“And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Ephesians 4:30
Many Christians know little about the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and particularly about His ministry in their own lives. The Spirit of God is an important theme in Scripture, all the way from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22, but the ignorance of even Bible-readers concerning Him is stunning. Of course, we are taught that He is the Author of the Bible (2 Peter 1:20-21), and yet Bible-believers often suffer from their lack of understanding concerning His person and His work.
Perhaps it was the proliferation of false doctrine about the Spirit in the twentieth century that caused orthodox folks to shy away from the Third Person of the Trinity. Whatever the reason for it, the absence of right teaching and learning about Him has damaged the lives and ministries of many good people. However, a working knowledge of His ministry in and to believers in Christ is not hard to obtain. Certainly the book of Ephesians can give any saint such a working knowledge, and much can be drawn from the simple command in the fourth chapter that we not grieve the Spirit.
Ephesians 1 teaches us that we were “sealed” with the Holy Spirit when we “believed” (read verses 12–14). This means that the moment the sinner trusts Christ for his salvation, the Spirit that has been reproving him and drawing him to Christ comes to live in his body and he is regenerated (see John 3:3–8, Romans 8:9–11, 1 Corinthians 6:19–20, and Titus 3:3–6). The logical order of the process as given in this passage is (1) hearing the Gospel, (2) trusting in Christ, and (3) being sealed with the Spirit. This is the logical order, although not strictly the chronological order, because all three may happen at once! Verse 14 says that the presence of the Spirit in our lives is “the earnest [pledge or security] of our inheritance,” our down-payment on Heaven! We have God’s Spirit in our lives from the moment we are saved until we go to glory. What do we know about the indwelling Spirit?
The Holy Spirit Is a Person
Ephesians 4:30 warns us not to “grieve” the Holy Spirit. The Greek word translated grieve in this verse means to distress someone, or to make someone sad. The Someone being grieved in Ephesians 4 is the Holy Spirit, and He is a person. A power cannot be grieved, nor can a feeling. The Holy Spirit is not a power or a feeling; He is a person. The Bible is clear about this.
When Jesus spoke of the Spirit in His discourse on the subject recorded in John 14 through 16, He spoke of Him as a person.
“…he shall teach you all things…” (John 14:26)
“…he shall testify of me…” (John 15:26)
“…when he is come, he will reprove the world…” (John 16:8)
“…he will guide you into all truth…” (John 16:13)
“He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (John 16:14)
The book of Acts tells us that the Spirit speaks (see Acts 1:16, 8:29, and 13:2). Romans 8:27 speaks of “the mind of the Spirit.” First Corinthians 2 says, “The Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (verse 10) and “the Holy Ghost teacheth” (verse 13). First Corinthians 12 speaks of the Spirit’s will (verse 11). Second Corinthians 13 speaks of “the communion of the Holy Ghost,” giving us the impression that one can commune with the Spirit, person-to-person. Hebrews 10:29 says that men can insult the Spirit. First John 4:2 says that the Spirit of God, “Confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.” And the last chapter of the Bible affirms that the Spirit invites sinners to come to Jesus (Revelation 22:17).
Over and over again the Word of God describes the mind, the will, the emotions, and the activities of the Holy Spirit as it would speak of the nature and work of a person. The Holy Spirit is indeed a person, the Third Person of the trinity, and He came to live inside you when you trusted Christ as your Saviour!
The Holy Spirit Has Emotions
By definition, a person has mind, will, and emotions. As a person, God the Spirit feels. In Ephesians 4:30 He is said to grieve. In Romans 15:30 He is said to love.
Several good emotions felt by Christians are the “fruit” (product) of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). When you compare the peace promised in that verse with Philippians 4:6–7, you find that it is God’s own peace (as in John 14:27) that He lets us feel. James 4:5 says “The Spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy,” echoing the Old Testament passages that describe God as jealous (such as Exodus 20:5 and 34:14). The Holy Spirit is God and possesses all of the emotions that God has.
When Our Actions and Attitudes Conflict with His, the Spirit of God Is Grieved
The words before and after Ephesians 4:30 tell us when and for what reason the Holy Spirit is grieved.
“Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice…”
Corrupt words, bitterness of heart, anger, loud arguing, critical speech, and wicked malice are examples of what grieves the Spirit. These attitudes and the actions they generate contradict the feelings of the Holy Spirit, and in this way they grieve Him. He loves the people we hate, and desires to edify the ones we want to hurt. In a sense, it is hard for Him to live in us when we live sinfully.
Notice that although the Spirit is grieved, He isn’t going to leave! By Him we are sealed until the completion of our salvation (“the day of redemption”). His presence within believers has sometimes caused them to wish He would leave, or at least leave them alone, when they are grieving Him. But He is not going away until Jesus comes. This means that when Christians are doing wrong, going wrong places, participating in wrong things, saying wrong things, thinking wrong things, and even feeling wrong feelings, the Holy Spirit of God has to endure it all.
Unfortunately, the only thing many Christians can tell you the Spirit does for them is rebuke them when they sin. This is curious and interesting since nearly everything the New Testament says about the ministry of the Spirit to believers is positive! Yet many only know Him in a negative, rebuking way. Can it be that great numbers of those in God’s family today are grieving the Spirit every day, and seldom know by experience His comforting, leading, empowering, and enlightening work? Their actions and attitudes are in conflict with Him most of the time, and He is grieved. So many think this is what the Christian life is like! But they are wrong.
When We Begin Cooperating with the Spirit, He Helps Us Feel His Feelings
Notice the big change that comes to the believer when he puts away his bad attitudes and actions. Verse 31 tells us to put them all away, and then verse 32 says,“Be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
It is as big a change as the one described in the verses that follow the command in Ephesians 5:18 to “be filled with the Spirit:”
“Speaking to yourselves in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Ephesians 5:19–20
This is the transformation we are to expect in the lives of those who choose to be filled with the Spirit instead of choosing to indulge in the excesses of drunkenness (look at verse 18 again). Can Christian people just switch from malice to kindness (chapter 4), or from drunkenness to the fear of God (chapter 5)?
Yes, they can, when they stop contradicting the Spirit and start cooperating with Him. It is the Holy Spirit in the Christian that will enable him to do the right thing and even feel the right way!
The Christian life is not really a saved person trying to imitate Christ. It is the life of Christ lived through the life of a Christian (Galatians 2:20). This is possible only because, through the indwelling of the Spirit, Jesus Christ actually lives in us! And when we stop grieving the Spirit by contradicting Him, and start cooperating with Him, relying on Him to give us His holiness and His feelings, we find out what it is to be filled with the Spirit!
Apologize to the Spirit for grieving Him by harboring attitudes and feelings so contrary to His nature. Put such sinful things away by repenting of them. Then tell Him that you want to harmonize with His interests and that you are yielding your life to His control. If appropriate, confess that your nature is to be selfish, while His is to be kind; yours is to harbor bitterness, while His is to be tenderhearted; and yours is to speak evil of others, while His is to forgive. Now you are able to start cooperating with Him instead of contradicting Him.
Move from being simply sealed with the Spirit, through grieving the Spirit, to being filled with the Spirit this very day.