Blasphemy (“Forgiven and Unforgiven”)
Last Wednesday, XX asked something in connection with blasphemy and also requested some teaching on this topic. For many people, one of the most fearful terms to be found in the New Testament is the word “blasphemy.”
Blasphemy is represented as a horrible sin, but what is it? Have I been guilty of it? Can one obtain forgiveness for it? These are serious questions – questions that we as believers need to find answers for.
We hear the expression “OMG” on a regular basis, uttered by many people around us and especially on TV. This is an insult to us as Christians. Every time that I hear this, I cringe. There are however, many other ways that people can blaspheme – even us. In our days, almost nothing happens to people who blaspheme, or so it seems. Is it because it is not that serious any more, or is it because there are no consequences anymore?
Blasphemy was a serious crime in the law God gave to Moses. The Israelites were to worship and obey God. In Leviticus 24:10-16, a man blasphemed the name of God. To the Hebrews, a name wasn’t just a convenient label. It was a symbolic representation of a person’s character. Let’s listen to the Word of God, in order to see what happened to people in Old Testament times who blasphemed God’s name and then specifically to the man mentioned in Leviticus.
- SCRIPTURE READING:
Leviticus 24:10-16 (ESV) ~ “10 Now an Israelite woman’s son, whose father was an Egyptian, went out among the people of Israel. And the Israelite woman’s son and a man of Israel fought in the camp, 11 and the Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the Name, and cursed. Then they brought him to Moses. His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri, of the tribe of Dan. 12 And they put him in custody, till the will of the Lordshould be clear to them. 13 Then the Lordspoke to Moses, saying, 14 “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. 15 And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever, curses his God shall bear his sin. 16 Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lordshall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”
We will be looking at the very important topic of “BLASPHEMY”this morning and we will do it according to the following seven headings:
- Blasphemy – What it is.
- Blasphemy – Forbidden.
- Blasphemy Against God.
- Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit.
- Blasphemy Caused by our Sins.
- BLASPEHMY – WHAT IT IS: The word blasphemy is mentioned fourteen times in the King James Bible. It is used only twice in the Old Testament and twelve times in the New. Two of the main Scriptures that use the word are found in the books of Matthew and Revelation.
Blasphemy is derived from the Greek term βλασφημία(“blasphemia,”)which most probably came from two root words – “blapto,”to injure, and“pheme,”to speak. The word would thus suggest, injurious speech.
According to the “Theological Dictionary: (TDNT – Abridged)”,in Greek Literature, the word “blasphemy” means a) ‘abusive speech,’b) ‘personal mockery.’
In the LXX (The LXX, also known as the Septuagint is the earliest extant Koine Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. It is estimated that the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, known as the Torah or Pentateuch, were translated in the mid-3rd century BCE and the remaining texts were translated in the 2nd century BCE – Wikipedia)and Judaism tradition, the word “blasphemy” always referred to God, e.g., disputing His power (2 Kings 19:4), desecrating His name (Is.52:5), violating His glory (Ezek.35:12), wicked speech (Is.66:3), or human arrogance towards God (Lev.24:11).
We see in the New Testament that blasphemy is a violation of God’s power and majesty. It may be directly against God (Rev.13:6), His name (Rom.2:24), the Word (Titus 2:5), angelic beings (Jude 8-10; 2 Pet.2:10-12), or even, according to Acts 6:11 against Moses. The concept is a Jewish one; hence Jesus, according to the Jewish high priest, seems to be blaspheming when he forgives sins (Mark 2:7), or claims to be the Messiah (Mark 14:64), thus making Himself equal to God (John 10:33).
In short then, according to the “NRSV Cultural Backgrounds Bible,” “blasphemy” is according to the Old Testament, any attack on the majesty, honour or authority of God (Ex.20.7; Lev.24.10–16; Neh.9.26). The meaning is extended in the New Testament where God is blasphemed in the abuse of His representatives (His children – Acts 6.11).
To treat God with abuse, or speak of God with a lack of respect and in an unworthy manner and taking His Name in vain, or criticize, or angrily insulting any of God’s works or deeds, is strongly forbidden by Him as dishonouring to His name ~ “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain”(Ex.20:7).
“Blasphemy therefore, is any attack on the majesty, honour or authority of God, as well as the abuse of God’s children.”
According to the “Nave’s Topical Bible,” there are several examples of blasphemy in the Word – just to mention a few:
- In Lev.24:10-16 we find the depraved son of Shelomith, who, in an altercation with an Israelite, cursed God.
- Job 2:9 – Job’s wife, when she exhorted Job to curse God and die.
- 26:74 and Mark 14:71 – Peter, when accused of being a disciple of Jesus.
- And many more.
- BLASPHEMY FORBIDDEN:Blasphemy is clearly forbidden in the Old Testament. The verse that tells us exactly how the Lord feels about blasphemy is Leviticus 24:16 (ESV) ~“Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”
In 1 Tim.1:18-20 Paul tells Timothy that he must fight the good fight, by holding to the the faith with a clear conscience. He continues by saying in 19b-20 ~ “…By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”Clearly Paul is telling Timothy, that rejecting your faith, is not only sin, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and such a blasphemous person will be handed over to Satan.
This reminds me of two prominent people in the Christian world that rejected the Christian faith the past month or two. First was Joshua Harris, a former pastor and evangelical author who now demonstrates his support for the LGBT community. Less than a month after he announced that he and his wife Shannon are separating. He no longer considers himself a Christian, and he regrets having taught that marriage is a union only between a man and a woman. In 1997 he published the bestseller book, “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”, which discouraged dating and influenced the purity movement.
Another prominent person who also came out renouncing his faith (not that you can. if it was given by God), is Marty Sampson, one of Hillsong’s worship leaders and songwriters (music that is in any case not God centred and always God honouring).
It is clear from both Old- and New Testament, that blasphemy is strictly forbidden
- BLASPHEMY AGAINST GOD:When people (we)blaspheme, against whom do we blaspheme? One can blaspheme against either God and Jesus Christ, or against the Holy Spirit.
Let’s first look at blaspheming against God and Jesus and then we will look at blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.
We’ve already seen that a life that is not honouring God, is a life that blasphemes God and that is why Jesus warns against blasphemy in 2 Tim.3:2-9 ~ “For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy”(2 Tim.3:2). Sin in general is therefore, blasphemy against God– all sin is blasphemy against God! Why, because plainly stated, sin is to dishonour God.
According to Genesis 1 and 2, the story of man and woman pictures the perfect unity between God and His “made in His image”(mankind). We read in Gen.1:26a ~ “Then God said, “Let us make man INour image, after our likeness.”A more recent view, based on a possible interpretation of Hebrew grammar and the knowledge of the Middle East, interprets the phrase as meaning ~ “Let us make man ASOur image.”In ancient times an emperor might command statues of himself to be placed in remote parts of his empire. These symbols would declare that these areas were under his power and reign. So, God placed humans as living symbols of Himself on earth to represent His reign. When we are in sin, we are not representatives of His reign and are therefore making a mockery of Him (keep our definition in mind), thus blaspheming Him.
Let me therefore say it again, “all sin is blasphemy against God!”
What is interesting, is that according to 2Pet.2:10-12 and Jude 8-10, slandering celestial beings also blasphemes God – two passages ~ “…and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority. Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord. But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction”and Jude 8-10 ~ “Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” But these people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals, understand instinctively.”
The Word is clear about the fact that blasphemy against God will be punished. Ezek.20:27 ~ “‘Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: In this also your fathers blasphemed me, by dealing treacherously with me.’”How did they blaspheme God? Verse 31 ~ “When you present your gifts and offer up your children in fire, you defile yourselves with all your idols to this day. And shall I be inquired of by you, O house of Israel? As I live, declares the Lord God, I will not be inquired of by you.”God would not give an audience (will not listen to them) to anyone who disobeyed His ways and blasphemed Him (we have the same idea in 1 Pet.3:7 ~ “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honour to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered”).
According to the record of Matt.27:39, as Christ was hanging on the cross, certain people passed by Him while hanging on the cross and reviled (insulted) Him. The Greek literally suggests they blasphemed (“blasphemeo”). Matthew then tells us that these who repudiated (rejected)the divine sonship of Jesus were guilty of blasphemy.
We also see however, that blasphemy against God the Father and God the Son, Jesus Christ is pardonable. Any sin for which one seeks forgiveness through God’s prescribed plan can be forgiven (accept for one – we will get to that just now). Matt.12:32b ~ “…And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven…”
This can also be demonstrated by the case of the apostle Paul. Prior to the time of his conversion to Jesus Christ, Saul of Tarsus was “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious,”but, he “obtained mercy”(1 Tim.1:13). In Acts 22:16 we read that his sins were forgiven. We also know that the same gracious promise of forgiveness is available to every child of God. Those who have blasphemed God, and repent of his/her wrong, acknowledge it, and ask the Lord’s forgiveness, will be forgiven ~ “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”(1 John 1:9).
2.4BLASPHEMY AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT:The Bible is very clear about the fact that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is unpardonable – it cannot and will not be forgiven. Mark 3:29~ “…but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.”
How can we define blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? John Piper defines it as follow: “The unforgivable sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is an act of resistance which belittles the Holy Spirit so grievously that he withdraws forever with his convicting power so that we are never able to repent and be forgiven.”
Or, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the denial of the work of the Holy Spirit in the ministry of Jesus Christ, or saying that what He has done was demonic.
John Piper asks and answers the question, “…but why does this one particular sin, this one blasphemy, make it impossible to repent and be forgiven? What about blasphemy against the Son of God, or God the Father, or angels, or Scripture, or the church? Why do these not put us beyond repentance and forgiveness? Why only blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? I think it’s because of the unique and decisive role the Holy Spirit plays in our salvation. If we look to God the Father and then turn from his glory to embrace sin, that is bad. If we look to his Son Jesus Christ whom he sent into the world and then turn away from his glory to embrace sin, that is doubly bad.
But in either case there is hope. The Father has planned redemption and the Son has accomplished redemption. This wonderful redemption is outside ourselves and available to us if we repent of our sin and turn back to Christ in faith. But it is the unique and special role of the Holy Spirit to apply the Father’s plan and the Son’s accomplishment of it to our hearts. It is the Spirit’s work to open our eyes, to grant repentance, and to make us heirs (beneficiaries) of all that the Father has planned and all that Christ has done for us.”
A further problem with blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is that we shut ourselves off from forgiveness and no man will be saved without forgiveness of sins. In Genesis, we see that the result of the original sin was that man was separated from God and experienced a loss of holiness and righteousness. Paul writes in Rom.5:12 and 19 ~ “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned . . . For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…”
- BLASPHEMY CAUSED BY OUR SINS:There are several ways that we as believers can blaspheme indirectly, but before I mention one or two of those, just remember not to make all kinds of laws about this … remember what I’ve said in the beginning: “All sin is blasphemy against God!”Don’t start categorising blasphemy – “this I must avoid, because it is blasphemy”and “that I must not do, because it is blasphemy”– NO, rather stop sinning than being sensitive about certain things that might or might not be blasphemy (except of course blasphemy against the Holy Spirit).
When we would rebel against the Word of God, in other words, when we don’t want to obey and/or submit to God’s Word, we are blaspheming God ~ “…for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High…”(Ps.107:11). When the people of Israel confessed their sin in Neh.9, they recalled what happened to their forefathers and they said the following about them in Neh.9:29 ~ “And you warned them in order to turn them back to your law. Yet they acted presumptuously and did not obey your commandments, but sinned against your rules, which if a person does them, he shall live by them, and they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck and would not obey.”The Israelites declared that their forefathers were blaspheming God because they turned away from God’s Word.
The sins of God’s people may cause others to blaspheme ~ “Let all who are under a yoke as bondservants regard their own masters as worthy of all honour, so that the name of God and the teaching may not be reviled”(1 Tim.6:1). Because the Lord was concerned for His Holy Name after He scattered the Israelites amongst other nations, He spoke to Ezekiel in Ezek.36:19-21 and said ~ “I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed through the countries. In accordance with their ways and their deeds I judged them. But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that people said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.’ But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations to which they came.” In Rom 2:24, Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome and said ~ “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
Despising the poor is another way of blaspheming God ~ “Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker”(Prov.14:31a).
- CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
To curse or insult God is an especially grave sin. It can be done by word or by deed. There is little distinction between the sinner who deliberately abuses the name of the Lord, and the one who deliberately disobeys God’s commandments.
John MacArthur once said the following: “…in this contemporary sort of Christian evangelical church world, people are a little less reluctant to bring dishonour on the name of God and the name of Christ, but they think they have free run at dishonouring and abusing the Holy Spirit, apparently, because so much of that goes on. I’m not here to defend the Holy Spirit; He can defend Himself. But I am here to say that reproaches (insults)that are falling on His holy name are falling on me as well, and mostly this comes in the professing church from Pentecostals and Charismatics who feel they have free license to abuse the Holy Spirit and even blaspheme His holy name and they do it constantly.
How do they do it? By attributing to the Holy Spirit words that He didn’t say, deeds that He didn’t do, and experiences that He didn’t produce, attributing to the Holy Spirit that which is not the work of the Holy Spirit. Endless human experiences, emotional experiences, bizarre experiences, and demonic experiences are said to come from the Holy Spirit. Visions, revelations, voices from heaven, messages from the Spirit through transcendental, means dreams, speaking in tongues, prophecies, out-of-body experiences, trip to heaven, anointings, miracles – all false, all lies, all deceptions – attributed falsely to the Holy Spirit.
You know enough to know that God does not want to be worshiped in illegitimate ways. God wants to be worshipped for who He is, for what He has done in the way He has declared. It is open season om abusing the Holy Spirit, outrageous dishonour of the Holy Spirit, claiming He is saying things and doing things and generating things that have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit at all. It is a reckless kind of movement, it is a shameful and dangerous sin to heap up such abuse on the Holy Spirit.”