Thirsty Philosophers

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 As my youngest is turning in for the night, he has set the goal for himself to read his Bible before bed. While this is a lofty and noble goal for an 11 year-old to have, at times, he re-appears in the living room with various expressions on his face, sometimes skeptical other times terrified. The other night he came back to the living room near tears. He was reading a passage I have wrestled with many times; maybe you have too.

“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.”  – Matthew 12:32

He was terrified that it could be possible that he might have blasphemed without knowing it, ruining his chance at heaven. I told him, “If your heart is soft enough, that you are worried about it, then you likely have not committed it.” Little children don’t always think philosophically, so of course this discussion was going to need a more concrete answer.

I’ll try to explain how I understand this verse while trying to not get too lost in the weeds here.  The details as I understand them are these:

First, the literal definition of blasphemy is to show disrespect or sacrilege to God. Blasphemy is reserved for Deity and cannot be committed other people (king, preacher, etc.)

Understand the Holy Spirit

Second, to understand blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, it’s important to have a proper understanding of the  Holy Spirit (which is no easy study in itself).

As I tried to wrap my own mind around the topic so I could explain it to my child, I ran across an interesting detail. Frankly my mind was blown: the Holy Spirit is mentioned only 3 times in the Old Testament and 89 times in the new. We don’t know much about the work of the Holy Spirit prior to Christ.

“And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” – Acts 2:38.

By the world’s standards, this was an unremarkable moment. When Peter throws open the doors of the kingdom with this statement about God in man, the politicians, national and military personnel took no notice of it. Locally, it was a bigger deal for the Sadducees and Pharisees who thought they were done with this group, but even they couldn’t imagine the impact of this statement.

From this point on, the world was never as dark of a place as it was the day before this event. As missionaries moved to every corner of the earth, paganism was slowly choked off, until it became known as ‘mythology’. We lived in Ukraine and learned a language that was developed by a man named Cyril (Cyrillic), who wanted to give a bible to people who had no written alphabet. The world’s oldest and most prestigious universities were originally started to train preachers. (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Cambridge, Oxford, Paris etc.) Eventually this affected politics and national movements as well. Where the Holy Spirit moved barbarianism was eradicated, and people were freed and empowered. Life became more stable and safer.

The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. John 3:8

We don’t see the Holy Spirit but his influence on us is undeniable. This is why in my mind the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is so dangerous. When we deny the Holy Spirit’s influence, we deny the ability of the gospel to pervade society. As an example, some ‘Christian’ faiths do not believe the Holy Spirit is a separate and intelligent part of God. They understand the Holy Spirit is simply the will of God himself or God’s ‘force’. This is blasphemy because it denies the essence of The Spirit’s divine nature.

I shared this story a few years ago. Let me share a verse and then explain why it exploded in my head:

Then Peter asked him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:22,23

For a Sunday School class, I filled a jar with 490 noodles, and let the kids try to guess how many noodles there were. It is a standard lesson to teach to children, but more difficult to apply personally. One day, I was extremely angry with someone, I was even thinking that I did not care if I saw them again. Realizing I needed gas, I pulled into a gas station and my eyes settled on the license plate of the car next to me. The number 490 and the person’s initials with whom I was so angry.

Was this divine inspiration? Probably not, but God knew what those numbers meant to me. I have always wondered how directly he sends messages to us. It could just be this was all made up in my mind. A coincidence? Or it could be that the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor. I was reminded of a Bible verse I already knew well, my heart softened, and I prayed, and asked God to forgive me, and to help me forgive the person I was angry with.

I don’t know if it was the Holy Spirit making that license plate pull in at that moment in time, but it was clearly the Holy Spirit working on my heart. To deny that part of it is certainly blasphemy, because that’s why he is in us.

We have probably all felt a ‘nudge’ to do or avoid something. Right now, you are probably thinking of your own anecdote.  He works in more significant ways than by sending codes through license plate numbers, but maybe sometimes he just has a little fun with it.

 This is what identifies blasphemy of the Spirit and makes it so dangerous. When you deny His influence, how can you be forgiven? You have closed yourself off from His working inside of you. The Holy Spirit doesn’t have access to you. If you don’t allow him to work in your heart, what good is the opportunity of forgiveness to you?