I often get questions about the unpardonable sin and blasphemy against the Holy Ghost as recorded in Matthew 12:31-32. This passage has been a problem for many people. I have dealt with a number of people over the years who thought they could not get saved because they had committed this sin. I also found that those who thought they had committed this sin had been guilty of many different things (suicide, abortion, etc.)—all thought by them to be this sin.
Many good people have seen this passage in different ways. But we must remember that the final authority for truth is always the Bible—not what any man thinks. To understand the passage, we must ask several questions concerning this sin. First, what is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost? Second, who can commit this sin? Third, what does it mean that this sin can never be forgiven?
FIRST: What is the sin against the Holy Ghost?
This sin is mentioned in only three places and these are all records of the same incident: Matthew 12:22-33; Mark 3:22-30; Luke 11:14-20 with 12:10. In each record, Christ casts out devils and is accused by the Pharisees of casting them out by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of the devils (Matthew 12:24). In return, Christ gives His warning about blaspheming against the Holy Ghost. In fact, according to Mark 3:30, He made His statement about this sin “[b]ecause they said, He hath an unclean spirit”. Jesus was telling them that they had just blasphemed against the Holy Ghost and it would not be forgiven them.
How did these Pharisees blaspheme the Holy Ghost? They saw Jesus cast out devils by the power of the Spirit of God (Matthew 12:28). They knew that it was the work of God. Consider the testimony of Nicodemus in John 3:2 where he says: ”...we [Nicodemus was a Pharisee] know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can to these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him”.
The Pharisees did not oppose Jesus because they doubted that He was from God. They opposed Him because they knew He would take their position from them (see John 11:47-48). It is with this clear knowledge of who Christ was that they attributed His works to the devil. That is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost—to knowingly attribute the miracles of Jesus Christ, which were done by the Holy Ghost, to the devil.
SECOND: Who can commit this sin?
This sin can only be committed by someone who has seen the work of Jesus, known it was done by the power of God’s Spirit and yet attributes it to the devil for personal gain or hatred. I personally believe that this sin could only be committed when Jesus was present on the earth. This would explain why the sin is never mentioned again in the New Testament.
But even if it could be committed today, it could not be committed by a true believer in Christ. If someone truly believes in Jesus, he will not knowingly accuse Jesus of doing His work by the power of the devil. The very act of saying such a thing would be proof that He did not know Jesus as his Lord and Saviour (see 1John 2:19; 4:1-3; 2John 9). No, only a lost person could commit this sin.
THIRD: What happens when a person commits this sin?
Well, when a man blasphemed against the Holy Ghost, he sinned against the very one who must deal with him and draw him to salvation. The Holy Ghost reproves us of sin (John 16:7-11) and draws us to God. If He does not do His work, we cannot be saved (John 6:44). This man’s sin is never forgiven because He has cut off the very one who must draw him to be saved. Without this drawing, he will never be saved.
This is actually another proof that this sin only operated during the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Christ has promised to draw all men to Himself through His crucifixion on the cross (John 12:32). Evidently then, this sin could only be committed before Christ was crucified. Today, there is no group of people who are not drawn (at least at some point in their lives) to Christ.
Since a man who has not been drawn by the Holy Ghost has never been saved, blasphemy against the Holy Ghost cannot cause the losing of one’s salvation. But consider this. If you or anyone else had committed this sin, you would never again be convicted by the Spirit of your need for a Saviour or of your need to get right with God.
The very fact that you are concerned is proof that the Holy Ghost is still working with you and that you have not blasphemed the Holy Ghost. Do not let the devil use false teaching on this doctrine destroy your peace or make you think you cannot be saved. The call to salvation still proclaims, “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).