Today the church of Jesus Christ celebrates one of the richest experiences she has ever had: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
It was for the Holy Spirit that everything else was. Christ was born, died, arose again in order that He might pour out all of His salvation through the Holy Spirit upon us. The Holy Spirit is given in order that He might dwell in us and bring all the blessings of Christ to us. The great thing in Christianity is that we have the Spirit of our Lord, the Holy Spirit. To be a Christian, one has to be given the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
I want to consider with you one of the biblical exhortations concerning the Holy Spirit. It is found in Ephesians 4:30. We read: “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”
In Ephesians 4 the apostle Paul has been talking to us about sanctification. Sanctification simply means “to be made holy.” Paul has been talking about the holy life that the believer is to live. Specifically he has been calling us to put off the old man, that is, our sinful lusts, and to put on the new man, the man that is created in Jesus Christ. Verse 30 in this chapter is a climax. It is really a capstone. The heart of all of our sanctified, our holy living must center in this consideration: we must not grieve the Holy Spirit of God who has been given to us.
The apostle Paul, then, does not make his appeal to a holy life simply by saying, “Well, if you live a holy life it will be for your good and benefit.” The motivation is not simply that this would be very nice if you would do this. But he says, in effect, that there is one thing that can hold the center of our attention as children of God, and that is that the Holy Spirit has been given to us. This must propel us unto a holy life.
This is a very strong exhortation, or calling, in the sacred Word of God. Grieve not the Spirit, the Spirit of God. The first thing we want to understand is that the basis for this exhortation is the truth that the Holy Spirit is in the believer; He dwells in us, according to the Bible.
If we do not understand that, we will never know the sense of this Word of God. The Holy Spirit is not outside of the believer. But He is given to take up his residence within the believer. No man can be a Christian unless this is so. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). Again, the apostle reminds us of this truth in I Corinthians 3:16, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” Once more, in I Corinthians 6:19, it is put like this: “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” The Bible considers it part of common knowledge among believers that God has placed His Spirit in them, making their bodies the temples of the Holy Spirit. Now think of that! What an honor! What grace of God! What a calling! God the Holy Spirit dwells in us, in body and in mind. Therefore our body and our mind are not for sin, but for the glory of God.
Now this Word of God points out to us that the Holy Spirit is not only in us, but that His presence seals us unto the day of redemption. The apostle Paul says in Ephesians 4:30 that it is by the Holy Spirit that we are sealed unto the day of redemption. A seal is an official stamp or security, a mark of genuineness. And that means not only that the work of the Holy Spirit is to keep us unto the final day of redemption. That is true. By the power of the Holy Spirit God keeps us in faith, God brings us to repentance. The Spirit is our Guardian. He stands in unceasing watch over our souls, sealing us, keeping us unto the final day of our redemption when Christ comes. But the idea is even more. The idea is this: The Holy Spirit Himself is the guarantee of our redemption. His presence is the pledge of God of our complete, final, and glorious salvation when Christ comes again.
If you turn back with me to Ephesians 1:13, you will find the Bible explaining this. We read there, “In whom (that is, in Christ) ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, (and now, note these words!) ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.” That we have the Holy Spirit in us means that God has given to us the pledge that we are marked out for final and glorious redemption. How do I know that I shall be redeemed from the grave? How can I be assured that I will partake of that glory of Christ in the final kingdom? The answer is this: He has given the Holy Spirit to be in me. And that Holy Spirit can never be withdrawn from me. Thus, when God sends His Spirit into our hearts, He gives to us the pledge of final glory.
In the light of all of this comes the word: Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. The word “grieve” means: “to cause pain, to hurt, to cause sorrow, to sadden.” That is an amazing statement. There is a mystery here that cannot be fully explained, but is nevertheless true. I say it is amazing, because the Bible very clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit is God. He is not a part of God. He is not an influence or power of God working in us. But He is fully and eternally God. There is a great mystery that confronts us here. The Bible plainly teaches that God is the independent one. God exists in Himself and is not dependent upon anything outside of Himself. That also means not only that God is not dependent upon us or upon the world for His existence, but, in the ultimate sense, that He is not affected by them at all. You and I are constantly affected by the things that happen to us. That is why we give place to anger or fall into depths of grief and our moods swing. But God is all-sufficient. Nothing can be added to Him. Nothing can be subtracted from Him. He dwells in a perfect light. He abides unchangeably at peace with Himself. His being remains forever blessed and tranquil and glorious. He rejoices in Himself as the blessed God.
Yet, not contradicting that, stands this word of God: Grieve not the Spirit of God. Do not hurt, do not disappoint, do not sadden the Holy Spirit of God. That means that, in His tender mercy, our God, as it were, stoops to our level and displays His compassion. Though He is indeed the high and the lofty one, yet He hath regard unto us. His blessed heart is filled with compassion. Thus He grieves, He is saddened when we walk in the way of sin and pride. The Son of God, we are told, took upon Him our human nature so that He knows our weaknesses and is touched with all of our feelings. And now we are told concerning the Holy Spirit of God, who is given of God to reside within us and to work the blessings of salvation, that it is possible to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, to hurt Him, to disappoint Him. That is a revelation here of God. The Spirit of God, who is God blessed forever and thus dwells unaffected in perfect peace, nevertheless can be grieved by us.
That is because the relationship that He has established with us is a bond of love. Romans 5:5, “And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad (or poured abroad) into our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” The Holy Spirit of God loves us and creates, in the believer, love for God. That is the bond that God has made. To grieve always implies the relationship of love. The child whom you love grieves you when he walks in a sinful way. The mighty God dwells in us by His Holy Spirit in a bond of love. Thus, when a Christian sins, and we must be conscious of this, we have sinned against the love of God. The Spirit of God dwells in our body and in our mind as His temple. He has been given to bind me unto God in cords of love. And He knows my every action, my every thought, my every way. It is possible for me to grieve Him, to sadden, to disappoint Him.
Grieve not the Spirit of God. That is the great concern of the Christian life. Is it your concern?
We ask the question, How? The answer is very plain. We grieve the Holy Spirit of God by doing anything that is not holy, anything of the flesh, anything of sin. Obviously the apostle Paul has been detailing for us in chapter 4 those things which grieve the Holy Spirit. He has been talking about anger, wrath, malice, evil-speaking, clamour, bitterness among the saints. He has been speaking of dirty communication. He has been speaking of an unforgiving spirit. When we say, “Well, I’m just going to tell someone off; I’m going to say what I want; I’m going to bring up rumor; I’m going to delve into gossip. It doesn’t matter. That is not so bad.” Oh, no! You grieve the Holy Spirit of God. The actions and the deeds of our flesh, the work of the flesh as the Bible in Galatians 5 speaks of them – drunkenness, uncleanness, adultery, greed, covetousness, strife, wrath – these are not sins which you may consider simply like water which rolls off your back and then simply soothe your conscience on the confession that Christ forgives and someday you are going to change and not do these things. Oh, no! If you are a believer, you grieve the Holy Spirit of God!
But it is not just our deeds or just our words. It is those things for sure. But, you see, the Holy Spirit hears and sees and understands not only what we say and do, but our every thought. You and I can grieve Him by our thoughts. Are any of our thoughts, our most covered and secret thoughts, hidden from the Holy Spirit? No. The devil trips us up here. We say, “But I don’t do those things. I didn’t say that!” Perhaps we do not do that and do not say it because we want to maintain a very good opinion about ourselves. But have you thought it? Do you enjoy it? Has it played itself out in your imagination? Have you imagined it all before the stage of your mind? Then you have grieved the Holy Spirit. An unworthy thought, a thought of anger, a thought of envy, grieves and hurts the Holy Spirit of God. In our thoughts we must be governed by this truth.
But there is more. We can grieve the Holy Spirit when we fail to realize His presence in us. By failing to honor Him, to live moment by moment conscious that He is within me, I can grieve Him. You know what this means. One way to grieve other people is to slight them – when you do not acknowledge them, when you walk right by as if they do not exist. You know how you feel if someone slights you. We can be very sensitive about this. We can even imagine that this is the case when most often it is not true. We can do that unintentionally. Your wife may spend the whole day cleaning the house and preparing a meal. Then you walk in unmindful. And how that grieves her. So it is with the Holy Spirit. Do you behave yourself as if He is not in you? As if He is not in the room? Do you go on a date, have a visit, engage in recreation, and think that He is far away? Do you let your hair down before Him? Do you honor Him? Do you, in your mind and heart, acknowledge Him? Listen to the Word of God. You are not just another person in this world, just a business man, a carpenter, a student, a mother with her kids. The Holy Spirit is in you. Do you think about that?
Still more. We can grieve the Holy Spirit when we do not follow His prompting but follow our own flesh. The Word of God says in Philippians 2:13 that God works in us to will and to do. But He works first of all in us to will. Do you allow your sinful flesh to destroy and to negate the promptings of God? Every good desire in us is of the Holy Spirit. He creates those things within us. He gives us the desire to read the Word of God, to pray. He brings to us the knowledge of our sin and leads us to repentance. Do you dampen that? Do you let your flesh postpone that?
Perhaps you felt something wrong with your life, some sinful thought, some deed, and you said, “I shouldn’t … spend my night in front of the TV night after night, but I ought to read and study the Word of God and be with my family and spend time with them.” And as you thought that, you wiggled a little more into your easy chair and you felt your bones sink in and those desires were not so strong anymore. Suddenly you convinced yourself that this could wait one more night. You will do it later. The Bible is on the night table, but you are too tired. Your earthly father left you an example of bending his knees in prayer at the close of the day. You often thought that you would like to do that, too. But you have never started. A good work comes to your mind, but you said that maybe it was not right time – I’ll just put that off.
Beloved, all of these things are not simply procrastination. That is grieving the Holy Spirit of God. And until we see it as such, by God’s grace, we are going to go on and on and on in our comfortable ways of sin, soothing and brushing and stroking our flesh. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God! Every holy desire is created by the Holy Spirit. Recognize His work. Walk in the Spirit of God.
Why must we do that? I could answer that question from our point of view. The answer of the Bible would be that we must not grieve Him because of our own enjoyment of salvation. If we grieve Him, inevitably it will lead to a loss of the gracious assurance of His presence within us. When we grieve Him, He will withdraw the confidence of His presence. That happened once to David in the Old Testament when he walked willfully in his own pride and sin. After that David had to pray, “Take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” That does not mean that God moves His Holy Spirit in and out of us. We do not go in and out of salvation. But when we grieve Him we do not have the sense of His presence, the sense of His love, the joy of salvation, the assurance, the certainty, and the peace. We do not have an open heaven when we pray. We cannot force our way upon God. When we walk in a way of unholiness, hatred, wrath, lust, envy, greed, anger, when we live mindless of the presence of the Holy Spirit, we become faint and our souls cannot sing of His praises. And all the tender visitations of His love and the preciousness of His Word and the comfort of prayer are removed from us.
Beloved in the Lord, I warn you and myself from the Word of God today – do not grieve Him, lest He bring upon you such experiences of spiritual darkness that you even question whether He is in you.
But there is another reason why we must not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. It is a reason that does not center in us. It is a reason that centers in God. Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God. Because of who He is and what He is. Because of His gracious presence. The greatness of His Person is enough. For example, you say to your son or daughter, “Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so are coming. They are very important people, so watch your behavior.” We do that in the earthly sense. Now listen. The Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit of God. We are in the presence of divine majesty! Behave yourself in His presence. Offer to Him every word and thought. Cast away your pride. Take your shoes from off your feet, God said to Moses, you stand on holy ground. Do not grieve Him. He is the pledge of final salvation. He is the assurance to you that when Jesus comes and destroys this world you will be glorified with Him. Therefore, you and I ought not grieve Him. His divine majesty necessitates that every day we start and end and center in this thought: “The Holy Spirit of God dwells within me. All that I do, all that I say, and all that I think, where I go – all is in His presence. Let me say nothing, let me think nothing that would in any way grieve Him. Let me be, even now, in all of my life, unto the praise of His grace.”
Is that your desire? To honor the Holy Spirit? To praise the Holy Spirit?
Do not grieve Him. He is the one whereby you, child of God, have been sealed unto the day of redemption.
God bless this word to our hearts.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for the gift of Thy Spirit. We pray that Thou wilt now apply that word to our hearts that we do not grieve Him, but that our thoughts and words and actions glorify Him. In Jesus’ name, Amen.