Question 44: The Unpardonable Sin - Blaspheming the Holy Spirit
Gospel Dialogue (CFP), Watchman Nee
What is the unpardonable sin? Is it that whoever commits this sin cannot be saved? What is the meaning of this sin?
The unpardonable sin is that of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Wherever the Holy Spirit works, the devil is also at work; he is never lazy. Sometimes the devil will stretch the truth of the Bible a little further so as to torment people. When the Holy Spirit is convicting a person of his sins, the devil will tell the man:—You are a sinner, a chief sinner, a special sinner who has committed the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit; therefore, you will never be forgiven. Many people are in fear lest they have committed the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. So let us first explain the meaning of this sin, and then we can draw the conclusion which we come to that no one today is able to commit this sin. Let us read Mark 3.28-30.
"Verily I say unto you, all their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme" (v.28). This sounds like music! It is a most pleasant word! All the sins and blasphemies of the world may be forgiven. What a great declaration of the gospel! All sins include great sins, small sins, refined sins, gross sins, sins which are humanly considered as unpardonable as well as those that are viewed as pardonable, and sins of yesterday, today, and even tomorrow. Hallelujah! All sins are forgiven! Words of blasphemy against God are forgiven, slanders against the Lord are also forgiven. All sins—that is, all our actions of conduct and all our words spoken against God while we were yet sinners—are all forgiven. There is not any sin that cannot be forgiven, even every blasphemous word against God is forgiven. This is what the Lord says here.
Do not imagine that you have committed the unpardonable sin. Words spoken against God and against Christ are not to be considered as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The only unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, not against Christ. Quenching the Holy Spirit is not the same as blaspheming against Him, nor is resisting the Holy Spirit a blaspheming against Him.
"But whosoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit hath never forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" (v.29). It is therefore evident that this sin is a special and unordinary kind.
What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? It is to speak out openly words which blaspheme the Holy Spirit. How do we know that this sin is spoken out of the mouth? Please read the concluding verse which says: "Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit" (v.30). Hence this sin is not so easily committed as many today think. To commit such a sin a person must clearly witness the Lord casting out demons and performing miracles and wonders while He was on earth, and in spite of his knowledge of all these things he still insists that the Lord has an unclean spirit.
Because of all this, therefore, for people to commit this sin they must (1) see the Lord Jesus with their eyes, (2) witness the Lord doing wonders in their midst, (3) know assuredly that this is of the Holy Spirit, and (4) in the face of such inner conviction speak nevertheless that this is the work of the demons. How, then, can we today commit this sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit if we have not seen the Lord with our eyes, neither have witnessed Him doing wonders in our midst, nor have known definitely that this is of the Holy Spirit? Hence we may conclude that we do not have the opportunity nor the possibility of committing such a sin. In case anybody or even the devil should say to you that you are never to be forgiven because you have committed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, you may answer at once that there is no such thingbecause you have not seen the Lord nor His wonders, neither have you spoken willfully that the work is done by demons while knowing assuredly it is of the Holy Spirit.
Once a newly saved brother asked an elderly brother, "Have I committed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?" The answer to him was excellent. "If you are still able to grieve for your sins," he replied, "then this is a proof that you have not committed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit." This answer is full of truth. We may add one more word by saying that even concerning one who is not conscious of his sins, he too may not be described as having committed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Let us see how Matthew records the discussion of this matter: "Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in that which is to come" (12.32). These are words spoken by the Lord Jesus to the Jews, who did commit the sin as recorded in this chapter. They clearly saw how the Lord had cast out demons by the Holy Spirit, and yet they stubbornly maintained that He had cast these demons out by Beelzebub the prince of the demons. How does the Bible describe these Jews? "Unto them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed" (Matt. 13.14,15a). Thus are we shown that if a person has committed the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, he will in no wise be sensitive to sin; nor shall he be saved, because his heart has waxed gross, his ears are dull of hearing, and his eyes are closed.
There are words in two other Scripture passages which are very meaningful to this subject. One passage is found in Luke 8: "And those by the wayside are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved" (v.12). Not only the Lord but the devil too knows that as soon as a man believes, he is saved; and hence he is fearful lest any man believes and is saved. The other passage is found in Matthew 13: "He answered and said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given . . . Therefore speak I to them in parables; . . . lest haply they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should turn again, and I should heal them" (v.11-15). Concerning those who have blasphemed against the Holy Spirit, God is fearful that they might come to be saved. For this reason, the Lord speaks in parables lest they should indeed turn again and be healed. Hallelujah! How wonderful is the word "believe and be saved".
Whoever shall blaspheme against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven, for he "is guilty of an eternal sin" (Mark 3.29). According to the opinion of some Bible scholars, this can also be translated as: he "is in the grasp of an everlasting trespass". Yet someone may ask why it says he cannot be forgiven in this age or the age to come (Matt. 12.32). Simply because he will sin forever. But how can he sin in hell, for what torments him most in hell are worms and fire. We must see that in hell there is not only the suffering because of a lack of water even insufficient to wet the fingertip so as to cool the tongue, but there is also the burning of the fire of lusts. Hell is where sin and lusts are never satisfied. It is a most miserable place. But we may thank and praise God that if only we are willing to believe, there is no sin that can block us from being saved. For the Lord himself says: "All their sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and their blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme" (Mark 3.28). Consequently, we may be at peace.
Although we today will not be able to commit the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, we should nonetheless be very careful in saying so-and-so’s work is of the Holy Spirit whereas so-and-so’s work is of the evil spirit.