IT’S THE QUESTION OF THE WEEK.
It comes from Zacarias Rivera,* who wins a free book for taking the time to ask it.
Here’s his question:
“What is the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?”
Brace yourself for the next paragraph.
I’ve heard pastors say this is one of the most common questions they get from people. Folks are worried about that time they got so angry at heaven that they:
- called Jesus an SOB
- told God to go to hell
Okay, I know that’s offensive. But it’s real. Those are quotes I’ve heard people say they said in anger to the Lord. And they’re actually kinda mild compared to some of the R-rated quotes I’ve heard—and spoken.
Full disclosure: From time to time, I’ve gotten majorly ticked at God.
Especially off and on during those 27 years my dad fought non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma—trying every treatment out there, including the experimental stuff at the time. He died like a tree slowly withering. Strong in the beginning. Bare branches in the end, with ribs looking shrink-wrapped under the skin.
I remember telling Jesus he had nothing on my dad when it came to suffering. Half a day on a cross, I said, would have been a breeze compared to what I saw my dad go through during 27 years of cancer.
So I know a thing or two about dissing God.
That may be part of the reason why I’ve dealt with Zacarias’ question in several of my books. Here’s how I approached it in The Complete Visual Bible.
CUSSING GOD is not the unforgivable sin that Jesus warned about, Bible experts say. Nor is telling the Holy Spirit to go to hell. Or calling Jesus an SOB conceived out of wedlock.
None of these is polite. But each one is forgivable, scholars and New Testament writers agree: “If we confess our sins to God, he can always be trusted to forgive us and take our sins away” (1 John 1:9, CEV).
Yet Jesus warns a group of Pharisees “Every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31 NLT).
Bible experts say the way to understand what Jesus meant is to look at what provoked him to say that. He had just healed a man triple-dipped in trouble: demon-possessed, blind, and unable to speak. And instead of attributing this miracle to the power of God, the Pharisees said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons” (Matthew 12:23 NLT).
Scholars interpret Jesus’ warning a variety of ways. Among the theories about what the unforgivable sin is:
- Giving the devil credit for God’s work
- Rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit, who is the one who calls us to God
- Talking ourselves out of believing in Jesus
Pharisees saw the proof of God’s power with their own eyes, but refused to believe it. God won’t forgive people who refuse to admit their sin and repent.
For people worried that they’ve committed the unforgivable sin, scholars say, their worry itself is evidence they haven’t committed it. God forgives everyone who asks for forgiveness.
The Complete Visual Bible, page 321
*(Zacarias, email me and we’ll talk about your free book. Everyone else, if you’ve got a question about the Bible or Christianity, let me hear from you. If I pick your question for one of my Monday Questions of the Week, you’ll get a free book, too.)