In Ephesians 4:30, we are commanded, "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
This exhortation well accords with the Spirit’s being a person, even the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, for a stone or a blind, impersonal force cannot be grieved. Only a person, one possessed of reason and will, one who can think and choose as a moral agent, can be grieved.
This grieving of the Spirit must also be understood in the light of His Deity. Someone is grieved if they suffer sorrow or pain. Man grieves at the loss of a loved one. Believers grieve over their sins. We experience mental pain and sadness. But this does not apply to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, who is possessed of an infinite and unchangeable blessedness that admits of no diminution. In understanding the grieving of the Holy Spirit, we must not ascribe any imperfection to His glorious majesty.
So what then is it to grieve the Holy Spirit? First, we grieve the Holy Spirit when we do things that He hates. Here it is helpful to think of one human being grieving another: a child irritating his parents, a neighbour doing something you cannot stand, a foolish man speaking in a way his wife detests. And what is the one thing we do that grieves the Spirit? Sin and only sin. The Spirit loathes, detests and abhors the evil that we think and do. He hates our iniquities because they are contrary to His character as the spotlessly pure One, the One who is the personal consecration of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father. The Spirit abhors our transgressions because they oppose His work in us. His purpose with us and activity in us is to sanctify and cleanse us. So He cannot but loathe our filthiness, our perversity in jumping back into the mire of iniquity. He is the One who leads us according to the Word in paths of righteousness, crying, "This is the way; walk ye in it." So He detests our unfaithfulness if we (for a time) leave the way of obedience and walk in sin.
Second, we grieve the Holy Spirit when, because of our iniquities, He withdraws the sense of His gracious presence from us, until we are brought to repentance. We can understand this too from the realm of human relationships. You have an acquaintance who uses foul language; you admonish him; he fails to repent; you separate from him. Or you have a son still living in your home who walks openly and impenitently in gross sin, bringing great misery and distress upon your family. After your repeated and earnest rebukes fall upon deaf ears, you tell him that he must leave your home and get a house of his own.
The Holy Spirit is God’s love and covenant friendship in us personally. What does He do, when He sees us walking impenitently in sin? He hates it and withdraws from us His sweet presence, for the Spirit only fellowships with us as we walk in the light. He cannot continue to grant us comfort and peace while we live in sin, as if God approved of our wickedness and was not terribly offended, as if the Holy One of Israel has communion with unrighteousness!
You see this don’t you? You understand the seriousness of disobedience? You do not want to grieve the Spirit or see your children do so. How awful it is to grieve the Spirit: for Him to hate the way we live and to withdraw His comforting presence from us!
We read of God grieving in the days before the flood. Sin developed, especially through mixed marriages between the sons of the church and the daughters of the world (Gen. 6:2), and so God was "grieved" in His "heart" (6). He hated their wickedness (5) and sent the flood.
The other period particularly known for God’s being grieved is that of Israel’s wilderness wandering. "How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!" (Ps. 78:40). "Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest" (95:10-11). Isaiah 63 speaks of the same period and specifically states that the Holy Spirit was grieved: "But they rebelled, and vexed [i.e., grieved] his holy Spirit" (10).
But what about those things which are said to grieve the Holy Spirit in the immediate context of Ephesians 4:30? Notice that the text begins with "And," linking it to the preceding verse: "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (29). Foul speech, obscene language and malicious words are "corrupt," that is, putrid and rotten. Such talk grieves the Holy Spirit because He is the Spirit of life and purity. He cannot dwell at peace with one who speaks this way; He hates corrupt conversation and withdraws.
Some point out that the word "corrupt" in Ephesians 4:29 also carries the idea of "worthless." Why use worthless, corrupt and rotten talk, when you could be "edifying [others by your speech], that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (29)?
- Volume: 11
- Issue: 18
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851