The Unforgivable Sin
By Daniel Ishak
“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. 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. Matthew 12:32-33
When reading through the Bible, one of Christ’s most attractive attributes is His abundant forgiveness. The gospel are filled with stories of people who have been judged by men, but then forgiven by Christ. When they brought the adulterous woman before Him to be stoned, Christ looked to her with a sense of compassion and forgiveness, and told the scribes and Pharisees “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7). When everyone judges, Christ forgives.
But there is a sin that our forgiving Lord says cannot be forgiven: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. “Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. (Matthew 12:32)
At first glance, this seems so uncharacteristic of our forgiving savior. But when we take a closer look at who the Holy Spirit is, and what His role is in my life, we can begin to see why Christ was so strict in warning us of this sin.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is God. He is the third Person of the Holy Trinity and equal to both the Father and the Son. He was there at the beginning of creation, and since then has been present throughout the Old Testament, and continues to be active in the New Testament. He is not only God in heaven above, but also God who lives inside me. Jesus told the apostles, “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever – the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:16-18).
What is His role in my life?
Living inside of me, the Holy Spirit has many important roles: two of His most important roles are leading me to Christ, and driving my transformation and repentance.
- The first role of the Holy Spirit is to lead me to meet Christ. When Simeon the elder saw Christ in the temple, it says that the “the Holy Spirit was upon him…He was led by the Spirit to the temple” (Luke 2:25). The Holy Spirit led Simeon to the temple to meet Christ. He has the same role in my life today – He leads me to meet Christ. There’s a beautiful quote which states, “Just as the air remains in itself invisible to us but acts as the medium through which we see and hear other things so the Spirit does not reveal to us His own face but He always shows us the face of Christ.” When I lose sight of Christ and fall astray, the Holy Spirit leads me back to the temple where I can see Christ.
- The second role of the Holy Spirit is to transform my life. We see this clearly in the life of St Peter, an iconic example of spiritual renewal. When told by the servant girl in the High Priest’s house that he was a follower of Christ, Peter gave in to cowardice and denied Christ. However, when the Holy Spirit came upon him on the Day of Pentecost, his weak faith was transformed into perfect faith. He no longer feared people, and so preached to three thousand people, then to five thousand and after that to the Sanhedrin! We see a transformed St Peter. What happened in this period? It was the reception of the Holy Spirit. St John Chrysostom says about St Peter that “He raised his voice, he spoke with great confidence that they might perceive the grace of the Spirit. He who could not endure the questioning of a poor girl now discourses with such great confidence in the middle of people all breathing murder upon him. This in itself became an indisputable proof of the Resurrection, for wherever the Holy Spirit is present; people of clay are changed into people of gold.” Likewise, the Holy Spirit is the Person who drives my repentance and transforms me.
What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is the complete and continuous rejection of the Holy Spirit and His power in my life.
As we saw above, the Holy Spirit is the one who shows me the face of Christ, and who drives my repentance – and so when I make this conscious decision to reject Him continually, my heart eventually becomes so hardened that I will never repent, and as a result lose my chance of salvation. It is the complete and continuous rejection of the Holy Spirit that is the deadly sin, as it is rejecting His power to transform me and lead me to a repentance that produces eternal life.
There’s a big difference between a man who falls in sin, but is repentant, and desires to overcome his sin, and the man who fall in sin – aware of his wrongdoing – and refuses to repent. The problem with the latter is that eventually his heart becomes hardened, and it is impossible for him to respond to God’s word. An example of this type of character is Pharaoh from the Old Testament. In Exodus 9:12, it says that “the LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh; and he did not heed them.” God kept warning Pharaoh, sending him soft plagues in the beginning, and then the warning signs became increasingly harsh. However, Pharaoh was unrelenting. His heart became hardened, to the point where he could not heed the warning given to him by Moses and Aaron anymore. Likewise, God sometimes sends us little lessons in our lives. However, if we do not respond, our hearts can become so hardened that we no longer have the will to repent and thus, gain eternal life.
That is why we need to be mindful of the Holy Spirit and be conscious of His signals in our hearts so that we do not blaspheme against Him. He is continually trying to show me Christ, and to lead my transformation and repentance. Let us respond to Him, so that we do not be at risk of the grave sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
The pastoral irony of all this, of course, is that any Christian who asks a priest with trembling whether or not he has committed the unforgivable sin cannot possibly have committed it, for the question proves that the one asking it loves Jesus and fears being separate from Him. Let such devout souls fear nothing. They have clearly been caught in the fishermen’s net, along with other fish. Let them persevere in their devotion, and rest assured of final forgiveness.
– Anonymous early church father.
May the Lord make us people of gold, a responsive people who continually repent and are welcoming of the Holy Spirit in our lives, singing with David the prophet, “do not take Your Holy Spirit away from me.” Having the Holy Spirit stay with us will then allow us to gain the kingdom and see the face of Christ eternally.
Glory be to God Amen.