Lecture 38 of 39:
In the twentieth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the unforgiven sin against the Holy Ghost is described in a manner as if it could not be forgiven because of its magnitude.
Matt. 12, 30–32: This is the principal passage. It states, to begin with, that all blasphemy against the Father and the Son shall be forgiven; only the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven. Now, it is certain that the Holy Spirit is not a more glorious and exalted person than the Father and the Son, but He is coequal with them. Accordingly, the meaning of this passage cannot be that the unforgivable sin is blasphemy against the person of the Holy Spirit; for blasphemy against the Father and the Son is exactly the same sin. The blasphemy to which our text refers is directed against the office, or operation of the Holy Spirit; whoever spurns the office of the Holy Spirit, his sin cannot be forgiven. The office of the Holy Spirit is to call men to Christ and to keep them with Him.
The text mentions in particular, that the person committing this sin “speaketh against the Holy Ghost”. This shows that the sin in question is not committed by blasphemous thoughts that arise in the heart.
Mark 3, 28–30: Here we have the record of an actual blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. When Christ, by the finger of God, cast out devils, the Pharisees, who had come down from Jerusalem, declared this operation of theholy Spirit a work of the devil. They were convinced in their hearts that it was a divine work, but since the Saviaor had rebuked them for their hypocrisy and mien of sanctimoniousness they conceivced a deadly hatred against Christ, and that incited them to blasphemy against the holy Ghost.
Accordingly we have here this explanation offered us: to declare a work of the Holy Ghost a work of the devil when one is convinced that it is a work of the Holy Ghost, that is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.
We have a very important statement regarding this sin in Heb 6, 4–8: It is characteristic of the sin against the Holy Ghost that the person who has committed it cannot be restored to repentance. That is simply impossible. It is not God who puts man into this condition, but the sinner by his own fault produces this state of irretrievable impenitence. When this condition has reached a certain degree, God ceases to operate upon him, and there is no further possibility for the person to be saved. Why? Because he cannot be induced to repent. The soil of his heart has been finally blasted and is no longer fructified by the dew and rain of divine grace.
1 John 5, 16: This passage contains important information for us, but we cannot act upon it. For we can say of no person before his death that he has committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. Even when his mouth utters blasphemies, we do not know to what extent his heart is implicated, or whether the phenomenon is not perhaps an operation of the devil, or whether he is acting in great blindness, and whether he may not be renewed unto repentance. The Christians in the days of the apostles had the gift to discern the spirits. Accordingly, St. John here means to say: “When you see that God has ceased to be gracious to such or such an individual who has committed this sin, you are not to wish either that God should be gracious to him, and you are to cease praying for him.” Neither may we say to God: “Save those who have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost.”
This is a shocking statement, and yet it contains a great comfort. Some one may come to you and say: “I am a wretched man — I have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost. I am quite certain of it.” The afflicted may tell you of the evil he has done, the evil he has spoken, and the evil he has thought. It may really look as if he had blasphemed against the Holy Ghost. Now remember the weapon which Heb 6 furnishes for attacking a case like this: “The person is not at all rejoicing over what he tells you; it is all so awfully horrid to him. This shows that God has at least begun to lead him to repentance; all that he need do is to lay hold of the promise of the Gospel.
As regards people who are distressed because they think they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, they would not feel distressed if they really had committed that sin and were in that awful conditon of heart, but they would find their constant delight in blaspheming the Gospel. However, Christians in distress still have faith, and the Spirit of God is working in them; and if the Spirit of God is working in them, they have not committed the sin against the Holy Ghost.