A friend recently wrote me and asked me about the “sin unto death” and the “unpardonable sin.” It seems he had become involved in a discussion with another individual and wasn’t sure how to interpret the biblical passages on those matters. It seems that his friend thought that a believer could blaspheme the Holy Spirit, thus committing the “unpardonable sin” or “sin unto death,” and thereby lose his salvation.
But Jesus said that even blasphemy is a forgivable sin, just as any other sin is forgiven when it is confessed and repented of. An unbeliever who blasphemes God can be forgiven. The apostle Paul stated in 1 Timothy 1:13-14, that “even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor…I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.” Even a believer can blaspheme, since any thought or word that disgraces or demeans the Lord’s name constitutes blasphemy. To question God’s goodness, wisdom, fairness, truthfulness, love, or faithfulness is a form of blasphemy. All of that is forgivable by grace (1 John 1:9).
But Jesus said that there is one exception: “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven.” Even the person who blasphemes Jesus, who dares to “speak a word against the Son of Man…shall be forgiven.” The title “Son of Man” refers to Jesus’ humanity, and if a person fails to see Jesus as anything more than just another man, such a word against Him can be forgiven. When a person rejects Christ with LESS than full exposure to the evidence of His deity, he may yet be forgiven of that sin, if after gaining fuller light, he then believes.
But blasphemy against the Spirit was something more serious and rendered the subject unredeemable. It reflected not only unbelief, but determined unbelief; that is, the refusal, after having seen all the evidence necessary to gain complete understanding, to the point that one should consider believing in Christ. This was blasphemy against Jesus in His deity. It was against the Spirit of God who uniquely indwelt and empowered Him. It reflected determined rejection of Jesus as the Messiah against every evidence and argument. They had seen the Truth incarnate, but knowingly chose to reject Him and condemn Him. Thus, it demonstrated an absolute and permanent refusal to believe, which resulted in the loss of all opportunity to ever be forgiven. Thus, those who blasphemed the Holy Spirit were those who saw His divine power working in and through Jesus but willfully refused to accept the implications of that revelation and, in some cases, attributed that power to Satan.
So then, blasphemy in Matthew 12 has NOTHING to do with losing one’s salvation. First of all, the Pharisees were never saved to begin with. Anyone who rejects Jesus Christ as God and attributes His power to Satan is not a believer. And no true believer would ever do that. Scripture is very clear that we cannot lose our salvation (cf. Rom. 8:38-39, John 10:28-30), primarily because our salvation does not depend on our ability, but on God’s ability. No human is capable of keeping themselves saved. Everyone would fail miserably. But our salvation is based wholly and entirely on God’s power and action to save us (cf. Ephesians 2:1-9), so those who are truly saved are kept by Him and Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me” (John 6:37).
Therefore, because we are kept in the state of grace and redemption by Christ, we cannot lose our salvation for any reason. Even when we blaspheme God by doubting or questioning His grace, mercy, love, or faithfulness to us, He will forgive us. And a true believer will never accuse Jesus of being satanic in nature. If a person claims to be a believer, but seemingly turns away to a life of sin and degradation and completely rejects Jesus as being God, that is the evidence that that person was never a true believer in the first place.
Next time, we’ll deal with the “sin unto death” in 1 John 5:16-17.