My Bible study group and I are having trouble understanding a verse in Matthew. It is Matthew 12:32. How does one blaspheme against the Holy Spirit and what does it mean?
The answer to your question about how does one blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is found in the verses just before Matthew 12:32 and in a verse in the gospel of Mark. First, we will look at Matthew 12:24-32. Historical documents tell us the Jewish leaders believed that Jesus performed His miracles using ancient Egyptian magic. It is amazing that even after the Pharisees heard Jesus teach, watched Him heal the sick, raise the dead, and exorcise demons, they came to the conclusion that Jesus was using the power of the devil. History accurately records what the Pharisees concluded.
But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “This man casts out demons only by Beelzebub the ruler of the demons.” (NASB) Matthew 12:24
It is amazing that they were so short sighted. Jesus responds to their bad conclusion by asking the obvious question, “If I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom, do your sons cast them out?” Apparently their sons could perform exorcisms. But Jesus’ point is clear. They were not objective about Jesus. Not only did they not believe Him, they passionately rejected Him to the point of giving credit for the works of God to Satan. They were biased.
And knowing their thoughts He said to them, “Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself shall not stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself; how then shall his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out demons, by whom do your sons cast them out? Consequently they shall be your judges. But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. Or how can anyone enter the strong man’s house and carry off his property, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” (NASB) Matthew 12:25-30
They had watched Jesus for a long time and had concluded that He was not God. What a mistake! They had full knowledge and then rejected Jesus. Scripture tells us that Jesus did His miracles by the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38). This means that the Pharisees gave credit to Satan for what the Holy Spirit had done. When the Pharisees did this, they not only rejected Jesus but rejected the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They decided against Jesus and history records their heart conviction that Jesus was not God. Jesus’ next statement is only a statement of fact. They have rejected objective truth and reached a seriously wrong conclusion.
“Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven men, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. And whoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever shall speak against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age, or in the age to come.” (NASB) Matthew 12:31-32
To conclude that Jesus did His miracles by the power of Satan was to completely reject the very proof that God had given to them that Jesus was God and the Savior of the world. But Mark 3:30, a parallel account, tells us that they also believed that Jesus was demon possessed. To give credit to Satan or to his demons for the work of the Holy Spirit performed through Jesus Christ is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit – God (to say one can blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is another proof the Holy Spirit is God). That is the ultimate rejection of Jesus. When they rejected the very proof that Jesus was God, they finally rejected Jesus.
Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” — because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” (NASB) Mark 3:28-30
Today, anyone who rejects the evidence that Jesus is God and does not believe that He is the only One who can save us from the penalty of our sins has no hope for heaven. The silence and the loneliness in the flames of hell is their eternal destiny. But Jesus came to offer us something better – heaven. God loves us and demonstrated His love for us when Jesus died for us. What a serious warning to each of us and wonderful opportunity. This is a call to believe that Jesus is God and to seek His favor.