Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit

Part 2: Interpreting Context

By Christopher Schwinger

The Series

How Confusion Thwarts Holiness
Interpreting Context
Being Serious without Fear
Identifying a Hard Heart
Hope in the Journey to Freedom
Understanding Grace

The one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. John 6:37
What if you mocked religion and the Holy Spirit and Jesus and the existence of God, but became convinced that God is real and asked Him to transform your life? Do you think He would reject you because you had blasphemed the Holy Spirit in the past? Most Christians would say no. When Jesus talked about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit being unforgivable (Matthew 12:25-32, Mark 3:20-30; Luke 12:8-10 loses the context of the statement), it was in the context of people saying Jesus' good deeds were done by the power of Satan. I hope most would agree with me that if they had repented of their arrogance, He would have forgiven them. There is no unforgivable sin if people are willing to change and grow in their understanding of Him. The repentant tax collector and prideful Pharisee praying at the temple — remember (Luke 18)? The person who was dialoguing through GotQuestions with me about blasphemy of the Holy Spirit wrote, "Someone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never repent of his/her sin," and, "So I think that when you blaspheme the Holy Spirit you will have such a hard heart that it's like you put yourself over the line, losing the opportunity to be forgiven; however, it is not God refusing repentance." Those statements of his express a good interpretation of the Book of Hebrews and the Gospel of John about the conditional nature of God's abiding presence. The three interpretations, outside of the Catholic view of Purgatory, are that 1) people "lose" salvation, 2) people who fall away never were saved to begin with, or 3) those who were saved and harden themselves against God will go to heaven but have no rewards. GotQuestions takes the Calvinist view of #2. First John 2:19 suggests that those who fall away never had a strong enough faith to begin with: "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." Jesus' Parable of the Sower also takes this perspective. Their faith wasn't strong enough to withstand temptations. It's not that it was not "real" faith in the beginning, but it wasn't developed enough.

Anyway, the Book of Hebrews and the Gospel of John talk about destruction of the branches that don't bear fruit (John 15) and how much worse it is to have fellowship with God and fellow believers and then abandon that path, than to have never experienced it. In the mind of the author of Hebrews, in chapter 6, if soil is drinking up the truth of God and still produces bad fruit, there's no hope for it, and it's impossible to turn back from evil to good while in a state of defiance against God: "It is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since [better translated "while"] they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame." In chapter 10, he writes, "For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries."

God cares about justice to the same degree as He always did prior to the coming of Christ, and if we are not transformed, then intellectual assent to Christian teachings is not enough. The Book of James agrees, referring to Abraham's obedience to God as the thing which accompanied his belief in God's promises. His obedience made the promises happen, and Jesus' obedience was how the Messianic promises were fulfilled later. Hebrews 12:17 makes a statement about Esau: "For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears." This just means it's really hard for someone who has turned away from God to turn back toward Him. There have been times when people have turned away from their Christian upbringing and returned to it after experiences in life wake them up to their spiritual needs.

It is also true that someone can feel badly about their sin but still not repent. Sin is a lot like a physical addiction. You can see the bad direction you're going, but be unwilling to change because of how much sin is tugging at you. Sin really can be likened to a force of its own, an evil force, like a disease we're born with but unable to remove, and the only way to be cured is to seek God (or respond to God if He seeks us), but the only way to be fully healed is to die and have our resurrected body.

A legalistic view about the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is that it is unforgivable because Jesus said it was unforgivable, and that it doesn't matter whether it was in ignorance or whether it was intentional. I'd make a disclaimer about taking the words of Jesus as absolutes without considering context. Even among grace-based Christians, not all would agree with me that these 6 below are open to interpretation, but I will give the examples as I see them:

1. "Turn the other cheek" is in a context of an angry populace in an era of attempted revolts. Self-defense is not directly addressed in the New Testament.

2. Divorce for any reason other than sexual unfaithfulness is adultery, according to Jesus, but this was in the context of a selfishly motivated question by Jewish opponents, and the Mosaic Law's permissiveness of easy divorces. Abuse is not addressed.

3. "Whatever you loose shall be loosed in heaven" (the "keys of the kingdom" passage): the Catholic Church believes Peter was the original pope and that the popes have power over people's souls. It actually means Jesus is bestowing spiritual authority on the apostles to be His heavenly agents on earth, nothing more.

4. Telling the rich man to sell all he has after the rich man wants to know how to get eternal life: This is in the context of the man's values and priorities, not a burden we must attain to in order to please God.

5. Jesus promised His disciples that if they asked anything in His name, it would be granted to them, and they would do greater things than even Him. This must be understood as miracles in the early church for the propagation of the Gospel, and not a promise of always getting what you want.

6. Jesus said a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, or a bad tree good fruit, but there are definitely Christians who are ungracious but still strong believers in Christ and devotees of His Word. This is more rhetorically useful than practically useful, like the Old Testament distinction between "the righteous" and "the wicked".

In part 3, I will resolve the interpretive issue.

OpenClipartVectors; untitled; Creative Commons
OpenClipartVectors; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Salvation  | Biblical-Truth  | Controversial-Issues  | Eternity-Forever  | Jesus-Christ  | Theological-Beliefs

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Published 1-18-16