Honouring the Spirit

“Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…” (Ephesians 4:30)

Bible Reading: Ephesians 4:30

Amid instructions about very practical patterns of living, the apostle Paul inserts a pointed instruction about not grieving the Holy Spirit. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God,” he writes, “by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).

Paul first mentions the Holy Spirit in the opening chapter of his letter (1:13, 14). In affirming that his (largely) Gentile readers were included “in Christ” when they believed the gospel, he adds that they have been “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it…” (1:13, 14). Later he mentions that they have been built into a “dwelling place for God by the Spirit” (2:22), strengthened in the inward man “by the Spirit” (3:16), and formed into a single body by the Spirit (4:3).

Possessing the Spirit and being led by and filled with the Spirit, is central to Paul’s understanding of our new life in Christ (see Romans 8:9-16; Galatians 5:16-25). He thinks of the Spirit not simply as a force, but as a person, the third person of the Godhead. And in keeping with that, he warns his readers not to “grieve” him.

We “grieve” a person when we act in ways that cause them deep sorrow or personal offence. We can do this to the indwelling Holy Spirit in any number of ways. We grieve him when we wilfully (and unintentionally) sin. We grieve him when we resist his influences within us. We grieve him when we forget him and fail to depend upon him in our daily lives.

A grieved person is affected in the depths of their spirit. Grief causes them to withdraw, and it saps their energy and interest in life. It can make them self-pitying and inward-looking. While we mustn’t suppose that the Holy Spirit responds exactly the way that we do when we grieve (he cannot sin in his grief as we commonly do), it is common in the Scriptures to see God withdrawing his influences from people when they offend him. And we may suppose that happens with his Spirit who has come to indwell us. When we grieve the Spirit, we suffer the loss of his joy, peace, power and love in our souls.

This is serious not simply on account of what we lose by it, but given the special role of the Spirit in our lives. He “seals” us for the day of redemption. That is to say, he secures us and marks us out as God’s chosen heirs until we enter into full possession of our inheritance. The Spirit gives us a foretaste of the glory to come and preserves us until that day.

How tragic when we treat him lightly, failing to honour and reverence him as we should. We must be ready to put to death anything in our lives that would cause him to grieve and hinder his powerful working within us.

Closing Thoughts:

  • Have you been conscious of grieving the Holy Spirit on specific occasions?
  • How important is it to you that the Spirit constantly fills, leads and empowers you?

– Andrew Young