In the Garden of Eden God provided Adam and Eve with everything they could possibly want. There was one restriction: Don’t eat from the designated tree or suffer dire consequences. Move ahead scores of millenniums. The promised Messiah arrives and tells people if they’ll believe in Him with the faith and trust of a child they’ll receive salvation, plus forgiveness for every sin they’ve committed, no matter how heinous or despicable. Except one. Jesus solemnly warned mankind not to break the singular rule for which there is no pardon available in the universe. He said in Matthew 12:31-32, “…I tell you, people will be forgiven for every sin and blasphemy, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” He couldn’t have made it clearer. In other words, a person can disrespect Him till the seas run dry and still be granted mercy. Men spit on Him, beat Him to a pulp and tortured Him yet, while writhing in agony, He still asked His Father to forgive them. But mock, curse or denigrate the Holy Spirit and you’ve entered a dark place where grace is nonexistent. Therefore it benefits all human beings to understand the nature of this damning sin and avoid it like the Ebola virus.
For those who pick and choose what Scriptures they’ll accept as truth this is most likely one they’ll discount and ignore but, nonetheless, it’s there for a profound reason. Folks must be made aware there’s one sin that won’t be forgiven regardless of how loving and compassionate they think their higher power ought to be. Does it mean all sins against the Third Person of the Trinity are unforgivable? Not at all. The Holy Spirit is God and even the most pious Christian falls short of His glory every day. As David intimated, all sins are affronts to Him. Yet, because of the cross, believers in Jesus are pardoned of all conscious and unconscious iniquities and given a new start over and over again. But this particular sin is egregious. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit will not be tolerated or excused. If it’s any comfort, it’s safe to say this sin is only committed by unbelievers. Why? Because if a self-proclaimed “Christian” should do so it’s proof they’re not really a Christian at all. To claim that Jesus is Lord and still denounce the Holy Spirit is an unresolvable oxymoron. An example of blasphemy of the Spirit occurred when enemies of Christ accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Satan after He’d informed them they’d been cast out by the “Spirit of God.” Those judgmental Pharisees adamantly refused to believe Him and I’m sure they’ll regret it for all eternity. In essence, unbelief is blasphemy.
Now, if you’re anything like I was for a while, you might be worried, frightened or experiencing anguish wondering if, at some point in your life, you committed the unforgivable sin. Banish that thought from your mind immediately. The Holy Spirit would not be convicting your conscience, wrestling with you and drawing you to Christ if you were beyond redemption. Ponder these three things: (1) To attribute what’s obviously the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil, that’s blasphemy; (2) It’s not a momentary doubt that crosses your mind while under emotional stress. Rather, it’s a set-in-stone attitude of total rejection of all things related to the Holy Ghost and His purpose (like the religious leaders who fervently opposed Jesus did); and (3) Anyone who frets over this sin has probably never committed it. Otherwise, like the Pharisees, they wouldn’t give it another thought. When Stephen fearlessly faced his rock-wielding executioners He preached to them the God’s honest truth. He said, “You stubborn people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are always resisting the Holy Spirit, like your ancestors did!” (Acts 7:51) He was telling them they were just as guilty of hardening their hearts and minds to the truth as their prophet-murdering forefathers before them. And, since the Old Testament says those unfairly scorned, persecuted and ridiculed prophets were inspired by the Spirit, the folks who castigated them were, in fact, blaspheming the Holy Ghost. So Stephen was attempting to warn them that by refusing to hear and heed the good news being proclaimed by the disciples of Jesus (whom the Holy Spirit was speaking through to spread the Gospel) they were sinning against the Spirit of God.
Those familiar with the Bible know sin disease in the hearts of the unsaved causes them to resist the Holy Spirit. The flesh-addicted, unrepentant soul will fight Him tooth and nail. The Scriptures confirm they will not receive the powerful, life-changing Word of God unless the Holy Spirit gains victory over them. But Stephen’s impassioned sermon was conveying even more. He was saying that just as God the Holy Spirit labored in vain with the doomed, prophet-bashing Old Testament population, his current listeners would be every bit as doomed if they didn’t submit to the working of the Spirit. Denying the Spirit entry into one’s heart is a fatal sin committed by non-believers. And if it continues long enough it’ll lead to their spending forever separated from the source of all beauty and goodness, the great I AM. It comes down to this: the only way a sinner can be forgiven for turning their back on the Holy Spirit is to cease resisting Him and fully embrace Jesus Christ, to whom the Spirit bears witness.
Common sense will tell you this is a sticky subject to tackle. Christians must be wary of drawing conclusions as to whether or not someone has committed the unforgivable sin. As in most matters of judgment, it’s best we leave that determination in the hands of the Heavenly Father. Our job is to urge people everywhere to repent and surrender to Christ since we have no way of knowing when or if the Holy Spirit has stopped working on them. They must be told that up until one’s physical death it’s never too late to get saved. Our prayer should always be that those whose salvation we’re most uncertain about might someday have their blindfold lifted so they can see the truth.
Could it be you fear you blasphemed the Holy Spirit before your conversion? If this is the case you need to rely on what the Bible says, not what some “religious dude” told you. What you’ll find is that the unpardonable sin is committed by continuing to reject the truth about Jesus. That means dismissing, completely and without remorse, the witness of the Holy Spirit who declares Christ the Son of God who alone can forgive sin. Only you (and God) know if you deem preposterous the notion that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and if you’ve decided what the Scriptures say about Him is an enormous pack of lies. If you think Christ is a fake and His church a hoax then it’s my duty to tell you you’re treading on paper-thin ice during a springtime thaw. I beg you to do a 180 degree turnabout before your time expires. Surrender your life to the Lord in humble confession, repentance and faith and ask God to fill you with the Holy Spirit today. It’d be a tragedy for you to stay where you are and end up tumbling into the afterlife without hope and without God. Conversely, you may be a grateful believer doing your best to live righteously but are haunted by ugly sins in your past you think might keep you from gaining access to the beautiful streets of kingdom come. Cease thinking that way immediately for it’s the devil whispering in your ear. Here’s the rock-solid truth: no matter what you’ve done, God loves you and yearns to forgive you of those sins. Confess them and lay them down at the foot of the cross. You’re free. Stop dragging that baggage around with you. On Calvary hill 2,000 years ago Christ exonerated you of all charges. If you’ve accepted Jesus as your Savior those sins are not only forgiven, they’ve been wiped out without a trace. You’re not hell-bound, you’re heaven-bound from here on out! God’s Word says so! Jettison all your misguided, angst-riddled shame and never look back. Psalm 103:12 states, “As far as the eastern horizon is from the west, so he removes the guilt of our rebellious actions from us.”
While Christians should be careful to never dis the Holy Spirit, there are two sins that God, in His mercy, will always forgive because we’re fallible humans. One is to grieve the Holy Spirit and the other is to quench Him. Sins believers commit against the Spirit fall under one of those headings. Regarding the former, Paul warned in Ephesians 4:30, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” I’m relieved he included that last part because it means I won’t be forsaken because of my stupidity. He’s confirming that whatever missteps Christians make here on Earth, they can’t separate us from the love of God. Still, our actions can hurt and disappoint the Holy Spirit because, like the Father and Son, He loves us. When Paul asked for prayers in Romans 15:30 he requested they be done “…through our Lord Jesus Christ and through the love of the Spirit…” We can easily irritate or anger somebody who cares nothing for us, but we can only grieve someone who loves us.
How do believers grieve the Holy Spirit? In the 4th chapter of Ephesians Paul teaches that anything not Christ-like in our speech, conduct or attitude causes Him sorrow. Recall what the Bible teaches the Holy Spirit is. John 14:16-17 says He is truth: “Then I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever – the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot accept, because it does not see him or know him.” Therefore anything false, deceitful or hypocritical on our part grieves Him. In 2 Corinthians 4:13 we’re told He’s faith: “But since we have the same Spirit of Faith as that shown in what has been written, ‘I believed; therefore I spoke,’ we also believe, therefore we also speak.” Thus when we doubt, distrust, or grow anxious we grieve Him. He’s grace. We read in Hebrews 10:29, “How much greater punishment do you think that person deserves who has contempt for the Son of God, and profanes the blood of the covenant that made him holy, and insults the Spirit of Grace?” We should assume that any thought we harbor that’s bitter, malicious, unforgiving or unloving grieves Him. Last but not least, He’s holiness, as stated in Romans 1:4. There we read our Savior was “…appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Only a holy entity could do that. That means anything unclean, defiling or degrading we do grieves Him.
What are the effects of grieving the Holy Spirit? His mission is to reveal truth and lead us in the ways of Christ. In doing so He delights to impart peace, joy and gladness into our hearts. But when we grieve Him those blessings come to a screeching halt. In textile mills hundreds of looms manufacture cloth out of extremely thin linen threads. The machines are so sensitive that if a single thread breaks the whole shebang shuts down automatically until the problem is located and repaired. When we commit one sin, one act of disobedience, one departure from the will of God the pouring of the Holy Spirit into our life is disrupted. The Holy Spirit doesn’t leave us but the flow of living water He provides shuts off temporarily until we confess and repent. Afterwards He’ll go right back to illuminating our minds, satisfying our hearts and helping us act more like Jesus. This is wonderful news. To grieve the Holy Spirit is an awful thing but it doesn’t drive Him away. He doesn’t get fed up with us and exclaim “I’ve had enough of this incorrigible Bozo” then slam the door on the way out of our life. His love for us is vast and His tolerance and forbearance knows no limit. He might back away from time to time and give us enough rope to hang ourselves but He’ll never abandon us.
That hasn’t always been true. Before the Messiah came it was possible for God to withdraw the Holy Spirit from men. David cried out in Psalm 51:11, “Do not reject me! Do not take your Holy Spirit away from me!” But when Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in the heart of every believer it was a lifelong bestowal. Ephesians 1:13 states, “And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) – when you believed in Christ – you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit…” That divine seal can’t be broken. We may slip up and sin but we’ll never fall from His grace. We belong to the Lord. Billy Graham asks the question, “If the Spirit were to withdraw Himself from a believer He has sealed, would He not be denying the whole scheme of salvation?” That’s a valid point yet we’re not off the hook about grieving Him because of it. When our sin interrupts our communion with the Spirit we inevitably feel something is seriously out of whack inside us. The Holy Ghost makes sure of it. David wrote in Psalm 32, “When I refused to confess my sin, my whole body wasted away, while I groaned in pain all day long. For day and night you tormented me; you tried to destroy me in the intense heat of summer. Then I confessed my sin; I no longer covered up my wrongdoing. I said, ‘I will confess my rebellious acts to the Lord.’ And then you forgave my sins.” By allowing us to “feel His pain,” the Holy Ghost brings us to our spiritual senses so we can repair (via confession and repentance) the damage we’ve caused and refill ourselves with Him.
Now to the quenching business. As I said, blaspheming the Holy Spirit is something only unbelievers can do while grieving and quenching Him are Christian sins. So what’s this quenching stuff, anyway? In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 Paul succinctly wrote, “Do not extinguish the Spirit.” To quench something is to put it out like a flame. Since the Scriptures sometimes refer to the Spirit as a fire it’s a fitting analogy. There are times when we deliberately choose to dismiss what the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us because we’re hell-bent on doing what we want to do and we want His voice silenced. There are two ways of quenching the Spirit. First, we deny His fire the fuel of our attention and it flickers out. We do this by not reading our Bible, not praying, not witnessing and not thanking God Almighty for His many blessings. This happens when we start thinking we don’t have to make an effort to keep that righteous fire going. Second, we intentionally throw a suffocating blanket over His flame. We commit what we know are sins on purpose. We’re critical of others, we act unkindly, we belittle coworkers or friends by spewing out callous words, etc. Sometimes we just want to be mean guys and we quench the Holy Spirit so we won’t hear Him weeping.
Make no mistake. No Christian is compelled to sin. That doesn’t mean we’ve been made incapable of it, though. As a follower of Jesus I can sin but I don’t have to. “The devil made me do it” is a pitifully lame alibi. It’s up to me to keep open the lines of communication with the indwelling Holy Spirit so I’ll be less tempted to give in to my sinful nature and thereby cause Him grief. I have to keep His fire burning brightly by actively doing the things I’ve been taught help Him do what He was sent here to accomplish on behalf of Christ through me. God wouldn’t have commanded us to reject evil if we had no chance whatsoever to spurn its advances. I’ll close with an old, anonymous saying regarding the Holy Spirit: “Resist not His incoming; grieve not His indwelling; quench not His outgoing. Open to Him as the Incomer; please Him as the Indweller; obey Him as the Outgoer in His testimony of the things concerning Christ, whether through yourself or others.” That’s sage advice for us all.