” . . . And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets . . . “
“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:31-32).
THE SIN AGAINST THE HOLY GHOST
In the Nicene Creed we confess our faith in the Holy Ghost as “The Lord and Giver of Life,” that is, of true spiritual life which leads to eternal Life. The Holy Spirit is the “Lord” of Life. The term “lord” means “master”; the Holy Spirit is the Lord or Master of spiritual and eternal Life because, as the One through whom alone sinners can be brought to faith, He Himself is the “Giver” of eternal Life.
It stands to reason that those who want to receive the Gift of Life must not spite or slight the Giver. According to Jesus’ words above, to do so means one will receive eternal death in place of Life.
The setting of the Lord’s remark was an encounter He had with the Pharisees. Jesus had cast out a demon from a possessed person. His enemies blasphemously accused Him of casting out devils by Beelzebub, the chief of the devils. Jesus did not permit Himself to be personally offended at this blasphemous charge. Rather, He used the opportunity to warn them against the unforgiveable sin.
As terrible as is the sin of denying Jesus and blaspheming Him, there is forgiveness for such sins. There is forgiveness for all sins, even the coarsest and worst sins you might name–all but one. The blood of Jesus Christ is sufficient to atone for and blot out all sins–all but one.
In the gospel of Mark Jesus put it this way: ” . . . but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” (Mk. 3:29). What does “blaspheme” mean? It means to speak against something sacred. To blaspheme the Holy Ghost means to speak evil against Him. God the Father planned our eternal salvation. God the Son earned forgiveness and eternal life through His innocent and substitutionary death for sinners on the cross. But the Holy Ghost is the Giver of eternal Life. Sins against the Father and the Son, if repented of, can be forgiven. But the one who sins against the Giver of eternal Life cuts himself off from the very Word which alone can lead to repentance and renewal. Such a sin, therefore, cannot be forgiven.
The sin against the Holy Ghost has not been committed by those who simply do not understand some parts of the Bible, or who sin ignorantly. St Paul writes of Himself: “…I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Tim. 1:13). The sin against the Holy Ghost is not committed by those who are troubled, fearful, and distressed over some sin. In fact, that very attitude is evidence that the person has not hardened self against the Spirit’s continued working in the heart.
The sin against the Holy Ghost is an attitude of total disregard for, and defiance of, the activity of the Spirit who seeks to work on the hearts of sinners through the Means of Grace. The unforgiveable sin can be committed only by those who have at one time been brought to faith or who have had opportunity for the Spirit’s influence upon their heart. It appears that Pharaoh committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, for we read that, when the Word of God came to him, he hardened his heart, blaspheming and mocking God (Ex. 5:2).
Since no man can read the heart of another, it can never be said definitely that some specific person has committed the unforgiveable sin. However, every Christian needs to pay attention to the many warnings in Scripture–warnings from the Holy Ghost, Who is the Author of the Scriptures!–against despising His Means of Grace.
Writing about the unforgiveable sin, a Lutheran forefather said: ” . . . And why is this sin not forgiven? Because the sinner himself, fully conscious, decides: ‘I don’t want the forgiveness that I’ve experienced; I don’t want the faith that has moved my heart; I want no part of the Spirit that has worked this faith within me.’ And he ends up cursing the Holy Ghost, the faith and the forgiveness and all the Holy Ghost effected in him! And thus that sinner has himself, fully conscious, voluntarily, willfully, and once for all rejected God’s forgiveness and driven off the Holy Spirit Who solely and alone by faith puts one into possession of forgiveness of one’s sins. As a consequence, such a one is without forgiveness forever and subject to eternal condemnation. The Holy Ghost abandons him, Christ does not intercede for him any longer, and the Father pronounces the sentence of everlasting rejection. And as St. John instructs us in his first epistle (5:16), Christians are not to pray for such a one any longer.” (Manna, 1906, by Carl Manthey-Zorn, p. 439)
Jesus said on another occasion: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (Jn. 6:63). It’s clear. The Holy Spirit gives life–true spiritual life which ends in eternal Life. As “The Lord and Giver of Life” the Spirit works through the Word of God to impart true spiritual life. “Oh, dear Christian, . . . willingly follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit and tremble at the thought of the least resistance to him, lest such an evil beginning lead to such a frightful end!” (Same reference)
–Pastor Paul Fleischer