Is Attributing the Works of God to Satan the Unforgivable Sin?

Unforgivable SinMany believe that the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit — or the unforgivable sin — occurs when someone attributes the works of the Holy Spirit to the works of the devil. This view is based on Matthew 12:31-32, where some of the religious rulers state that Jesus was casting out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons (12:24).

This is one of the most popular views about the unforgivable sin.

Attributing the Works of the Spirit to the Devil

It is often taught that this sin is committed when a person sees a miraculous work of the Spirit, and rather than give glory to God for what was done, gives credit to the devil instead.

It is believed that this sin is committed when people see the works and miracles of God, but state that the miracles are being performed the power of Satan rather than by the power of God.

This view is commonly held in Pentecostal charismatic circles where miracles, healings, and demonic exorcisms are a frequent occurrence. Leaders of these ministries argue that when others write off supernatural healings, demonic exorcisms, and the gift of tongues as possibly coming from the devil, such people deny the power of the Holy Spirit, and commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which supposedly is the unforgivable sin.

Of course, in some charismatic circles, the behavior goes way beyond healing and prophecy and speaking in tongues. Some churches engage in holy laughter, barking like dogs and braying like donkeys, getting slain in the Spirit, rolling in the isles, and having tooth fillings changed to gold. When non-charismatic Christian leaders argue that these sorts of activities are unbiblical and therefore not of God, they are condemned by charismatic leaders for being guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Problems with this View on the Unforgivable Sin

Though this is a popular view, it is not the best interpretation of Matthew 12:31-32.

First, Scripture is clear that not everything that appears spiritual is from the Holy Spirit. Satan can and does counterfeit the work of God.

So we are supposed to test the spirits and see if they are from God (1 John 4:1). If we are convinced a certain activity is not from God but is a counterfeit deception from the devil, it is our obligation to denounce it. It does not seem that God would tell us to test the spirits and denounce those that were false if doing so could accidentally cause someone to commit blasphemy against the Spirit. This warning of Jesus against this sin indicates that one commits it intentionally, not accidentally.

Furthermore, many religions and cults other than Christianity see miracles, signs, wonders, speaking in tongues, ecstatic experiences, dreams, visions, healings, and other such things. Certainly charismatics would be quick to denounce these practices as not being from the Holy Spirit, but since these practices are nearly identical in form and frequency as in charismatic circles, how can they be certain that in condemning these practices in other religions, they are not in fact attributing to the devil a work of the Holy Spirit?

God works in mysterious ways, and we cannot be certain that the Holy Spirit is not at work in the lives of other religious practitioners—even in miraculous ways—with the intent of bringing them to faith in Jesus Christ. If charismatics are right, they must not condemn any miraculous utterance, prophecy, sign, miracle, answer to prayer, or spiritual experience of any person or religious group as being of the devil, for there is no way to be certain when and where the Holy Spirit is blowing (John 3:8).

So although this theory is compelling and seems to fit the context of Matthew 12:31-32, the fact that it is impossible to live out in real life indicates that it is not the proper understanding. Theology must not only fit with Scripture, but must also fit with what can be lived out in life.

But aside from even the impracticality of this view, it does not actually fit the context of Matthew 12:31-32 as well as we might initially presume. While it is undoubtedly true that in the context of Matthew 12:31-32, Jesus is performing miracles and casting out demons, and the Pharisees accuse Jesus of doing such things by the power of Beelzebub, this does not mean that condemning the work of the Holy Spirit as a work of the devil is the same as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

Note that Jesus does not actually say that the religious leaders have committed the unpardonable sin, but rather were on the path to committing it. If they had already committed it, why would Jesus warn them about it?

So attributing the work of the Holy Spirit to the devil is not the unforgivable sin.

Though the Pharisees do make such an accusation against Jesus, He is simply warning them that if they continue on the path they are on, they may likely commit the unpardonable sin. They have not committed it yet, but if they persist in denying all the evidence that is before them, they may come to a place where they are beyond the reach of God’s grace and forgiveness.

Though we should always strive to rightly discern the Spirits and to see when something is being done by the Spirit of God or by an evil spirit, if we make a mistake and discern wrongly, we have not committed the unforgivable sin. We have simply made an error in judgment, for which there is infinite grace, mercy, and forgiveness.

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  1. Mk says

    pray for me, when I was growing up I always had this thought in the back of my mind, that I would do something that would caused me to be eternally lost, so I was afraid of heights, if I drink I might curse God or something, so I stay away from that, I was a very fearful child, I always was interested in God, I always believed but didn’t know how to live a saved life,people that were saved they always talked about the don’ts never that God loves you . I prayed the pray for salvation and asked Jesus into my life. Then I joined a church I loved reading the Good News bible back in the 70s. I was very legalistic. 2 yrs into my walk,I would hear cursing over my head, one day at church I heard a voice that said clap your hands I said go to he–.and it felt like The Spirit left me I became weak after church I went to this scripture in Matt 12 I prayed and prayed it was like silence I continued in church but dry I would get hope but still no peace about what I did, every 5 yrs it seems like it would reoccur,get counseled get better, so to make a long story short, here I am today still struggling with the curse word, evil thoughts to myself, I read your comments again and again. I feel like my life is just going around in circles never really accomplishing anything.

    • says

      I am sorry you are experiencing this. Know that no matter what, Jesus loves you, forgives you, and is not upset at the thoughts or words that enter your head. We live in a broken world where bad things happen and people have difficulties. He understands and is with you in your pain and fear and doubt.

  2. Ann-Olivia says

    Jeremy, I’m terribly afraid I have committed this sin. I read a user comment on a website called under The Unforgivable Sin. It said that ‘ whoever has such an unrepentant, hardened heart capable of thinking ‘ You have Satan in You. ‘ then not feeling bad after has committed it.

    Well here’s my story: I kept having all these thoughts. I don’t think I believe them in my heart. But I told the Holy Spirit he knew my heart better than I knew it, and he knows whether I have committed blasphemy or not. What if he thinks I actually did?! I’m really worried, please answer soon. It’s just every day the thoughts keep getting worse and worse. I don’t want my heart to be hardened.

  3. Ann-Olivia says

    It’s just that I’m worried, this man who commented online said The Spirit led him through Scripture and showed him what the sin was. I just really need assurance of my salvation because unlike this guy online, the Holy Spirit didn’t come and talk to me about this. I’m nervous. And sometimes I’m not worried at all. I’m not sure if it’s because I have been forgiven or if it’s because I don’t care because I have blasphemed him? Please help ASAP!

    • says

      First, don’t believe that guy who said the Holy Spirit led him through the Bible to show him what this sin was. People say all the time “The Lord told me” or “God showed me” but this is just a tactic some people use to make sure nobody questions or challenges their ideas. In my opinion, it seems that this is taking the Lord’s name in vain.

      Second, You have not committed the unpardonable sin. Are you concerned about it? Of course you are. Otherwise you wouldn’t be leaving these comments. That means that the Spirit is still at work in your life, and that you don’t want to hurt or offend Him. But even if you did hurt or offend Him, He would still love and forgive you. He is not so easy offended or scared off from us.

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