“Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” – Matthew 12:31
Jesus’ words “sin against the Holy Spirit” bring great trembling. Even a Christian may tremble at these words thinking he has committed the unforgivable sin. But the sin against the Spirit isn’t a random, unintentional act or thought. The sin against the Spirit is a total rejection of the work of the Holy Spirit and His goal; faith in Christ as the Son of God who died for our sins. We blaspheme the Spirit’s work when we deny the need for God’s mercy in Christ. It is the hard-hearted, stubborn, unbelief which trashes God’s Word, even when the person should know better.
Who else could Jesus be but God’s Son? To say otherwise, even when all the signs and teaching testify to the truth, is from a place of stubborn unbelief. No one is above this sort of stubbornness, and this is why it is the greatest of miracles when a human heart, hard and calloused by sin and evil, is pardoned and receives the forgiveness of sins through the work of the Spirit and a dead person is made fully alive in Christ.
There is no Christianity without faith in Christ, so the sin that kills the Spirit and puts to death Christianity in the heart is the denial of Christ Jesus and His gracious work to save sinners such as us. It is solely the work of God the Holy Spirit, to deliver the message and plant it in our hearts through the Word and Sacraments. He does it all, and only the hard-hearted and obstinate would refuse such a gracious offer!
Hilary of Poitiers writes, “Jesus condemns in no uncertain terms the thinking of the Pharisees and those who think like them. He promises forgiveness of all sins and denies pardon for blasphemy against the Spirit. Although other words and deeds may be treated with free and lavish forgiveness, there is no mercy if God is denied in Christ. Whatever sins one may commit, He extends the benevolence of His repeated admonition [warning, call to repentance]. All kinds of sins are to be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. What could be more outside of forgiveness than to deny Christ, since He is of God? To forsake Christ is to forsake the nature of the Spirit of the Father residing in Him. For Christ, who fulfills every work in the Spirit of God, is Himself the kingdom of heaven, and in Him God is reconciling the world to Himself. Therefore any blasphemy aimed at Christ is aimed at God, because God is in Christ and Christ is in God” (Hilary of Poitiers, On Matthew, 12.17).
Lord God, mighty protector of all who trust in You, without whom nothing is strong and nothing is holy, multiply Your mercy on us that, with You are our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal that we not lose the things eternal. In Jesus’ name, amen.