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Question: In Matthew 12:32, Christ said, "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." Why would blasphemy be forgiven when it involves Christ, yet not be forgiven when it involves the Holy Spirit?

Answer: Blasphemy is taken very seriously by God, and is one of the human habits we are commanded to eradicate. In Colossians 3:5–8, Paul said: "…put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry... anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth."

In the Old Testament, the English word "blasphemy" is translated from the Hebrew "ne’atsah," which means, literally, "to scorn." The word "naqab" is also translated "blaspheme." Although it literally means "to puncture" or "perforate," it can be used in the figurative sense as well. In the New Testament, the Greek word "blasphemo" carries the same meaning. In a modern sense, blasphemy includes scorn, disregard, disrespect or even hostility toward God.

In ancient Israel, blasphemy was severely punished. God told Moses, "Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death’" (Leviticus 24:15–16).

How does blasphemy relate to us? Obviously, cursing, slandering or reviling God is blasphemous and should never be done. Using euphemisms such as "gosh," "gee whiz," or "golly," are also forms of blasphemy. They may seem harmless, but they denigrate God’s name, and violate the Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7).

We can also blaspheme God through our actions. In James 2:7 were reminded that showing partiality, or disrespect to other people, reflects a blasphemous attitude toward God, who is their maker. Our wrong behavior can also give opportunity for others to dishonor God. After David’s adulterous affair with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan told the king that his actions did not only reflect upon himself, but upon God. He said, "...because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die" (2 Samuel 12:14–15).

Under the New Covenant, Christ explained that blasphemy, like all of our sins, can be forgiven. He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter" (Mark 3:28).

In fact, it is possible for people to blaspheme God without even realizing it. This is what Christ was alluding to in Matthew 12:32, when He said, "Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him." When the people of Christ’s day saw Him, they saw a human being. They did not see Him in all His former glory and magnificence. In His humility, He understood this, and forgave their slander, defamation and even hostility.

What puts us beyond the reach of forgiveness is explained in Mark 3:29 and Matthew 12:32. Where are people headed when they, as the Pharisees in Matthew 12:24, knowingly see good and call it evil, or when they deliberately label the righteous work of the Holy Spirit as the work of Satan the devil?

We find the answer in Hebrews 10:26–29. "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?"

Forgiveness can only be given to those who seek it and repent, not to those who knowingly trample the pearls of God underfoot. The intentional, knowing, contempt of God’s Holy Spirit at work is a potentially fatal attitude to have.

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