Can a Christian truly blaspheme the Holy Spirit? I’ve wondered about this since the early days of my faith when I read Matthew 12:22-32. After Jesus healed a demon oppressed man, all the crowd marveled. “Can this be the Son of David?” they asked.
The Scribes and Pharisees weren’t impressed, though. They rejected Jesus and the sign of His power. Instead, they declared, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
Rather than admitting that Jesus might truly be the Messiah they accused Him of being empowered by Satan. That Jesus’ work of delivering the demonized man was no miraculous work of God—it was the devil’s work. Witchcraft!
Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
The Problem With a Divided Kingdom
Jesus’ response is telling. Knowing the Pharisees’ thoughts, he said,
Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive them out? For this reason they will be your judges. If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. How can someone enter a strong man’s house and steal his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can plunder his house.Matthew 12:25-29, CSB
Jesus called their theory ludicrous—a divided kingdom can’t stand, it will be laid to waste. Defeat is inevitable. Satan’s desire isn’t to defeat himself, but to rule God’s creation for himself. You can say many things about the serpent, but he’s not an idiot. He’s the prince of this world, and he won’t give it up that easily.
But if Jesus were casting out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit, then it meant the kingdom of God had come. It meant Jesus, the “strong man,” had come to plunder the goods of Satan’s house before crushing his head.
The Warning the Leads to the Question
But Jesus had more to say:
Anyone who is not with me is against me, and anyone who does not gather with me scatters. Therefore, I tell you, people will be forgiven every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever 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 one to come. (Emphasis added.)Matthew 12:30-32, CSB
This is the warning—don’t blaspheme, or speak against, the Holy Spirit by calling His work Satan’s. Many sins can be forgiven, but not that one. And this is what confuses so many of us. What did Jesus mean by this? Why did He say that speaking against the Spirit is unforgivable? And can a Christian to commit this sin?
I understand why some are concerned about committing this sin, but I don’t believe that we can. In fact, I would say that it’s impossible for a true Christian to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
The Lesson from John Bunyan
John Bunyan, the 17th century preacher and author of The Pilgrim’s Progress, helped me see this. Despite his reputation today, Bunyan’s walk with Christ was challenging. He seemed to struggle with depression. He almost certainly experienced severe spiritual attack. Bunyan became consumed by an expectation of damnation for two years as he feared he had blasphemed the Holy Spirit. He described the event this way in Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners:
One morning as I lay in my bed I was, as other times, most fiercely assaulted with this temptation to sell and part with Christ, the wicked suggestion still running in my mind, “Sell him, sell him, sell him,” as fast as a man could speak. Against this also in my mind, as at other times, I answered, “No, no not for thousands, thousands, thousands,” at least twenty times together. At last, after much striving, even until I was almost out of breath, I felt this thought pass through my heart, “Let Him go if He will.” I thought also that I felt my heart freely consent to this. Oh, the diligence of Satan! Oh, the desperateness of man’s heart!Grace Abounding, 82-83
For the next two years, he lived “with as heavy a heart as mortal man I think could bear,” believing himself bound for Hell, a fear that would continue until God, in His mercy, intervened.
When God Intervened
When God did intervene, it was with a reminder of the truth of the gospel. And the gospel changed everything once again for Bunyan.
There was as if there had rushed upon me, very pleasant, and as if I heard a voice speaking, “Did you ever refuse to be justified by the blood of Christ?” With that, my whole life of past profession was in a moment opened unto me, where I was made to see that designedly I had not. So my heart answered a groaning, “No.”
Then fell with power that word of God upon me, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks” (Heb. 12:25). This made a seizure upon my spirit: it brought light with it and commanded a silence in my heart of all those tumultuous thoughts that before, like masterless hellhounds, used to roar and bellow and make hideous noises within me. It showed me also that Jesus Christ had yet a word of grace and mercy for me—that He had not, as I had feared quite forsaken and cast off my soul. (100-101)Grace Abounding, 100-101
Bunyan’s fear was cast aside. His anxiety that plagued him so for two years was no longer his burden to bear. Jesus had delivered him and he was at peace.
Can a Christian Truly Blaspheme the Spirit?
All of this takes us back to the question at hand: can a Christian blaspheme the Holy Spirit? And the answer, at least to my thinking, is no. A Christian cannot because to blaspheme the Spirit is to continually and stubbornly reject His work and testimony concerning the identity of Jesus.
It is the unrepentant refusal to be justified by the blood of Christ. To deny the work and testimony of the Holy Spirit is to blaspheme Him. Those who persistently and unrepentantly resist the Spirit and salvation through faith in Christ will not—cannot—be saved. And a Christian who is a Christian cannot not ultimately be saved.
Have confidence, friends. Do not fear. Christ will not leave or forsake His people. Rejoice as John Bunyan did, remembering that God has “blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist;” and when we stray, “Return to me, for I have redeemed you” (Isa 44:22).