No sin of man is more obviously a repudiation of God and insult to His holy Person than that of blasphemy, which sin in its usual form consists of taking a name of Deity upon the lips in an empty, idle, and trifling manner. There is such a sin as that of addressing God Himself with blasphemy. In his coming day the beast, or man of sin, will assault God and His name (Rev. 13:6), and thus in the hour of God's judgments upon men they will blaspheme God and curse His name (Rev. 16:9, 11, 21). However, blasphemy in general is not addressed to God and consists in a more or less irreverent use of His name in oaths and curses addressed to other people or things. Over against this may be cited the formal reverence on the part of Israel when for centuries they, with more or less real consideration, refused to pronounce the name of Jehovah, considering that particular name too sacred for human utterance.
1. The Old Testament Doctrine. This doctrine is set forth in the following Scriptures: Exodus 20:7; Leviticus 24:10-16; 1 Kings 21:10-23; 2 Kings 19:6, 22; Isaiah 37:6, 23; 65:7. The punishment for blasphemy, like that related to every other of the Ten Commandments, was stoning unto death. It is asserted that David's sin caused the enemies of Jehovah to blaspheme (cf. 2 Sam. 12:14).
2. The New Testament Doctrine. A much wider range for the possibilities of evil through blasphemy is presented in the New Testament. A fivefold division may be suggested.
a. blasphemy by jews against christ, which took place according to Acts 13:45 and 18:6: "But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming"; "And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles." In the light of the penalty by stoning which they risked, it is evident that the hatred for, and resistance of, the truth on the part of the Jews toward Christ was as violent as it could be. The precise form of their blasphemy is not revealed. Probably it was a direct cursing of Christ, whom the Apostle proclaimed as God manifest in the flesh.
b. blasphemy against idols. In Acts 19:37 intimation is given that it was somewhat common for men unsympathetic to an idol to blaspheme that venerated object.
c. blasphemy against the person of god. This is most serious by its very nature. Reference is not to the taking of the name of God in vain; it is rather blasphemy directly addressed to God and against Himself. The passages, already cited above, were Revelation 13:6 and 16:9, 11, 21.
d. christ accused of blasphemy. It was claimed by the Jews in their unbelief toward Christ that He blasphemed when saying He had power on earth to forgive sins and when He actually did forgive sin. They said, "Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?" (Mark 2:7; cf. Matt. 9:3; Luke 5:21).
e. blasphemy in relation to the holy spirit. This special form of attack has been termed the unpardonable sin. That blasphemy against the Holy Spirit in a certain form of it was said by Christ to be something unpardonable is certain. After the Jews had ascribed to Satan the works which Christ wrought by the Holy Spirit, it is written that Christ said to them, "Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come" (Matt. 12:31-32); "Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme: but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost bath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation: because they said, He hath an unclean spirit" (Mark 3:28-30). For want of attention to all that is involved in these and other related Scriptures, there has been a most injurious application on the part of preachers, especially evangelists, of these very Scriptures to the present age. First, it should be noted that this sin against the Holy Spirit consisted in asserting that Christ's works, which were wrought by the Holy Spirit, were accomplished on the contrary by Satan. Such a setting could not be found now since Christ is not in the world as He was then, nor is He undertaking in the same way to do works by the Holy Spirit. It is therefore impossible for this particular sin to be committed today. To say that attributing works that men may be doing in the power of the Spirit to Satan is the same offense is to go utterly beyond what is written. The possibility of this particular sin being committed ceased with Christ's removal from the earth. But even more emphatically it is to be declared that the so-called unpardonable sin cannot be present where there is a "whosoever will" gospel being preached, else reservations must be made to the effect that a "whosoever will" gospel must except those who have committed an unpardonable sin. Every invitation and promise related to the salvation of lost men would have to carry those same restrictions if there were an unpardonable sin. The promises and invitations would then be addressed to those only who have not so sinned. That no such condition is ever imposed in any grace relationship of the present need not be argued. In attempting to project an unpardonable sin into this age, men have seized upon almost any serious evil as the unpardonable sin, but always without Biblical support. Often Hebrews 6:4-9; 10:26-29; and 1 John 5:16 have been referred to as added Scripture bearing upon supposedly unpardonable sin. These passages, however, though deeply serious in their import, bear no relation to an unpardonable sin. When considering the subject of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, it may well be noted that, quite beyond human explanation, men do not swear in the name of the Third Person. From this fact it may be concluded that there is now and ever has been a peculiar sanctity belonging to the Holy Spirit. His very name and title implies this.
3. Blasphemy in General. Such taking of the name of God in vain as is prohibited by Exodus 20:7 consists in using a name of Deity with an oath whether consciously or carelessly done. Usually the thoughts of the one thus profaning the name are not directed to God in any sense at all.
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