WOW! What a misunderstood subject. So many people with legitimate questions and yet the internet is flooded with misguided opinions and wrong interpretations. I’m not writing this to point fingers and correct, but to bring some understanding to a subject that seems to always come up in Christian circles of all denominations. For months the Lord has been dealing with me about this topic, and He has helped me understand some principles that have opened up His word to me in ways I never imagined. I feel like I understand it enough to teach it now, and I will try to do this in 2 parts.
We find references to the unpardonable sin in Mark 3, Luke 10, and Matthew 12. We will be focusing on Matthews account for this short teaching because it is the most complete, and gives us the proper context to interpret this passage. If you don’t read the entire text you will understand it as being denied entrance to heaven. This is not the case.
What the unpardonable sin is not:
These passages are referring to the promise of the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Heaven, and yes, for now, there is a difference.
The Kingdom of Heaven is the place where God the Father dwells. It is our eternal destination if we are born again. It is a specific place. (not earth) The Kingdom of God, on the other hand, is on the earth, and in our heart. (Luke 17:21) It is the place in which, at any given time, Jesus Christ’s rule and reign is acknowledged. Jesus will eventually deliver this Kingdom to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24) and both Kingdoms will then become congruent. For more teaching on the Kingdoms refer to: Defining The Kingdom, The Kingdom of God pt.2, and The Kingdom of God pt.3.
Another common teaching is that a true Christian cannot commit the unpardonable, That denying Jesus is the only thing that is unforgivable. This is certainly true, but it’s not what Jesus is talking about. When you look at His audience (Pharisees) and consider the entire context of what Jesus is saying, you will see that ONLY a Christian can commit such a sin. I will clarify this in the following paragraphs.
First, let’s look at the entire passage in Matthew that puts this whole thing in context. (All scripture will be from the New King James Bible unless noted otherwise.)
A kingdom divided
Matthew 12:25-37 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. 26 If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore, they shall be your judges. 28 But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. 30 He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.
The Unpardonable 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.
A Tree Known by Its Fruit
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. 34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Notice that the unpardonable sin is sandwiched between the parable of “a kingdom divided,” and the parable of “the good and bad trees.” Notice in verse 31, immediately following the parable of a house divided, Jesus says “Therefore I say to you…” In other words, Jesus is saying, “because of what I just told you, I also say this,” and He proceeds to tell them about the unpardonable sin.
In verse 33, He follows right in to the parable of the good and bad trees, which is another way of teaching about a house divided. This tells us that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is tied to both these parables, and in fact Jesus is using the text of the unpardonable sin , as well as the parable of the good and bad trees, to explain a house divided. This fact alone should help us from being deceived with most of the doctrines out there about this topic.
The fact is, this passage holds an important revelation concerning the righteousness of God, the Kingdom of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in the believers life. If you have a good grasp on your imputed righteousness, this will be much easier to understand.
Let’s start by defining some terminology in verses 31, and 32.
The Greek word for blasphemy is; blasphēmía. It comes from ( blax, “sluggish/slow,” and phḗmē, “reputation, fame”) – blasphemy – literally means, slow to call something good (that really is good) – and slow to identify what is truly bad (that really is evil). Blasphemy also means “to speak against.” It is primarily a sin of the mouth but can be expressed in actions as well.
Blasphemy takes the faith principle of calling things that are not as though they were, (Romans 4:17) and twists it. Instead of speaking faith and eternal truth over something that is in opposition to truth, instead of speaking life to something that is dead, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit takes truth and life for granted. It despises (lightly esteems) the Holy Spirit’s work and continues to speak unbelief instead of speaking words of faith. The words and actions of the “believer” do not line up with one who actually believes. This is the blasphemy that Jesus is talking about.
The Pharisees that Jesus was talking to were NOT believers. The instruction He was giving them was not about them, but about Himself. They were not capable of committing the unpardonable sin. This why He said in verses 34 “How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” Jesus was telling them that they weren’t even capable of speaking faith because of what was in them.
It is when we speak against the Holy Spirit in us that blasphemy occurs. The most common occurrence of this sin happens when we speak directly against God’s accomplished work and fail to recognize the righteousness that was imputed to us. We deny Christ’s redemptive work through the way we talk about ourselves. In essence, we despise salvation and say in our the heart that “What Christ did was not enough.” We do this by continuing to live by the law of sin and death, after Jesus has delivered us from it. This is offensive behavior to God, and there is nothing more He can do to deliver us from this deception. There is no other sacrifice that He can make to convince you to get on board with The transforming power of His grace.
If we could just bring ourselves to agree with the truth that He has made us worthy, righteous, and holy through His blood sacrifice, the Holy Spirit would be released to transform us into the reality of that truth. Our good trees would begin to bear the good fruit. If we don’t set ourselves in agreement with His completed work by what we say and how we act, we teat the blood of Jesus as common, insulting the Spirit of grace, and blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
Hebrews 10:26-29 26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
The sin of blasphemy can be expressed in several ways. The most common way is to remain conscious of sin, allowing guilt, condemnation, and shame to rule our lives, rule our speech, and hinder us in our relationship with God. It is blatant unbelief in Christ’s accomplished work. I think this unbelief comes mainly from ignorance, not from a wrong heart. This part of the Gospel does not seem to get the attention that it should. Yet, when you read the New Testament, you will see that almost every epistle focuses in part, on this topic. The books of Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and 1st and 2nd Corinthians are devoted almost entirely to addressing this.
When we try to justify ourselves by our works (performance) after we have been born again, we blaspheme the Holy Spirit. We say, by our actions, that Jesus was not enough to make me righteous, and the Holy Spirit is not at work to change me.
Most Christians don’t understand the work of redemption, which changes who they are. God intends for us to start our new life where Jesus finished His. We must start where He died and be raised up together with Him as a new creation. Dead to sin, and alive to God.
We have reduced the gospel to a prayer that some day gets us to heaven, and completely ignore the truth that we can NOW have a transformed life through relationship with the Father, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God. This is the hope of the gospel.
Colossians 1:21-23 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.
The issue is, most Christians have not heard, or do not understand this hope of the gospel. The hope that we were made righteous and holy in the sight of God so we could be restored in relationship to Him. The hope that sin has been dealt with and no longer is a barrier to that relationship. Not understanding what Christ did, and who we are in God’s sight prevents us from embracing the truth, and power of the gospel.. We are NOW “holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— if indeed we continue in the faith”
In the next two passages, we see this “hope of the gospel” mentioned again.
Hebrews 3:6 but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
Hebrews 10:19-23 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
So how does this tie to a house, or kingdom being divided? First we need to understand that we are NOW Christ’s house, the temple of the Holy Spirit.
1Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?
When we let sin separate us from our Father, AFTER He has paid the FULL price for it, and removed the effects of it from our lives, we are saying in our hearts that what He did was not enough. In our heart, we speak against the Holy Spirit, our house is divided. We attempt to stand with one foot in the Kingdom of God, and one foot still in darkness. We try to serve the master, Jesus, and the master of the sin, the law of sin and death.
This is the primary reason that we see good hearted, well meaning, sincere Christians, that fully believe in the promises of God, but never seem to be able to appropriate them.
In part 2 of this teaching we will look at the Old Testament examples of the principle behind the unpardonable sin. We will also find out what Jesus meant when He spoke of “the age to come.” And we will gain understanding about what it means to “make a tree good.”
more to follow…