What does it mean to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit?
One of the most troubling issues that has perplexed professing Christians is the question of whether one could blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and not know it. The reason for this concern is the fact that Jesus warned against it, stating emphatically that there is no forgiveness for that egregious act. Jesus said:
“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” – Matt. 12:31, 32.
Inevitably, one wonders who this mighty Holy Ghost might be, that you can speak against Christ himself, the “Son of man”, and be forgiven, but if you blaspheme against the Holy Ghost you cannot get forgiveness. Is this Holy Ghost greater than Jesus Christ himself? Or is it that we do not understand what blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is, in that sense? It appears that the latter might be the case. Let us examine what blasphemy against the Holy Ghost is.
First, let us consider two similar situations in which people were warned that if they should fall in breach, no excuse would be accepted. This might shed some light as to whether greatness of the person offended is the issue.
Angel in the Wilderness
In the first case, God is speaking to Moses and tells him that He would send His Angel to lead them through the wilderness. Here is the instruction:
“Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared. Beware of him, and obey his voice, provoke him not; for he will not pardon your transgressions: for my name is in him. But if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak; then I will be an enemy unto thine enemies, and an adversary unto thine adversaries. For mine Angel shall go before thee, and bring thee in unto the Amorites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites: and I will cut them off.” – Ex. 23:20-23.
So, God is sending His Angel to guide them. The Angel will be speaking to them on God’s behalf. God says, “if thou shalt indeed obey his voice, and do all that I speak”. The question is: when they hear this Angel’s voice, who is speaking? It is God that is speaking. But, is God speaking in person. No! He is speaking through this Angel that He has sent. When you disobey the Angel, who are you disobeying? God! But, is the Angel God himself? No! The Angel is someone that God has sent. Now, if you refuse to be guided by the one that God has sent to guide you, then how will you be guided? You’ll be left without a guide. And you’ll fall into the ditch. So, the issue is not about the greatness or status of that person who is sent to guide you. It is about the role that the person is appointed to serve for you, on God’s behalf.
Before looking at the second case, a word should be said about the reference to “an Angel”. The word translated “Angel” is the Hebrew word “malak”, which means messenger or agent. The term Angel does not tell you the status of the messenger or agent. Indeed, there are different categories of agents and messengers. In fact, one such agent, identified himself as God, when speaking to Moses from the burning bush. Here it is:
“And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will now turn aside, and see this great sight, why the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.” – Ex. 3:2-4.
Notice, it was “the angel of the Lord” that appeared unto Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush, but it was God who “called unto him out of the midst of the bush”. This “angel of the Lord” further said, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6). It is believed that this “angel of the Lord” who could identify Himself as “God” could be none other than Jesus Christ himself. So, the term “angel” by itself does not tell you the status of the person, except to indicate that this person is an agent or messenger. This is further demonstrated by the fact that an “angel” who appeared to John the Revelator, told John not to worship him, whereas, Jesus Christ, as the “angel of the Lord” is worshipped as God. The report of John’s encounter is as follows:
“And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” – Rev. 22:8, 9.
This “angel” was obviously not Jesus Christ. So, the point is that the term “angel” simply means agent or messenger and does not tell you the status of the person. This is an important point to note, as we speak about the “Holy Ghost”, the “Comforter” that Jesus promised that He would send after He would have returned to heaven. People just assume that this “Comforter” or “Holy Ghost” must be a being of worshipful status, even though the Bible does not say so. They further assume this, because Jesus said that if you were to blaspheme against the Holy Ghost you will not be forgiven. Therefore, to their minds, this must mean that the Holy Ghost must be God, not realizing that by viewing it in that way, they are making this Holy Ghost to be greater than Jesus and somehow suggesting that it is okay to speak against Jesus but not against this greater being – a position which is clearly untenable.
The Priest and the Judge
So, to the second case, that was mentioned earlier. Moses was instructed that anyone who refused to hear the Priest or the Judge should be killed. No excuses! Here it is:
“And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the Lord thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear, and fear, and do no more presumptuously.” – Deut. 17:12, 13.
Was it that the Priest or the Judge was so great, in and of themselves, that one could not be forgiven for disobeying them, while later, you could be forgiven if you spoke against Jesus Christ, the Son of man? Not really! It had to do with the role that they were appointed to fulfil. It was a way of managing the nation of Israel to ensure that the authority of the Priests and Judges was not flagrantly disregarded.
To Blaspheme against the Holy Ghost
So, back to our main question: what does it mean to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit? It becomes evident if we look at the role that the Holy Ghost was appointed to fulfil. Jesus said:
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” – John 16:13-15.
Jesus was going back to heaven. He would have access to all that the Father has. He would not be here in person, but He would send the Comforter as His representative. The Comforter would receive from Him and give to us so that we would be guided and comforted until He should return at His second coming. Now, if we were to reject the Comforter, the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of truth, how would we be guided? It goes without saying, that we are destined to destruction if we should do that. So, the choice is ours. We can choose to stop our ears and refuse to be guided by the truth and be damned or we can genuinely seek guidance from God through His word and through His appointed agents and we will be guided into all truth. In short, to blaspheme against the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, is to persistently and finally reject the truth.
I pray that none of us will fall into the category of being a wilful rejector of truth, because this is the one thing that can truly exclude us from the kingdom of God. Jesus said: “The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved.” – Luke 8:11, 12. We are told: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” – Acts 16:31. The Children of Israel entered not into the promised land because of unbelief; and we have been warned not to make their mistake: “Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.” – Heb. 4:11. Belief in the Lord is not a one-off experience that happens at one moment and you are saved forever. Belief in the Lord means that you take Him at His word and follow Him consistently. May the Lord help us to this end!
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
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