Donít you ever wonder? What is that one thing you could do that God will not or cannot forgive? Is there such a sin?
A plain reading of Scripture reveals that there is indeed a sin that will not be forgiven. The only problem is, the definition of that sin given in the passage is pretty vague to the average reader like me. Here it is, and itís Jesus speaking:
"And anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but to him who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven.Ē Luke 12:10.
See the parallel verses in Matthew 12:31-32, where Jesus also calls it speaking against the Holy Spirit. Every other sin, these passages tell us, even blasphemy in general, will be forgiven the repentant sinner. But not blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.
Maybe itís just me, but that isnít crystal clear guidance of the canít-be-mistaken variety with which Iím most comfortable. Consequently, Iíve thought about these passages lots, studied the meaning of the original Greek words, and read various commentaries for scholarsí interpretations of the verses.
Blasphemy is from the Greek ďblasphemiaĒ, which means slander or impious and reproachful speech. People rarely go on about how awful Jesus was, because that would be idiotic. All manner of infidels agree that Jesus was a great teacher, full of love and mercy toward all people. Itís hard not to respect that. Regardless, Jesus tells us clearly that if you have slandered His name, you can be forgiven if you want.
People do often rail against God, angrily blaming Him for the atrocious things people do to each other, and demanding to know why He didnít do this or that for them when they asked. These blasphemers apparently believe in God, else they wouldnít blame Him for things. Although, they do sometimes go on to say that they choose not to believe in this God who behaves so poorly. Thereís a logical problem there, but thatís for another day. This slander is also forgivable.
But what does it mean to blaspheme or speak against the Holy Spirit? My thought is that this means to reject the gentle drawing of the Holy Spirit continuously until itís too late. The Holy Spirit touches your mind and heart as you move through the world. Evidence of God is splashed and heaped about everywhere. As Elizabeth Barrett Browning put it,
ďEarth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries. ď
And I would add, they complain about the thorns and the seeds, proclaiming all the while that the bush evolved from nothing and has no purpose. But I digress.
My point is, itís innate for us to respond to the beauty of the world and the astonishing complexity of design in every living thing, by feeling awe and gratitude to the Creator of these things. To do otherwise takes repeated and conscious effortóthis, I think, is rejecting the Holy Spirit drawing you toward God. To reject God is to refuse to acknowledge His existence, His sovereignty, His power and His generous goodness in lavishing the blessings of oxygen, rain, sunshine, blackberries and tabby cats on the just and the unjust alike. It also means, more specifically, rejecting His offer of reconciliation made possible through the blood of Jesus.
It makes sense that this sin canít be forgiven. You keep rejecting God, and eventually (or tomorrow) you die. At death, God finally allows you to be free of Him. This is commonly called going to Hell. Itís the logical end result of continually resisting the wooing of the Holy Spirit. For Him to forgive your determined rejection would be to force you to endure His presence (by making you go to Heaven), even after you made it quite clear in your lifetime that you wanted nothing to do with Him.
Thatís how it hangs together in my head, anyway. Further illumination is welcomeÖ