In looking at the issue of the eternal security of the believer in Christ, one of the most difficult passages to understand is the text wherein Jesus refers to the “unforgiveable” sin. Today’s passage gives us one of the accounts of our Lord’s teaching on this subject, and we see that one transgression will never be forgiven by God, namely, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12:31). Such a text raises all sorts of questions. What is this sin? Can Christians commit it? How do we know if we have committed this sin?
Let us make a few introductory comments on Matthew 12:22–32. The first thing to note is that Jesus refers not just to any sin against the Spirit but to one very specific transgression, namely, blasphemy. All sins grieve the Holy Spirit, but not every sin is an act of blasphemy against Him. Second, we note that blasphemy is committed with words. It consists in speech against the Creator, although such words need not be spoken but can go unheard as thoughts of the mind and heart.
So, then, what is this blasphemy and why is it unforgiveable? Jesus’ teaching is in response to the reaction of the Pharisees to His miraculous activity. The Pharisees see that Jesus has just freed a man from demonic oppression and that many people are thinking that He must therefore be the Christ (vv. 22–23). Some of these Pharisees attribute Jesus’ ability to exorcise demons to Beelzebul, that is, Satan (v. 24). This error is significant because our Savior notes that the finger of God is behind His power in spiritual warfare. By the Holy Spirit He casts out demons, which should be evident to all (vv. 25–30). The Lord then teaches on the blasphemy of the Spirit, thereby indicating that it consists of attributing demonic activity to Jesus (vv. 31–32). In other words, calling a work of God the work of Satan is what is in view with respect to the blasphemy of the Spirit.
A person does not need a special revelation to understand the identity of Jesus; rather, regeneration is required only for the bestowal of saving faith. People can see by Jesus’ acts and words that He is from God, and if they recognize this but then attribute His ministry to Satan, there is no hope for them. Of all people, the Pharisees knew better. Seeing the Messiah destroying the work of the devil, they understood who He was and what He was doing. To resist the witness to His identity was to show a heart fully hardened against the Lord, and such a heart will not seek forgiveness.