The Merciful Son and the Embittered Spirit

And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the person who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

[Luke 12:10 NET]

Well, is that not something? Blasphemies against the second Person of the Holy Trinity can be forgiven while those against the third Person will never be forgiven either in this age” even “in the age to come.” (Matthew 12:32). The Holy Spirit, casually dubbed by some mockers as “the baby of the house”, is regarded by some critics as harsh, wicked and unforgiving. According to them, why will Jesus forgive blasphemies against while the Holy Spirit will refuse to do so in a like manner? In fact, some had used this verse to drive a wedge between the nature of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

What really prompted to me write this article is when I came across a written debate between Michael Burgos and Samuel Brown. The debate can be found here. Michael Burgos is an orthodox Trinitarian while Samuel Brown is a kenotic Trinitarian. Samuel Brown believes that the second Person of the Trinity became man in the sense that He ceased to be God while on earth. Contrary to the position of the Chalcedonian Council and Orthodox Trinity, this kenotic Trinitarian believed that the earthly Jesus is just a man and not God. According to them, “Jesus was not “fully God” between his incarnation and resurrection.” Well, debunking this theory is not the purpose of this article.

However, the relevant aspect of the debate that draws my attention is when Samuel Brown said:

The Holy Spirit was greater than Jesus (Luke 12:10). This verse teaches that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable, while blasphemy against Jesus is forgivable. Jesus’ statement here indicates that God the Holy Spirit was superior to him when he was here on earth.

My! Is that not quite stretching? When did the refusal to forgive blasphemies become a divine attribute? At least according to Brown, now that Jesus had resurrected and had become God, does that imply that blasphemies against Jesus will not be forgiven? If that is the case, why go on to evangelize to Muslims who speaks blasphemy that Jesus is a mere man and is not the Son of God when we know that such blasphemy will go unforgiven either in this age and IN THE AGE TO COME? This means that converts who, out of ignorance, had spent their former life in blaspheming against Jesus should revert to their old-selves because their conversion is pointless – after all, their blasphemies will never be forgiven.

This particular interpretation of Luke 12:10 is something I find silly at best. This demonstrates that even some Christians failed to grasp the meaning of this passage. So, we now come to the real question this article is meant to address: What exactly is the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?

THE BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT

There is this particular saying among the Yourbas:

Ti elebi ba ti mo ebi re l’ebi, ki pe l’ori ikunle

The guilty who acknowledges his guilt will not stay long on his knees

During the aforementioned debate, Samuel Brown remarked that:

The beauty of the Trinity lies in the fact that the three persons of the Trinity are not the one and same person – they are distinct and carry out different functions. How could the Father abandon the Son on the cross and their supposed indivisibility still be true? How could one of the persons of the Trinity be made sin and the others not?

Different functions? That is the keyword! Only if Brown could meditate very well on this particular remark of his, he wouldn’t dare use Luke 12:10 as an argument for the superiority of the Holy Spirit over The Son.

First and foremost, we need to know and appreciate the role and function of the Holy Spirit before we can deal very well with the particular verse in question. Concerning the Holy Spirit, let us hear from the Lord Himself:

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is to your advantage that I go away, for if I don’t go away, the Counselor won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. When he has come, HE WILL CONVICT THE WORLD ABOUT SIN, about righteousness, and about judgment; about sin, because they don’t believe in me; about righteousness, because I am going to my Father, and you won’t see me any more; about judgment, because the prince of this world has been judged. (John 16:7-11)

One of the roles of the Holy Spirit is to convict people of their sins and iniquities. For instance, it is the Holy Spirit that convict people such that they recognize Jesus for who He truly is. For it is written:

Therefore I make known to you that no man speaking by God’s Spirit says, “Jesus is accursed.” No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” but by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3)

Committing an offence is one thing, refusing to acknowledge the offence is another. When one commits a sin against God, the role of the Holy Spirit is to try and reconcile the person to God. The first thing He does is to convict you and let you know how you’ve broken God’s heart. The conviction will definitely send you to your knees crying out for forgiveness. Some people harden their heart against the conviction of the Holy Spirit hence they would fail to ask for forgiveness. For our Lord Himself, when blasting the prevailing self-righteousness in his day, said:

“If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see.’ Therefore your sin remains.” (John 12:41)

The blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is also the same as rebelling against the conviction of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit presents evidences to someone in order to bring him/her into the truth yet the person is desperately trying to explain the evidences away, the person is blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.

Alright, let’s take a look at few examples in the Bible:

THE JOURNEY IN THE WILDERNESS

Yahweh through His powerful arm brought the Israelites out of Egypt. He divided the Red Sea asunder and dealt harshly with Pharaoh and his hordes. The Israelites could not deny this miracle and they went on to praise Yahweh. Moses’ sister, Miriam, led the worship and praise to God Almighty for the great wonder he had wrought for Israel in the sight of all nations.

However, not long after this great sign shown to them, the Israelites started grumbling against God because they could not get luxury food. Instead of asking Yahweh in a gentle manner, their protest is somehow harsh. Look at what they said:

“We wish that we had died by the hand of Yahweh in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots, when we ate our fill of bread, for you have brought us out into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 16:3)

If I ever happen to be in God’s shoes, I will ask Moses to take a U-turn and take the Israelites back to Egypt so that I can hear their screams for liberty again and I would wait for another four hundred years before helping them again. Not only that, they were questioning the authority of Moses despite the fact that Yahweh performed bewildering signs and wonders to prove the authority of the call of Moses.

Even after Yahweh gave them what they want, they even violated his commandments twice again! The Book of Numbers repeatedly demonstrated the ever-occurring grumblings of the Israelites against Yahweh and Moses. Rather than learning to trust in the providence of Yahweh, the Israelites continue to belittle Yahweh! The last straw that will break the camel’s back came when the twelve spies were sent out to spy the Promised Land. Ten came back with horrible reports while the remaining two demonstrated confidence in Yahweh. Imagine! People who had experienced the great signs and wonders wrecked by Yahweh were the very same people complaining against Yahweh and Moses for bringing them to a land full of giants. According to them, the giants are more powerful than Yahweh. In other words, the previous wrought signs and wonders mean little or nothing to them!

They plan to stone Joshua and Caleb and choose a captain that will lead them back to Egypt. Enough is enough. Yahweh had enough of all this and He planned to destroy The Assembly. After pleas from Moses, He decided that none of the grumbling generation will enter the Promised Land.

Prophet Isaiah came centuries later and said:

But they rebelled, and GRIEVED HIS HOLY SPIRIT: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and he himself fought against them. (Isaiah 63:10)

Interestingly, the author of Hebrews took Psalm 95:8-11 and puts it into the mouth of the Holy Spirit:

Therefore, EVEN AS THE HOLY SPIRIT SAYS, “Today if you will hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, like as in the day of the trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested me by proving me,  and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was displeased with that generation, and said, ‘They always err in their heart, but they didn’t know my ways;’as I swore in my wrath, ‘They will not enter into my rest.” (Hebrews 3:7-11)

THE HARDENED HEART OF PHARAOH

Who is really responsible for hardening of Pharaoh’s heart? Is it Yahweh according to verses like Exodus 4:21; 7:3? Or was it Pharaoh himself according to verses like Exodus 8:15, 32? Actually, both are responsible. Pharaoh hardened his heart while Yahweh helped in fulfilling his desires.

When the Holy Spirit continues to convict someone, it eventually gets to a point of spiritual no-return. At this point, the Holy Spirit turns back and keep hardening the person’s heart by removing His power of conviction and by handing the person over to his desires. God already knew that Pharaoh will harden his heart against the conviction of the Holy Spirit and had promised that He will also help to harden Pharaoh’s heart.

Despite all the great signs and wonders that Yahweh displayed in the presence of Pharaoh and his people, Pharaoh still tried to explain away those miracles. Who knows – maybe he thought that these plagues were mere coincidences or that the gods of Egypt were angry and needs to be appeased. Pharaoh did not relent in fighting against Yahweh and His people. He rebelled against the Spirit of God until he perished.

HOW A SENTENCE SAVED DAVID’S L0IFE

2 Samuel 11 narrated how David committed adultery with Bathsheba and in the process later got her husband, Uriah killed. After his terrible deed, David took Bathsheba in as his wife. No one questioned his actions until Prophet Nathan came to apprehend him. After a severe rebuke from Nathan, David said:

I HAVE SINNED AGAINST YAHWEH” 2 Samuel 12:13

And here is the response that David got:

“Yahweh also HAS PUT AWAY YOUR SIN. YOU WILL NOT DIE” 2 Samuel 12:13

In his public confession, David cried out:

“Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” Psalm 51:11

David committed sin against the Godhead. The Holy Spirit took corrective measures to reconcile David back to Yahweh by convicting the king of his sins. David did not blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and he was forgiven. Despite the fact that he got severely punished for what he did, he was forgiven and accepted back into fellowship with Yahweh. In fact, David was upheld by Yahweh as a righteous model for the successive kings of Israel to come.

THE UNFORGIVABLE BLASPHEMY

During His ministry, Jesus displayed bewildering signs and wonders to back up the claims He made concerning Himself. However, the leading religious leaders of His day were bent on explaining the signs and wonders away by attributing those signs to mere sorcery and to the kingdom of darkness. Jesus leaves a very positive impact in everywhere He goes yet to the self-righteous leaders, it means nothing. In other words, there is nothing that Jesus can do or will do that will ever convince them that Jesus is who He claims to be.

During the inter-testamental period when there was a famine of the Word of God as prophesied by Prophet Amos (Amos 8:11), the traditions of men grew and became unchecked such that those traditions later became ‘Law’. Some of these traditions were actually dangerous in the sense that they do not leave room for further revelation from God. Jesus encountered some of these traditions and resented them. Jesus has to start all over again by going to the Old Testament, bringing out the well-intended meaning of the scriptures.

In case you missed the excitement, they started conjuring up what the Messiah must do and look like. These wild speculations started become rigid such that it became the starting foundation for the Jews to reject Jesus as the true Messiah. Jesus came with undeniable proofs that He was the One who He claimed to be yet the leading authorities desperately tried to explain those proofs away for the sake of the traditions of men. Jesus said:

“Having no regard for the command of God, you hold fast to human tradition.” He also said to them, “You neatly reject the commandment of God in order to set up your tradition.  For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.’  But you say that if anyone tells his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you would have received from me is corban’ (that is, a gift for God), then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother. Thus YOU NULLIFY THE WORD OF GOD BY YOUR TRADITION THAT YOU HAVE HANDED DOWN. And you do many things like this.” (Mark 7:8-13)

These rebellious Jews continue to harden their hearts against the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Every sort of evidences shown to them was explained away.

Let us look at Matthew 12:32 in its context. Jesus went to the Jewish synagogue and healed a man with withered hands (Matthew 12:9-10).  The Jewish authorities took offense with Him for healing on Sabbath while there is no command in the Hebrew scriptures that is against the healing on Sabbath day. Jesus even used a practical example to demonstrate the absurdity of the man-made traditions made out of mis-handling the inspired scriptures. Jesus went out healing people and multitudes were following Him. Matthew commented that all that Jesus was doing is a fulfilment to the prophecies concerning the Messiah penned by prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 42). Many Jews were startled and were wondering whether Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah (vs 23).

The signs and wonders performed by Jesus were used by the Holy Spirit to convict people. The Pharisees, seeing that they could not deny that Jesus had supernatural powers, and that they are not willing to concede Jesus’ claims, decided to attribute the signs and wonders to the prince of demons. In other words, they are at the end of their wits. Jesus blasted the Pharisees for such accusation. The Spirit of God is trying to reach out to them yet they are hardening their hearts, being blinded by their stubborn refusal to forsake the man-made traditions. If Jesus’ miracles will not yield these men, what will?

When you commit a sin, you commit it against the Godhead. However, the third Person of the Godhead will take corrective measures to reconcile you back to the Godhead by convicting you of your offense and making you cry out for forgiveness.

According to John Gilchrist,

The Father = God for us

The Son = God with us

The Holy Spirit = God IN us [1]

Paul said:

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16

It is the Holy Spirit present in the heart of believers that will convict them of their iniquities. Conviction must always precede forgiveness. If you are not truly convicted of a sin, then you cannot ask for forgiveness. So the only unforgivable sin is the sin of being unwilling to be forgiven. It means that you are arrogant to the end.

Endnotes

  1. [John Gilchrist (2002): Facing The Muslim Challenge: A Handbook of Christian-Muslim Apologetics. Life Challenge Africa, Cape Town, South Africa. Pg. 75-78.]