Matthew 12, Mark 3 and Luke 11 are the three passages in the gospels where the idea of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is related to us. It is often asked: What is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and can I commit it? Many answers I hear and read fall short of the mark in terms of relating what the issue is in context and why it is so egregious. Missing that essential point, many Bible teachers and answer programs default this specific, egregious sin to simple unbelief until death. The blasphemy of the HS is not simply unbelief. It is more than that…so what is it?
First, let me express my conclusions before making my argument. The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit cannot be committed today. It is a sin that is historically and contextually confined to the nation of Israel and the time of Christ, the time we would define as the “fullness of time.” This is important. To generalize the time and the event, makes this event in the life of Christ and the nation of Israel simply one more act of disobedience. Jesus is saying that this specific act is “unforgivable”; it is the final rejection of God by disbelieving national Israel. In essence, he is bringing the charge against the nation that will justify the breaking of the everlasting covenant made with Israel in favor of the New Covenant in His blood. So asking the question, “Is it about me?” misses the point, and the historical significance of the actions of the Scribes and Pharisees.
First, the Blasphemy of the Spirit has to do with the kingdom. The context is an exorcism. Jesus is casting demons out. His answer to the challenge of authority and source (He casts out demons by the ruler of demons) is summarized by the statement: “If I cast out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” Jesus is declaring that He is the king, and that He brings the kingdom. Some talk about Jesus “offering” the kingdom at this point, as if it were an option he were leaving up to His followers. This is not the case. He establishes His kingdom in the Incarnation.
Throughout the gospels we have glimpses and revelation of the presence of the triune God. This is the incredible exposure of the Incarnation. So at the baptism of Jesus, we see the Son, the Father speaks, the Spirit descends and rests on Him. Other places hint of this as well, like the Transfiguration. Here there is also this mixture of revelation. Jesus is present among his chosen people. The Spirit is wielded as the instrument of power and transformation in casting out the demonic. The Father is also present, embodied in Him is the authority. So we have this unique environment. This was in fact the “fullness of time” where the nation is exposed to the inner sanctuary; in glory, power and proximity. It is in this holy place that the Pharisees/Scribes blaspheme. It is the equivalent of entering the Holy of Holies and saying that it was the abode of Satan. That is unforgivable.
When Jesus says all manner of sin will be forgiven, even words spoken against the Son, he is speaking of those sins of confusion, doubt, temporary arrogance, sinful proclivity. This sin is by nature unforgivable because of the time, the persons, the place of its committal. It is not simply oversight, or the failure of the moment. It is the absolute failure of the nation embodied in its leadership to bow the knee to the king. Instead, they call him the devil, and plot to kill him. It is in this light that the parable of the Landowner should be read and interpreted (Matthew 21:33-46; Luke 20:9-18 and Isaiah 5:1-7; Psalm 118:22). The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit and the rejection by the “vine-growers” of the son are one in the same act. This is the act that causes God to “come and destroy these vine-growers and will give the vineyard to others.”
This is the fullness of time. The Pharisees were to be the light to the nations, and the guide to the sheep of Israel. When Messiah came they were to point to him and say: “He’s here!” Instead they tell all around, “He is the devil” The fullness of the radiance of the godhead is present in Christ in the midst of His people, His covenant people. The moment they had all been waiting for and praying for.
So the book of Luke (Luke 11:37-54) follows up on this incident with the woes upon the Pharisees and the judgment that falls upon this generation. “The blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation” (Luke 11:50). In their participation in the crucifixion, they have sealed their position against God, and He breaks the covenant with them – ultimately fulfilling the words of Christ in destroying the temple. There is no forgiveness for that. It is over. The nation and the system of the Old Covenant are now obsolete and done away with. A new covenant supersedes and is now in place. There is salvation in no one else.
The blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is easily summed up in the words found in Mark 3:30:
“because they (Scribes in Mark) were saying “He (that is Jesus) has an unclean spirit (that in reference to the HS).”
Those three elements are necessary for the sin to be committed: God’s chosen leadership in the nation of Israel; God’s chosen Servant, the Messiah Jesus Christ the Incarnate; God’s Holy Spirit, supernaturally revealing and working through the Messiah. As people of faith we often desire a more blatant expression of the existence and presence of God. If it were more tangible, it would be easier to believe and walk with God. The nation had exactly that in the person of Christ and rejected Him (see John 20:29). That is the most egregious sin possible, therefore unforgivable.