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.” (Mark 3:28-29)
This passage has been the subject of much debate over the centuries. Of course, we all want to know the nature of a sin that “will never be forgiven.” This is the one sin we don’t want to commit.
One strange and confusing twist in Jesus’ teaching is the clarification found in Matthew and Luke that blaspheme against the Son of Man (Jesus) will be forgiven, but not blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. Why would it be possible to be forgiven for blaspheming Jesus, but not the Holy Spirit, when they are both a part of the triune Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Spirit)?
The most common interpretation is that “blaspheme against the Holy Spirit” is a total rejection of the gospel. In other words, since the role of the Holy Spirit is to reveal our means of salvation, if we refuse to accept it we have chosen condemnation. We deny ourselves forgiveness by not accepting the grace God has given.
It is always helpful to look at the context of any Bible passage when making an interpretation, and to look for any direct clues or explanations the scriptures give us. In the case before us Jesus was accused of being the personification of Satan himself. This was the Pharisee’s explanation for His ability to cast out demons. Then in Mark 3:30 we are told Jesus spoke as He did about the Holy Spirit to address the Pharisees’ charge.
We can assume, therefore, the words in our passage this morning involve a response directed at Jesus’ accusers, seeking to refute their accusations, and perhaps turn the tables on their logic.
To be honest, I have always accepted the traditional interpretation cited above, merely because I have not been able to come up with a better one. I have never been completely comfortable with it because Jesus never specifically said this is what He meant. But it is consistent with what we know about the role of the Holy Spirit.
The one other interpretation I have mulled over in my mind, and continue to consider is the possibility Jesus might be talking about His personal war with Satan. In other words, if Jesus was (as the Pharisees suggested) casting out demons by the power of Satan, He would be guilty of collaborating with the enemy. Perhaps Jesus was describing the illogical conflict that would transpire in the spiritual realm if He was truly using demonic forces to do His work. He would be guilty of an unpardonable sin against His own person.
For now, since these are just thoughts, and since I cannot presume to be any smarter than generations of theologians who have gone before me, I will stick with the traditional interpretation.
I only know there is a war going on in the spiritual realm that far exceeds our perceptions. It is just best to stay away from anything blasphemous.
Dear God, show me how to be fully on Your side. In Jesus’ name, Amen.