Did I accidentally blaspheme the Holy Spirit?

Question
I think that before I became a believer, I might have accidentally blasphemed the Holy Spirit
Answer
The way Jesus explains blasphemy of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, it doesn't sound like something you can do accidentally. It also doesn't sound like something you can do if you aren't properly informed. Rather, it appears to be an intentional rejection of the obvious supernatural power of the Holy Spirit.

In the gospels, Jesus explained this sin in the context of an exorcism, which he performed by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Pharisees had attributed his exorcisms to Satan. But Jesus made it clear that any right-thinking person would have seen his power came from God.

Throughout Scripture, God reckons sin not simply on the basis of its external components (such as "speaking against" in the case of blasphemy), but also on the knowledge and heart of the person who sins. So, for example, he is forbearing toward sins of ignorance, and more greatly angered by willful and informed sin (e.g., Jer. 5:1-5).

In the case of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, the only example we have in Scripture appears to be both willful and informed. That is to say, the Pharisees appear to be well enough informed to have known who Jesus claimed to be, and what was involved in an exorcism (they were, after all the party that believed in spirits, unlike the Sadducees). Notice how Matthew contrasted the "multitudes" and the "Pharisees" on this point in Matthew 9:33-34. It's similar to the distinction in Jeremiah 5 (cited above). The uneducated multitudes didn't question what Jesus did. But the educated Pharisees, who knew better, accused him of working through the power of Satan. (It's worth noting that even in this case Jesus didn't raise the topic of the unpardonable sin.)

By contrast, there are many examples in Scripture of unbelievers attributing miraculous works of God to false gods. But in none of these cases is the unpardonable sin even hinted at. On the contrary, there are actually examples of the gospel being extended to these unbelievers. For example, in Acts 14:4ff., the Lystrans attributed Paul's miraculous healing of a lame man to the pagan gods Zeus and Hermes. Considered from only the technical, external aspect, the Lystrans' blasphemed the Holy Spirit. After all, the miracle had been performed by the Holy Spirit through Paul, and the Lystrans attributed that miracle to pagan gods instead. But far from assuming these people couldn't be saved, Paul preached the gospel message to them in order to call them to repentance and faith (cf. Acts 14:15). Clearly, Paul didn't believe that they had committed an unpardonable sin. So, we should conclude that something more than mere words is required in order for a sin to be unpardonable.

Given all that Scripture has to say on the subject (which is certainly more than I can explain here), I'm inclined to say that the unpardonable sin can only be committed by those who: (1) recognize the Holy Spirit's power in a miracle, (2) with what should be a high level of confidence, and (3) speak openly against that power by denying the Holy Spirit's role in the miracle. Remember, this was a sin committed by Jesus' vocal, obstinate opponents and detractors. It wasn't a sin committed by those who were unfamiliar with Scripture and theology, or by those who were genuinely trying to follow Christ.

To put it another way, a person who can't be expected to judge the Holy Spirit's power in a miracle isn't capable of committing the unpardonable sin. If you aren't sure the Holy Spirit was the source of the miracle, or if you can't be expected to be sure that he was, then you can't commit that sin. Someone who is genuinely inquiring about the Holy Spirit isn't blaspheming him, even if he makes wrong statements or assumptions in the course of that inquiry.

Of course, that doesn't mean that Satan or a weak conscience won't make you feel guilty. After all, Satan's preferred strategy is to get those who believe God to misjudge and misapply what God has said. He did it to Eve in the Garden of Eden. He did it to Jesus in the wilderness. He does it to you and me as often as he can.

So, in order to increase your confidence that you are saved, I would encourage you first to hone your understanding of what blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is in order to see that you haven't committed it. And second, I would encourage you to remember that you can't have faith in Christ unless it's been given to you from God (Eph. 2:8-9). God doesn't give faith to people he isn't going to forgive. If you have faith in Christ, you can't possibly have committed the unpardonable sin. Satan would have you embrace a faulty understanding of blasphemy in order to undermine your faith. But God would have you embrace Christ in order to establish your faith, and thereby demonstrate that your understanding of blasphemy needs to be corrected.

Answer by Ra McLaughlin

Ra McLaughlin is Vice President of Creative Delivery Systems at Third Millennium Ministries.