It is not only corrupt speech (Eph. 4:29) that grieves the Holy Spirit (30). Lying (25) grieves the Spirit, for He is the Spirit of truth. Sinful anger (26-27) grieves the Spirit, for He is the Spirit of self-control. Stealing (28) grieves the Spirit, for He is the Spirit who works and enables us to labour honestly. The verse after our text lists other sins which grieve the Spirit: "bitterness," "wrath," "anger," "clamour," "evil speaking" and "malice" (31). These things are abhorred by the heavenly dove and drive Him away from our breasts.
Notice that these sins are sins against our brothers and sisters in the church. Do not lie, "for we are members one of another" (25). Do not steal but work in order to help those who are in need (28). Use wholesome, not corrupt, speech "that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (29). Instead of "bitterness," "malice," etc., we must be "kind one to another" (31-32). Thus the prohibition of sinful anger (26-27) especially deals with our fellow saints in the church. If you go to bed at night without confessing the evil of wrath against your brother or sister, you are not only giving place to the devil (26-27), you are also giving him room to work destruction through you in the church, the body of Jesus Christ. And you are grieving the Spirit, the Spirit of love and communion.
At this someone might protest, "I was bitter only towards my sister; I spoke harshly only to my brother; I sinned only in a particular area of my life. I did not realize that the Holy Spirit was involved. I did not intend to grieve Him!" You did not intend to, but you did. We must use the truth of Ephesians 4:30 (in its context) to fight against our iniquities, realising that it is not only that "corrupt speech" and all these other things transgress the law but also that they grieve the blessed Spirit. Surely, we do not wish to treat the Holy Spirit unkindly or disrespectfully, or displease Him. We do not want Him to withdraw or depart from us with the comforts of the gospel of Christ. We need Him. We pray for His presence with us. We love Him as God’s Spirit and Christ’s representative, who makes us enjoy the blessings of the covenant of grace.
The result of grieving the Holy Spirit is not the loss of salvation, for this would overthrow the preservation and perseverance of the saints. We are God’s inviolable property—past, present and future—"ye are sealed unto the day of redemption" (30). The Spirit, personally, is this seal.
The result of grieving the Holy Spirit is the loss of our assurance. This is the rationale of the text: "And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." Grieving the Spirit results in His withdrawing from us His gracious operation of assurance as a seal (cf. Covenant Reformed News XII:8-9). Thus lying (25), sinful anger (26-27), stealing (28), corrupt speech (29), "bitterness," "wrath," "anger," "clamour," "evil speaking" and "malice" (31), as well as other sins, especially those against our fellow believers in the church, grieve the Spirit and cause us to lose our assurance.
Do you have assurance that you belong to Jesus Christ, that He died for your sins, that you were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, that you are His forever? If you do not, there is something wrong. Have you been grieving the Spirit by sinning against the saints? Repent, child of God, and believe in the power of the cross of Christ for forgiveness and sanctification!
When we grieve the Spirit, the Spirit grieves us; we are grieved too. You respond, "But Ephesians 4:30 does not say this!" Ah, but it logically follows. When we grieve the Spirit, He withdraws from us. Remember that He is the Comforter! Withdrawal of the Comforter means we lose comfort and thus experience sorrow and pangs of conscience—grief! Loss of assurance is itself grief. No longer convinced of the Father’s hearty love for you; not sure if you are His child; walking in spiritual darkness and coldness; what else is this but grief! It is grief too for your family, your fellow saints and your church’s office-bearers, who are to look after your spiritual health. Ultimately and by sheer grace, the Spirit brings us to the wholesome grief of true repentance!
When Christians become deeply backslidden, especially if, for example, they sinfully stop attending church for some time, their whole lives become ones of grief. The Bible remains unread; they lose all joy from the communion of the saints. They are filled with guilt, losing all comfort and becoming deeply miserable. Sometimes they even waste their time and make things worse by going to secular psychologists, who try to alleviate their guilt in humanistic ways rather than pointing them to the cross of Christ. The grieved Christian may even sink to the depths of blaming God: "Look at the mess I’m in, and He does not do anything for me!" What about the atoning death of His Son? Is this not the central thing that He has done for us? "Why does He not assure me of His love?" He has written it in blood in the Scriptures, which tell us that His love is experienced as we walk in the light. "But He does not hear my prayers!" But what are you asking for? What about coming to Him with words such as these: "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee." The Father’s arms are stretched out for you; the fatted calf is ready; you will experience once again the formerly grieved Spirit as a seal of assurance and the blessed Comforter!
- Volume: 11
- Issue: 19
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