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Jesus says that speaking against the Holy Spirit is unpardonable:

"Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come." Matthew 12:31-32.

(see also Mark 3:28-29 & Luke 12:10)

Why can the Father and the Son forgive when people 'speak against' Them, but the HS can't? What makes 'speaking against' the Holy Spirit unpardonable? In what way is the 'speaking' different then when done against the Father and Son?

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  • I'm sure it has been asked many times. Make sure to search by keywords "unforgivable sin" and the verse ref before posting. The text only contrast between Son of Man vs Spirit (Son of God). Not son and father vs Spirit. The point is offense against man's level will be forgiven but against spiritual level won't because they are sins against God.
    – Michael16
    Mar 26, 2022 at 10:29
  • It does not sound rhetorical at all since Christ says it will be forgiven when done against the Father and Son and since He goes out of His way to say that all kinds of sin will be forgiven except this. I know what the sin against the HS is so I am not asking that. I am asking why it is unpardonable - what makes it impossible to forgive especially if all kinds of sin can be forgiven?
    – user49416
    Mar 26, 2022 at 11:55
  • but are not Father, Sn and Holy Spirit One? (TheSaint Trinity). so a Sin against Farther or Son is a sin agsainst The Holy Spirit, isn~t it? Mar 26, 2022 at 12:05
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    Holy, holy, holy is God almighty (Isa 6:3). Holiness is more important than God himself, because one can not see God without holiness, according to Heb 12:14. Thus, holiness is more important than a belief that God exists. In other words; one can futilely have God without holiness, but one can not have holiness without God. Mar 26, 2022 at 13:23
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    @PerryWebb How does this answer (linked) connect to the expression Jesus used when He said 'speaking against' the HS? To me it sounds like He is saying, Those who get into the habit of arguing with the HS who is trying to convince them of their sin, cannot receive forgiveness until they do and not simply just because they don't want it but (and more importantly) because to God forgiveness is not only something He wants to write in a book next to your name but in your heart - He wants to work a change that becomes part of and changes our character permenantly if we do stop arguing with the HS.
    – user49416
    Mar 26, 2022 at 14:47

9 Answers 9

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The Unpardonable Sin

Context.

Herman Bavinck:

Holy Scripture mentions only one sin that both in this life and in the life to come is unpardonable: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. There is no reference to it in the Old Testament, though [it must be recalled that] for the sins committed "high-handedly" [Num. 15:30] no sacrifice was instituted in the law, because it set aside the law itself (cf. Heb. 10:28). Jesus is the first to speak of it (Matt. 12:31; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10). At one time, when he completely healed a demoniac who was also blind and dumb, the multitudes were so amazed that they recognized Jesus as the son of David, the Christ. But as a result the Pharisees were so enraged that they said not only that he cast out demons by the prince of demons, but that he himself was possessed by the devil (Mark 3:22). This accusation was inspired solely by hatred, springing as it did from pure, conscious, and intentional hostility. In Matthew 12:25-30, Jesus also demonstrates the truth of this: a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand. Satan does not cast himself out, so the ejection of Satan is proof that the kingdom of God has come upon them. [1.]

“...whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit,” (Mat. 12:32 NASB95).

Louis Berkhof:

The name “sin against the Holy Spirit” is too general, for there are also sins against the Holy Spirit that are pardonable, Eph. 4:30. The Bible speaks more specifically of a “speaking against the Holy Spirit,” Matt. 12:32; Mark 3:29; Luke 12:10. It is evidently a sin committed during the present life, which makes conversion and pardon impossible. The sin consists in the conscious, malicious, and willful rejection and slandering, against evidence and conviction, of the testimony of the Holy Spirit respecting the grace of God in Christ, attributing it out of hatred and enmity to the prince of darkness. It presupposes, objectively, a revelation of the grace of God in Christ, and a powerful operation of the Holy Spirit; and, subjectively, an illumination and intellectual conviction so strong and powerful as to make an honest denial of the truth impossible. And then the sin itself consists, not in doubting the truth, nor in a simple denial of it, but in a contradiction of it that goes contrary to the conviction of the mind, to the illumination of the conscience, and even to the verdict of the heart. In committing that sin man willfully, maliciously, and intentionally attributes what is clearly recognized as the work of God to the influence and operation of Satan. [2.]

“...it shall not be forgiven him,” (Mat. 12:32 NASB95).

Wayne Grudem:

In such a case the hardness of heart would be so great that any ordinary means of bringing a sinner to repentance would already have been rejected. Persuasion of the truth will not work, for these people have already known the truth and have willfully rejected it. Demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit to heal and bring life will not work, for they have seen it and rejected it. In this case it is not that the sin itself is so horrible that it could not be covered by Christ’s redemptive work, but rather that the sinner’s hardened heart puts him or her beyond the reach of God’s ordinary means of bringing forgiveness through repentance and trusting Christ for salvation. The sin is unpardonable because it cuts off the sinner from repentance and saving faith through belief in the truth. [3.]

R. C. Sproul:

As for those who are not sure they are saved and are worried they may have committed the unpardonable sin, I would say that worrying about it is one of the clearest evidences that they have not committed this sin, for those who commit it are so hardened in their hearts they do not care that they commit it. [4.]

Notes:

[1.] Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Volume Three: Sin and Salvation in Christ, ed. John Bolt, trans. John Vriend, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2006), p. 155. Cf. Joel Beeke, Paul Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology: Vol. 3: Spirit and Salvation, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2021), pp. 342ff.

[2.] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, (London: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1963), p. 253. Cf. Leon Morris, The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to Matthew, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1992), pp. 319-320; R. T. France, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospel of Matthew, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007), pp. 482-483.

[3.] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine, (Leicester: InterVarsity Press; Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), p. 508. Cf. Michael J. Wilkins, The NIV Application Commentary: Matthew, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), pp. 448-449; Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary, (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2009), pp. 365-366. See also: Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology: Volume Two, trans. George Giger, ed. James Dennison, Jr., (Phillipsburg: P & R, 1994), 12.4.10, p. 191.

[4.] R. C. Sproul, Mark: An Expositional Commentary, [Sanford: Reformation Trust Publishing, 2011], p. 63. Cf. C. E. B. Cranfield, The Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary: The Gospel According to St Mark, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959), p. 142; G. A. Chadwick, The Expositor’s Bible: The Gospel According to St. Mark, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1887), p. 98.

Καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν.

~ Soli Deo Gloria

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Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit and the Unforgivable Sin

The NT makes an interesting claim about the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in Matt 12:31, 32, Mark 3:28, 29, and Luke 12:8-10. This sin, it appears, cannot be forgiven.

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matt 12:31, 32.

The question naturally arises: How is it possible that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven but blasphemy against Jesus can be forgiven? Does the Holy Spirit have some especially exalted status?

The problem here is not a matter of status but function of the Holy Spirit. Before dealing with this let us establish what blasphemy actually is. Generally, it means (BDAG), “to speak in a disrespectful way that demeans, denigrates and maligns”. However, the NT provides a more precise meaning when God is involved.

In Matt 9:3, 26:65, Mark 2:7, 14:64, Luke 5:21, John 10:33-36, blasphemy means to claim to be God, or presume the prerogatives and function of God, that is to usurp the place of God (including the Holy Spirit), for example by presuming to forgive sins, Mark 2:7. Thus, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would be usurping His place by presuming to have the function of the Holy Spirit (see above), namely, producing the fruit of the Spirit, trying to reform the life, acting as conscience for others, forgiving sins, trying to confer supernatural abilities on others, etc; all of which are the exclusive job of the Holy Spirit.

Now, if one is usurping the place of the Holy Spirit, then that effectively shuts out the essential work and influence of the Holy Spirit in the person’s life, thus excluding that person from spiritual perception or even the felt need to confess sin. Without the Holy Spirit, it is impossible to be a Christian (Rom 8:9).

Such a person is beyond the reach of the Holy Spirit’s miraculous work. The person then shuts himself away from heaven’s work and feels no need of salvation and becomes spiritually self-delusional. No wonder that forgiveness is excluded, not by God but by the actions and decisions of the person.

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  • Can you ellaborate on why the sin is unpardonable please? I have a different understanding of what the unpardonable sin is but I want to see what your conclusions are as to why it is unpardonable. The end of your answer sounds like we are within less than a stone's cast from one another...
    – user49416
    Mar 26, 2022 at 12:03
  • Will all the French people who, like le jeune homme de Dijon laughingly say 'Le Pere, et le Fils, et le Pigeon', all go straight to hell? Mar 26, 2022 at 19:36
  • @AndriesStander - I thought that is what my answer did. In brief, the unpardonable sin is such because a person usurps the Holy spirit who is the only person capable of making a person understand what is sinful.
    – Dottard
    Mar 26, 2022 at 21:03
  • @MichaelHarvey - Haha. The unpardonable sin is no accident. It is a conscious act of pushing away the holy Spirit so that there is no conviction of sin (John 16:8, 9)
    – Dottard
    Mar 26, 2022 at 21:08
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    @MichaelHarvey - Then you should read John 16 verse by verse. I agree that Jesus is the only way to heaven but we cannot know Jesus and our sinfulness without the Holy Spirit.
    – Dottard
    Mar 27, 2022 at 0:15
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The term "unpardonable sin" is not in scripture. Look closely and it says blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this age or the next.

"Therefore I say to you, any sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven. "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it shall not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.

What is Blasphemy of the Spirit?

Blasphemy (988 /blasphēmía) "switches" right for wrong (wrong for right), i.e. calls what God disapproves, "right" which "exchanges the truth of God for a lie" (Ro 1:25). See 987 (blasphēmeō).

Is it attributing the works Jesus had just done by the power of God Spirit in casting out demons of unclean spirits to be by Beezeboul the chief of demons.

That is so profane to make such a statement of God the Father's Spirit who is doing good through Jesus. He had just healed a man who was not only blind but deaf as well. This particular healing was because he was possessed by a demons. Jesus was showing that He was doing the work of God by God's Spirit. God has power over the demons this is showing the kingdom of God is near them.

Then was brought to Him a demoniac, blind and mute, and He healed him, so that the blind and mute both spoke and saw. Mathew 12:22

There had to been a large crowd of people who saw this and were so amazed that they are wondering "It's not this the son of David?" Vs 23

That must of infuriated the Pharisees because they then say " This one is not casting out demons except by. Beezeboul, the chief of demons. Vs 24

Jesus says it was by God spirit at the demons were being cast it out.

Now if I am casting out demons by God's Spirit, consequently you have a foretaste of the kingdom of God. Mathew 12:28

He goes on to say,

He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who is not gathering with Me, scatters. Mathew 12:30

These Pharisees were definitely against Jesus, against the people and against God.

Jesus is calling these Pharisees A progeny a vipers..

He brings to light what these snakes are hissing so to speak, They are calling what is truly good to be attributed to what is really evil. These Pharisees who were Israel's leaders at the time are keeping Gods people from entering into the kingdom of God by spouting lies, trying to turn the people away from Christ by their lies by their evil words coming out of their evil hearts. They are cloaked in robes on the outside that make them look like they know God. Inside they are wolves attacking the sheep, like snakes hissing lies, clothed in beautiful attire.

This is what these Pharisees were doing in reference to God's Spirit,

Blasphemy (988 /blasphēmía) "switches" right for wrong (wrong for right), i.e. calls what God disapproves, "right" which "exchanges the truth of God for a lie" (Ro 1:25). See 987 (blasphēmeō).

This blasphemy would not be pardoned in this age or the next. (There is another age after that)

The Pharisees still wanted another sign to prove who Jesus was and he answers them.

They are being warned like the people of Nineveh were. They repented at the sign of Jonah and here is someone greater than Jonah speaking to them in the flesh.

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    I largely agree with what you have posted. One thing I find interesting about this understanding however is that in Matt 24 Jesus also teaches that in the end times "false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect". So resisting/rejecting the power and miraculous signs of the holy spirit and attributing them to the devil is said to be unforgivable ... But at the same time scripture says false prophets will perform miraculous signs similar to the holy spirit in order to deceive believers - so extra tricky
    – Marshall
    Mar 27, 2022 at 14:27
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    @Marshall. Good point you made about the end time deception with signs and wonders performed by false prophets.
    – Sherrie
    Mar 27, 2022 at 21:08
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My answer is that there is no "unpardonable sin." When we read the Bible, we have to make sure we see all the words and consider them when coming up with an "interpretation" such as this.

Let's look closely at the last part of the verses in question: will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Matt 12:32b). "...in this age or in the age to come" is the critical phrase.

The word "age" in both places is the Greek word, "aion" which is directly transliterated into the English "eon." An "eon" is a period of time with a beginning and an ending. There are five discernable eons outlined in God's Word, which I can prove with Scripture if you so desire. We are in the third, the "current evil eon" (Galations 1:3-5); that is "this age" in our critical phrase. "The eon to come" is Christ's Millennial Kingdom. The final eon which follows that is the eon of the New Heaven and Earth. In this eon and in the next, this sin will not be forgiven. But after that it will be for Christ is the Savior of the world -- not part of it.

I Timothy 4:9-11 -- This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation. For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe. These things command and teach.

These verses prove to anyone that there is no "unforgivable sin."

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First, carefully note that Jesus did not say that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit could not be forgiven, but rather that it will not be forgiven.

We are told that if we repent of a sin, we will be forgiven.

Jesus tells us that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

With these two premises, the necessary conclusion is that a person who commits blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will never truly repent. The blasphemer has crossed a line from which there is no returning. Such a person is in a spiritual condition in which nothing will persuade him to repent. It is not that they cannot be forgiven, but rather that they will never seek forgiveness.

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This scripture is a lot easier to understand without the baggage of the Trinity doctrine.

Without the influence of that doctrine, "the Holy Spirit" would have been translated as simply "holy spirit".

Imagine parents with an angry child. No matter what the child says about the parents, they will still offer their love. But as long as the child rejects their love, all hope is gone, there is nothing more they can do.

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Firstly, thanks for the answers that everyone submitted. I agree that the term 'unpardonable sin' does not appear in the text but the concept of a sin of such a nature does and hence the familiar term 'the unpardonable sin'.

As I thought of what could be so bad that God could not forgive it and as I read the answers/comments of those who said that the answer was 'sin that we don't want pardon for', I struggled to harmonize this with simple parental logic.

If God's pardon is good for our eternal well being, then why would He withhold it from us by our own immaturity that refuses to simply 'want' it? My kids are still very young so my duty as a parent is to give them the good I know they need even though they don't want it because they are now too young to understand how good those things are that I want to give.

Another objection to this easy answer came up in my thinking. If God does not forgive me because I do not want His forgiveness then why does He ask me to forgive those who sin against me and who do not want my forgiveness? How can He ask me to forgive more than He is willing to forgive it seems?

This all made me think of what pardon really is. If pardon is simply an activity of God where He writes the word pardoned next to my name in His books, then why can't He just write it and leave my immature and unwilling mind to later discover how good it is?

However, if pardon is not only God writing in His heavenly book but also Him working a change in my heart (character), then I can begin to see how my freedom of choice can prevent Him from forgiving me.

To me the unpardonable sin is unpardonable because of all the factors that constitute pardon according to the Bible.

It can therefore not be a simple refusal to be pardoned but rather, and more grievously, an unwillingness to have our characters (hearts) transformed by the forgiveness that God wants to apply to us.

I think the following words encapsulates the thoughts that some have shared already:

But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, contemptuously, "This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils." These words were inspired by Satan. The enmity and prejudice of the rulers were stirred into a fury of madness; and priests and rulers, Pharisees and Sadducees, united in pouring forth their hatred. From the treasure-house of their hard, stubborn hearts came the words, "This fellow doth not cast out devils but by Beelzebub, the prince of the devils." They could not ignore Christ's wonderful works, or attribute them to natural causes, so they said, They are the works of the devil. In unbelief they spoke of the Son of God as a human being. The works of healing done before them, works which no man had ever done or could do, were a manifestation of the power of God. But they charged Christ with being in league with hell. Their talent of speech was used to abuse the world's Redeemer, and the recording angel wrote their words in the books of heaven. They attributed to satanic agencies the holy power of God, manifested in the works of Christ. Thus the Pharisees sinned against the Holy Ghost. Stubborn, sullen, iron-hearted, they determined to close their eyes to all evidence, and thus they committed the unpardonable sin. The Review and Herald January 18, 1898, par. 7. Ellen G. White.

But the following words really bring it out in a clearer way for me:

God makes abundant provision for sins of ignorance, but He makes no provision for willful sins. The unpardonable sin is the sin that refuses to be pardoned; it is the refusal to hear Him concerning a sin, and to turn from that sin; it is the sin of refusing His instruction; it is the sin of unbelief concerning His warnings; it is the stubbornness of the heart that will not turn from sin, which seals the fate of any people or any individual. The Review and Herald, May 19, 1903, par. 2. Ellen G. White.

I hope you can feel the intensity of volition by an individual who commits the unpardonable sin? It is more than a mere refusal of the good that God has done through Christ on the cross. It is also a refusal of the good He wants to do in our hearts by the cross.

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  • The passage says "blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men". There are two key questions: 1. What is blasphemy 2. What does it mean to be forgiven. If blasphemy fundamentally means at war with God (a full answer would base this on Scripture) and forgiveness means reconciled with God (once again, Scripture needed) then a person who dies in that state dies unforgiven.
    – David D
    Apr 7, 2022 at 14:00
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Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:31-32) is pardonable upon repentance.

St. John Chrysostom gives the following interpretation:

What now is it that He affirms? Many things have ye spoken against me; that I am a deceiver, an adversary of God. These things I forgive you on your repentance, and exact no penalty of you; but blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven, no, not to those who repent. And how can this be right? For even this was forgiven upon repentance. Many at least of those who said these words believed afterward, and all was forgiven them. Why so? Because Himself indeed they knew not, who He might be, but of the Spirit they received ample experience. For the prophets also by the Spirit said whatever they said; and indeed all in the Old Testament had a very high notion of Him. What He saith, then, is this: Be it so: ye are offended at me, because of the flesh with which I am encompassed: can ye say of the Spirit also, We know it not? And therefore is your blasphemy unpardonable, and both here and hereafter shall ye suffer punishment. For many indeed have been punished here only (as he who had committed fornication, as they who partook unworthily of the mysteries, amongst the Corinthians); but ye, both here and hereafter. – Homily 41 in Matthew, in Ante-Nicene Fathers and Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, edited by Philip Schaff.

St. Theophylact gives the following interpretation:

He is saying here that every other sin, such as fornication or theft, has some defense, however slight. For we take refuge in human weakness and we may be forgiven. But when one sees miracles performed by the Spirit and slanders them as being the work of a demon, what defense will he have? For it is clear that such a slanderer knows that these things are of the Holy Spirit, yet he speaks evil of his own will. How then can such a man be forgiven? When the Jews saw the Lord eating and drinking, associating with publicans and harlots, and doing all the other things He did as the Son of Man, then they slandered Him as a glutton and drunkard; yet for this they deserve forgiveness, and not even repentance will be required. For they were understandably scandalized. But when they saw Him working miracles and were slandering and blaspheming the Holy Spirit, saying that it was something demonic, how will this sin be forgiven them, unless they repent? So, then, know that he who blasphemes the Son of Man, seeing Him living as a man, and says that He is a friend of harlots, a glutton, and a drunkard because of those things which Christ does, such a man will not have to give an answer for this, even if he does not repent. For he is forgiven, as he did not realize that this was God concealed. But he who blasphemes the Holy Spirit, that is, the spiritual deeds of Christ, and calls them demonic, unless he repents, he will not be forgiven. – Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew, translated by Hieromonk Kallistos, Hieromonk Ioanniky et al.

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(All verses are New American Standard 1995)

Mark 3:29 "but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”

Strong's Concordance says: βλασφημήσῃ blasphémeó: to slander, hence to speak lightly or profanely of sacred things

What sacred things does the Holy Spirit do, and how may we speak lightly or profanely of them? In John 16:8, Jesus says

And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;

A person is convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit; but they say: "That's not God. That's not important. That's just conventional morality." That is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

A person is convicted of righteousness by the Holy Spirit. but they say to themselves, "there is no right or wrong; there is only being true to yourself." Again, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

A person is convicted of judgement by the Holy Spirit, but they say to themselves "there is no accountability;" and, whether they say there is no God, or they say that God is too loving to reject anybody, it's blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

In each case, the person is DELIBERATELY removing themselves from God. They never HAVE forgiveness, because they never WANT forgiveness. And, as stated clearly in Romans 1:18-31, God gives us over to what we seek. Therefore, the key element of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is not an act of punishment on God's part; it's an act of rejection on our part.

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