MBS068 The Sins Against the Holy Spirit

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The Sins Against the Holy Spirit A study of the two sins against the Holy Spirit which are committed by unbelievers and also of the two sins committed by believers.

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MBS068

THE SINS AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT

By Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. SINS COMMITTED BY UNBELIEVERS

A. The Vexing or the Grieving of the Holy Spirit

B. The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

1. The Cause of the Controversy—Matthew 12:22–23

2. The Charge and the Defense—Matthew 12:24–29

a. The Charge

b. The Defense

3. The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit—Matthew 12:30–37

a. The Characteristics of the Sin

b. The Nature and Content of the Sin

c. The Results of the Sin

d. The Conclusion

II. SINS COMMITTED BY BELIEVERS

A. The Grieving of the Holy Spirit

1. Sins of Speech

2. Other Sins

3. The Remedy

B. The Quenching of the Holy Spirit

1. The Preventing of the Exercise of Spiritual Gifts

2. The Remedy

CONCLUSION

But they rebelled, and grieved his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.

Isaiah 63:10

INTRODUCTION

This manuscript is a study of specific types of sins that are committed against the Holy Spirit. This topic will be studied in two divisions: first, sins against the Holy Spirit committed by unbelievers; and secondly, sins against the Holy Spirit committed by believers.

I. SINS COMMITTED BY UNBELIEVERS

There are two types of sins against the Holy Spirit committed by unbelievers: first, the vexing or grieving of the Holy Spirit; and secondly, the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.

A. The Vexing or the Grieving of the Holy Spirit

The first type of sin committed against the Holy Spirit by unbelievers is the vexing or grieving of the Holy Spirit because of rebellion. This sin is mentioned in Isaiah 63:10: But they rebelled, and grieved [vexed] his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.

The context is that of the Wilderness Wanderings. During that period, the masses constantly rebelled against God’s authority, which was administered through Moses. This rebellion was viewed by God as a vexing of His Holy Spirit. The way unbelievers vex the Holy Spirit is by acts of rebellion against God’s authority, especially God’s authority through a specific individual. If God has placed someone in a position of authority and unbelievers rebel against that divine authority, that is the sin of the vexing of the Holy Spirit.

B. The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit

The second sin committed against the Holy Spirit by unbelievers is the sin of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. This sin has been frequently misunderstood. Often people state that they have committed the “unpardonable sin” of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. But when asked what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is, they are unable to give a clear answer and usually fall back on a specific sin they committed. They feel that this sin has put them beyond the hope of forgiveness.

All together there are three passages of Scripture that deal with the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. All three passages are in the Gospels and deal with a specific situation: Matthew 12:22–45; Mark 3:22–30; and Luke 11:14–26. Since Matthew 12:22–45 gives the most details concerning the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, this particular passage will be studied in this manuscript, as the other two passages do not go beyond what Matthew gives.

1. The Cause of the Controversy—Matthew 12:22–23

The cause of the controversy was the casting out of a dumb demon (v. 22). According to the Judaism of that day, there were two categories of miracles: first, miracles anyone would be able to do if he were empowered by the Spirit of God; and secondly, messianic miracles, which only the Messiah would be able to perform. One of these messianic miracles was the casting out of a dumb demon; for a person to cast out a dumb or mute demon meant he was claiming to be the Messiah Himself. This is the reason that the multitudes raised the question: Can this be the son of David? when Yeshua (Jesus) cast out the dumb demon (v. 23). After all, He was doing the very things they had been taught since childhood that only the Messiah would be able to do. This was the cause and background of the controversy: the Jewish people raised the question concerning the Messiahship of Jesus, because He cast out a dumb demon.

2. The Charge and the Defense—Matthew 12:24–29

a. The Charge

The casting out of the dumb demon by Yeshua led to the charge that He was demon possessed (v. 24). The Pharisees, the leadership of Israel, explained away the messianic miracle by claiming that He was possessed, not by some common demon, but by Beelzebub the prince of demons.

b. The Defense

In verses 25–29, Jesus defended Himself against this charge and said four things. First, He said that this could not be true because it would mean a division in Satan’s kingdom (vv. 25–26). Secondly, He said that the Pharisees themselves recognized exorcism as a gift of the Spirit (v. 27). Thirdly, He said that this miracle authenticated His Messiahship (v. 28). And fourthly, He said that this miracle showed that He was stronger than Satan (v. 29).

3. The Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit—Matthew 12:30–37

Yeshua then laid a charge against the Pharisees: they were guilty of the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

a. The Characteristics of the Sin

This sin has three characteristics. First, this sin was specifically directed against the Holy Spirit.

The second characteristic is that this sin was determined by a special situation, showing the extreme wickedness of the Pharisees who were really the ones who sided with Satan. The special situation was that this sin was committed while Yeshua was present on earth, and while He was offering Himself to Israel as their Messiah. This sin requires the visible, physical presence of the Messiah, offering to Israel the Kingdom of the Jewish prophets. Throughout this passage, there is an emphasis upon this generation. The emphasis is that this generation was uniquely guilty of this sin.

And the third characteristic of this sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is that it is eternally damning. There is no forgiveness. It is the unpardonable sin.

b. The Nature and Content of the Sin

With these characteristics in mind, what exactly is the nature and content of the unpardonable sin or the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? First, it is not an individual sin, but a national sin. It was committed by the Jewish generation of Jesus’ day and cannot be applied to subsequent Jewish generations. Secondly, the content of the unpardonable sin is the national rejection by Israel of the Messiahship of Yeshua while He was present, on the grounds of being demon possessed.

There are five key ramifications that should be noted concerning the nature and content of this sin. First, this generation, the generation of Jesus’ day, was guilty of the unpardonable sin.

The second ramification is that the sin of the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit was the national rejection by Israel of His Messiahship while He was present, on the grounds of being demon possessed.

The third ramification is that it was a national sin committed by the Jewish generation of Yeshua’s day.

The fourth ramification is that it was not an individual sin of that day, nor is it a sin anyone can commit today. On this point the Bible is very clear: no matter what sin anyone commits, then or now, every sin is forgivable to that individual who will come to God through the Messiah. But for the nation of that generation, as a nation, it was unpardonable.

And the fifth ramification is that it was unforgivable and judgment was set against that generation. Judgment came in a.d. 70 with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple and with the world wide dispersion of the Jewish people.

c. The Results of the Sin

There were two results of this unpardonable sin. First, the offer of the Messianic Kingdom was withdrawn. It would not be set up in their day, but will be re-offered to a future Jewish generation that will accept it. And secondly, the a.d. 70 judgment was certain and nothing could alter it.

d. The Conclusion

How is the national rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus a blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? The answer to this question is that the Holy Spirit is the final testimony of the Messiah’s work. It is quite possible to initially reject the claims of the Messiah and still be convinced later by the work of the Holy Spirit, but to reject the work of the Holy Spirit is to reject the person of the Messiah. Ultimately, this sin is the willful rejection of the person of the Messiah.

II. SINS COMMITTED BY BELIEVERS

The second division in the study of the sins against the Holy Spirit deals with sins committed by believers. Just as there are two sins against the Holy Spirit committed by unbelievers, there are also two sins committed against the Holy Spirit by believers: the grieving of the Holy Spirit and the quenching of the Holy Spirit.

A. The Grieving of the Holy Spirit

The first sin against the Holy Spirit that believers commit is that of grieving the Holy Spirit. This sin is found in Ephesians 4:30: And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption.

The Book of Ephesians was written to the church at Ephesus, so this is a sin committed by a group of believers. Furthermore, this verse states that the very ones who are capable of committing the sin of grieving the Holy Spirit are those who have already been sealed unto the day of redemption. Paul is speaking to the believers who have received the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit. It is this ministry that “locks” or seals a believer into the Body of the Messiah in such a way that he can never fall out. It is the sealing ministry of the Holy Spirit that guarantees the believer’s eternal security. The believer who has been sealed unto the day of redemption is now eternally secured and is not to grieve the Holy Spirit.

How does a believer grieve the Holy Spirit? The answer to this question is by any act of known sin committed by a believer, since He is the One who has sealed the believer into the Body of the Messiah.

1. Sins of Speech

While it is true that any act of sin grieves the Holy Spirit, it is particularly true of the sins of speech, for this is what the context is concerned about in the verse before and the verse after the immediate context. Verse 29 states: Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for edifying as the need may be, that it may give grace to them that hear.

In this verse, Paul admonishes the believer not to allow any corrupt speech out of his mouth. What Paul means by corrupt speech can be deduced from the second part of the verse. In place of corrupt speech, the believer should be speaking the kind of speech that is good for edifying, for the building up of the ones who are in need that it may give grace to them that hear. To build up someone is to say positive things about that person. To say negative things, which are not true about a person, is gossip and slander; this is corrupt speech.

There is nothing wrong with saying negative things about people if those charges are actually true. But one must ask the questions, “Do I know these charges to be true? Is it verified by the mouth of two or three witnesses? Is something being said on hearsay without knowledge of all the facts of the case?” If a believer is in public error, there is nothing wrong with publicly admonishing and denouncing that believer’s sins. This is not corrupt speech, it is the right way of handling things, because one is not to tolerate public sin in the Body of the Messiah. But it is to be dealt with as a local body in church discipline. Furthermore, negative statements about others must be made out of pure motivation: to restore the sinner, not to destroy him or tear him down. In this verse, Paul is dealing with the kind of speech which is simply critical, tearing a believer down to make him less in the eyes of other believers. It is a sin of speech.

After writing about corrupt speech, Paul speaks about the grieving of the Holy Spirit in verse 30. Immediately after that, verse 31 states: Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice.

These also tend to be areas where speech may be corrupted: bitterness can lead to defamation of character; wrath and anger can result in cursings of other believers; clamor and railing are sins of the tongue and speech; the root cause of it all is malice.

2. Other Sins

The grieving of the Holy Spirit is caused by any act of known sin. In the immediate context it is especially the sins of speech, but is not limited to this, for in the wider context, Paul mentions other sins in verses 25–28: Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak ye truth each one with his neighbor: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that has need.

Even in the wider context, the main sin is the sin of the tongue. But here Paul mentioned other sins, such as the sin of stealing and the sin of giving a place to the devil.

3. The Remedy

The grieving of the Holy Spirit is any act of known sin, especially a sin of speech, that believers commit. Because believers still sin, every believer, at one time or another, grieves the Holy Spirit. But there is a remedy.

When a believer has grieved the Holy Spirit by committing an act of known sin, the remedy is in 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The applied remedy is confession. The preventative remedy is to allow nothing in one’s life contrary to the holiness of the Holy Spirit. If the believer walks this way, it will prevent him from grieving the Holy Spirit. But if a sin has been committed, the applied remedy is confession.

B. The Quenching of the Holy Spirit

The second sin committed against the Holy Spirit by believers is the quenching of the Holy Spirit. This sin is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:19: Quench not the Spirit.

What does it mean to quench the Holy Spirit? The word quench means “to put out a fire.” For instance, Mark 9:48 reads: where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched.

This point is made again in Hebrews 11:34: quenched the power of fire.

One of the figures or symbols of the Holy Spirit is fire as stated by Acts 2:3–4: And there appeared unto them tongues parting asunder, like as of fire; and it sat upon each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

The cloven tongues of fire are connected with the Holy Spirit, for fire is used as a figure or symbol of the Holy Spirit. Just as one can quench or put out a fire, it is also possible to quench or put out the Holy Spirit.

1. The Preventing of the Exercise of Spiritual Gifts

What does it mean to put out the Spirit? The best way to understand what it means to quench the Spirit is by the context of 1 Thessalonians 5:19, which speaks of the quenching of the Holy Spirit. Then verse 20 states: despise not prophesyings.

The gift of prophecy was one of the special gifts to be used in the public assembly (1 Cor. 14). In the context of the quenching of the Spirit, it is speaking specifically of quenching one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the public assembly. To quench the Spirit is to prevent believers from exercising their spiritual gifts in the meeting of the church. The purpose of the gifts of the Spirit is for the building up, the edification, of the Body. The Scriptures do lay down specific rules as to how often and who can use these gifts in the public assembly. Assuming all the rules of order are kept according to Scripture, to quench the Holy Spirit is to keep believers from exercising their spiritual gifts rightly in the public assembly.

The Thessalonians apparently were frowning upon any manifestation of the Holy Spirit that was out of the ordinary. In this case, their conduct was the opposite extreme of the Corinthians. The Corinthians’ extreme was to let it all loose without any order, without any rules or regulations, without any elders exercising authority or restraint. Everyone was given free rein to exercise their gifts in any way they chose and as often as they chose. The gifts were exercised on the basis of the flesh, not on the basis of the proper rules and regulations found in the Scriptures. This created disorder with no chain of command and a lack of the testing of the spirits, which is so necessary in that kind of situation. Whereas the Corinthians went to one extreme, the Thessalonians went to the other extreme. The Thessalonians were frowning upon any manifestation of the Holy Spirit that was out of the ordinary.

In local churches today, most services have a set format. Only a few people have total control of what may or may not go on, and only they give any input to the service. The authority and order exercised is often an authority and order that tends to quench the Spirit.

For instance, there is a prescribed time when the service must begin. It is opened with a song and prayer. Some announcements are made followed by congregational singing, with every song chosen by one individual in the congregation. At some time during the congregational singing, the offering will be taken. Then the sermon is preached. The service often ends with an invitation, a closing hymn, and dismissal with a benediction. All must be concluded by about twelve o’clock lest the people get too restless. Because it is all so fixed, what happens is that the Holy Spirit is quenched in that members of the congregation are not given an opportunity to share their spiritual gifts in the assembly.

There is no question that the free exercise of gifts must have a degree of control by spiritual elders. It would not be proper to let just anything go on, because that would lead to the Corinthian extreme. But the Corinthian extreme should not be avoided by the Thessalonian extreme. There must be a balance. There must be a time given at some point in the meeting of the church to let others use their spiritual gifts. Not to allow people to exercise their spiritual gifts is to commit the sin of quenching the Spirit.

One more thing should be noted concerning this sin. This is not an individual sin, but a congregational sin. In the Greek text, the word quench is in the second person plural meaning: Quench [ye] not the Spirit. He is addressing them as a corporate body. As a corporate body, they are guilty of this sin. While an individual believer can be guilty of grieving the Holy Spirit, a local body, congregation, or assembly can also be guilty of quenching the Holy Spirit.

2. The Remedy

What is the remedy to quenching the Holy Spirit? The Greek form translated quench not is an imperative. It literally means, “Stop quenching the Spirit!” The command was to stop doing what they were now doing, which was quenching the Spirit. The remedy was to allow for the exercise of the spiritual gifts in accordance with biblical rules and order. There must be an allowance made for the exercise of believer’s spiritual gifts, whatever they may be, but in accordance with biblical order, rules, and regulations.

CONCLUSION

There is a parallel between the sins against the Holy spirit committed by unbelievers and the sins committed by believers. The two sins committed by unbelievers are vexing the Holy Spirit, which is an individual sin, and the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, which is a corporate sin. The sins committed by believers are grieving the Holy Spirit, which is an individual sin, and quenching the Holy Spirit, which is a corporate sin.

IF YOU ENJOYED THIS BIBLE STUDY, DR. FRUCHTENBAUM RECOMMENDS:

MBS066 and 071