I hope that you have accepted the “New Testament challenge,” to read through the New Testament in 2017. If you started in Matthew, you should be reading Matthew chapters 11-15 this week.
This week’s readings include Matthew 12:31, where Jesus says, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” People sometimes ask me about the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. They see this as “the unforgivable sin,” and wonder if perhaps they have committed a sin which cannot be forgiven by God.
As with any biblical passage, it is important to examine the context of this verse. In this chapter, Jesus has healed a man who was possessed by demons—the demons had rendered him blind and mute. When the Pharisees saw this, they argued that Jesus was acting in the power of Satan. They said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” They didn’t want to recognize Jesus’ authority as the Son of God. So they grasped at straws in an effort to discredit Jesus and undermine his power as the divine Lord. This was an indication of their ongoing and extreme belligerence to Christ and to His identity as God in the flesh.
Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:31 are a direct response to their attack on his identity. They attributed the work of God to Satan. So, in the context, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was their assertion that Jesus was acting in the power of the devil. Their sin was attributing to Satan the very works of God! Their willful defiance of the authority of Christ and their insistence that Christ was a channel for the works of Satan constituted blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This antagonism to the work of Christ continued throughout Jesus’ ministry, culminating in their complicity in his death on the cross.
We need to have an awareness of sin. We need to ask God to show us areas where sin might not be on our radar. But I have never personally known anyone who in my estimation has committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. I have never known anyone who attributed the works of Christ to Satan. I’m not saying this can’t happen today—it certainly can. But the vast majority of people who worry they might have committed blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, have not.
Still, this episode should remind us of the power of Satan and our need to align ourselves every day with Christ. Satan is the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2) who seeks to kill and destroy us. We need to live with the confidence that we are in Christ, without forgetting that Satan is always on the attack.