Sinning Against the Spirit

by Jerry Senn

“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven…in this age or in the age to come.” 
—Matthew 12:31, 32b

There are a couple reasons this subject interests so many. First, some are afraid they may have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit. Second, some are merely curious about it. Third, others would like to know in order to be free to commit all the other sins except this one.

Our Lord makes clear just how serious it is to commit this sin since it cannot possibly be forgiven. But, if someone is concerned about their condition with God, they need not worry since their concern demonstrates they haven’t committed it because they still desire to be right with God.

The context (Matthew 12:22-50) gives meaning to the matter. Jesus had just healed a “demon-oppressed, blind and deaf man” (v 22). The Pharisees who witnessed this attributed Jesus’ power to Beelzebub, the prince of demons, rather than to the Spirit. Their hearts were closed to this powerful Holy Spirit evidence that Jesus was God’s Son.

The Pharisees always wanted outward signs, and this mighty miracle was adequate evidence that Jesus was “the Messiah.” However, because their hearts were hard to the core, it was impossible to receive Him, and therefore forgiveness was out of the question.

Notice this: rejecting the “Son of Man” may be forgiven whereas the sin against the Holy Spirit “will not be forgiven (v 32).” How can we explain this? Obviously it demands some clear thinking and deeper study. 

However, the New Testament teaches that every sin a person will sincerely confess “will be forgiven” (1 John 1:9). John calls this “a sin not leading to death” (1 John 5:16). This is a sin, but forgiven because the sinner is willing to confess it. We’re urged to pray for such a person.

However, John says, “There is a sin that leads to death: I do not ask that one should pray for that” (v 16). Since we know that Jesus said the sin against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven now or later, it must mean that this “unpardonable” sin is committed when a person has tragically lost the capacity of heart to humbly confess his sins to God. 

Jesus said this about the Pharisees: “This people honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me” (Matthew 15:8, 9).

No one can know the heart of another person, but God keeps close watch on the motives of our hearts (Psalm 139:1-4). That’s his business! 

But, when the evidence presented to man of God’s existence and purpose encounters a heart that can no longer be moved by his love, he or she have become incapable of turning. The Jews in the text were warned of the danger of “sinning against the Holy Spirit.” No other evidence was going to change their minds, nor should have been expected.

Paul spoke of this sin when he referred to those whose “consciences are branded…(seared) as with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2, ASV)—sense of feeling lost. 

We know we haven’t committed this sin when we care about our relationship with him…and keep ourselves “in the love of God” (Jude 21; Hebrews 2:1-3). No sin can ever be forgiven if the heart can no longer be convicted of sin and does not want to trust in their Creator and Lord.