I tell you the truth, people will be forgiven for all sins, even all the blasphemies they utter. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit”).Mark 3:28-30
This verse has caused no small stir among believers over the years, as many people are concerned that perhaps they have slandered the holy Spirit. Additionally, why is there something that God won’t forgive, and could we have possibly done so and thereby placed ourselves outside the bounds of his forgiveness for all eternity?
However, the intent of this verse is explained within itself, and with a balanced view of the historical context of this saying, the answer is less problematic than one may imagine.
First, let’s understand why Yeshua felt compelled to say this at all. The text says it was because they (his detractors) were saying that he had an unclean spirit. We know from other places that the holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father, God.
Matthew 10:19-20 Whenever they hand you over for trial, do not worry about how to speak or what to say, for what you should say will be given to you at that time. For it is not you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Luke tells us that Yeshua was filled with the holy Spirit.
Luke 4:1, 14 Then Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan River and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, … Then Jesus, in the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the surrounding countryside.
So, in this regard, to say that Yeshua had an unclean spirit was to blaspheme against God, since Yeshua was actually filled with the Spirit of God, not an unclean spirit. The scribes were accusing him of being possessed by “Baal’zebub, the prince of demons (or idolatrous gods).” To say this about Yeshua was to blaspheme or slander God himself.
Now we should look at the idea that this sin has eternal consequences that would never be forgiven. This can be taken in two senses.
First, if we look at the underlying text in a more literal sense, Yeshua mentions that they would not be forgiven “into the age,” for they were guilty of “an age-lasting sin.” In this more literal approach, Yeshua is warning the scribes that they would never be forgiven “into the age” (that is, the new age of the kingdom that he was establishing). Their sin of not recognizing God’s presence and power in the ministry of Yeshua would result in their perishing within that present age, prior to or within the destruction of Jerusalem less than 40 years away at that point.
Alternatively, if we hold to the eternal sense, then the warning of Yeshua still applies to “whoever” slanders the holy Spirit of God by claiming that Yeshua was an evil tool of Satan or of demons. Anyone who professes that understanding cannot be forgiven, for forgiveness was and is only through the name (that is, by believing in the truth of the ministry and character of) Yeshua.
Acts 4:11-12 “This Jesus is the stone rejected by you builders, which has become the cornerstone. ” There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”
This specific unforgiveable sin was directed immediately at the scribes who were accusing him of being possessed by evil. There is no greater slander that can be leveled against the holy Spirit of God himself, the Father, the Creator of all, the Most High God, than to say he is evil. It makes sense that God cannot forgive anyone who believes he is evil, because they are not repentant of their ways and have no fear of God.
This also illustrates how unlikely it could be that anyone of us who may wonder if we have somehow accidentally blasphemed the holy Spirit of God and are now outside the bounds of his forgiveness. We may have said many unrighteous and sinful things in our lives, but if we come to a point where we truly recognize who God is with a righteous respect and fear of who he is, and are repentant of our ways that have dishonored him, we can be forgiven.
Acts 2:38-39 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. “For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
If you enjoy these daily blog posts, be sure to visit the growing archive of the Core of the Bible podcast. Each week we take a more in-depth look at one of the various topics presented in the daily blog. You can view the podcast archive here. Questions or comments? Feel free to email me directly at email@example.com.