Scanning the literature on the topic of the Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, two interpretations rise to the surface as the most prevalant.
Attributing to the Devil the Work of God’s Spirit
One view is that “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit has to do with accusing Jesus Christ of being demon-possessed instead of Spirit-filled” (Houdeman, 2018).
In other words, this interpretation says that blasphemy against the Spirit is attributing to the devil a work of God’s Spirit.
This is certainly what the Pharisees were doing as is clear in Matthew’s account (Matthew 12:25-29). And if you stick with Matthew, this is a fair and logical interpretation.
The problem with this interpretation is that it only explains one aspect of the saying: one’s attitude toward the Spirit. It does not explain the forgiveness predicted in the words, “everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven.”
Why would God forgive those who speak and blaspheme against His son and not forgive blasphemy against the Spirit? There must be something else going on here.
Another interpretation frequently offered is that it refers to a state of continued unbelief. As one commentator puts it:
“The Spirit currently convicts the unsaved world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). To resist that conviction and willfully remain unrepentant is to ‘blaspheme’ the Spirit” (Houdmann).
This is certainly true and obvious; you cannot be forgiven as long as you remain in unbelief. But is this the point Luke was making through the words of Jesus?
Linking the Statement of Jesus with The Acts of the Apostles
It is clear, in the Luke-Acts story, that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as promised by the prophets–though present in the person of Jesus–had not yet been given to Israel.
This outpouring of the Spirit becomes one of the main themes of the book of Acts. If fact, some commentators have suggested that a more appropriate title for the book of Acts might be “the Acts of the Holy Spirit” (Barclay).
To get a more complete understanding of this saying of Jesus, we need to do three things:
- We must look at it through the eyes of Luke’s second volume: the Acts of the Apostles.
- We must look at it in the context of the fulfillment of Old Testament promises concerning the outpouring of the Spirit upon Israel.
- We need to consider the “blasphemy” language used in the book of Acts.
The interpretations I listed above are generalized principles but I think Luke had in mind something much more specific.
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Houdmann, S. Michael. “What Is the Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?” GotQuestions.Org. Accessed August 2, 2018. https://www.gotquestions.org/blasphemy-Holy-Spirit.html.
Barclay, William. The Promise of the Spirit. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960.
Dr. Greg Waddell is passionate about helping church leaders equip their people for ministry. He believes there is wild potential in every believer that begs to be released. He can help you develop and implement practical strategies for increasing the ministry capacity of your congregation.