Matthew recorded, “Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come” (Matt. 12:31-32). Over the years in the brotherhood there have been numerous speculations, doctrines, and insinuations built from the idea of the “unpardonable sin.” By careful examination of the context, the phrasing, and parallel passages, this study will discern what this unpardonable sin is and what it is not, and can it be committed today?
There are three passages that mention this admonition and directive of Christ (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30; Luke 12:10). In all three passages the context provides understanding to what Christ means in reference to blasphemy. What is blasphemy? Wayne Jackson wrote, “Blasphemy is an anglicized form of the Greek term blasphemia, which scholars believe probably derives from two roots, blapto, to injure, and pheme, to speak. The word would thus suggest injurious speech” (Jackson, Wayne (2000), Blasphemy—What Is This Great Sin?, [On-line], URL: https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/168-blasphemy-what-is-this-great-sin.) In addition to other biblical scholars the evidence suggests that blasphemy is a sin of the mouth, a “tongue-sin.”
Bernard Franklin, in his article concerning blasphemy against the Spirit, studied the word blasphemy as it was used in other parts of the New Testament, “The word “blasphemy” in its various forms (as verb, noun, adjective, etc.) appears some fifty-nine times in the New Testament. It has a variety of renderings. Examples of these various renderings are: “They that passed by reviled him” (Matthew 27:39). “They that passed by railed on him” (Mark 15:29). “The way of truth shall be evil spoken of …” (2 Peter 2:2). “These speak evil of those things…” (Jude 10). It is evident from these that blasphemy is a sin of the mouth, a “tongue-sin” (Franklin, Barnard (1936), “The Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost: An Inquiry into the Scriptural Teaching Regarding the Unpardonable Sin,” Bibliotheca Sacra, 93:220-233, April.). All New Testament writers except the author of Hebrews use the word.
In the context of this statement, Jesus had healed a man possessed by a demon, and the Pharisees in an attempt to discredit the testimony of Christ and the witnessing of God through the miraculous works of the Spirit claimed that Christ used the power of the devil to cast out demons. In His response, Christ showed the poor logic in their accusation (Matt. 12:25-30). Christ exposed their blasphemy or tongue sin against the Holy Spirit.
The unpardonable sin in context was the Pharisees’ statement that the power of Christ, which was the testimony of God through the Spirit, was from the devil. They spoke evil or in contempt of God’s testimony, the Word. In doing this, they ostracized themselves and severed themselves from the teachings of Christ and testimony of God, and one can have no hope of salvation when one is separate from the testimony of God (Heb. 2:3-4).
God’s testimony to the redemption and salvation of man came through the miraculous works of the Spirit, if one rejects and speaks against this testimony, such an individual can never have the forgiveness of sins. Those who rejected the Holy Spirit, rejected Christ. Those who rejected Christ could not be forgiven of sins.
The Pharisees believed that the Law of Moses would save them; the Gentiles believed their wisdom and philosophy would save them, but they cannot escape condemnation if they knowingly cut themselves off from the witness and testimony of God (1 Cor. 10:12). Does this mean that such individuals can never be saved?
One can repent and be forgiven if a person prays to God in the context of 1 John 5:15-16, but in Matthew 12:31-32, these people that blaspheme the Holy Spirit would never ask for forgiveness from God because they have severed any connection to God. In the Pharisees’ current state displayed in the Scriptures, they had no hope of salvation, thus the unpardonable sin.
The term “unpardonable” in this context doesn’t mean that once the sin is committed that the person can never be forgiven of that sin even if they repent, but rather that one can never be forgiven while holding on to that sin. If a person frees themselves from this sin by hearing and believing the Word and message of the Holy Spirit, then the individual may be saved if they act in their belief (James 2:24-26). God forgives any and all sins if a believer makes a full repentance of it (1 John 1:7). If God forgave Paul, then He could have forgiven the Pharisees if they had repented (1 Tim. 1:15; Rom. 10:1).
Can people today blaspheme the power of Christ and testimony of God? Yes, by speaking evil against the Bible and cutting ourselves off from the testimony of God. The Word is the testimony and the Holy Spirit today (1 Peter 1:22-23). However, the exact conditions of this great sin cannot be reacted exactly because no one can see Christ performing miracles as He did in the first century, the parallel of this sin does exist today.
There is no hope without the testimony of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; John 17:17). Such individuals make themselves an enemy of truth and righteousness by rejecting the message of God revealed in the Bible. People can still make themselves unpardonable today if they refuse to hear the Word (John 8:24).