Forgiveness for blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and apostasy

In this post, I’ll look at two passages of Scripture that have troubled people for two thousand years. The first is found in Mark 3:28-30, and has caused many to fear that God will never forgive their blasphemy. The second is separated into two parts, the first in Hebrews 6:4-6 and the companion in Hebrews 10:26-31. These two sets of verses have caused people to fear that they can lose their salvation for committing apostasy. As we shall see, God forgives everyone who repents for their sins and believes in Jesus, no matter what sins they have committed.

We’ll start with Mark 3:28-30, which says:

28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter;
29 “but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” —
30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

Here we have a riddle. First Christ says, “all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter.” This implies God will forgive any blasphemy. However, he follows that statement with, “but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness.” What are we to make of this seeming contradiction? Blasphemy is defined by Merriam-Webster as, “the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.” Therefore, since the Holy Spirit is God, all blasphemy is against the Holy Spirit, (as well as the other two persons of the Holy Trinity). Our task is to find out what the special meaning is that Christ gives to what he calls, “he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit.” This must be more than simply to insult the Holy Spirit, otherwise it would fall under the statement “all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter.” So to what does Christ refer?

It is the Holy Spirit who does the special work of drawing people to God for salvation. John 15:26 says, “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.” And John 16:7-11 says:

7 ¶ “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.
8 “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 “of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
10 “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
11 “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

The Helper is the Holy Spirit, and he testifies that Jesus is our Savior. The Holy Spirit is the one who convicts the world of sin and leads them to repentance. That’s the only way anyone ever gets forgiveness. So if you insult the Holy Spirit specifically by calling his testimony about Christ a lie, and therefore you refuse to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, as Christ said, such a person “never has forgiveness.” It is not that saying something insulting to the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, Jesus explained that when he said, “all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter.” Rather it is when someone calls the Holy Spirit’s testimony a lie, and therefore refuses to accept forgiveness in Christ, that Jesus tells us, “but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation.” So what’s the remedy? If you have called the Holy Spirit’s testimony a lie, and therefore refused to believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, simply repent. No longer be a person who blasphemes the Holy Spirit, and you will no longer be “subject to eternal condemnation.” Believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and the free gift of righteousness, as Romans 3:22-24 says:

22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,

Now we’ll look at the two passages from Hebrews. My response is to point out that Hebrews is a forgery, intended to be passed off as a letter of Paul. Therefore it is not the word of God, but is rather a lie written by someone hoping to gain an audience by tricking people into thinking Paul wrote it. So who cares what that liar wrote? For more on this, see page 22 of Forged, by Bart Ehrman, or read Pauline epistles on Wikipedia. That is indeed the end of the matter. But let’s interpret the passages anyway. As I said, people worrying about the passages in Hebrews fear that because they have committed apostasy, God will not forgive them. We can lay those fears to rest by quoting something the Apostle Paul actually did write, namely, Romans 8:29-30:

29 ¶ For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Here Paul says that anyone who truly puts their faith in Christ cannot lose their salvation, the believer’s glorification in heaven is spoken of in the past tense, because as far as God is concerned, it is already accomplished. Once a person is justified through truly putting their faith in Jesus, they can never be lost. They may commit apostasy, but those who have truly believed in Jesus will always repent and return to Christ eventually.

Having said that, Hebrews 6:4-6 says:

4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit,
5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come,
6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

Verses 4 and 5 are obviously describing someone who has become a believing Christian. Verse 6 goes on to say that if the believer commits apostasy, it is impossible to renew them to repentance, because apostasy is akin to crucifying Jesus all over again. And the person either will not repent because their rejection of God is so complete, or they cannot repent because God will not allow them to. The claim of these verses is proven false by the many cases of believers who have committed apostasy, and then later did repent. But more importantly, Hebrews 6:4-6 is from a forged book and it contradicts the authentic writing of Paul in Romans 8:29-30.

Our second passage, Hebrews 10:26-31, says:

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.

This is another way of saying what was said in Hebrews 6:4-6. In verse 26 we see a believer who rejects Christ for another faith. We are then told that such a person will not be renewed to repentance, but will suffer the vengeance of God. And again, the claim of these verses is proven false by the many cases of believers who have committed apostasy, and then later did repent. But more importantly, Hebrews 10:26-31 is from a forged book and it contradicts the authentic writing of Paul in Romans 8:29-30.

Finally, there is a response that encompasses the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and apostasy. As a Pauline Christian, I believe salvation is through faith alone, it does not depend on works. Christians do not have to keep any law or commandment perfectly in order to enter heaven, all that matters is our faith in Jesus. This teaching is stated clearly in Romans 3:19-5:2

19 ¶ Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,
22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,
26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
29 Or is He the God of the Jews only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also,
30 since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.
1 ¶ What then shall we say that Abraham our father has found according to the flesh?
2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness,
6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;
8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin.”
9 ¶ Does this blessedness then come upon the circumcised only, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say that faith was accounted to Abraham for righteousness.
10 How then was it accounted? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.
11 And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all those who believe, though they are uncircumcised, that righteousness might be imputed to them also,
12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also walk in the steps of the faith which our father Abraham had while still uncircumcised.
13 For the promise that he would be the heir of the world was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
14 For if those who are of the law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise made of no effect,
15 because the law brings about wrath; for where there is no law there is no transgression.
16 Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace, so that the promise might be sure to all the seed, not only to those who are of the law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all
17 ¶ (as it is written, “I have made you a father of many nations”) in the presence of Him whom he believed — God, who gives life to the dead and calls those things which do not exist as though they did;
18 who, contrary to hope, in hope believed, so that he became the father of many nations, according to what was spoken, “So shall your descendants be.”
19 And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah’s womb.
20 He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God,
21 and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.
22 And therefore “it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
23 ¶ Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
1 ¶ Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Clearly then, no blasphemy a person repents of can damn them to Hell, because that would mean they had to perfectly keep the law of the commandment not to blaspheme in order to enter heaven. Then salvation would be based on that law as well as the believer’s faith, entering heaven would be on the basis of law and faith, but Paul clearly teaches that salvation is by faith apart from law. The same applies to the passages in Hebrews, if apostasy was unforgivable, then believers in Christ would be under a law not to apostatize. But as Paul explained in Romans 6:14,15, we are not under law but under grace:

14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!

Again, if apostasy were unforgivable, salvation would be by the works of the apostasy law as well as by faith. But salvation is by faith alone, apart from any works of any law.

In conclusion, we have seen that God forgives everyone who repents for their sins and believes in Jesus, no matter what sins they have committed.

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