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Sins Against the Holy Spirit

This is the final article in this series on the Holy Spirit. In our study, we have noted that the Holy Spirit is an equal member of the Godhead. He is God. The Holy Spirit bears the marks and characteristics of a person. The Holy Spirit is not an “it” – a mere force or influence of God. He is an individual, a distinct member of the Godhead. 

The Holy Spirit takes an active role in our sanctification.

  • He reveals the gospel to mankind (1 Corinthians 2:10-12).
  • He causes us to be born again (John 3:5, Titus 3:5).
  • He dwells within us (Romans 8:9).
  • He bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God (Romans 8:16).
  • He leads us (Romans 8:1, 14).
  • He makes intercession for us (Romans 8:26-27).
  • He seals us and serves as the guarantee of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13-14).

Seeing as how the Holy Spirit is an individual member of the Godhead, and that He has taken a personal involvement in our salvation, it should be no surprise to learn that we can sin against the Holy Spirit.

When members of the church in Jerusalem came to be in need, those who had houses and property sold them and, out of their generosity and zeal, gave the money to the apostles to be shared with those who were in need (Acts 4:34-35). Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a possession, but secretly kept back a portion of the proceeds for themselves (Acts 5:1-2). They brought the remainder of the money to give to the apostles, but wanted credit in the eyes of the church for giving the entire amount. Peter exposed this plot by announcing, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?” (Acts 5:3).

Ananias was guilty of lying to the Holy Spirit, and this sin cost him his life (v. 5). We need to take the matter of sinning against the Holy Spirit seriously. In this article, we will consider some ways in which we can be guilty of sinning against the Holy Spirit.  

 

The Sin of Resisting the Holy Spirit

51 You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.

52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers,

53 who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.

Acts 7:51-53

Stephen accused the Jews of always resisting the Holy Spirit. He said that their fathers had resisted the Holy Spirit by persecuting the prophets (who were speaking by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) and by not keeping the law. Like their fathers, the Jews of Stephen’s day were resisting the Holy Spirit by rejecting the preaching of the apostles and other inspired men.

The idea of resisting something means more than simply ignoring it. The word “resist” is translated from the Greek word antipipto which means “to fall against or upon.” It means to oppose or strive against something. These Jews were not indifferent about the gospel. They were opposing the gospel with all their might.

The same Holy Spirit who inspired the prophets of old also inspired the apostles who wrote the New Testament. Today, one resists the Holy Spirit when he rejects and opposes the message of the New Testament.

 

The Sin of Quenching the Holy Spirit

“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies” (1 Thessalonians 5:19-20).

The Greek word rendered “quench” in this verse (shennumi) means “to extinguish.” Every time this word is used in the New Testament it refers to the act of quenching a fire or things on fire (literally or metaphorically). As used in this verse, the word means to quench, suppress, or stifle a divine influence.

The Thessalonians were not to despise the prophecies made by those who had this gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 20). To ignore these prophecies would be to extinguish the work that the Holy Spirit was doing among them.

Timothy had a miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit. Likening this gift to a fire, Paul issued two warnings to Timothy concerning this gift. Instead of neglecting the gift (like letting a fire die out – 1 Timothy 4:14), he was to stir it up (like stoking a fire – 2 Timothy 1:6). Otherwise, Timothy would have been quenching the Spirit with regard to the gift that he had been given.

The Holy Spirit works through His word, pricking men’s hearts (Acts 2:37) and causing them to burn (Luke 24:32). Whenever the impact of the word of God is ignored, the Spirit has been quenched. When we stop reading the Bible and praying for God’s help, we have quenched the Spirit’s intended influence upon our lives.

 

The Sin of Grieving the Holy Spirit

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

The Ephesians were told not to grieve the Holy Spirit. To “grieve” (lupeo) means “to make sorrowful, to affect with sadness, to cause grief, to throw into sorrow.” We know that God is capable of grieving (Genesis 6:6, Psalm 95:10), and that Jesus is capable of grieving (Mark 3:5). The Bible also says that the Holy Spirit is capable of grieving (Isaiah 63:10).

This warning in Ephesians 4:30 is given in the context of Christians being told to put off the corrupt conduct of their former lives and to put on the new man who has been created in righteousness and holiness (vv. 22-24). Paul goes on to specifically address their speech, anger, work habits, and generosity, as well as various attitudes (vv. 25-32).

When we fail to live the way God has told us to live (produce the fruit of the Spirit – Galatians 5:22-23), we have rejected God’s authority for our lives. Such rebellion causes the Holy Spirit to experience deep sorrow, much like the parents of a wayward and foolish child (Proverbs 10:1, 17:25). Any time we disobey God and violate the commands given by the Holy Spirit, we grieve the Holy Spirit who gave us those commands.

 

The Sin of Insulting the Holy Spirit

26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,

27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.

29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?

30 For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The LORD will judge His people.”  

31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:26-31

 The writer of the book of Hebrews is speaking of those who sin willfully, understanding what they are doing, without showing any desire to repent. Such persons are said to have “insulted” the Spirit of grace, or to have “done despite unto the Spirit of grace” (KJV).

The word “insulted” is translated from the Greek word enubrizo. This word means to insult, but it carries with it the idea of acting with contempt. It describes one who is haughty and thus acts against the authority of another, the result of which is a scornful insult to the one in the position of authority. This is exactly what is described in this passage.

When a Christian sins willfully, He has taken the Son of God, whom God has highly exalted (Philippians 2:9), and has brought Him down to the level of dirt to be walked upon, and has regarded His blood to be a common thing. For a man, who is the object of God’s grace, who has been cleansed in the blood that made this grace possible, and has received this grace through the working of the Holy Spirit, to treat Christ in this way is the worst insult that can be given to the Holy Spirit.

We insult the Holy Spirit when we sin willfully, rejecting God’s efforts to save our soul, without showing any desire to repent. Such a person can expect a certain and fearful judgment.

 

The Sin of Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matthew 12:31-32).

In this passage, Jesus warns the Jews of the consequences of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. The word “blasphemy” (blasfemia) refers to a railing or a reviling; speech that injures another person’s good name.

“Blasphemy is from the Greek word blapto and means “to hurt” and phemi which means “to speak.” Therefore, to blaspheme means to speak to hurt, to speak against, to speak irreverently, impiously, to profane, or to speak evil of good. There is always the idea of hurt or injury in blasphemy; the speaker means to do harm or to speak evil of one” (Michael Hardin, “The Holy Spirit, His Personality and Work,” page 71).

To understand the meaning of what Jesus called “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” one must look at the context in which this warning was given.

In Matthew 12:22-24, Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed man. His enemies could not deny that a miracle had taken place, but sought to disregard the miracle as the working of Satan.

Jesus showed that the charge was absurd, stating that no man could work against himself and hope for his effort to stand. Also, their own people had cast out demons, and they could testify that demons are not cast out by the power of Satan (Matthew 12:25-27).

Jesus then indicated the spiritual truth that was confirmed by His miracle. His ability to cast out these demons was evidence that the kingdom of God had come upon them and that His kingdom was more powerful than the kingdom of Satan (Matthew 12:28-29).

In this setting, Jesus gave these Jews the warning against blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32). These Jews were blaspheming “the Son of Man” in that they were dismissing His claims by crediting His works to the power of Satan. Jesus said that they could reject Him and still receive the forgiveness of their sins. This was because one more opportunity to hear and repent was coming through the work of the Holy Spirit (who was poured forth on Pentecost – Acts 2), but if they rejected the Holy Spirit, there would not be another opportunity for them to receive the forgiveness of their sins.

This is illustrated in Acts 2. Peter said that these Jews had rejected and killed the Son of God (vs. 23, 36), yet they received the gospel given through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (v. 33) and were saved (vs. 38, 41). They did not blaspheme or speak against the Holy Spirit. Instead, they received His message, met the conditions set forth, and were forgiven of their sins.

The sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is not confined to a single word or phrase that is spoken against the Holy Spirit. It is the action of rejecting God’s final means of offering salvation to the world – the Holy Spirit.

Those who have become so bold as to reject the evidence for God’s existence, the reality of their sin, the appeal made by God through the gospel, and any concern for their soul’s salvation, and thus persist in sin, are blaspheming the Holy Spirit. There is no forgiveness for such a person because they reject God’s offer of forgiveness.

Some people are concerned about having committed the “unforgivable sin.” There is no “unforgivable sin” in the sense that God refuses to forgive a particular sin. The Bible says that if we repent and confess our sin, God is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Any sin that is unforgivable is not because of God’s refusal to forgive, but because of our refusal to accept the truth of the gospel and meet the conditions of the gospel.

 

Conclusion

Apostasy does not happen overnight. It is a process. It begins when one decides to resist the Holy Spirit (stops reading the Bible and praying). This leads to one quenching the Spirit. This neglect of God’s word will result in sins which grieve the Spirit. Soon we become hardened and sin willfully, which insults the Spirit. If repentance is not forthcoming, one’s heart will be completely hardened, and he will find himself blaspheming the Spirit and rejecting everything connected with God.

One way to prevent such apostasy is to make sure that we are not guilty of sinning against the Holy Spirit.