I am convinced God’s admonition to the church at Ephesus is of absolute importance to each of us: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
What does Paul mean by grieving the Holy Spirit and why does it take on such importance?
First, the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead and is the constant presence in our lives. He is the comforter who comes alongside us and leads us in the ways and paths of God. In short, we need God’s Holy Spirit.
Second, the passage affirms that we use the correct language when we speak of the third person of the Godhead. Only a person can be grieved. A person hurts, feels, experiences. The Holy Spirit is God’s personal presence in our lives.
Third, the word grieve means to cause pain, sorrow, or distress. We should think of this in real terms. Each of us has experienced some grief in life. Where do you feel it most? For me, it is in the pit of my stomach. We grieve at loss or wrong actions by others, especially those who are dearest to us. For example, think of the parents of thieves or murderers. Do those parents grieve? When Paul speaks of our grieving the Holy Spirit, he was giving this kind of picture.
The context of this passage makes it clear what kind of actions grieve the Holy Spirit. While any sin and rebellion would cause pain, the Spirit especially grieves when our language fails to reflect His truth. He is the Spirit of Truth and any misuse of speech grieves Him (Ephesians 4:29). He is also hurt by disunity since He is the One Spirit (Ephesians 2:18; 4:4).
In addition, unholiness always grieves Him. “In fact, anything incompatible with the purity or unity of the church is incompatible with his own nature and therefore hurts him” (John Stott).
Finally, the reference to being sealed for the day of redemption speaks of the beginning of our life in Christ and the last day when our bodies will be redeemed. John Stott speaks of the significance of not grieving the Holy Spirit: “And in between these two termini we are to grow in Christlikeness and to take care not to grieve the Holy Spirit. For the Holy Spirit is a sensitive Spirit. He hates sin, discord and falsehood, and shrinks away for them. Therefore, if we wish to avoid hurting him, we shall shrink from them too. Every Spirit-filled believer desires to bring him pleasure, not pain.”
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