Grieving the Spirit

“And don’t grieve God’s Holy Spirit, who sealed you for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). All believers have the potential to grieve the Holy Spirit, and all should know the seriousness of the consequence when we grieve Him.

The command “grieve not” is mh (me) lupeite (lupeite), a present active imperative, which means not to make sorrowful, affect with sadness, cause grief, or throw into sorrow. It is the same word used of the apostles’ sorrow over the forthcoming crucifixion of Christ (Matthew 17:23), the sorrow of the rich young ruler after he left Christ in unbelief (Matthew 19:22), the disciples’ sorrow that one of them would betray Christ (Matthew 26:22), Christ’s intense sorrow as He prayed in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37), Peter’s sorrow over Christ’s challenge of love and loyalty (John 21:17), the sorrow of the Corinthian church, which led to repentance (2 Corinthians 2:2, 4; 7:8-9, 11), the sorrow of believers over the death of loved ones (1 Thessalonians 4:13), and burden of heaviness produced by life’s trials (1 Peter 1:6). Note “grieve” is associated with love in Paul’s use of it.

For I wrote to you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you (2 Corinthians 2:4 NIV).

One can anger an enemy, but not grieve him. The Spirit who loves can be grieved, the deeper His love the greater His grief. Any sin will bring grief to the Spirit. In his commentary, Albert Barnes lists six kinds of sin.

1. Open and gross sins. They are particularly referred to here; and the meaning of Paul is, that theft, falsehood, anger, and kindred vices, would grieve the Holy Spirit, and cause him to depart.
2. Anger, in all its forms. Nothing is more fitted to drive away all serious and tender impressions from the mind than the indulgence of anger.
3. Licentious thoughts and desires. The Spirit of God is pure, and he dwells not in a soul that is filled with corrupt imaginings.
4. Ingratitude. We feel ingratitude more than almost anything else; and why should we suppose that the Holy Spirit would not feel it also?
5. Neglect. The Spirit of God is grieved by that. Often he prompts us to pray; he disposes the mind to seriousness, to the perusal of the Bible, to tenderness and penitence. We neglect those favored moments of our piety, and lose those happy seasons for becoming like God.
6. Resistance. Christians often resist the Holy Ghost. He would lead them to be dead to the world; yet they drive on their plans of gain. He would teach them the folly of fashion and vanity; yet they deck themselves in the gayest apparel. He would keep them from the splendid party, the theatre, and the ballroom; yet they go there. All that is needful for a Christian to do, in order to be eminent in piety, is to yield to the gentle influences which would draw him to prayer and to heaven.

Preceding and following the command “not to grieve the Holy Spirit,” Paul wrote about the use of the speech: speaking truthfully, not letting any unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, brawling, slander, any form of malice (Ephesians 4:25-29, 31). Such speech grieves the Spirit. Paul also mentions bitterness, rage and anger, which are opposites of love.

The seriousness of grieving the Holy Spirit is clear from Yahweh’s response to it.

But they rebelled, and grieved His Holy Spirit. So He became their enemy and fought against them (Isaiah 63:10).

John Wesley wrote on Ephesians 4:30, “Do not force him to withdraw from you, as a friend does whom you grieve by unkind behavior.” Surely, the seal of the Holy Spirit is broken, null and void, if Yahweh becomes one’s enemy. Such was the case for the Israelites in the desert, who grieved Yahweh (cf. Psalm 78:40; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13).

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