Grieving the Holy Spirit, Part I
In Ephesians 4:30 (And don’t grieve the Holy Spirit with/in Whom you were sealed for the day of redemption), Paul gave a command. In the original language, we read: you, you stop grieving or offending the Holy Spirit. Or, cease what you are doing. Paul made the point: stop the habit of grieving the HS. Of what is he speaking?
The context of Ephesians 4 is critical for gaining a proper understanding of the passage. Paul spoke of relationships especially within the church. He was speaking of relationships and Church body life. He emphasized a fundamental choice: living for self vs. living for God (see Eph 4:1-2, 17-19). This choice is part of the great divide. After Adam’s sin, self took center stage. The person would always choose self unless there was an inner-man change. The believer was changed to please God but he is tempted to remain loyal to self.
- In verse 1 of chapter 4, Paul, as a prisoner of Christ, urged the people to live a life worthy of their calling (see Phil 1:27; Col 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12).
- In verses 2-3, he gave a general sketch of what that lifestyle and patterned way of living would look like for the believer: be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
- In verses 17-19, he gave an exhortation: that you must no longer live as Gentiles (unbelievers) do. Paul says DON’T.
- In verses 18-19, he offered a general description of how unbelievers conduct themselves: wrong thinking (futility of their minds), wrong desires (given over to sensuality, that is senses-driven and controlled wanting), and wrong actions (self pleasing at the expense of or in lieu of pleasing God and others).
Paul taught that unbelievers live as patterned self-pleasers in varying degrees. Self-pleasing comes in various forms and in various degrees. Self-motivated, self-directed self-grasping, and self-exaltation mark the patterned lifestyle of all unbelievers. However, Paul is speaking to believers – the congregation. A self-pleasing lifestyle carries over into the believer’s life because life after salvation is not a perfected life. That awaits heaven.
Paul’s call to live a life worthy of the Triune God had a dual exhortation. Paul centered his command on a put off –put on motif. It is a continuous and dynamic process of progressive sanctification. Notice verses 22-24. In the original language these verses are infinitives, not imperatives. The implication is not that believers should put off the old man and put on the new man. Rather, believers are in Christ. They have a relationship with Him (Gal. 2:20). Therefore, since they are in Christ, believers have had the old man put off – what they were as unbelievers. Moreover believers have put on the new man again because they are in Christ. This initial putting off and putting on is purely the work of the Holy Spirit. For believers, this dynamic which has occurred to and for him is true in principle but not in practice (see 2 Cor. 5:17; Rom. 6:9-11). Paul’s call is for believers to be what they are in Christ. They must and can because they are in Christ! Moreover, being in Christ means that every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
Paul goes on to describe the believer’s new lifestyle in terms of communication (4:25-32). Here are four summary rules regarding communication: be honest (v.25), keep current (v.26), attack the problem not the person (v.29), and act not react (v.31-32). Since the Church is the bride of Christ and God communicates with His Church via the Spirit and the Word, communication between believers is actually communication with God. Communication is God’s gift to mankind. Misuse of it is an attack on the Giver and grieves the Triune God. Moreover, God is a self-Revealer and self-Communicator in His Son and in His word by His Holy Spirit. He expects and deserves God-centered communication between believers and God and between fellow believers. This way of communication is part of the put off and put on process.
With that background, we turn our attention to Ephesians 4:30. I think it is best to translate the original term for grieve as to offend (see Romans 14:15 for a similar use). Scripture makes clear that believers are sinning saints and saved sinners. This side of heaven every believer sins. In the context of self-pleasing, the believer offends the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a person. When you offend him, you offend the Triune God. The Holy Spirit takes any offense against the Trinity personally.
- When is the last time you grieved/offended the Holy Spirit?
- What were the circumstances?
- In the area of interpersonal relationships and communication, how have you used your words to glorify God and bless the other person?
Grieving the Holy Spirit, Part II
The New Testament
The negative command not to grieve the Holy Spirit given in Ephesians 4:30 is one of a kind. There is no other command like it in New Testament. As we learned in the first blog, the exhortation was given to the Church in the area of relationships and communication (see the rules of communication – Ephesians 4:25-32). Paul taught then and now that relationships matter and communication is a gift and tool to grow relationships vertically (Godward) and horizontally (man-ward). The life of the Church body depended and depends on godly communication. This makes perfect sense when you remember that the church and the individual believer are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19-20; 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1; 1 Peter 2:4-9; Rom. 8:9,11; 2 Tim. 1:14; Jam. 4:5).
When a believer sins against another believer, he is sinning against the Holy Spirit who indwells both. Grieving the Holy Spirit carries a definite personal touch to it. The Holy Spirit did not humble Himself as Christ did. Jesus took on human flesh and became what He was not – the God-man. The Bible does not speak of the Holy Spirit’s humiliation. But consider what is at stake by Paul’s exhortation. Functionally, the Holy Spirit applies the merits and blessings of Christ’s redemptive work. He personally indwelt Christ and He indwells the Church and individual believers. In the new heaven and the new earth, the Trinity will be reunited so to speak. Salvation is a glorious Intratrinitarian activity Eph. 2:18; 3:12). What the Triune God did in saving a people for Himself is simply stupefying and magnificent. An attack on one member of the Trinity is an attack on the whole.
The Holy Spirit has personal distinctions. He is a person and not an abstraction or a force. Man is the image of the Triune God and not the other way. The Holy Spirit is God, is called God, does the works of God, and receives honor as God. There is an affective aspect to the Godhead including the Holy Spirit. Our God is a jealous God and protective of His name (Exodus 20:5, 7). He is offended (Gen. 6:6). The jealousy of God mandates exclusive and singular devotion to God by His creatures. As a holy God, He is the just Judge of the world (Gen. 18:25; Heb. 12:18-24). He will right all wrongs. He is establishing His kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace.
God sent his Holy Spirit to Christ (Isa. 11:1-5), to the Church, and to the individual believer. Christ, anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, will return as the just Judge of all the earth. Further, the Holy Spirit came to earth to regenerate, to enlighten, and to illumine believers. The Light, Jesus Christ, came into the world and the Holy Spirit turned on the light in the world and in the heart of every believer (John 1: 5, 7, 11; Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21).
The Spirit is called Holy because He is set apart. Yet He indwells His church and His people. The term holy carries the idea of otherness and separateness. The word relates to purity. The holiness and purity is the basis for the first exile – Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden. The words and concept means that God is untouchable and far removed from his creation in His very essence and nature. Yet, He approached His creation and especially His Church and believers in his Son. Therefore, believers approach God and enjoy fellowship with Him because of the indwelling Holy Spirit as He applies the work of Christ.
The Church and the believer are to be ever mindful of the Holy Spirit’s presence and influence (Eph. 5:15-18). In these latter passages, Paul gave the Church direction as how not to grieve the Spirit. Paul began with a warning: be careful regarding your patterned manner of life (v.15). Paul wanted the people to catch the big picture. All believers had a patterned way of lifestyle as unbelievers. It was characterized as “I want,” “me-first,” “my rights,” and “please me.” Paul taught that the lingering influence of membership in Satan’s kingdom was still formidable – in the Church and in the believer. Note well: the problem was and is within, as well as outside. By virtue of their union with Christ and the indwelling Holy Spirit, they were to redeem the time on this earth as wise people rather than as fools (v. 16-17). The word translated as redeem is related to the Greek marketplace and indicates a buying back or out of. It is the picture of what Christ did at the cross – He paid the ransom price. Similarly the believer is to use his time as a down payment on pleasing the Triune God.
In verse 18, Paul gave an antidote for grieving the Holy Spirit. Be drunk with the Holy Spirit and not with wine. Paul drew attention to wine’s comprehensive and all-pervasive influence. In like manner, the effects of the presence of the Holy Spirit are to be in evidence. The Church and the believer are to be so motivated, influenced, and governed by the presence of the Holy Spirit that the Church as a body and individual believers are becoming more like Christ in thoughts, desires, and actions (Eph. 4:1-2). The Holy Spirit is burdened and grieved when there is anything less than growth in Christlikeness. His indwelling would be for naught.
In Ephesians 5:19-21, Paul described a general way what pleasing God will look like in body life. Believers are to speak to one another, rejoicing in their hearts, and giving thanks. Discontent and ingratitude grieve and burden the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:14-17). Please notice that all the passages mentioned emphasize communication, both vertically and horizontally.
- Please write your view of the Holy Spirit.
- How do His presence in you and the Church influence you at home and in congregation? What changes do you need to make in terms of relationships?
- Please read Isaiah 63:10 and Psalm 78:40-41, 56-58 in preparation to study the Old Testament’s view of grieving the Holy Spirit.
Grieving the Holy Spirit, Part III
The Old Testament
The book of Isaiah unveils in large degree the fullness of God’s justice and judgment, and God’s salvation – mercy and love. Yahweh is the Holy One of Israel; the phrase is used some 26 times throughout the book (only six times elsewhere in the Old Testament). As the holy One of Israel He must judge and punish rebellious people. The book of Isaiah catalogues Israel’s rebellion. They were an idolatrous group who chose self over Yahweh. They trusted in self and called good evil and evil good (Isa. 5:20). The first 35 chapters address Yahweh’s judgment on Israel.
Yet the Holy One of Israel is a compassionate God. His compassion is a major subject of chapters 40-66. God redeems His people (35:9; 41:14). The redemption points back to the “old” exodus and points ahead to the “new” exodus which ultimately points to Christ (Isa. 43:2, 16-19; 52:10-12; Luke 9:51; John 14:1-3). The New Testament picks up Isaiah’s theme of the proper way for the exiles to return (Isaiah 11:16; 40:3; 57:14; 62:10 and Matthew 3:1-3; Mark 1:2-3; Luke 3:4-6; John 1:23). Repentance is the key. Repentance by definition is a change in thinking which leads to a change in desire and action.
It is in the context of the continued call to repent that Isaiah pled for Yahweh to remember and keep His covenant promise of redemption. Isaiah holds out Yahweh’s kindness and steadfastness in the face of Israel’s patterned rebellion: Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them (Isa. 63:10). In rebellion and in contradistinction to Yahweh’s goodness and long-suffering, the people rebelled. In the place of gratitude, joy, and obedience, there was self-pleasing. The people were at enmity with their Creator, Benefactor, and Deliverer. At the time of the exodus from Egypt, Yahweh warned the people: don’t rebel (Exodus 23:21). But they did and repeatedly! (17:1ff; 32:1ff).
In the Old Testament, it is clear that the Holy Spirit is alive and well. He is a person distinct from the Father and the Son. He is one with the Father and the Son so that the Trinity is at work in both the Old and New Testaments.
By virtue of the people’s rebellion and on the basis that Yahweh is the just Judge of all the earth, God became what He was not before – an enemy who fought against His firstborn son, Israel (Exodus 4:22-24). His righteous judgment ushered forth from His holiness and righteousness. Yahweh is King who is establishing His kingdom of righteousness, justice, and peace initially through the lesser David who pointed to the greater David, Jesus Christ, the true King and the true Israel. .
The book of Isaiah carried a twofold message: judgment and deliverance. When John the Baptist and Jesus came on the scene, they proclaimed that the kingdom of God was here and the only logical response for God’s people was repentance and faith (Mark 1:5; Matthew 3:2; 4:17). Salvation and judgment are linked. There are consequences for rejecting the Triune God, whether it is the Holy Spirit or the Son.
Grieving the Holy Spirit was a patterned way of life for the people of Israel. Acting contrary to the very nature of God is grieving the Holy Spirit. Acting contrary to what the believer is in Christ is grieving the Holy Spirit. All that is opposed to holiness and goodness opposes the Holy Spirit. In essence, pleasing-self is rebellion against God. It is highlighted by self-sufficiency, self-righteousness, self-trust, and self-exaltation. When self is king, there is no room for God and no fear of the Lord. We should not assume that rebellion against God is reserved only for the Israelites. No, grieving the Holy Spirit can be evidenced in the daily life of any believer. Being vigilant and aware of who God is and who you are is one antidote against grieving the Holy Spirit.
- Isaiah opened and closed his book (1:2 and 66:24) with an announcement of condemnation for those who rebelled. Write out your thoughts regarding Isaiah’s opening and closing.
- Examine yourself according to Hebrews 4:12 and record thoughts, desires, and actions that indicate rebellion against the Triune God.
- What is the answer for rebellion? Please base your answers on the first, second, and tenth commandments as given in Exodus 20:3-7, 17.