Matthew 12:31 says blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is an unforgivable sin. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit in the ESV Study Bible, says that it is, "This sin is committed today only by unbelievers who deliberately and unchangeably reject the ministry of the Holy Spirit in calling them to salvation"

In Calvinism, the I in TULIP is irresistible grace. Those God elected cannot resist His grace and that man will answer God's call. You can't resist it. So how does this fit in with blasphemy of the Holy Spirit where unbelievers resists the ministry of the Holy Spirit? Does the Holy Spirit try to work in everyone? Or does the Holy Spirit only work within those elected?

  • Sorry, I'm having trouble understanding this question. If blasphemy against the Spirit is unbelievers rejecting the ministry of the HS, and if irresistible grace means the elect don't resist the HS, then where's the conflict? The two groups are doing two different things.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 9, 2021 at 22:35
  • What I meant is does the Holy Spirit try to work within unelects
    – Jamie
    Feb 9, 2021 at 22:39
  • That's a different question. Please edit this to clarify.
    – curiousdannii
    Feb 9, 2021 at 22:39
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    @curiousdannii The ESV says 'reject'. Calvin, as far as I can find, says 'resist'. The two are markedly different. But Jesus says 'speak against' which is definitive.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 10, 2021 at 7:07

2 Answers 2


John Calvin had been dead 50 years before the Synod of Dort produced a refutation of the 5 Points of Arminianism presented to them in 1618. So, whatever quotes of Calvin are used, bear in mind that he wrote them long before the 5 Points of Calvinism were formulated. It follows, then, that Calvin’s expressed views on blasphemy of the Holy Spirit can be detached from the Arminian-Calvinism controversy that developed later. They rarely are, however, and I suggest that you may be getting into a spiritual cul-de-sac by involving Arminian points. If you had started with Calvin and left Arminianism (and the ESV comments) well alone, only your last question would arise.

All that is required is to examine the words of Jesus on the matter, without first presuming that unbelievers can resist the ministry of the Holy Spirit in trying to save them – well, not unless it can first be shown from scripture that that’s what can happen. And, I suggest, it cannot. There is a verse about “always resisting the Holy Spirit” in Acts 7:51 but not said of any who had already agreed with the gospel. Those ones had not fallen from saving grace for they never were part of the new covenant of grace. There was no hint that the Holy Spirit failed to convict them because they thwarted his efforts. Conversely, that account of Stephen’s witness to them and their murderous reaction proved that they never were ‘saved’ in any sense. Yet one young man party to their actions later did hear the inner, personal calling of the Holy Spirit and was converted, though on that day he paid no attention to the outer, general call of Stephen to consider Christ.

Unbelievers ARE saved by the effectual calling of the Holy Spirit. But as God alone reads the hearts and minds of people, the Holy Spirit knows which individual unbelievers will harden their hearts and minds to the degree that they will, sooner or later, blaspheme him. He never tries to woo them! They are left to it as Romans 2:20-32 shows. This is also shown by the scriptures stating:

“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” Jesus said, adding, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.”- Matthew 12:34 & 37 “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; test my mind and my heart.” – Psalm 26:2

With regard to unbelievers in Christ, the heart can become hardened against the Holy Spirit. This results in finding reasons to resist, so the mind has to co-operate with the hardened heart. The mind knows enough of the Holy Spirit and the gospel so as to form a conclusion that disagrees with both. That is a form of resistance – mental resistance. But if it springs from the heart then the mind becomes equally resistant to the Holy Spirit, resulting in words of blasphemy eventually being spoken – the point of no return, spiritually.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” – Romans 10:9-10

It is consistently logical that if one has to vocalise their new-found faith in Christ for salvation (verses 10 & 13), then another would have to vocalise their blasphemous heart-hardened and mind-confirmed resistance to the Holy Spirit for damnation.

1 Corinthians 12:3 deals with a curse against Jesus Christ whilst simultaneously being a curse against the Holy Spirit who testifies to the Lordship of Christ: “No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed; and no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” This indicates that those who, by the Spirit, calls Jesus “the Lord”, can never call down a curse on their Lord Jesus.

So, when Calvin speaks of “resistance” to the Holy Spirit, that might have been his “shorthand” for a process that begins in the heart, ropes in the mind, and then (sooner or later) utters words of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.


Jesus makes it quite clear that blasphemy is a matter of speech. 'He that speaketh ...' is how Jesus, himself, defines the unforgivable sin of which he warns.

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. [Matthew 12:32 KJV]

The word Jesus uses, reported by Matthew 12:32, Mark 3:28-39 and Luke 12:10 is βλασφημία which Thayer (see Strong 988) lists as 'slander' 'injurious speech' and 'impious and reproachful speech' is, invariably, a matter of the spoken word.

It seems to me that Calvin, himself, has caused a difficulty when he defines the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit thus :

I say therefore that he sins against the Holy Spirit who, while so constrained by the power of divine truth that he cannot plead ignorance, yet deliberately resists, and that merely for the sake of resisting. For Christ, in explanation of what he had said, immediately adds, ‘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,’ (Mt. 12:3

Perchristum Wordpress

Calvin, in this place, defines the unforgivable sin as 'resisting' but does not make it clear that the sin is blasphemy, which is a matter of speaking. 'Resisting' could mean an internal matter, deep within the spirit of a man. And in the spiritual experience, there can be confusion within, ignorance and doubt.

But to 'speak against' is what is in view, according to the three apostolic reports of Jesus' definition.

If every resistance to the Holy Spirit is unforgivable then who shall be saved ?

Was not Saul of Tarsus found breathing out threatenings and slaughter against that which he knew of Christ ? And did not he 'kick against the stings' ?

Yet it is so, that Paul tells us he did it ignorantly and in unbelief. Not wilfully, in the full appreciation of what he was doing. We read of his turmoil and deep, spiritual experience in Romans 7.

But regarding the context and the content of Jesus' words on the subject, it seems abundantly plain that it is the verbal attributing of the visible effects of the power of the Holy Spirit to the 'Devil' (Diabolos, properly). This would not be forgiven, in this life or the next, if one publicly states that what is visibly and palpably holy, and of God . . . is of the Devil : to have that deliberately in the mind and heart, and then to publicly make a verbal accusation against the evident work of the Holy Spirit, claiming it is of the 'devil' is to be cut off, forever, from him who brings the things of God and of Christ and shows them to us.

And, true, such do (also) resist, within themselves, personally, as well as communally :

Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. [Acts 7:51 KJV]

Many people I have read of and heard of, and known, have been greatly troubled that they have committed the unforgivable sin. And whilst it is a good thing to consider carefully what one says when one opens one's mouth regarding the things of God, yet it can cause great harm if these matters are misunderstood.

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    @Jamie I don't recall ever reading in my bible the word 'non-elected', so I cannot answer your question. I read of the 'faith of God's elect'. And I read of those who 'always resist the Holy Spirit'.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 9, 2021 at 20:26
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    @Jamie That is not how the scripture expresses the matter, as far as my own understanding goes. I am urged by the scripture 'make your calling and election sure'. And 'we are not of them that draw back unto perdition, but who believe to the saving of the soul.'
    – Nigel J
    Feb 9, 2021 at 21:34
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    @curiousdannii I have edited to enlarge the quotation, showing that it is a definition and I have made it clearer that blasphemy is a matter of 'speaking against' and not an undefined 'resisting', which could be taken to mean something internal, not something spoken.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 10, 2021 at 6:36
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    @GratefulDisciple Mark 3:30 'Because they said. Luke 12:10 'whosoeever shall speak a word ... him that blasphemeth. I think there is little doubt in any of the three passage, themselves. And certainly none at all when all three are examined together.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 10, 2021 at 7:46
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    You're right on Mark 3:28-30 (I missed 3:30). But we still have a problem with Luke 12:10 because the "speak against" is applied to the Son only; for the Holy Spirit there is no "speak against", only "blaspheme". At any rate, if we bring the 3 passages together your interpretation is convincing enough for me. +1 Feb 10, 2021 at 7:54

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