God Is Moral Part Seventeen
The previous article examined the biblical view of two types of negative speech: lying and false witness. Now we will observe what the Bible says about other types of negative speech.
Blasphemy consists of “an intentional and defiant dishonoring of the nature, name, or work of God by word or action,”1 or of something sacred that belongs to God.2 Blasphemy can also consist of an angel or human being “claiming the attributes or prerogatives of deity” for himself.3
Biblical passages reveal that the practice or accusation of blasphemy can bring serious consequences:
The Israelite woman’s son blasphemed the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ and cursed. And the Lᴏʀᴅ spoke to Moses, saying, “Take outside the camp him who has cursed; then let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. Then you shall speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. And whoever blasphemes the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall certainly stone him, the stranger as well as him who is born in the land. When he blasphemes the name of the Lᴏʀᴅ, he shall be put to death’” (Lev. 24:11, 13–16).
Because of King David’s sins of adultery and murder, he was told, “Because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lᴏʀᴅ to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die” (2 Sam. 12:14).
Two evil men falsely accused Naboth of blaspheming God and the king. As a result, Naboth was taken outside the city and stoned to death (1 Ki. 21:13).
Sennacherib, king of Assyria, and his servants blasphemed God when they threatened Jerusalem (2 Ki. 19:6, 22). As a result, the Angel of the Lord killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers and thereby decimated Sennacherib’s army. Sennacherib left Israel, returned to Assyria, and remained at Nineveh. There he was assassinated by two of his sons (Isa. 37:36–38).
God declared that He would judge the Jewish people of Isaiah’s time because they “burned incense on the mountains and blasphemed Me [God] on the hills” (65:7). He also commanded Ezekiel to tell the Israelites that their ancestors blasphemed Him by being unfaithful to Him (Ezek. 20:27).
God warned the people of Edom that, through their blasphemous speech against the mountains of Israel, they had boasted and multiplied their words against Him (35:12). Because of these blasphemies, God said,
The whole earth will rejoice when I make you desolate. As you rejoiced because the inheritance of the house of Israel was desolate, so I will do to you; you shall be desolate, O Mount Seir, as well as all of Edom––all of it! Then they shall know that I am the Lᴏʀᴅ (vv. 14–15).
Jesus’ enemies accused Him of blasphemy because He claimed authority to forgive sins: “And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (Mk. 2:6–7). They mistakenly thought Jesus was a mere man who claimed an authority that belonged exclusively to God.
Based on Psalm 104:3 and Isaiah 19:1, which assert that God “makes the clouds His chariot” and “the Lᴏʀᴅ rides on a swift cloud,” the Jewish people believed that only God travels on the clouds of heaven. Thus, when Jesus claimed that the high priest, scribes, and elders of Israel would one day see Him “sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven,” the high priest tore his clothes and accused Jesus of blasphemy; and they all declared, “He is deserving of death” (Mt. 26:64–66).
Jesus clearly revealed the source and effect of blasphemy when He stated, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man” (15:19–20). Jesus declared,
Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come (12:31–32).
Why will blasphemy against Jesus be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be? It cannot be that the Holy Spirit is greater than Jesus because, as divine beings, they are equal in personhood and nature. In fact, Jesus told the apostles,
He [the Spirit] will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak;…He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you (Jn. 16:13–15).
Jesus indicated that the Holy Spirit’s job is to draw people’s attention to Jesus, not to Himself.
In essence, Jesus said a person who blasphemes the Spirit cannot become saved. The Holy Spirit is responsible to do the work necessary for people to become believers. It is He who convinces them that (1) they are sinners,(2) they lack the righteousness required to be accepted by God, (3) they are headed for the same divine judgment as Satan (Jn. 16:7–11), and (4) they should heed the Holy Spirit’s work of drawing attention to Jesus as the one who can save them (vv. 13–15). Thus, when people blaspheme the Holy Spirit, they not only oppose Him but also the work He does that is necessary for them to obtain salvation.
The apostle Paul accused unsaved Jewish people of blaspheming God’s name among the Gentiles because they did not keep the Law (Rom. 2:24; cf. Ezek. 20:27). He told Christians, “put off…blasphemy…out of your mouth” (Col. 3:8). He thanked Christ for enabling him; putting him into the ministry; and showing him mercy despite the fact that, while unsaved, he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (1 Tim. 1:13).
Paul indicated that Christian slaves, while under the yoke of bondage, were to “count their own masters worthy of all honor, so that the name of God and His doctrine may not be blasphemed” (6:1). He taught that mature, elderly women were to “admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Ti. 2:4–5).
And he declared that the last days of this present age will be perilous because “men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy” (2 Tim. 3:2).
Referring to rich people who oppressed Christians and took them to court, James asked, “Do they not blaspheme that noble name [of Jesus] by which you are called?” (Jas. 2:7).
Christians in Smyrna were blasphemed by Jewish people who were not in right relationship with God (Rev. 2:9).
Revelation 13:1 and 17:3 record revelation of the seventh and final great form of Gentile world dominion: a revived form of the ancient Roman Empire. That empire will dominate the world of the future Tribulation and be characterized by blasphemy. Its ruler, the Antichrist, will blaspheme God, “His name, His tabernacle, and those who dwell in heaven” (Rev. 13:6).
As the unsaved people of the Tribulation will be subjected to the scorching, great heat of the fourth bowl (16:9); the darkness, pains, and sores of the fifth bowl (v. 11); and the great, heavy hailstones of the seventh bowl (v. 21), they will recognize that these judgments are from God. But instead of repenting of their rebellion against Him and giving Him glory, they will blaspheme Him and His name.
Other Negative Speech
CORRUPT SPEECH. Paul wrote, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). The word translated “corrupt” refers to what “is unprofitable (‘idle gossip’)” in a situation where edification is needed.4
FOOLISH SPEECH. Paul indicated that “foolish talking” is not “fitting for saints” (5:3–4). The word translated “foolish talking” refers to “equivocal” speech that people cannot understand because of possible double meanings.5
OBSCENE SPEECH. “Coarse jesting” is also not “fitting for saints” (vv. 3–4). Coarse jesting has the following descriptions: “Indelicate; vulgar, gross” jokes or language; what is “offensive to good taste or decency”; or “obscene,” “indecent,” “lewd.”6
Paul declared that Christians are “to put off” using “filthy language” (Col. 3:8). The word translated “filthy language” refers to “obscene speech.”7
SCOURGING SPEECH. Eliphaz the Temanite said, “You shall be hidden from the scourge of the tongue” (Job 5:21). The word translated “scourge” means “lash of (accusing) tongue.”8
Quarreling Speech. Psalm 31:20 signifies that God shall hide His people “from the strife of tongues.” The word translated “strife” refers to verbal quarrels or disputes.9
The next article will continue to observe the biblical view concerning different kinds of speech.
- R. Vernon Ritter, “blasphemy,” Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia (Chicago: Moody Press, 1975), 1:262.
- The American College Dictionary (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1948), s.v. “blasphemy,” 127.
- Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd ed., unabridged (Springfield, MA: G. & C. Merriam, 1939), s.v. “blasphemy,” 284.
- Otto Bauernfeind, “sapros,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, (hereafter cited as TDNT), ed. Gerhard Friedrich, ed./trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, translated from Theologisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971), 7:97.
- Georg Bertram, “morologia,” TDNT, ed. Gerhard Kittel, ed./trans. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967), 4:844.
- Webster’s, s.v. “coarse,” 512.
- William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds./trans., “aischrologia,” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (1952: translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der ubrigen urchristlichen Literatur, 4th ed; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 24.
- Francis Brown, ed., with S. R. Driver and Charles A. Briggs, “shot,” A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, based on the lexicon of William Gesenius as translated by Edward Robinson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), 1,002.
- Ibid., “rib,” 936.