A sermon with the Anglican congregation of St. John's Storrington, Ontario, June 1993

by Robert Brow (

If you go into the wards of any psychiatric hospital you will find people who think they have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit. They think they have done something too bad to be forgiven. They think they are damned. They will burn in hell. There is no hope for them. What then did Jesus mean when he said "whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" (Mark 3:29) ?

First we look at the preceding verse. Jesus said "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter" (Mark 3:28). That is the good news. There can never be anything too bad to be forgiven. God loves us and does not exclude anyone from heaven. There are of course consequences here on earth. A fellow gets drunk, drives too fast, and kills a child on the sidewalk. He will lose his license, may go to jail, and he will remember the child's parents grieving all his life. But as soon as he turns to God and admits his sin, he is forgiven.

But what if the man decides he enjoyed killing that child, and plans to do it again? Next time he will make sure he does not get caught. He wants to kill as many little children as possible. There are some child abusers like that. They do not want forgiveness, only the chance to keep murdering and abusing others. How could such a person ever be happy in heaven?

Paul explained that the first three fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace (Galatians 5:22). That is what the Holy Spirit wants to produce in us, and for most us it often takes a long time. We often fail in our love, we are not thankful and joyful, and we are easily worried. But the sin against the Holy Spirit is choosing to prefer murderous hate to love. If someone wants to hate as many people as possible, there is no way he or she wants the perfect love of heaven?

It is natural to want joy for oneself and for others. But the sin against the Holy Spirit is only being joyful when we can make others miserable. Some people cannot stand it when others are happy and joyful. Their delight is in misery and dark despair. How could they ever want the joy of heaven?

It is also natural to enjoy peace of mind for oneself and for others. But some are never at peace. They always want something different, and their greatest pleasure is gossiping to make others upset. Instead of peace, they create confusion and anxiety. If they could not continue to do that, for them the perfect peace of heaven would be hellish.

Now you can see that the sin against the Holy Spirit is preferring darkness to light, preferring evil to love, misery instead of joy, and perpetual disturbance to peace. The Holy Spirit can help us change so that we are ready to enjoy the perfect love and peace of joy of heaven. What he cannot do is force us to change if we prefer the opposite.

Our text was "whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" (Mark 3:29). And Mark added Peter's comment that Jesus' opponents had said, "He has an unclean spirit" (Mark 3:20). When they saw Jesus loving ordinary people, they said that was bad. When he healed people on the Sabbath Day, it was wrong. He had no business blessing children. And it was blasphemous to love and respect women, especially Mary Magdalene. So they said Jesus was doing Satan's work.

We all admit that we fail in this and that. "I was mean, lied, lost my temper." But if deep down we long to be a loving person, a joyful person, a peace maker, we can be certain we have not committed the sin against the Holy Spirit. And he can do the rest.

Prayer "Lord, I confess that I have failed in many ways. But deep down I do long for love, and joy, and peace, for myself and others. Thank you for forgiving me, and I believe your promise that the Holy Spirit will change me in due course."

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