At some point in his or her Christian experience, a tenderhearted disciple (especially a person battling anxiety) is apt to worry about the Lord’s denunciation of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Have I committed this grievous error? Am I guilty of an “eternal sin”?
One day Jesus healed a blind and mute man possessed by a demon. The people were delighted and astonished. “Can this be the Son of David?” they asked (Matt. 12:23). When the Pharisees overheard this honest question, they responded with a slanderous attack on the Lord’s Messianic claim. They charged that Jesus was casting out demons “by Beelzebub, the prince of demons” (v. 24). To this vile insult, Jesus replied: “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever says 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” (vs. 31-32).
A proper interpretation of this stern warning depends on an acknowledgment of the following observations. First, slandering the Spirit meant attributing the work of God to Satan. Nothing else was intended–period. After relating the Lord’s blasphemy comment, Mark explained: “For they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit’” (3:30). Second, Jesus was not singling out the third Person of the Trinity for special reverence. The Trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit) was understood at that time by neither the Pharisees nor Christ’s own disciples. Speaking a word against the Son of man—because of his humble birth or native city—was one thing. Reviling the miraculous work of God was quite another. Third, anyone who slandered God had a stubborn and rebellious heart. “You stiff-necked people,” Stephen said, “uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51).
If I’m worried about having slandered the Holy Spirit, my tender conscience is itself proof that I have never been guilty of this sin.