world—and then, knowingly, intentionally, and openly attribute this testimony of God’s Holy Spirit to the work of Satan, they have blasphemed the Holy Spirit and will not be forgiven. The late, great theologian, Herman Bavinck put it this way:
“Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is…a denial which goes against the conviction of the intellect, against the enlightenment of conscience, against the dictates of the heart; in a conscious, willful and intentional imputation to the influence and working of Satan of that which is clearly recognized as God’s work.” Herman Bavinck, Gereformeerde Dogmatiek, 2nd ed., 3:157
The two scenarios Bavinck seems to be setting before us are:
1. The Pharisees do not truly understand yet that Jesus’ miracles are a work of God’s Holy Spirit. So, in a sincere attempt to help others, they attribute Jesus’ healing to be the work of the devil. This is unknowing blasphemy against Jesus—a forgivable sin.
2. The Pharisees truly understand that Jesus’ miracles are a work of God’s Holy Spirit that testify to Jesus as the promised Messiah King. Then, they consciously refuse to respond to that understanding by trusting in him and following him. Instead, they deliberately attempt to deceive others and keep them from trusting in Jesus and following him by attributing Jesus’ healing to be the work of the devil. This is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit—the unforgivable sin.
I’m assuming Bavinck must therefore be seeing the Pharisee’s “conviction,” “enlightenment of conscience,” etc. as mere intellectual belief (fides) similar to that of the devil’s correct belief regarding who Jesus is—a belief that is not true saving faith (fiducia). And the nature of the Pharisees’ sin is primarily their refusal to have true saving faith in Jesus and follow him—manifested by a conscious, malicious attempt to keep others from having their “conviction,” “enlightenment of conscience,” (fides) etc. and then acting on that by truly trusting (fiducia) in Jesus as Savior/Messiah and following him as Lord/King.
If you are worried about having committed the unforgivable sin, that should be a comforting sign that you have not committed it—because those who commit it don’t worry about it.
You can be confident you have not committed the unforgivable sin by hearing this testimony of God’s Holy Spirit through His Word (that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior of the world) and then knowingly, intentionally, and openly attributing this testimony to God by believing in and following Jesus as Savior and Lord.<This brief summary does not contain biblical references except for the primary text of Matt. 12:31-32. It is designed as an introductory statement to provoke discussion regarding the primary text, and many others, regarding this controversial topic.> © 2014 Steven L. Childers