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Can blasphemy be forgiven? What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?
Question: In Matthew 12:32, Jesus 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, but not when it involves the Holy Spirit?
Answer: God takes blasphemy very seriously, and it is one of the human vices we are commanded to eradicate. In Colossians 3:5–8, the Apostle Paul told us to “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 word n’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 blasphémeó 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, “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).
So, how does blasphemy relate to us today? Obviously, cursing, slandering, or reviling God is blasphemous and should never be done. Using replacement words such as “gosh,” “gee whiz,” or “golly” is also a form of blasphemy. These words may seem innocuous, but they show disrespect to God’s name and violate the Third Commandment (Exodus 20:7).
Christ explained that blasphemy, like all 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 part of what Christ was describing when He said, “Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him” (Matthew 12:32). 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.
Matthew 12:32 and Mark 3:29 allude to the knowing slander that threatens to put one beyond the reach of forgiveness. Where are people headed when they call evil that which they know is good, as the Pharisees did when they deliberately and purposely labeled the righteous work of the Holy Spirit as the work of Satan the devil (Matthew 12:24)? 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?
God mercifully extends forgiveness to those who seek it and repent, not to those who knowingly and intentionally oppose Him. An intentional, knowing contempt toward God’s Holy Spirit is a potentially fatal attitude to have. If you’d like to learn more about what the unpardonable sin really is, visit us online at TomorrowsWorld.org to read “Are You Unforgivable?” and watch “This One Sin Cannot Be Forgiven.”