What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit?

THOMAS: Interestingly enough, we talked a little bit about this today in a course that I was teaching here for Ligonier. We talked about the change of view that has taken place since the Puritan period in the seventeenth century. At that time, the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was a definite sin. It was a definite, existential moment in a person’s life when they said “No” to the gospel or “No” to the work of the Holy Spirit. I was pointing out that Martyn Lloyd-Jones, I think in Preaching and Preachers, said that this was what troubled his congregation the most during the course of his ministry.

Most interpreters today view the sin against the Holy Spirit as unbelief, such that the only sin that cannot be forgiven is unbelief. They say that if you are brought before the judgment seat of God and do not believe, then there is no forgiveness, and that is the sin against the Holy Spirit.

I’m more with the Puritans. I think that to sin against the Holy Spirit—and therefore to commit the unforgivable sin—is something one can commit during the course of one’s life rather than pushing it to the very end on the day of judgment.

WEBB: I’ve heard it said that if you are concerned that you’ve committed this sin, then you need not worry because you haven’t committed it. Is that true?

SPROUL: Not necessarily. You could have done it and still be concerned about it, but it’s a good sign.

WEBB: Okay.

SPROUL: In the first instance, when you’re talking about blasphemy, it has to do with something you say or write. The context in which the warning was given was that the Pharisees were accusing Jesus of doing His miracles by the power of the devil. It was like He said, “Be careful; you’re this close.”

Notice that, at the time of the crucifixion, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Scripture also says, “Had they known, they wouldn’t have crucified the Lord of glory,” (1 Cor. 2:8), and so on.

I think the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit happens when the Holy Spirit reveals to a person that Jesus is the Christ, and then they accuse Him of being a devil. If you do that, you’re toast. Now, I don’t know whether anybody ever does that, but I don’t think we ought to get away from what the very root meaning of blasphemy is—it’s a verbal thing.

 

This is a transcript of Derek Thomas’s and R.C. Sproul’s answers from our Theology in Dialogue event and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.