The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, a member of the triune Godhead. And as God, the Spirit can be sinned against. The New Testament warns us of six specific sins against the Holy Spirit. But first, let’s examine the Spirit’s personhood.
The Holy Spirit is a Person
- The Spirit has a mind and can think, reason, and know — Isaiah 11:2; John 14:26; Romans 8:27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-11.
- The Holy Spirit has emotions — Acts 15:28; Romans 8:26; Romans 15:30; Ephesians 4:30; James 4:5.
- The Holy Spirit makes choices, decisions, and uses will in accordance with the Spirit’s desires — Acts 16:7; 1 Corinthians 12:11.
- The Holy Spirit speaks and testifies — Mark 13:11; Acts 1:16; Acts 8:29; Acts 10:19; Acts 11:12; Acts 21:11; 1 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 3:7; Revelation 2:7.
- The Holy Spirit can be sinned against — Matthew 12:31 and below.
- The Holy Spirit can enter into relationship with others — 2 Corinthians 3:14.
- The Holy Spirit can encourage — Acts 9:31; strengthen — Ephesians 3:16; teach — Luke 12:12; John 14:26; 1 Corinthians 2:13; bear witness with us — Romans 8:16; Galatians 4:6.
Sins Against the Holy Spirit
Of the six sins against the Holy Spirit, three can be committed by Christians, and three by those who do not know Jesus Christ. We’ll examine the ones non-Christians can commit first.
Insulting the Holy Spirit
How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?
–Hebrews 10:29 NIV
The word “insulted” means to exercise violence, use despitefully, reproach, or treat shamefully. It is used only here in the Bible.
The salvation offered us through Christ is a gift of grace, not to be spurned, but to be accepted with faith, humility, and joy.
Resisting the Holy Spirit
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”
–Acts 7:51-53 NIV
This word means to oppose. The religious leaders of Stephen the Martyr’s day came from a long line of those who said they honored God but rejected what God’s prophets had to say. Disobedient to the spirit of the Law, they crucified Christ. And, despite the miracles that Stephen did, these stiff-necked people resisted the ministry of the Holy Spirit through the Law, the Prophets, the Christ, and Stephen. Their rage led to Stephen’s stoning.
Blaspheming the Holy Spirit
“31 And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 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.”
–Matthew 12:31 NIV
The Pharisees accused Jesus of casting a demon out of a man by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons. He warned them against attributing the works of the Holy Spirit to the devil. For these unbelievers, Jesus said that such sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will not be forgiven. Serious indeed.
Quenching the Holy Spirit
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.
–1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NIV
As believers, we must not extinguish the Spirit’s fire through the manifestation of spiritual gifts. Instead, as Paul told Timothy, we are to “fan into flame the gift of God” (2 Timothy 1:6 NIV).
“Stir” is the word anazopureo, meaning “to rekindle or stir up.” It comes from a combination of three words: one meaning “intensely,” one meaning “a live thing such as an animal or beast,” and another, meaning “fiery, fire, or lightning.”
Paul insisted that Timothy “lively and intensely set yourself on fire to use your spiritual gifts!” Do you eagerly desire spiritual gifts? (1 Corinthians 14:1). Stir yourself up. Do not quench the Spirit’s fire.
Grieving the Holy Spirit
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
–Ephesians 4:29-32 NIV
How we speak to and treat others can distress the Holy Spirit. We are to cleanse ourselves from the sins of the flesh and put on Christ (Romans 13:14), speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Lying to the Holy Spirit
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?”
–Acts 5:3 NIV
Ananias and his wife Sapphira led the church to believe they had sold a piece of land and given the whole amount to the work of the Lord when they actually had held back a part of the money. In lying to the apostles and the church, they had lied to the Holy Spirit. For this, they paid with their lives.
Our Power Over the Spirit
Although the Holy Spirit is sovereign, we as Christians have the power, as Sam Storms says, “either to restrict or release what he does in the life of the local church” (Practicing the Power, 180).
We can quench or resist the Spirit by neglecting the Divine’s work of baptizing (filling) with the Spirit and imparting spiritual gifts through which the church must be built up. We can stymie the Spirit by creating an atmosphere in our church meetings that does not allow for the Spirit’s spontaneous moving. We grieve the Spirit when we despise tongues and prophetic utterances.
Let us honor the Spirit in our lives and in the midst of the Church, allowing the Spirit to have free reign and to manifest the glory of God with signs, wonders, gifts, and fruit.
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
–2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV