When we speak of this sin we may first of all establish that there is in the Scriptures ample ground for the discussion of such a sin. For we may at first thought imagine that, the question is based upon an isolated instance in Matthew’s gospel, which would leave the discussion of it rather precarious. Against this we must first point out that not an isolated passage or instance teaches us about this, but that besides the main passage of Matt. 12 we also have the parallels in Mark 3:20-30, and Luke 11:17-25, but besides this we have the passages of Hebrews 6 and I John 5.
But now we must also add a second observation, namely, that it may be advisable to consider whether we should speak of “The Sin against the Holy Spirit,” or, rather of “Unpardonable Sins”. For we are indeed in danger of confining the thought rather narrowly to an isolated, particular sin, which will then stand out as rather arbitrarily chosen, and as for some unknown reason or other having an unalterable rather arbitrarily affixed. This limited, narrow conception will then cause us to miss the meaning of Scripture. Therefore, we must take all the teachings of Scripture together and try to find the peculiarity of this sin.
In the parallel gospel passages referring to this sin, we find that Jesus had performed the miracle of healing a demon-possessed man, and the Pharisees, in the face of this striking miracle by which all the spectators were utterly astounded, ascribe his work to Beelzebub, the Prince of the Devils. Jesus effectively refutes this charge. They do not merely choose an alternative that would draw in question the supernatural power of Jesus, for it had been possible that they had accused Him of having no greater power than their own sons, who undoubtedly performed some kind of demon exorcism, for Jesus says: “By whom do your sons cast them out?” But, no, they choose the most improbable alternative, for the sake of a powerful effect upon the spectators. They boldly ascribe it to the devil, in order to stigmatize Christ as very wicked, and this is an outright, malicious maintenance of the ridiculous in the face of plan facts.
The material of John’s first epistle (1 John 5:16, 17) is instructive and helps us further in our consideration, when we speak of sin (not a sin, but a kind or class of sin) unto death. The manner of expression is instructive. John does not treat of such sinning here, but mentions it in passing. His purpose is to exhort unto prayer for the sinning brother. Prayer for a sinning of sin not unto death, will be heard. The limitation “not unto death” is a necessary reminder to the brethren that there are also limits to prayer in behalf of sinning persons, and so the apostle expresses the incidental thought negatively. There is a sin unto death, he means to say. Don’t lose sight of that when you take up my exhortation and when you would intercede for a sinner. Not concerning that kind am I saying that he shall pray. That is, not concerning that kind am I speaking now, of course. Now this manner of statement teaches us that there is a grade or degree of sinning for which the brother may and is exhorted to pray, and the brother can know; he sees that sinning, and is able to judge whether it is pardonable. It will lie quite evidently well within the unknown bounds. But this does not imply that the brother knows exactly where to draw the line, where the boundary lies. The apostle does not touch upon that here since his reference is incidental, a passing reference, as limitation upon his main thought.
But there is a third passage which stands in line with the above and gives additional content to the sin. Heb. 6:4ff speaks of this sin. The passage speaks of people who fall away from the faith, crucify the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame. With such people the case is hopeless. Their perdition is inevitable. That is, it is impossible to bring them again unto repentance, and their covenant background is as it were the means of their irremediable condition. They have namely been partakers of a very bright revelation of the heavenly kingdom. All the characterization in the passage of their knowledge and experience points to the apostolic age when the glories of the kingdom were visibly and miraculously attested by signs and wonders and empowering spirit-gifts. And it is altogether possible that as and when these overwhelming manifestations subsided with the disappearance of the apostolic dispensation the participants simply returned to indifference.
And although in the text the causal relation is not necessarily and not strongly expressed by the participles “crucifying” and “putting to open shame”, yet the climatic position of these participles and the elucidating figure of the field that was cursed because it yielded thistles, strongly suggests that their inevitable destruction is the effect of their conduct, However there is a question here which commentators generally overlook and should be answered here; namely, does the finality lie in their inner attitude toward the cross of redemption (they crucify Him to themselves anew), or does it lie in their damnable outward life and conduct, before the eyes of men (they put Him to an open shame). And to this we may safely choose the latter. For, firstly, it is easier to conform the first (crucifying to themselves) to the last (putting Him to an open shame), as meaning an outward conduct of life than to conform the last to the first, and to think of an inner attitude. But, secondly, it is also the general teaching of Scripture that men come to a state of outward sin, rebellion, and abomination that places them under unchangeable condemnation, as an example of God’s justice vengeance. It is not a question of God’s power to save and it is not a question of irreparable attitude and psychological spiritual condition, but it is a question of God’s will and justice.
Here we have essentially the picture of those who surrounded Jesus and blasphemed. They were enlightened, that is, they experienced the powerful effect of God’s speaking; they saw and experienced the powers which the age of salvation then setting in wrought in the visible world, yet they boldly defied it and rejected it.
From these Scriptural teachings I believe we may conclude that this sin is the deliberate and well meditated rejection of the gospel as it comes attested by all the New Testament revelation. Therefore, it is erroneous to read the pertinent gospel parallels in any such way that a distinction is made between the Father and Son on the one hand, and the Spirit on the other. For the distinction which Jesus makes is plainly that although one may blaspheme and contradict the Son of Man as the messenger whose identity is still in dispute, yet the contradiction of the work which is proved above all doubts to be the work of a divine power which is establishing the kingdom of salvation and grace in the world, is demonstrably a malicious, deliberate contradiction and opposition against the Spirit of God, Who establishes an unescapable testimony by means of miracles and the conviction of conscience.
Therefore, the practical import for us is not to ponder inquisitively what the limits for repentance and forgiveness may be, but rather to ponder the awful holiness and righteousness and jealousy of God Who says to His creatures, “In order to vindicate My holiness, this rebellion and defiance of My glory shall receive its just punishment, and that punishment shall be an unalterable sentence of condemnation”. Isa. 8:19-22 and I Thess. 2:14-16, and II Pet. 2:1-9, and Jude 4. Also God is sovereign in His avenging justice.