(This article starts out with a discussion of the Greek. If you have a life, and as such get bored with such detailed discussions, please skip down to the comments section! glen :-)|
Click here for the Windows Greek Font and Word Macro used in this article (shareware - includes a Hebrew font).
BLASPHEMY OF THE HOLY
Matthew 12:22-37 Then a blind and dumb demoniac was brought to Him, and He healed him, so that the dumb man spoke and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, "Can this be the Son of David?"
But when the Pharisees heard it they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons."
Knowing their thoughts, He said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand; and if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of
God has come upon you. Or how can one enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says 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."
Mark 3:28-30 "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" -- for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
Luke 12:10 And every one who speaks a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
A LOOK AT SOME KEY WORDS FROM THE GREEK PERSPECTIVE
(The following sections use a Greek font. If you don't have this particular font installed in your computer, it will look like gibberish.)
Blasphemy: Mt. - blasfhm
a nominative, singular, feminine.
Mk. - blasfhm
ai nominative, plural, feminine.
Blasfhm»swsin aorist, active, subjunctive, third person, plural
blasfhm»sV aorist, active, subjunctive, third person, singular
Lk. - blasfhm»santi aorist, active, participle, dative, singular, masculine
Blasphemy when used as a noun (in Mt. and Mk.) carried the idea of slander, defamation, blasphemy. This includes reviling judgment against someone or a blanket condemnation against them.
Blasphemy when used as a verb (or built off the verb in the form of a participle or subjunctive) carried the idea of injuring the reputation of someone, revile, defame. It indicates more than the simple connotation of speaking negatively about someone. To blaspheme someone was to attack them with the intent of ruining their reputation or credibility.
For example, I could say, "I don't like his shirt." This would not be blasphemy. But the statement, "He is a liar and can't be trusted," would be blasphemy. In both we are making a negative statement about the individual. The latter was intended to destroy the reputation of the individual, the former was not.
Speaks (a word against
"): Mt. - epV aorist, active, subjunctive, third person, singular.
This word in the Greek carries with it many meanings which are associated with the thought of say, or tell. As such, many of the passages using lgw and its various forms (of which epV is included) have to be translated based on context rather than on semantics. Here are some of the ways to translate it; utter, say, tell, give expression to, mean, speak, writing, answer, order, command, direct, enjoin, recommend, assure, assert, maintain, declare, proclaim, report, etc.
Speaking against the Holy Spirit was only mentioned in the Matthew passage. Based on context, its most likely meaning would be, command, or, direct. Here is a list of some other passages which could also be translated, command: Mk. 13:37; Num. 32:27, 31 (Septuagint); Lk. 6:46; Mt. 5:44; 6:25; 8:4,9; 26:52; Mk. 3:3,5; 5:8; 6:10; Lk. 6:27; 7:8.
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit: That there would be judgment against us for blaspheming the Holy Spirit shouldn't be a surprise, especially considering what the word means. For us to actively revile against the Holy Spirit and try to destroy His credibility would demand judgment against us.
For those of us who are active in the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it's difficult to believe that there are people out there who would actually do this. But there are those who actively try to defame God to others, attempting to destroy His credibility for their own personal gain. I've had this happen to me in my life. As a youth I was in a constant battle with an adult who actively tried to destroy my faith in God. There are those who try desperately to destroy the work of the Holy Spirit.
Speaking against the Holy Spirit: The discussion on speaking against the Holy Spirit is one that we frequently struggle with. It seems a little inconsistent for God to forgive us of everything except a word which we might speak against the Holy Spirit. I've met a few Christians who were afraid that they had at some point in their past committed this sin. Dealing with them is sometimes difficult, because they can be convinced that there is no future hope for them.
If we compare the possible ways to translate the word, epV, with the context, it becomes apparent that the most likely meaning is to command against. The translation then becomes,
but whoever commands against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. This translation makes perfect sense, and in fact describes an individual who is actively opposing the Holy Spirit and His ministrations here on earth.
But there is some difficulty in trying to understand how this sin manifests itself. After all, if we're frank with each other
on this, how many of us know well enough what the Holy Spirit is doing that we can organize a campaign against Him to stop His efforts? Most Christians can't even figure out what the Holy Spirit is doing in their own lives. I dare say that there isn't a heathen out there who is spiritually discerning enough to know what the Holy Spirit is doing with whom, where, and when, so that they can then organize a resistance against Him. A surface look at this verse would lead one to conclude that commanding against the Holy Spirit is virtually impossible.
About 15 years ago the Holy Spirit illustrated to me the primary way this sin manifests itself. It went like this:
At the time, I was managing a small farm store in Chariton, IA. The store was struggling, partly because of a poor farm economy, partly because of mismanagement by the prior manager. He was great at dealing with people, but poor on detail. As such, inventory control was sadly lacking, as the manager didn't bother with the details of checking the inventory. He guessed as to what needed to be ordered, and quickly filled out the forms.
Consequently, sales dropped simply because the merchandise wasn't on the shelves. When I moved to Chariton to take over, the district manager, my boss (Jerry), had given up hope on keeping the store open. He showed me around the store, introduced me to my help, and left. I didn't see him again for about 6 months.
During this time I got to know the help and learn their strengths and weaknesses. Those who were people oriented I had work with the customers. Those who were more detail conscious I had take care of the paperwork (Nothing difficult about that!). Slowly, sales began to pick up. When we finally got the shelves stocked sales really took off.
All of a sudden, my district manager decided that there was hope for the store, and that I needed his help. He started showing up in the store and taking charge of things. About this time, I started having trouble with the help. I'd tell them to do something, and they'd refuse to do it. They'd sometimes work on projects I hadn't told them to do, and refuse to do what I did tell them to do.
One day, one of them looked at me and said, "I can't work for you and Jerry both!" He then stomped off. Later, when he calmed down, I queried him about what he meant. He informed me that Jerry had given him a list of things to do that had to be done before he was back in the store or else. On checking with the rest of the employees Jerry had done the same with them. All had a list that had to
be done. It would have been nice if I had been informed of this arrangement.
A couple of weeks later, when Jerry was back in the store, I questioned him about it. He basically ignored me. I told him that it would be impossible for me to manage the store if he didn't fill me in on what he was instructing the help to do. Otherwise they would have free reign to do what they wanted to do, and just claim that it was something he had told them to do. Jerry ignored me and left.
Needless to say, things at the store got out of control. The help started arguing with me over what they were going to do, and Jerry refused to tell me what he had told them to do. As it turned out, the help didn't do what Jerry had said or what I had told them to do. They spent most of their time goofing off. When Jerry cornered them on not finishing his projects, they told him that I had refused to let them do it, which got me into a considerable amount of trouble.
Shortly after this I took a position as a merchandise manager for Pamida in Aberdeen, SD., and happily left that company.
He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.
HOW COMMANDING AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT IS MANIFESTED OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
Through the years I've seen many, including myself, who have fought hard to serve God, only to have the job or some other distraction stand in the way. The world economic system doesn't bow down to God. Many jobs today require that employees work on Sunday, making it impossible for them to be active in church. With the added demands on families with children, with both parents working, and the constant demand by the schools for the children to be involved in extra-curricular activities, the Holy Spirit is being commanded against in that the world isn't allowing them access
to regular attendance at church and worship services, or affording them an opportunity to develop their spiritual lives.
HOW COMMANDING AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT IS MANIFESTED WITHIN THE CHURCH
In the example above which I gave of the experience I had while managing the store, we can see a clearer example of how the sin of commanding against the Holy Spirit is manifested within the church.
We often decide what it is that God wants done. This isn't through direct revelation from the Holy Spirit, but rather is from a list of priorities which we are given - fill the pews, fill the bank account, big choir, etc. Sounds great! Nothing wrong with this! We then set out to accomplish these goals based on our skills and talents (After all, it's kind of hard to build the church using methods which demand talents which we don't possess!).
When I was managing the store, both Jerry and I wanted to build a good business. Our interpretation of how to do it differed, consequently we weren't united in how to build the business. The same exists in our relationship with the Holy Spirit. We know we need to build a church. We have our definition of what a good church is. And we know what we have to do to build it. And so does the Holy Spirit. As to who the boss is there can be no question. God's will has to be done God's way. So to blindly set off to do God's will based on our own skills, talents, understanding, and abilities is to guarantee that there will be many times where we go in a direction contrary to what the Holy Spirit is doing, and that we will constantly be commanding against the Holy Spirit - He is working in an area or with a specific person, but because we haven't consulted with Him, we place our energies somewhere else and damage, destroy, or inhibit what the Holy Spirit is doing.
I can give several true examples of where I have seen well meaning but misinformed Christians, in some cases ministers, command against the Holy Spirit:
A Christian teen, Jeff, who had just moved into town, befriended a teen, Karl, who had been in constant trouble both in school and with the law. The two started attending church together. But because Jeff was new in town, the people of the church assumed that he was a troublemaker because he was running around with Karl, who was a troublemaker. Consequently, the two were politely requested to stop attending, because they didn't measure up to the churches standards. Jeff's father, a fine Christian, later requested a transfer because his son wasn't welcome in church. Shortly after the transfer, Jeff was the spark who started a revival in the teen group in their new church.
Jimmy's dad owned the local liquor store. Consequently, Jimmy and his parents weren't welcome in any of the churches in town. The churches made it clear that they could attend only after they closed down the store. Jimmy had a rough life, and reached the point where, after a broken marriage and difficulty with drugs, he attempted suicide. God intervened. Jimmy finally accepted Christ, and began to put his life together. To hear him share his testimony, he has little compassion for the churches who wouldn't allow him to attend. He feels that he would have accepted Christ as a teen, but was force to live through years of hell and sin because the church rejected him as sinful trash because his dad owned the liquor store.
Ben and Sally had just moved back into their hometown after living out of state for several years. They got involved in Ben's home church. Ben started teaching the young married Sunday School class as well as singing in the choir and an octet. Sally taught children's church, sang in the choir, and had her own bus route. Things were going well, and the couple was really being used of the Lord, when Ben's parents, who didn't attend church, had a very messy breakup, which included an affair with one of the members of Ben's church. Because of the family tie-in, and because the affair involved a member in "good standing" in the church, the senior pastor informed Ben that he and Sally were no longer welcome in church, and that they needed to find a new church home. As a consequence, they moved out of town, and Ben left the church and spent his time trying to build a career.
Will was a young but dynamic preacher. When he preached, people consistently sought the Lord, and great things were happening in the Lord under his ministry. But Will was afraid that God would hold him accountable for the sins of his people. So he consistently meddled in the lives of his flock, trying to make their decisions for them, and trying to manipulate them into living perfect lives. As a result, through trying to force the people to fit into the image of what he believed God was supposed to do in their lives, he severely injured the faith of many in his flock by opposing what God was actually doing in their lives, telling the people that, "God doesn't work like that!" Many became confused and disillusioned , because the man whom God had anointed to shepherd the flock, and whom God was obviously using, was telling them that it wasn't God's will what they sincerely thought the Holy Spirit was telling them. As a result, the faith of many was injured or destroyed.
DO THESE PASSAGES DESCRIBE THE UNFORGIVABLE SIN?
This is an interesting question. To look at the combined sins of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and of commanding against the Holy Spirit, I would dare say that there are very few of us who haven't done one or the other, even if it was done unintentionally. The wording in the Greek clearly indicates that those who commit such sins are guilty of the sin which is worthy of judgment and hellfire. Ignorance or unintentionally committing these sins doesn't absolve one. Jesus didn't mince words;
"but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" (Mark 3:29)
Following are the remaining passages in the New Testament which use the same word, necoj, which means liable, answerable, guilty, deserving.
Mt. 5:21 "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.'
Mt. 5:22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire.
Mt. 26:66 What is your judgment?" They answered, "He deserves death."
Mr. 14:64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death.
1Co 11:27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.
Heb. 2:15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.
Jas. 2:10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.
But, as I stated earlier, the illustrations I shared about commanding against the Holy Spirit are true life examples. Some of those events happened years ago, and I personally know a couple of the people involved. If you were to meet them today, and see the behavior I stated that they did, you might question my credibility. There is very little about them that would remind you of what it was they did in the past. They not only have experienced forgiveness, but their lives have been transformed. How is this possible?
I would argue that the sin of blasphemy or of commanding against the Holy Spirit is the sin referred to by John as the "sin that leads to death." And that this sin is the one which Jesus died on the cross for. Because there could be no forgiveness for this sin, and that those who did it were legally liable and deserving of hell, we either had to pay the price for this sin ourselves, or have someone else pay the price for us. Jesus became our propitiation, our sin offering. Through His death the price for our crime has been paid.
But Jesus did more than just pay the price for our sin. Through His resurrection He provided a means for us whereby we could have a new life that empowers us to become receptive to the Holy Spirit and become a part of the work He is doing. So instead of blaspheming against or commanding against the Holy Spirit, we become a part of His work - walking in the Spirit and following His lead and direction throughout our daily trek in Him.
But this isn't automatic for the Christian. As shown in the illustrations I gave earlier, it is common for the church still to miss the voice of the Holy Spirit and command against Him. Working with Him requires us to be constantly listening for His voice, and for us to be constantly going to Him in prayer. Finding out what the Holy Spirit is doing is no easy task. But interfering with Him is as easy as breathing.
May God bless you as you continue in your walk with Him!
Glen Lee Edwards
March 15, 1998
"A bruised reed He will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish."
(Isaiah 42:3, Matthew 12:20)
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