Sermon Outline of this article
Truth Magazine, XLVII:02, Jan. 16, 2003, pp. 51-54
Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit and Sinful Remarriages
Joe R. Price
From time to time brethren study and discuss what constitutes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Some are basing their erroneous conclusions about sin, repentance, salvation and divorce and remarriage upon mistaken notions surrounding such blasphemy. Therefore, it is important and practical to our faith in Christ that we understand this subject within the context and framework of inspired scripture and not the unstable structure of human wisdom (2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Cor. 2:1-5; Col. 2:3-4).
“Could this be the son of David?”
The presence of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus of Nazareth is an identifying mark that He is the Messiah. God’s prophet Isaiah predicted in Isaiah 42:1-4
1 "Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
2 He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
3 A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.
4 He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law."
Matthew quoted and applied this Messianic prophecy to Jesus in Matthew 12:15-21. Undoubtedly, the Holy Spirit was with Jesus as He “healed them all” (Matt. 12:15). Thus, an evidence that Jesus is the Messiah was given to men by means of His miraculous healings (cf. Jno. 20:30-31).
The people were concluding, upon the basis of His miraculous powers, that Jesus must be the Messiah. Those who witnessed His miracles were grasping the impact of what His power implied. So, when Jesus healed a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute the people wondered aloud, “could this be the Son of David?” (Matt. 12:22-23). Truly, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38). The Spirit of God was with Jesus as He healed (cf. Lk. 4:18; 5:17). The Messiah was among men.
But, not everyone accepted this miraculous evidence that Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah. The Pharisees opposed all linkage between the power of Jesus to cast out demons and the Messianic claim it supported. “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons” was their response (Matt. 12:24). They rejected the presence and power of the Spirit of God by attributing the works of Jesus to Beelzebub (the prince of demons, see Mk. 3:22). Unable to deny that a miracle had occurred, they cunningly ascribed to Jesus diabolical rather than divine power. By so doing they called the Spirit of God the Spirit of Satan!
Jesus demolished their false charge by first showing that a house divided against itself cannot stand (Matt. 12:25; Mk. 3:23-26). Then, He exposed their hypocritical inconsistency by wondering out loud what power was behind the exorcisms performed by their sons (Matt. 12:27)!
Jesus confidently affirmed that the source of His miraculous casting out of demons was divine. This was evidence that the kingdom of God was among them (cf. Matt. 12:17-21; Isa. 42:1-4; 61:1-2; Lk. 4:18-19; Mk. 1:14-15).
By casting out demons Jesus gave ample evidence of his power over Satan (Matt. 12:29). This evidence should compel the honest of heart to follow him (Matt. 12:30).
In Matthew 12:31-32 Jesus shows the depth and problem of the Pharisees’ sin:
31 Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men.
32 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 is it said that blasphemy against the Son of Man may be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven? One thing is certain: It is not because of any difference in the deity and holiness of the Son and the Spirit (Jno. 1:1-3, 14; Col. 2:9; Acts 5:3-4).
Rather, it is because Jesus makes a sequential argument. The person who speaks against the Son of Man may yet have his heart turned by the evidence given by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Christ, and in so turning, be saved (cf. Acts 2:4, 36-41; Tit. 3:3-7). However, the person who speaks against the Holy Spirit (by opposing the miraculous evidence from the Spirit that Jesus is the Messiah) rejects the very basis for faith and forgiveness! There will be no more evidence than what the Spirit of God has given that Jesus is the Christ (cf. Heb. 2:3-4; Mk. 16:17-20). Therefore, the person who rejects this evidence is guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and “will not be forgiven” (for without faith being established there can be no forgiveness, Matt. 12:32; Mk. 16:16).
As long as a person continues to oppose, reject and blasphemy the Spirit-given evidence that Jesus is the Christ, he will not be forgiven. J. W. McGarvey correctly observes
“But blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is in its nature an eternal sin, for if one rejects the evidence given by the Holy Spirit and ascribes it to Satan, he rejects the only evidence upon which faith can be based; and without faith there is no forgiveness. The difference in the two sins is therefore in no way due to any difference in the Son and Spirit as to their degrees of sanctity or holiness. The punishment is naturally eternal because the sin is perpetual.” (The Fourfold Gospel, p. 303)
The Pharisees who described the Spirit of God as “unclean” were guilty of such a sin, and as long as they continued to reject the miraculous, divine evidence they would never be forgiven: “he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation" ---- because they said, "He has an unclean spirit” (Mk. 3:29-30).
Whenever a person opposes and blasphemes the divinely given evidence that Jesus is the Christ he has rejected all the evidence the Spirit of God will ever give him that Jesus is the Christ. How shall he escape condemnation for such rejection? He will not (Heb. 2:3-4). By continuing to practice blasphemy against the Holy Spirit he “never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” (Mk. 3:29). When one continues to practice sin he will not be forgiven of that sin.
Is it scriptural to conclude there is one particular sin God will never forgive? No, because every sinner who will believe, repent and turn to the Lord will be saved – including the blasphemer (Acts 11:21). God’s power to save is never diminished nor is His mercy abated (Isa. 59:1-2; cf. Lk. 15:24). Should even a blasphemer come to believe the evidence that Jesus is the Christ, repent of his blasphemy and obey the gospel, we are confident he too will be saved by the mighty hand of God (Isa. 59:1-2). Momentarily, we will consider an example of this very thing.
Forgiveness Never Available?
Some brethren teach that forgiveness is never available nor applied once the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is committed. They say he has committed the sin which will never be pardoned (i.e., the “unpardonable sin”). Extrapolating from their mistaken notion that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit “can never be forgiven”, they then conclude that every other sin can be forgiven, including unlawful remarriages. Therefore (according to their line of reasoning), people can continue in unscriptural remarriages when they obey the gospel with the assurance that God forgives them and accepts them in that remarriage (Matt. 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:10-11). These brethren are teaching people that God forgives them in spite of their ongoing sin of adultery.
We do not deny that the adultery of unlawful remarriages can be forgiven. Indeed, it can be and will be whenever the sinner repents and ceases his practice of sin (Acts 26:20; Rev. 9:20-21). However, we strenuously deny that the Lord allows those in adulterous remarriages to continue in their adultery after becoming Christians by somehow suggesting that forgiveness means their sin is no longer sin!
Blasphemy is still blasphemy after baptism, and if the blasphemer does not repent he will die in his sin (Ezek. 18:4). Adultery is still adultery after baptism, and if the adulterer does not repent he will die in his sin (Ezek. 18:4). God’s will both for the blasphemer and the adulterer (as well as all other sinners) is “that he should turn from his ways and live” (Ezek. 18:23, 32). Like the Ephesians who burned their books to end all association with their previous sin, the adulterer must cease his adulterous association (Acts 19:18-20). God has never offered a sinner any assurance of forgiveness when the sinner continues to practice his sin, including the sin of adultery (Matt. 19:9; 1 Jno. 3:4-10; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; Eph. 4:20-24; Rom. 6:1-2). Repentance necessitates that sin cease. Those who continue to practice sin have not repented of it (Rev. 9:20-21).
It is a strange and perverted exegesis of scripture which concludes there is one sin God will never forgive (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit) - even when the sinner repents and obeys the gospel, yet there is another sin God will allow the sinner to continue practicing even though he has not repented of it! This is not the apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42)! Such a view of sin and forgiveness perverts scripture and gives false assurance to those who continue to practice sin (2 Pet. 3:16; Gal. 1:6-9).
Are these brethren suggesting that a person who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never repent (change his mind), can never believe that Jesus is the Christ, and can never obey the gospel unto the saving of his soul? If so, then these brethren must necessarily conclude the gospel is powerless to convert some sinners. Yet, the gospel retains its full power to save “everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). These brethren have reached a false conclusion concerning blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in a futile attempt to justify unscriptural remarriages. As a result they diminish the power of the gospel to save the lost!
Are we to believe that there is one group of sinners who cannot call upon the name of the Lord and be saved? “For whosoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13). According to these brethren, calling on the name of the Lord and being saved is unattainable by those who have once blasphemed against the Holy Spirit. But, the evidence of inspired scripture shows that even one who blasphemes the Spirit of God can be converted by the power of the gospel and call upon the name of the Lord.
Saul of Tarsus was a blasphemer before his conversion (1 Tim. 1:13). He did many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth, including consenting to the death of Stephen (Acts 7:58, 8:1). You may recall that Stephen’s murder was precipitated when he accused Saul and his cohorts of always resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51). Always resisting the Holy Spirit is certainly “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit”. Saul was guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as long as he resisted the Spirit-provided evidence that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (cf. Jno. 16:8-15).
But, Saul was forgiven of his blasphemy against the Holy Spirit when he repented, believed and obeyed the gospel. Saul the blasphemer was told to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16)! What some brethren say cannot be done did indeed happen!
If blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven, regardless of the blasphemer belief, repentance and obedience to the gospel, then the conversion and apostleship of Paul was all a sham! His conversion was a fraud! What is more, the Lord deceived him into thinking he was forgiven when he never could be!
If those who hold the view that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven reject this conclusion when it is applied to Saul, they have just given up their false position – and we applaud them for it! Any view of this subject that prevents a sinner from repenting and being saved is false. Jesus Christ “is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:10).
Any sin one continues in will not be forgiven, whether it is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit or the sin of adultery due to an unscriptural remarriage. Sin which one continues to practice is a “sin leading to death” (1 Jno. 5:16-17). Truly, “how shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Rom. 6:2)
Any sinner who does not repent of his sin “will not be forgiven”. Please note:
1) The blasphemer who persists in (will not repent of but continues to practice) his blasphemy will not be forgiven of his blasphemy (“it will not be forgiven him”, Matt. 12:32). But, the blasphemer who will repent and reform will be saved. Saul of Tarsus, the previously Holy Spirit blasphemer, is proof of that (1 Tim. 1:12-16; Acts 26:15-20).
2) The drunkard who persists in (will not repent of but continues to practice) his drunkenness will not be forgiven of his sin of drunkenness (Gal. 5:21).
3) The polygamist who persists in (will not repent of but continues to practice) his polygamy will not be forgiven of his sin of polygamy (Rom. 7:2-3; Matt. 19:4-6).
4) The adulterer who persists in (will not repent of but continues to practice) his adultery will not be forgiven of his sin of adultery (1 Cor. 6:9-11; Heb. 13:4).
Repentance does not change the nature of sin, but the heart & life in respect to practicing the sin. Thus, a marriage which is adultery before baptism is still adultery after baptism (Matt. 19:9). For forgiveness to be applied the practice of sin – including the practice of adultery – must cease (Rom. 6:1-4; cf. Lk. 3:8-14). Those who continue to practice adultery after being baptized do not have forgiveness in spite of their sin. There is no hope of salvation for the person who, upon being baptized, continues to allow sin to reign in his mortal body (Rom. 6:11-12). But that is exactly what happens when one remains in the sin of adultery after becoming a Christian.
God’s forgiveness of our sins is a wonderful, glorious thing! We lessen the value of forgiveness and fail to properly esteem God’s mercy whenever we redefine forgiveness to imply that one can continue in sin that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1)! To teach people they can remain in unlawful remarriages with God’s approval and forgiveness cheapens God’s forgiveness, nullifies the demands of repentance and deceptively says “peace, peace” when there is no peace.
God’s word never approves forgiveness in spite of one’s sin. The sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be used successfully to prop up the false teaching that sinful remarriages are “forgiven” after baptism in spite of its ongoing practice.
We would urge brethren who teach otherwise to give up their false conclusion that adulterers can continue in their adultery when they become Christians “because God forgives their sin of adultery”. God forgives every sinner when he repents of his sin and obeys the gospel, not before (Acts 17:30; 2:37-38).