The first four of the Ten Commandments don’t address murder, theft, familial relationships, or sexuality. They address how man must see and worship God — that there are no others, that no idols shall be made, that the name of God shall not be taken in vain, and that the Sabbath must be observed. This emphasis on God’s due has fueled atheist critiques of the Bible and the commandments’ relevance as a guide to moral behavior. And it has confused even some believers, who fear that a fit of swearing featuring God’s name, for example, pushes them over the line into blasphemy against the spirit — the one act that, per Matthew 12, Jesus named as beyond forgiveness.
But blasphemy of the spirit does not reference a fleeting violation of the Third Commandment. In Matthew, Jesus was refuting the Pharisees’ accusations of violating the Sabbath and fighting demons with demons. In that context, Professor Kenneth Berding of Biola University said Jesus was speaking of blasphemy as a fundamental state, not a word or action. Berding described blasphemy of the spirit as a persistent, willful rejection of God and the promise of redemption through Jesus. It can be thought of as an unforgivable sin because, by definition, it refuses the option of forgiveness — and, also by definition, anyone who worries about committing such blasphemy can’t have been guilty of it.