Requirements for salvation: Not blaspheming the Spirit

'And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander [Greek blasphemy] can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.' (Mat 12:31–2)

In this series we've been looking at the biblical requirements for salvation with particular reference to Old Testament believers. In this final study we are going to look at the necessity of not blaspheming the Spirit.

An eternal sin

Jesus made it clear, in three of the Gospels, that blasphemy against the Spirit is a sin that will not be forgiven (Mat 12:31–2; Mar 3:28–9; Luk 12:10), and as salvation is only possible through the forgiveness of sins (Luk 1:76–7), anyone who commits that sin will not be saved.

Jesus said that it's an eternal sin (Mar 3:29). The Greek word used (aionios) means eternal, everlasting, forever. The same word is used in Rom 16:26 to describe God. That means that those who blaspheme the Spirit will not be forgiven for as long as God exists. Why is that? We are not told, but there will be a reason.

I believe that blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven because of the importance of the Holy Spirit to our salvation. We cannot be saved without Jesus (Act 4:12), but we cannot be saved without the Spirit either.

The ministry of the Spirit

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit will prove the world to be in the wrong (Greek convict the world) about sin (Joh 16:8).

Our conscience tells us that we've done wrong, but the Holy Spirit convicts us of our wrongs. He makes us feel guilty before God and shows us that we need a Saviour. He then gives us the faith to believe in Jesus. Salvation is a divine act: it's the moving of God upon a person, by his Spirit.

At conversion the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us; we become temples of the Spirit (1Co 6:19). He then begins to transform us into the image of the Lord (2Co 3:18). That transformation leads us to righteousness, righteousness to holiness, and holiness to eternal life (Rom 6:19,22). We reap eternal life by sowing to please the Spirit (Gal 6:8).

Let's look at some other aspects of the Spirit's ministry:

And that is not all the Spirit does in us, through us, and for us. Because of that God has said: People can blaspheme me, and I will forgive them; they can blaspheme my Son, and I will forgive them; but if they blaspheme my Spirit I will never forgive them.

The Holy Spirit is the member of the Trinity moving on earth today. He is God in action, glorifying Jesus and bringing people to salvation.

Can Christians blaspheme the Spirit?

The Greek word translated 'blaspheme' in the New Testament is blasphemeo. It means to insult, slander, curse. It involves the spoken word. Jesus said that anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven (see opening text).

In Matthew and Mark's Gospels, Jesus made his statements about blasphemy against the Spirit after unbelieving Pharisees and teachers of the Law had accused him of driving out demons by Beelzebul (another name for Satan – Mat 12:22–4; Mar 3:22), when he always drove them out by the Spirit of God (Mat 12:28).

That was an insult to the Holy Spirit and made it impossible for them to be saved. But can Christians blaspheme the Spirit? Yes, they can. A Christian is capable of committing any sin: we still have a sinful nature and free will.

Are we likely to speak against the Spirit? Not if we live according to the Spirit (Gal 5:16). Paul wrote that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will say, 'Jesus be cursed (1Co 12:3).' Similarly, no one speaking by the Spirit will blaspheme the Spirit. However, there is another way we can blaspheme the Spirit: it concerns what we do.

Insulting the Spirit of grace

Heb 10:26–7 says that if we deliberately keep on sinning after we've received the knowledge of the truth (after we've been born again and know how God wants us to live), no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.

It goes on to say that those who do so have trampled the Son of God underfoot, treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and insulted the Spirit of grace (v29).

You will remember that to blaspheme means to insult. To deliberately keep on sinning while the Holy Spirit is trying to transform us into the image of the Lord (2Co 3:18) is an insult to him. Those who do that make themselves enemies of God and will be consumed by the flames of hell.

Let us not forget that the Letter to the Hebrews was written to Christians (Heb 3:1); that when the author wrote: 'If we deliberately keep on sinning… (v26)', he included himself; and that v29 addresses born-again believers—those who have been sanctified (made holy) by the blood of the covenant.

Some Christians do what they know is wrong, reasoning that because God is a forgiving God he will forgive them if they confess it to him afterwards (1Jo 1:9). But you cannot use God's forgiveness as a licence to sin. He will not tolerate that behaviour indefinitely. Such people are insulting the Spirit of grace, which is blasphemy.

The same was true under the Old Covenant. If anyone sinned defiantly (wilfully doing what they knew was wrong) they were guilty of blasphemy against the Lord and were cut off from their people. Their guilt remained on them; it couldn't be atoned for; they had committed an unforgivable sin (Num 15:30–1).

The permanence of hell

I said earlier that the Greek word aionios is used in the New Testament to describe the eternal existence of God. It is also used to describe eternal life and eternal punishment (Mat 25:46). That means that those who go to hell will suffer for as long as God exists. I find that the most shocking truth in the Bible.

No wonder Jesus told us to fear him who has the power to throw us into hell (Luk 12:4–5), and to be radical with the things that cause us to sin, lest we suffer the worms that will not die and the fire that will not be quenched (Mar 9:43–8).

Some Christians believe that if, at some stage in their life, they have received Jesus Christ as their Saviour and their Lord, they are eternally secure and will dwell with him forever. I've endeavoured to show, through the studies in this series, that salvation is not as simple as that.

Ignorance is no defence in law and will be no defence on the Day of Judgement. It is better to find out what God requires of us now, and live accordingly, than to remain in ignorance and find ourselves in hell. I tell you there will be no way out; there will be no second chance; there is no purgatory.

This life is not a rehearsal, it's the performance. If we make a mess of it, that will be it. Hell will last as long as heaven; eternal punishment as long as eternal life.

Be Bereans

On one occasion Jesus said, 'You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures… (Mat 22:29)'. He also said, 'Have you never read in the Scriptures… (Mat 21:42)?' Do we read the Bible ourselves, or do we leave it to others to tell us what it says? They could be wrong.

The Bereans were more noble than the Thessalonians because, even though they received Paul's message with eagerness, they examined the Scriptures daily to see if what he was saying was true (Act 17:11). The Bible is God's handbook on salvation, it shows us how we can be saved. Read it, study it, believe it and obey it. God has given us his Spirit so we can do that.

Final comment

I've illustrated this series with examples of Old Testament believers who demonstrated some of the requirements necessary for salvation. Are there examples of Old Testament believers who blasphemed the Spirit? No, there are not. Let's hope that will also be the case with New Testament believers.

Lord, we need your grace in our lives.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all, evermore. Amen (2Co 13:14).

Michael Graham
September 2010
Revised August 2022

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised edition). Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved.

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