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November/December 2013

Discover more articles from this issue.

Beyond the 10/40 Window

Whenever religious freedom in the world is discussed today, it is hard to avoid the lack of freedom in the so-called 10/40 window world.

Aftershock

The historical and religious legacy of the Salem witch trials in America.

What Is This Great Sin?

Blasphemy is represented a horrible sin, but what is it?

Pakistan’s Blasphemy Laws

How an 1880s religious movement in the Punjab incited the end of religious freedom in 1970s Pakistan and changed the constitution.

Killing Words

In far too many countries blasphemy is illegal, and the consequences are often severe.

Condemned by Phone

The wrong way to implement a blasphemy law.

Courting Controversy

The Windsor and Perry cases and their impact on religious liberty.

Marriage Proceedings

Making sense of Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage.

Magazine Archive »

Published in the November/December 2013 Magazine
by Wayne Jackson

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 pardon for it? These are serious questions that can engage the attention of the devout person.

Blasphemy is an anglicized form of the Greek term blasphemia, which scholars believe probably derives from two roots—blapto, to injure, and pheme, to speak. The word would thus suggest injurious speech. Contextually, though, the noun blasphemia, and its kindred terms—the verb blasphemeo and the adjective blasphemos—can refer to a variety of attitudes and actions.

Blaspheming God

That one can blaspheme God is apparent from several New Testament passages. For example, in Romans 2 Paul rebuked those wicked Jews who had been given a written revelation from God and who taught against certain vile practices, yet who nonetheless were guilty of the very sins they condemned. The apostle thus says, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles through you, as it is written” (verse 24).

When nonbelievers observe those who profess to be saints living immorally, they frequently speak against God Himself: “Some God he must be if His children live like that!”

Similarly, Paul admonished Christian servants to honor their masters in order that “the name of God and His doctrine be not blasphemed” (1 Timothy 6:1). So sacred is the authority of God and His doctrine that those early believers were obliged to be good slaves that such truths be not injured. (The sweet influences of the Christian religion would, of course, in time cause the vile business of slavery to lose much of its grip on humanity.)

But how can men otherwise blaspheme God? Certainly those who deny His very existence blaspheme Him! “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God” (Psalm 14:1). Scripture speaks of those deluded souls who, in their senselessness, refuse to have God in their knowledge (See Romans 1:18). To observe the great creation of which we are a part (Psalm 19:1), and then to attribute that to chance, fate, accident, or evolution is a form of blasphemy against its Author!

Blaspheming Christ

As Christ was hanging on the cross, certain folks passed by His quivering body and “reviled him,” or “railed on him” (ASV),* according to the record of Matthew 27:39. The Greek literally suggests they blasphemed (blasphemeo) Him.

Here is what they said: “Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days [cf. John 2:19], save thyself: if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). The apostle thus informs us that these who repudiated the divine Sonship of Jesus were guilty of blasphemy.

If such was the rage of those ancient rebels, what shall be said of today’s modernists who deny that the humble Nazarene was born to the virgin Mary, as both Matthew and Luke affirm? What about those who rationalize the Savior’s astounding miracles by saying they were but natural phenomena misinterpreted by a superstitious age, and those who insist that the Lord’s body still lies in some unmarked Judean grave? People who promote such ideas are blasphemers of the rankest variety, and yet, sadly, such occupy hundreds of pulpits in this nation of ours.

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit

Christ declared, “Every sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Spirit shall not be forgiven” (Matthew 12:31, ASV). Within this context the Lord indicated that those who spoke against Him could find pardon, but those who spoke against the Spirit could not (verse 32). Since both Christ and the Spirit are Deity (John 1:1; Acts 5:3, 4), why should it, within this setting, appear to be more serious to dishonor the Spirit than the Savior? I believe the emphasis here has to be on the chronological aspects of their respective functions.

Though the Jews might crucify their Messiah, nevertheless, with the great outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and the proclamation of His message of grace, thousands of them accepted pardon (Acts 2).

To harden oneself against the gospel plan must be blasphemy against the Spirit of God, and those who continue in such a disposition have no means of obtaining forgiveness.

But there are other ways of blaspheming the Spirit. Would it not be a blasphemy of the Holy Spirit to deny His very personality? Indeed! Yet this is precisely what several religious cults do.

Blaspheming the Word

We mentioned earlier Paul’s reference to blaspheming the doctrine of God (1 Timothy 6:1). In a similar admonition the apostle exhorts Titus to “speak thou the things which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1). He then proceeds to give instructions concerning the conduct that is expected of the mature believers, both men and women.

Here, a lack of Christian fidelity can cause the divine word to be blasphemed.

Let every follower of God take care! We must always remember that we are the only “Bible” that many people will read, and if they see in us shallowness, apathy, and hypocrisy, they may attribute those unholy traits to the Word that we profess to believe.

Others, who arrogantly contend that the Bible is merely a collection of human works, blaspheme that holy document which is “inspired of God” (2 Timothy 3:16, ASV). And those who allege their confidence in the Bible’s divine origin, yet who confess they believe that it is nevertheless flawed with “jars, clashes, and contradictions” also revile the infallible Word. Moreover, any person who perverts the sacred teaching of the Scriptures to accommodate their worldly lifestyle or their theological prejudices is assaulting the Holy Volume!

Blaspheming the Church

In Revelation 13, John saw a beast rising from the sea. Obviously representing an enemy of God, the beast had seven heads, upon which were “names of blasphemy” (verse 1, ASV). The apostle declares, “And he opened his mouth for blasphemies against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, even them that dwell in the heaven” (verse 6, ASV).

The Old Testament tabernacle, which was a prototype of the Temple, prefigured the church (Hebrews 9:8, 9; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:21), composed of those who have been raised up with Christ to sit in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6). It is possible, therefore, according to Revelation 13:6, to blaspheme the church of God.

How do men accomplish that abominable act? It may be done in any number of ways. Though the Bible clearly teaches that Christ is the Savior of the body, which is the church (Ephesians 5:23; 1:22, 23), numerous religious leaders boldly announce that that blood-bought organism is but an option, that a lost person does not necessarily need to enter the church in order to enjoy the blessings of redemption.

Others blaspheme the tabernacle of God by suggesting that almost any church will do; just turn to the yellow pages and select yourself a good church! One would do better to turn to the New Testament and select Christ’s church, for all churches not planted by Him will ultimately be rooted up (Matthew 15:13).

Can Blasphemy Be Forgiven?

Any sin for which one seeks forgiveness through God’s prescribed plan can be forgiven. This can be demonstrated by the case of no less a person than Paul. Prior to the time of his conversion to Jesus Christ, Saul of Tarsus was “a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious,” howbeit, he “obtained mercy” (1 Timothy 1:13, ASV). When he, in penitent faith, submitted to the Lord’s command to “be baptized,” his sins (including blasphemy) were washed away (Acts 22:16).

Furthermore, the same gracious promise of comprehensive pardon is available to every child of God—even those who have acted injuriously with reference to Jehovah and His cause—who will repent of their wrong, acknowledge it, and ask the Lord’s forgiveness. “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, ASV).

*Texts credited to ASV are from The Holy Bible, edited by the American Revision Committee, Standard Edition, Thomas Nelson & Sons, 1901.

Author: Wayne Jackson

Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics, including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He writes from Stockton, California.

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