Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit of God
Yesterday, dear reader, I called our attention to a negative command that the Apostle has given Christians concerning the Holy Spirit: "do not quench the Spirit" (1 Thess 5:19). The second negative command that Christians are given in Scripture concerning the Holy Spirit comes in Ephesians 4:30, "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed unto the day of redemption."
Concerning the command, "do not quench the Spirit," I argued that violation of this prohibition occurs through sins of omission. As demonstrated by an examination of the verses immediately before and after Ephesians 4:30, grieving the Holy Spirit occurs through sins of commission. The command against grieving the Holy Spirit occurs in a paragraph that focuses on putting aside ungodly and harmful speech, but it also includes prohibitions on stealing and harboring anger (Eph 4:26-27). We grieve the Holy Spirit of God when we act in ways that are contrary to His character.
The Spirit's Work: Our Motivation for Obedience
Our motivation for being careful to not grieve the Holy Spirit of God lies in a recognition of what the Holy Spirit has done for us, is doing for us, and will do for us who are trusting in Christ Jesus. The Spirit sealed us [past tense] by grace through faith (Eph 2:8). This sealing preserves us in a state of God's grace in the present and it will last forever into the future: unto the day of redemption, when we will finally be set free from the presence and all effects of sin due to the sacrifice of Christ made on our behalf. A seal set by the sovereign hand of God cannot be broken by the 'free-will' of Man.
Warnings and Assurance
The New Testament, indeed, contains 'warning passages' against falling away into sin (e.g. Heb 6:4-6; 10:26-27). In Ephesians 5, following the command against grieving the Holy Spirit of God-and just before the command to be filled by the Spirit (Eph 5:18)-the Apostle Paul issues the following warning: For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Eph 5:5 ESV). I would argue that the primary purpose of such passages is that professing believers make their calling and election sure (1 Pet 1:10): that those who claim to follow Christ would strive to make certain that they are "good soil" and not shallow or weed-choked soil (see Matt 13:1-23). As the Apostle John makes clear, "If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth"(1 John 1:6). A person whose course of life is normally characterized by a disregard for God's law (1 John 3:4), whose life regularly bears "bad fruit" (Matt 7:17-19), should not imagine that he or she is right with God.
However, lest believers fall into despair over the realization that we still fall short of God's glory, the Apostle John declares to Christians, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:8-9 ESV). The believer-the person who confesses sins (1 John 1:9) and delights in the law of the LORD (Psa 1:2), even imperfectly-can experience assurance: confident hope that he or she will persevere in faith. This assurance comes not through our own will or works, but through a trust in the sealing power of the Holy Spirit.
Believers are commanded to not grieve the Holy Spirit of God. We are warned to make sure that the Holy Spirit has indeed done a saving work in our lives. We are motivated by a consideration of the Spirit's activity in our salvation. But we are never threatened with the possibility that the Holy Spirit-though grieved-will remove His presence from us entirely. Anyone who has truly trusted in Christ and who has been sealed by the Holy Spirit of God will remain sealed unto the day of redemption.
The Holy Spirit in Redeemed Sinners
The sealing of the Holy Spirit in a believer's life is closely associated with the concept of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in a believer's life. This is the New Covenant promise that the LORD makes with His people: "I will put my Spirit within you" (Eze 36:27). John 20:22 records that Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon His apostles. After Jesus' ascension, the Father-upon the Son's request and in the Son's name (John 14:16, 26)-sent the Holy Spirit: first to the apostles, to empower them for authoritative Gospel witness (John 14:26; 15:26-27), then to all believers. Now each Christian has the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit: "if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Rom 8:9b KJV).
Notice that in this last verse the Holy Spirit-called the Holy Spirit of God in Ephesians 4:30-is also called the Spirit of Christ. In John 14, Jesus says that the Father will send the Spirit; in John 15:26, Jesus says that He will send the Spirit from the Father. A comparison of these passages points to the grand theological reality of filioque: that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Proceeding from the Father and the Son, the indwelling Holy Spirit brings us into the relationship of spiritual union between the Father and the Son (John 17:20-26). When believers are indwelled by the Holy Spirit and sealed by the Holy Spirit, we are graciously taken up into the eternal relationship existing between the Persons of the blessed Trinity, and thus we are made to become partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). Why, then, would we ever choose to grieve the Holy Spirit?!?
Yet we may grieve Him. The impassible Holy Spirit of God has condescended to place Himself in such a position that He may-in some real way-be grieved by those whom He has chosen to indwell and seal. That the Holy Spirit has come to dwell within redeemed sinners is a precious, breathtakingly miraculous truth, as C.H. Spurgeon noted:
The incarnation is an infinite mystery of love, but we believe it. Yet, if it were possible to compare one great wonder with another, I would say that God's dwelling in His people and that repeated ten thousand times over is even more marvelous. That the Holy Spirit should dwell in millions of redeemed men and women is a miracle not surpassed by our Lord's adoption of human nature.
Our Lord's body was perfectly pure, and the Godhead, while it dwelt in His holy manhood, did at least dwell with a perfect and sinless nature. However, the Holy Spirit bows Himself to dwell in sinful men. He dwells in men who, after their conversions, still find the flesh warring against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. He dwells in men who are not perfect though they strive to be so. These men have to mourn their shortcomings and even to confess with shame a measure of unbelief. "I will put my Spirit within you" (Eze 36:27) means that the Holy Spirit is in our imperfect nature. Wonder of wonders! Yet, it is as surely a fact as it is a wonder. [Charles Spurgeon, Holy Spirit Power (New Kinsington, PA: Whitaker House, 1996), 122-123.]"[T]he Holy Spirit is in our imperfect nature." The Holy Spirit has sealed us until that glorious day in which our imperfect nature will be perfected in the image of Christ. Therefore, out of gratitude for the Spirit's work, out of love for the Spirit and respect for His holy presence in our lives, let us be careful to not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
Labels: Bible study