What does Mark 3:29 mean?This is one of the most often misunderstood verses in the Bible. The scribes from Jerusalem claim that Jesus uses the power and authority of Satan to cast out demons, rather than the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. Jesus responds that this is the very essence of the one sin God will not forgive. In the specific context of this conversation, it refers to a particular act. As applied to us today, it has a more general meaning.
There are many theories as to what, exactly, this sin is. Some say it is attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. This leads to the fear that if we criticize any church or ministry, we are in danger of committing the same sin. Others say that Jesus' warning only applies to people who personally watched Him perform miracles under the power of the Holy Spirit. They insist that today, the unforgiveable sin is rejecting Jesus' sacrifice (Hebrews 11:6).
The truth is that all of these point to the same sin. "Eternal" is from the Greek root word aionios. It means without beginning or end. "Guilty" is from the Greek root word enochos. It describes a person who is bound to their crime.
The scribes from Jerusalem arrive in Galilee with the singular goal of condemning Jesus' works. They have already made up their minds, and have no desire to observe Jesus and rationally contemplate what He is doing and teaching. Those who remain that way are personally bound to that sin for eternity. They reject the work of the Holy Spirit to convict (John 16:7–11), counsel (John 14:16), guide (John 16:13), witness (1 Corinthians 12:3), and sanctify (Galatians 5:22–23). This context-specific version of "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" is a sin which could only be committed by those who saw Jesus performing His miracles in person. As such, it cannot be committed today.
However, it is possible to act in the same spirit as the scribes and Pharisees, and suffer the same result. To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit today is to reject His work, particularly His work to convince us about Jesus (John 15:26). It is to reject this work throughout one's entire lifetime.
Paul's testimony shows us clearly that someone can refuse to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit for a time, and then change and follow Him. Paul guarded the coats of those who stoned Stephen (Acts 7:58) and went on to actively hunt and imprison members of the church (Acts 8:1–3). He was certainly guilty of misrepresenting the character of the Holy Spirit. But he was forgiven. Not only forgiven, he became an apostle of Christ, a prolific theological writer, and the lead evangelist to the Roman Empire. He showed disrespect for a time, but he did not remain immune to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit does not mean having doubts about if a particular church's practices are truly biblical. It doesn't mean harboring a spontaneous, disrespectful thought. It doesn't mean struggling with sin after salvation. It doesn't even mean blurting out a blasphemous statement against the Holy Spirit. It means a steady rejection of the convicting and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit throughout an entire lifetime. Those who persist in that rejection will not be forgiven.