Updated: Sep 17, 2020
Our poll question: What does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit?
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you are sealed
for the day of redemption. - Ephesians 4:30 MEV
The Greek word lypeo (to make sorrowful, to affect with sadness or grief, offend, cause one unease), is used 26 times in the King James. The only scripture I can find that says Jesus "lypeo-ed" is referring to the Garden of Gethsemane when He "sweat as it were great drops of blood." That trauma certainly lends gravity to act of grieving the Holy Spirit.
In 1859, Charles Spurgeon said in a sermon on just this subject, "When I commit any offense, some friend who hath but little patience, suddenly snaps asunder his forbearance and is angry with me. The same offense is observed by a loving father, and he is grieved. There is anger in his bosom, but he is angry and he sins not, for he is angry against my sin; and yet there is love to neutralize and modify the anger towards me. Instead of wishing me ill as the punishment of my sin, he looks upon my sin itself as being the ill. He grieves to think that I am already injured, from the fact that I have sinned."
Your responses to the poll were awesome, both in number and in depth. I've found it quite difficult to convey them in a concise way, but here goes...
2 respondents had never heard of grieving the Holy Spirit - I found it interesting
that one was Baptist and the other Catholic.
Most respondents, when you boiled down their very thoughtful answers, concluded
that grieving the Holy Spirit means to be in willful and ongoing disobedience to the
the law, by thought and/or deed -- in other words, sinning and ignoring your conscience
about it. Some softened and pinpointed that train of thought by not calling it "sinning",
but rather going against the leading of the Spirit.
A couple of other responses:
- Rejecting Him, also insensitivity to how He wants to move in a corporate setting
- Hardheartedness, not accepting Jesus
- each time we choose to operate outside of the covenant and Kingdom life promises by
faith -- it is believing faith, and thankfulness that pleases God...
- conscious hardening towards the truth and the Holy Spirit is truth
I did not study this subject before polling you. I didn't study it at all, until now. What you're about to read is just me walking through Ephesians as I write, looking for the true definition of grieving the Holy Spirit, alongside you. We're in this together, so please comment below as you give this post some thought.
If you'll get your Bible out and read the chapter, since I'm not posting it all here, you'll see it begins with the words I therefore. So we need to see what it's there for! What is the impetus for chapter 4? The last two verses of Chapter 3:
Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all
that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all
ages, world without end. Amen. - Ephesians 3: 20,21 KJV
I therefore...beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation
wherewith ye are called,... - Ephesians 4:1 KJV
There's so much in Chapter 4. I'll just skim the high spots leading up to Verse 30.
The WHY of giving Him glory is in 3:20 -- it is a response to His ability to do exceeding abundantly more than we can even imagine, according to the power that works in us. (That condition would make an entire series of sermons -- I'm going to skip over that.) And note that He's supposed to have glory in the church -- that's us. I would say that Chapter 4 covers HOW we bring glory to Him, and it's primarily in how we grow into the proper way to treat each other in the body of Christ, which is the church. Chapter 4 speaks a lot about what it means to be in unity and how Christ provided for that. It speaks of how we are to become mature, like Jesus, by renewing our minds and walking as the new righteous and holy creations we became when we accepted Jesus. The last several verses show us that all in this chapter -- unity, maturing, renewal -- is expressed in our heart attitudes toward each other as we grow and are changed. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 13:35).
- Verse 28 of Ephesians 4 states that we should labor to ensure we have substance to
share with those in need.
- Verse 29 instructs us to speak only edifying words.
- Verse 30 is the verse in question, saying not to grieve the Holy Spirit.
- Verse 31 tells us to put away all negative emotions.
- Verse 32, the last of the chapter, tells us to be kind to each other and forgive because
we are forgiven.
I'm finding it hard to determine if the subject at hand, grieving Him, starts with Verse 29 -- are our words, when they don't build others up, what grieves the Holy Spirit? Or do Verses 31 and 32 define grieving Him -- is it our negative heart attitudes which lead to being unkind and unforgiving to our brethren, that grieve Him? Maybe it's the instructions in the whole chapter, and Verses 30-32 are simply the conclusion. To be honest, I'm not getting any earth-shaking revelation on this subject. (If you are, please share with the rest of us in the comments.)
These two beautiful responses to the poll seem to be the closest to what Paul is saying in Chapter 4 of this letter to the church at Ephesus: grieving the Holy Spirit is
- when we speak or act towards one another in ways that don't celebrate and reinforce
our redeemed status in Christ, unforgiveness perhaps being the epitome; and...
- heart issues and attitudes that negatively affect humanity; not acting like Jesus.
Spurgeon's discourse covers 3 areas: the love of the Spirit for us, the seal of the Spirit and the grieving of the Spirit. He concludes, however, by stating that the Holy Spirit will leave us as chastisement for this grief. Spurgeon gave no scriptural support for this bizarre statement. Under the Old Covenant, the Holy Spirit came and went because He did not dwell inside men back then (Judges 16:20, Psalm 51:11). We know that now He will never leave us nor forsake us because He is inside us. (Hebrews 13:5) We know by the same Ephesians 4:30 that we are already sealed (also see Eph 1:13,14 and John 14:16). We know our spirits were perfected when we accepted Christ (Hebrews 7:11, 10:14, Matthew 5:48). So do not fear the Holy Spirit's departure. I suppose that was the "wisdom of the day," for Spurgeon, but really that's just another way of saying "the traditions of men." (Mark 7:13) If you'd like to read Spurgeon's sermon: you'll find it here.
What has been most surprising to me in this short study is that I haven't read anything in this chapter of Ephesians regarding "willful" or "ongoing." This isn't necessarily good news, as it's actually more "strict" when you delete words like willfully, consciously, purposely, constantly, intentionally, unrepentantly, as grieving would then apply to all times and all instances. Does this meant that Man has added those qualifiers to take us off the hook a bit?Possibly. In researching, over the last three years or so, for the book God directed me to write, I've discovered how the smallest assumption regarding God's Word leads to massive misunderstanding and errors. It's just like setting the heading on a ship. If you're off by only one degree, the ship, over the course of the journey, will end up at an entirely different location than where you need to be. That's why God said that the traditions of men would make His word of no effect in our lives (Mark 7:7-13). So we must take the Word of God as it is written. His will is most often revealed through the Bible, and His will for us is His best for us.