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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

22 August 2007

Sinning Against the Spirit

Q: I am a born again Christian, and I just starting watching TBN and reading my Bible, but I keep hearing this about grieving the Holy Spirit. What does it mean?

Holy SpiritA: Dear friend, as you study God’s Word and grow in Christian knowledge, be sure of your spiritual guides. While there is may be much of value on TBN, some of its “stars” don’t always proclaim pure Biblical Christianity. Especially, some substitute various human actions for the saving work of Christ. So make sure that no one leads you to think that you must do anything to please God. The Father is already totally pleased with the work accomplished by His Son during Jesus’ life, suffering, and death. He accepts us because we believe in Christ. This is key to answering your question.

The Holy Spirit’s primary task is to apply God’s “living and active (Hebrews 4:12)” Word to us. He uses the Law which condemns sin and sinners and the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus Christ which forgives in order to crush and root out sin and, even more importantly, to bring us to and hold us in a faith relationship with our Savioir. In other words, the Spirit works to make us believe that Jesus died for us and that, through Him, all our sins are forgiven. As we trust in Christ, the Spirit moves us into a closer relationship with God and into lives lived in love for our neighbors.

Saint Paul wrote, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)” If we properly understand the Spirit’s work, then we realize that grieving Him involves a rejection of His most essential work, namely rejection of our complete and unmerited forgiveness and salvation in Christ Jesus.

ForgivenessComprehending the work of the Spirit helps us to understand what Jesus meant when He said, “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. (Matthew 12:31)” We know that the Holy Spirit is no more (or less) God than are the Father and the Son. Blasphemy includes any cursing or reviling God, so any blasphemy is a horrible sin. But blaspheming the Spirit means denying the greatest gift that He brings; that is, faith in Jesus and the accompanying forgiveness of all of our sins.

As long as we do not totally close ourselves to His work, the Holy Spirit actively works to lead us to repent of our sins — including blasphemy of the Father or the Son. The reason that blaspheming the Spirit is the only sin that “will not be forgiven” is that committing it means that we completely reject Jesus’ suffering and death for our forgiveness, thus denying the very thing needed to bring forgiveness from this (and every other) sin.

Please see also the earlier post The Unforgivable Sin.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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