Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit
© Copyright 2003 by John Baskette
For a good year and a half after I first became a Christian, I was
very worried about the issue of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. I
thought I might have committed this sin and was therefore eternally
lost. I thought that I was like Esau who sold his birthright for one
morsel of meat and who, "when he wanted to inherit this
blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind,
though he sought the blessing with tears" (Heb. 12:17). 
I also once knew a teenager who, in an attempt to free himself
from the moral strictures to which he felt bound, deliberately tried
to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. Later, after he repented and turned
again to the Lord, he deeply regretted his attempt and feared that
he, too, was one of those sons of perdition who desired repentance,
but whom the Lord could never forgive.
No Christians that I knew at the time (or since for that matter)
believed that anyone still living could be in this situation. The
belief was that "him that cometh to me (Jesus) I will in no wise
cast out." This conclusion I think was correct, but many
accompanying arguments were not convincing to me at the time. These
other arguments were along the lines of re-defining blasphemy of the
Holy Spirit as being "final rejection of Christ" and
assertions that once you are saved, you are always saved so it is
impossible for a Christian to commit this sin. Since these other
arguments were not convincing to me, I had a difficult time dealing
with this fear.
I think that blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was just what it says in
the text of Mark 3:28-29: "I tell you the truth, all the sins
and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes
against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an
eternal sin." Jesus said this in response to the Pharisees, who
had called the Holy Spirit by whom Jesus cast out demons an
My deliverance from this terrible doubt came about through a
better understanding of repentance and faith. It seems clear to me
now that no one can repent and believe in Christ apart from the
working of God. "No one can come to me unless the Father who
sent me draws him" (John 6:44), and "All that the Father
gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive
away" (John 6:37). If my friend or I had actually committed an
unpardonable sin, then the Father would not have drawn us to
repentance and faith in Christ. We can conclude this because we know
that Jesus will not cast out anyone who comes to Him. He would have
to cast us out if we were guilty of an unpardonable sin.
Jesus tells us that it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to draw
us to Christ and bring us to repentance: "When he [the Holy
Spirit] comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin
and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not
believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the
Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment,
because the prince of this world now stands condemned" (John
16:8-11). When we are truly sorry for our sin and desire to be
forgiven by God, we are repenting. However we get to a place where we
are repenting, our repentance is,
in itself, an evidence of the presence and ministry of the Holy
Spirit - it is not an evidence of the blasphemy of the Holy
Spirit. The test is not: are you sinning and feeling rejected
by God? The test is whether you want to be forgiven. If you
commit an unpardonable sin, you have
utterly and completely rejected the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and
you can't care about it - you will have a complete disdain and
revulsion to the things of the gospel. If you are worried that
you are beyond God's grace, if you fear God's judgment, if you
desire to be saved, the Holy Spirit is still working in you
and you cannot have utterly and completely rejected God or
have blasphemed the Holy Spirit
This is what is taught in Hebrews: "It is impossible for
those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly
gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the
goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they
fall away, to be brought back to repentance" (6:4-6a). Those
spoken of here have not necessarily blasphemed the Holy Spirit, but
they have knowingly rejected the gifts and power of God. Note that
the passage does not say that these individuals can try to repent,
but cannot be saved. It says that it is not possible for us to renew
them to repentance at all. The same can be said of any individual who
blasphemes the Holy Spirit. Their sin is unforgivable;
therefore they cannot repent and believe, period. They cannot
experience sorrow, regret, fear, worry, or panic that they are beyond
What about my friend who says he really did it? He repented;
therefore he could not really have done it.
Mark 3:29 says, "whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit
will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin" because
they said, "He has an evil spirit" (30). It would seem that
one who "will never be forgiven" is eternally damned, not
in danger of eternal damnation. I interpret the passage to mean that
while the Pharisees did call the spirit in Christ unclean, it is
possible that they did not actually blaspheme the Holy Spirit. They
were in danger of doing so, but they may not have recognized that it
was the Holy Spirit who was in Christ.
I conclude from these passages that only someone who intentionally
and willfully blasphemes the Holy Spirit actually commits an
unpardonable sin. Furthermore, a person who commits this sin will not
ever repent and come to Christ. A person who has repented and come to
Christ necessarily has not committed this sin. I conclude that my
friend who actually said the words did not really commit this sin -
God knowing his heart also knows he did not mean it.
Also, the Heb. 12:17 passage does not describe someone who is
seeking to repent but cannot because he is rejected. Esau was not
seeking repentance at all. He was seeking his lost birthright. The
earlier verses read, "Make every effort to live in peace with
all men. . . . and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and
defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like
Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights . . . ."
The bitter root is an allusion to Deut. 29:18 which speaks of those
who turn from God and worship idols. It is not the case that he was
trying to repentant and restore his relationship with God, but God
would have nothing to do with him.
That he did not find any place of repentance means that he was not
able to get his father or God to "repent" and restore his
birthright. He was not able to do so because he had rejected God's
promise given by way of the birthright to Jacob - i.e. he missed the
"grace" of God. No amount of striving, seeking, even with
tears, will bring about salvation apart from God's promise. 
Is it impossible for a Christian to blaspheme the Holy Spirit? My
belief is one's outward profession and appearance offer us no
guarantees. If Judas was able to perform miracles and if the once
enlightened of Hebrews chapter six can fall away and never repent
again, then it would seem that just about any one could one-day fall
away and (perhaps) blaspheme the Holy Spirit.
The apostle Paul exhorts, "Examine yourselves to see whether
you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ
Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test?" Paul
says that we can examine ourselves and recognize with some level of
assurance that Christ is in us, but he does seem to allow that one
can become "reprobate."
Was such a person never really "saved," or was the
person really saved but lost it through apostasy? Was such a person
really one of the "elect?" This is a different issue than
what I have addressed. I have asked, "Can someone desire to be a
Christian and repent of sin, but still be damned because of a sin God
cannot forgive?" The answer to that question is "No."
When I shared this article with
Answers In Action Director Bob Passantino, he related that he had
gone through a similar experience as a new Christian. I thank him for
the insights he contributed to this short article.
 The process that produces
repentance has been debated for many centuries and is worthy of
discussion, but it is not the process that is in question here.
Determinism and Libertarian freedom are two approaches in regard to
this issue. If you are interested in such views, we recommend James
W. Felt's Making Sense of Your Freedom: Philosophy for the
Perplexed (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994).
 Note that the Heb. 12 passage
describes Esau as he was when Jacob fled to Haran. Esau has changed
considerably by the time Jacob returns, as we can see in Gen. 33.
There Esau gives Jacob a warm reception. We ought not, therefore, to
conclude from Heb. 12 that Esau remained "profane" for all
his life. Also, the attitudes of Jacob and Esau towards God's promise
and the birthright go a long way toward explaining why God "loved"
Jacob and "hated" Esau and the meaning of "election."
This article is a revised version of a post made to the USENET
back in 1992. While I have tried to be scripturally accurate, it
remains a personal and anecdotal response to a common fear (See for
example this correspondence: "I
believe I'm damned!").
So, I searched the net for articles that would have a more
thorough and scholarly analysis of this passage and its
meaning. To my surprise, while there were many articles on the
subject, hardly any dealt with the passages in any greater detail
than I have here. In my judgment, many (if not most) made claims that
did not have sufficient scriptural proof to reassure troubled Christians.
One common claim was: "Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit cannot be committed
today because we are not eyewitnesses to Christ's miracles." One
of the more scholarly articles
takes this position (see "The
Regardless, the best articles took the same approach as I did.
Given what we know about the workings of the Holy Spirit and human
depravity from the scripture, we can conclude that anyone who is
really worried that they might have committed blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,
could not have done so. Anyone who has committed this or any other "sin unto
death" cannot be restored to repentance and has no sorry or regret or feelings
of repentance. See for example
Hank Hanegraaff's views on
Some articles made some points worth mentioning. Steve
Kissell points out; "this sin of blasphemy of the Holy
Spirit is not said to be 'unpardonable.'" Rather, it is a sin
that will not be forgiven, not a sin that cannot be
forgiven. This is an important, if subtle distinction, because as
Kissell points out, many sins will not be forgiven, not because God
cannot or is unwilling to forgive the sins, but because the sinner
does not repent. All who blaspheme the Holy Spirit become sinners who
never repent; therefore this sin is one that never has forgiveness.
A corollary of this interpretation is that to really blasphemy the Holy
Spirit in the way Jesus describes is not done trivially or easily.
of God statement on the "Unpardonable Sin" gives a good
scriptural argument that the Pharisee's blasphemy in the gospels was
not by any means casual, but were deliberate, willful,
knowledgeable and sustained, and done in full view of the
demonstration of God's power. In spite of this, we know of at least
one Pharisee who hated Christianity and persecuted the
church, but who did not commit this sin -- the apostle Paul! Surely,
if blasphemy of the Holy Spirit could be done without some kind of
knowing and willful deliberation in the face of undeniable truth,
then Saul of Tarsus would have committed this sin.
Heb. 10:26 gives us an idea of what it takes to commit an
unforgivable sin. The
Jewish Christian recipients of the epistle to the Hebrews were in real
rejecting the gospel and returning to a legalistic form of worship that
rejected the grace of God in Christ. If they did so after they know
the truth, and they trample "the Son of God under foot,"
and they treat "as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant" and they
"insult the Spirit of grace" -- then after all that there remains no more
sacrifice for sin.
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is a type of "sin unto death" talked about by
John. For more on the "sin unto death," see "Sin unto death" and "Sin not unto death" in I John". This is an outline Bob Passantino made of an analysis by David M. Scholer.