Friday, July 3, 2009

Discerning offense against God, Jesus, Holy Spirit

Here is something I want to point out to you about the Holy Trinity: God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit (also traditionally called the Holy Ghost). When you read the Bible, notice how you are warned not to offend God in slightly different but highly significant ways among the Three.

Much of the Bible is comprised of warnings against offending God himself centers on two main themes: denying God and disrespecting God. The Bible contains specific statements (such as the First and Second Commandment) about either denying or disrespecting God, and one can also read the historical events of what happens to those who choose to deny or disrespect God.

In the New Testament with the arrival of Jesus Christ, the Gospels and the Epistles emphasis that Jesus is not to be denied, but there is a different tone than the respect that is mandatory for God the Father. Jesus never says, for example, that he must be obeyed or believed in as a requirement of the faith, nor does he say he must be treated with respect. In fact he goes so far as to say about himself “And whosoever speaks a word against the Son of man it shall be forgiven him” (Matthew 12:32). Now you have to read that whole passage in its full context to get the entire gist of what he is saying and we will do so in the section on the Holy Spirit, since Jesus was not speaking so much about himself but rather as an introduction to speaking about the Holy Spirit. My point is that Jesus does not issue Commandments about disobedience or denying of him himself. Indeed sins against Jesus that are repented will be forgiven by God. (No such guarantee is given in the Bible about forgiveness for denying or disrespecting God himself, but one lives in hope that sincere repentance to God will result in mercy and forgiveness). So those are two differences in tones between offending God and offending Jesus, to summarize: Jesus does not command belief and obedience as God does, and Jesus promises that even the worse sin against him is capable of being forgiven by God.

Where one IS, however, warned that one cannot ignore or marginalize Jesus, nor forget that he brought to the world the face of God in human form, can be found in two general formats. The first is that people must believe that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s scripture regarding the Messiah and Savior. One cannot deny that Jesus is the Messiah. The second format is the absolute requirement that one must have an encounter with Jesus. Many have their own interpretation of what Jesus meant when he said that one cannot enter heaven (come to God the Father) except through him. Different Christian sects and denominations tend to assume different requirements implicit in the word “through” Jesus Christ, and also when citing Jesus as “the way.” I’m not going to expand on that subject in this particular blogging but instead offer the gist of what one must understand and grasp from what Jesus said. One MUST have an encounter with Jesus in order to achieve heaven. Only God knows what encounter is sufficient for each and every person. So Jesus must be acknowledged as the Messiah and the Savior, and also as the necessary encounter through which all must pass.

There is much about the Holy Spirit in scripture but only two real places where warnings are stated about the forms and consequences of disobedience and disbelief against the Spirit. This is such a serious subject, though, that Jesus expounded on the topic very sternly:

Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. 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 12:31-32).

Jesus is saying something of vital importance and is very precise in his wording. He opens by speaking of the general forgiveness of all types of sin and blasphemy, but when he speaks of the Holy Spirit he does not comment about sins against the Holy Spirit being forgiven or not (which implies that they can be), but he says most specifically that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall not be forgiven. Further, to drive home the point of the unforgivable nature of humans blaspheming the Holy Spirit, Jesus emphasizes that such blasphemy will not be forgiven by God during the first phase of existence (a human life followed by their death and sending to heaven or to hell) NOR when all the dead are raised and judged by God (“the world to come”). Jesus wanted to make perfectly clear with the most dire warning that Holy Spirit blasphemers not only lose their place in heaven and merit hell for certain, but they also have absolutely no chance of forgiveness during Final Judgment and the creation of the New Jerusalem.

Many wonder, what is the difference between blaspheming God and blaspheming the Holy Spirit? Blaspheming God can be forgiven because the “cure,” if you will, to blaspheming God is to believe, respect and obey God. One who has a conversion and begins to truly believe, respect and obey God will not, obviously, continue to blaspheme God and with sincere repentance and conversion can and will be forgiven by God. Likewise Jesus says that all forms of blaspheme against himself is capable of being forgiven. So what exactly is the difference between blaspheming God and/or Jesus Christ, and the unforgivable blaspheming of the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the creator of the world, God’s instrument in creating all that is, and loving all that is. One blasphemes the Holy Spirit when one blasphemes God’s creative role, his powers of life, his powers of love and his powers of forgiveness. With a simple sentence St. Paul makes this easy to understand:

And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30).

Paul understood and explains with this passage that it is the Holy Spirit who seals (as in the modern meaning of the word “certifies”) that one will be among the elect on the day of redemption. The Holy Spirit sets the seal upon the saved soul; the Holy Spirit “closes the deal,” to use another modern term.

With these two warnings, by Jesus Christ and by St. Paul, there is a common theme: do not make the Holy Spirit sad. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit means that one blasphemes the joyous gifts that God offers. To grieve means to sadden. This is an entirely different tone of admonishment and warning than the better understood strictures against sins and against disbelieving or disrespecting God. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit means a deliberate effort to sadden God by blaspheming the part of God that bestows blessings and who saves souls. That is what is so dire and unforgiveable, that Jesus took pains to explain, contrasting that offense with sins and blasphemy against him himself, which he declares to be forgivable. When one blasphemes Jesus Christ, as stupid and ungrateful as it is, it is not singling out the portion of God who bestows blessings for one’s bile. When one blasphemes the Holy Spirit, one is shoving back into God’s face, with the intention to cause him sadness and, in brief, not only reject but mock and scorn most specifically the blessings and the salvation that he offers through the Holy Spirit. That is what makes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit totally unforgivable, and, as St Paul explains, forfeits one’s being sealed unto the day of redemption.

I hope that you have found this to be helpful.