Matthew 12:31
Why I say to you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven to men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven to men.
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(31) The blasphemy against the Holy Ghost.—Better, against the Spirit, the word “Holy” not being found in any MSS. of authority. The question, What is the nature of the terrible sin thus excluded from forgiveness? has, naturally enough, largely occupied the thoughts of men. What, we ask, is this blasphemy against the Holy Ghost? (1.) The context at least helps us to understand something of its nature. The Pharisees were warned against a sin to which they were drawing perilously near. To condemn the Christ as a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, as breaking the Sabbath, or blaspheming when He said, “Thy sins be forgiven thee,” was to speak a word against the Son of Man. These offences might be sins of ignorance, not implying more than narrowness and prejudice. But to see a man delivered from the power of Satan unto God, to watch the work of the Spirit of God, and then to ascribe that work to the power of evil, this was to be out of sympathy with goodness and mercy altogether. In such a character there was no opening for repentance, and therefore none for forgiveness. The capacity for goodness in any form was destroyed by this kind of antagonism. (2.) We dare not say, and our Lord does not say it, that the Pharisees had actually committed this sin, but it was towards this that they were drifting. And in reference to later times, we may say that this is the ultimate stage of antagonism to God and to His truth, when the clearest proofs of divine power and goodness are distorted into evidence that the power is evil. The human nature in that extremest debasement has identified itself with the devil nature, and must share its doom.

Matthew 12:31. All manner of sin and blasphemy — The word rendered blasphemy: denotes injurious expressions, whether against God or man. When God is the object, it is properly rendered blasphemy. It is evident that, in this passage, both are included, as the different kinds are compared together: consequently the general term detraction, or injurious speech, ought to be employed, which is applicable alike to both; whereas the term blasphemy, with us, is not used of any verbal injury that is not aimed directly against God. Shall be forgiven unto men — That is, on condition of true repentance, and faith in the mercy of God through Christ; or, as the words evidently mean, may be forgiven unto men; for we are not to understand our Lord as asserting that every such sin shall actually be pardoned, but that it is, in the divine economy, capable of being pardoned. But the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men — By the blasphemy here spoken of, we are evidently to understand injurious or impious speaking against the Spirit of God, such as the Pharisees were now guilty of; that is, attributing to the devil those miracles which Christ gave full proof that he wrought by the Holy Spirit. That this, and nothing but this, is the sin here intended, is manifest from the connection in which the words stand in this place; and more especially still from the parallel passage, Mark 3:28-30, in which the evangelist, assigning the reason of our Lord’s making this declaration, adds, Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit; that is, “hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of devils casteth out devils.” This, then, and this only, is the sin, or blasphemy, as it should rather be called, (and as the Scriptures always call it,) against the Holy Ghost. It is an offence of the tongue; it is committed not by thinking, but by speaking, by evil-speaking, by belying, slandering, or reviling the Divine Spirit, by which our Lord wrought his miracles, ascribing them to the devil: which in fact was calling the Holy Ghost, or the Spirit of the one living and true God, the devil: a more heinous crime than which is not to be conceived.12:31,32 Here is a gracious assurance of the pardon of all sin upon gospel terms. Christ herein has set an example to the sons of men, to be ready to forgive words spoken against them. But humble and conscientious believers, at times are tempted to think they have committed the unpardonable sin, while those who have come the nearest to it, seldom have any fear about it. We may be sure that those who indeed repent and believe the gospel, have not committed this sin, or any other of the same kind; for repentance and faith are the special gifts of God, which he would not bestow on any man, if he were determined never to pardon him; and those who fear they have committed this sin, give a good sign that they have not. The trembling, contrite sinner, has the witness in himself that this is not his case.In this place, and in Mark 3:28-30, Jesus states the awful nature of the sin of which they had been guilty. That sin was the sin against the Holy Spirit. It consisted in charging him with being in league with the devil, or accusing him of working his miracles, not by the "spirit" or "power" of God, but by the aid of the prince of the devils. It was therefore a direct insult, abuse, or evil speaking against the Holy Spirit - the spirit by which Jesus worked his miracles. That this was what he intended by this sin, at that time, is clear from Mark 3:30, "because they said he had an unclean spirit." All other sins - all speaking against the Saviour himself - might be remitted. But this sin was clearly against the Holy One; it was alleging that the highest displays of God's mercy and power were the work of the devil; and it argued, therefore, the deepest depravity of mind. The sin of which he speaks is therefore clearly stated. It was accusing him of working miracles by the aid of the devil, thus dishonoring the Holy Spirit.

All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven - That is, only on condition that people repent and believe. If they continue in this sin they cannot be forgiven, Mark 16:16; Romans 2:6-9.

Blasphemy - Injurious or evil speaking of God. See the notes at Matthew 9:3.

A word against the Son of man - The Jews were offended at the humble life and appearance of the Saviour. They reproached him as being a Nazarene - sprung from Nazareth, a place from which no good was expected to proceed; with being a Galilean, from Galilee, a place from which no prophet came, John 7:52. Jesus says that reproaches of this kind could be pardoned. Reflections on his poverty, on his humble birth, and on the lowliness of his human nature might be forgiven; but for those which affected his divine nature, accusing him of being in league with the devil, denying his divinity, and attributing the power which manifestly implied divinity to the prince of fallen spirits, there could be no pardon. This sin was a very different thing from what is now often supposed to be the sin against the Holy Spirit. It was a wanton and blasphemous attack on the divine power and nature of Christ. Such a sin God would not forgive.

Speaketh against the Holy Ghost - The word "ghost" means "spirit," and probably refers here to the "divine nature" of Christ - the power by which he performed his miracles. There is no evidence that it refers to the third person of the Trinity; and the meaning of the whole passage may be: "He that speaks against me as a man of Nazareth - that speaks contemptuously of my humble birth, etc., may be pardoned; but he that reproaches my divine nature, charging me with being in league with Satan, and blaspheming the power of God manifestly displayed "by me," can never obtain forgiveness."

Neither in this world, nor in that which is to come - That is, as Mark expresses it, "hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation." This fixes the meaning of the phrase. It means, then, not the future age or dispensation, known among the Jews as the world to come, but it means that the guilt will be unpardoned forever; that such is the purpose of God that he will not forgive a sin so direct, presumptuous, and awful. It cannot be inferred from this that any sins will be forgiven in hell. The Saviour meant simply to say that there were "no possible circumstances" in which the offender could obtain forgiveness. He certainly did "not" say that any sin unpardoned here would be pardoned hereafter.

31. Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men—The word "blasphemy" properly signifies "detraction," or "slander." In the New Testament it is applied, as it is here, to vituperation directed against God as well as against men; and in this sense it is to be understood as an aggravated form of sin. Well, says our Lord, all sin—whether in its ordinary or its more aggravated forms—shall find forgiveness with God. Accordingly, in Mark (Mr 3:28) the language is still stronger: "All sin shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme." There is no sin whatever, it seems, of which it may be said, "That is not a pardonable sin." This glorious assurance is not to be limited by what follows; but, on the contrary, what follows is to be explained by this.

but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.

See Poole on "Matthew 12:32". Wherefore I say unto you,.... This shows, that what follows is occasioned by what the Pharisees had said, concerning the miracles of Christ; imputing them to diabolical influence and assistance, when they were done by the Spirit of God, of which they themselves were conscious;

all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: not unto all men, for there are some, who, as they are never truly convinced of sin, and brought to repentance for it, so they never have the remission of it; but to such to whom God of his free grace has promised, and for whom he has provided this blessing, in the covenant of his grace; for whom the blood of Christ was shed, for the remission of their sins; and who, by the Spirit of God, are made sensible of them, and have repentance unto life given them, and faith in Christ, by which they receive the forgiveness of them: the sense is, that all kind of sin, whether committed more immediately against God, or man, the first or second table of the law, or against any of the divine precepts; be they sins small or great, secret or open, sins of heart, lip, or life, or attended with whatsoever aggravating circumstances; and all kind of blasphemy, or evil speaking of men, or of angels, or of the name of God, but what is hereafter excepted, there is forgiveness of in the grace of God, through the blood of Christ, even for all sorts of men and sinners whatever. The Jews have a saying (z), that God pardons all sins,

, "except lasciviousness".''

But this is not excepted by Christ, only what follows,

but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, shall not be forgiven unto men: by which is meant, not every ignorant denial of, and opposition to his deity and personality; nor all resistance of him in the external ministry of the word; nor every sin that is knowingly and wilfully committed; but it is a despiteful usage of the Spirit of grace, an opposing, contradicting, and denying the operations wrought, or doctrines revealed by him, against a man's own light and conscience, out of wilful and obstinate malice, on purpose to lessen the glory of God, and gratify his own lusts: such was the sin of the Scribes and Pharisees; who, though they knew the miracles of Christ were wrought by the Spirit of God, yet maliciously and obstinately imputed them to the devil, with a view to obscure the glory of Christ, and indulge their own wicked passions and resentments against him; which sin was unpardonable at that present time, as well as under that dispensation then to come, when the Spirit of God was poured down in a more plenteous manner.

(z) Tanchuma apud Buxtorf. Heb. Florileg. p. 126.

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.
Matthew 12:31. Διὰ τοῦτο] refers back to all that has been said since Matthew 12:25 : On this account—because, in bringing such an accusation against me, Matthew 12:24, you have as my enemies (Matthew 12:30) resisted the most undoubted evidence of the contrary (Matthew 12:25 ff.),—on this account I must tell you, and so on.

ἁμαρτ. κ. βλασφ.] Genus and species: every sin and (in particular) blaspheming (of sacred things, as of the Messiah Himself, Matthew 12:32).

ἡ τοῦ πν. βλασφ.] Blaspheming of the Spirit (Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10) is the sin in question, and of which that allegation on the part of the Pharisees, Matthew 12:24, is an instance, so that it is probably too much to say, as though the new birth must be presumed, that it can only occur in the case of a Christian,—a view which was held by Huther, Quenstedt, and others. As, then, in the present instance the Pharisees had hardened themselves against an unmistakeable revelation of the Spirit of God, as seen in the life and works of Jesus, had in fact taken up an attitude of avowed hostility to this Spirit; so much so that they spoke of His agency as that of the devil: so in general the βλασφημία τοῦ πνεύματος may be defined to be the sin which a man commits when he rejects the undoubted revelation of the Holy Spirit, and that not merely with a contemptuous moral indifference (Gurlitt; see, on the other hand, Müller, Lehre v. d. Sünde, II. p. 598, ed. 5), but with the evil will struggling to shut out the light of that revelation; and even goes the length of expressing in hostile language his deliberate and conscious opposition to this divine principle, thereby avowing his adherence to his anti-spiritual confession. This sin is not forgiven, because in the utterly hardened condition which it presupposes, and in which it appears as the extreme point of sinful development, the receptivity for the influences of the Holy Spirit is lost, and nothing remains but conscious and avowed hatred toward this holy agency. In the case of the Christian, every conscious sin, and in particular all immoral speech, is also sin against the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30); but what is meant by blaspheming the Spirit in the passage before us, is to go to the utmost extremity in apostasy from Christ and πρὸς θάνατον (1 John 5:16, and Huther’s note). See Grashoff in the Stud. u. Krit. 1833, p. 935 ff.; Gurlitt, ibid. 1834, p. 599 ff.; Tholuck, ibid. 1836, p. 401 ff.; Schaf, d. Sünde wider d. heil. G. 1841; Jul. Müller, l.c.; Alex, ab Oettingen, de pecc. in Sp. s. 1856, where the older literature may also be found, and where the different views are criticised.[444] For the way in which the blaspheming against the Spirit is supposed to coincide, as far as the Christian is concerned, with the falling away mentioned in Hebrews 6:4-6, see Delitzsch On the Hebrews, p. 231 ff.; Lünemann, p. 205 ff.

οὐκ ἀφεθήσεται] should not have its meaning twisted by supplying “as a rule,” or such like; nor, with Grotius, is οὐκ to be taken comparatively (more heinous than all other sins). The simple impossibility of forgiveness is just to be sought in the man’s own state of heart, which has become one of extreme hostility to God.

[444] At p. 87, Oettingen defines the sin thus: “Impoenitentia perpetua atque incredulitas usque ad finem, quae ex rebellante et obstinatissima repudiatione testimonii Sp. s. evangelio sese manifestantis et in hominum cordibus operantis profecta blasphemando in Sp. s. per verbum et facinus in lucem prodit.”Matthew 12:31-32. Jesus changes His tone from argument to solemn warning.31–37. Blaspheming against the Holy Ghost

31. Wherefore] The conclusion of the whole is—you are on Satan’s side, and knowingly on Satan’s side, in this decisive struggle between the two kingdoms, and this is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost—an unpardonable sin.Matthew 12:31. Βλασφημία, blasphemy) The most atrocious kind of sin. He who insults the majesty of an earthly king by injurious language, is much more severely punished than he who steals many thousands of gold pieces.—ἀφεθήσεται, shall be forgiven) so that the punishment may be remitted to the penitent.—ἡ τοῦ Πνεύματος βλασφημία, the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost) Sin against the Holy Spirit is one thing, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is another. The word ἀμαρτία, sin, is not repeated here. The sinner injures himself by sin: the blasphemer affects many others with irreparable harm. And the Pharisees blasphemed the Holy Spirit, not in a mere ordinary holy man, but in the Messiah Himself.Verses 31, 32. - Parallel passages: Mark 3:28-30 (where the verses immediately follow our ver. 29) and Luke 12:10 (where the context is not the same, he having passed straight from our ver. 30 to our ver. 43, vide infra). It is to be observed that all three accounts differ a good deal in form, though but slightly in substance. The Apostolical Constitutions contain what is probably a mixture of these verses with 2 Peter 2:1 and other passages of the New Testament. Resch ('Agrapha,' pp. 130, 249, etc.), in accordance with his theory, thinks that the Constitutions have preserved a genuine utterance of the Lord, of which only different fragments are presented in various parts of the New Testament. A few words of introduction to these difficult verses. It has been strangely forgotten, in their interpretation, that our Lord spoke in language that he intended his hearers to understand, and that probably not a single one of those who stood by would understand by the expressions, ,, the Spirit" (ver. 31), "the Holy Spirit" (ver. 32), a Person in the Godhead distinct from the First Person or the Second (cf. Matthew 1:18, note). At most they would understand them to refer to an influence by God upon men (Psalm 51:11; cf. Luke 11:13), such as Christ had claimed to possess in a special degree (Luke 4:18). In inquiring, therefore, for an explanation of our Lord's sayings, we must not begin at the Trinitarian standpoint, and see in the words a contrast between "blasphemy" against one Person of the Trinity, and "blasphemy" against another. The contrast is between "blasphemy" against Christ as Son of man, Christ in his earthly work and under earthly conditions, the Christ whom they saw and whom they did not understand, and "blasphemy" against God as such working upon earth. "Blasphemy" against the former might be due to ignorance and prejudice, but "blasphemy" against the latter was to speak against God's work recognized as such, against God manifesting himself to their consciences (cf. vers. 27, 28); it was to reject the counsel of God towards them, to set themselves up in opposition to God, and thus to exclude from themselves forgiveness. Just as under the Law there were sacrifices for sins of ignorance and minor offences, but none for wilful disregard of and opposition to God, so must it be at all times even under the gospel itself. Observe that the "blasphemy" is understood by our Lord as showing the state of the heart (cf. Acts 7:51). What the effect of a change of heart, i.e. of repentance, would be does not enter into our Lord's utterance. All other sin is venial, but for heart-opposition there is no forgiveness. As Tyndale says ('Expositions,' p. 232, Parker Society), "Sin against the Holy Ghost is despising of the gospel and his working. Where that bideth is no remedy of sin: for it fighteth against faith, which is the forgiveness of sin. If that be put away, faith may enter in, and all sins depart." (Cf. also Dorner, ' System,' 3:73; 4:91.) Verse 31. - Wherefore (διὰ τοῦτο). Referring primarily to ver. 30, and to be joined closely to "I say unto you." Because such is the terrible effect of what you think mere indifferentism, I say this solemnly, Beware of committing the great sin. Luke's connexion of our ver. 43 with ver. 30 gives a good but a weaker sense - Become fully decided, lest the devil return to you stronger than ever. Matthew's connexion is - Become fully decided, for the legitimate outcome of want of decision is the sin that will not be forgiven. I say unto you (Matthew 6:25, note), All manner of; every (Revised Version); πᾶσα. Sin and blasphemy. Genus and species (Meyer). Blasphemy passes in this verse from its wider meaning of open slander and detraction in the first clause to its now commoner but restricted meaning of speech against God in the second clause. Shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost; the Spirit (Revised Version), thus making it more possible for the English reader to see the connexion of thought with the phrase in ver. 28. Shall not be forgiven unto men. The words, unto men, must be omitted, with the Revised Version. They weaken a statement which in itself may apply to other beings than those that are on earth.
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