Ephesians 4:30 “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
The year 1859 is remembered by Christians as the time of an international religious awakening. Both in America and in Europe hundreds of thousands of people made professions of faith and the church of Jesus Christ grew in an extraordinary way. In London one congregation grew so vast that its services had to be held in a Music Hall in the Royal Surrey Gardens. This building had been opened a few years earlier just south of the river Thames. It was surrounded by fine amenities, expansive lawns, a lake and even a zoo. The building itself held ten thousand people and the New Park Street Baptist Church pastored by Charles Haddon Spurgeon hired it each Sunday because more than that number of Londoners longed to hear the 25-year old preacher every single Sunday. By 1859 they had been meeting in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall for three years, and it was always packed with people both morning and evening. In fact Spurgeon was preaching to the largest crowd of men and women who had ever gathered under a roof to hear a Nonconformist preacher. The format was that of a normal Free Church service, which in its liturgical structure was very like our own today, though all the singing at that time was a cappella – there was neither organ nor piano accompanying the hymns. It must have been enormously impressive to hear the voices of 10,000 people singing together. They also happened to be united in their cessationism, in other words neither pastor nor people made any claims to possess the foundational gifts of the New Testament dispensation, apostles, miracles, languages, prophecies. They would have been grieved to hear any such claim. On October 9 1859 Spurgeon’s text was the one I have just read to you, Ephesians 4:30, “do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption,” and in the sermon he in fact quoted one of the hymns we are singing today. That kind of worship is the rock out of which we have been hewn. I want to quote to you Spurgeon’s opening words on that Lord’s Day, spoken, of course, with as little amplification to this multitude as Peter to his congregation on the day of Pentecost. This is what he said:
“There is something very touching in this admonition, ‘Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God.’ It does not say, ‘Do not make him angry.’ A more delicate and tender term is used, ‘Grieve him not.'” That is how Spurgeon began his sermon on that October morning, but then, as he came to the climax of his sermon, he spoke some words that indicated that he and the congregation had not been grieving the Holy Spirit. Spurgeon said to them about the third Person of the Godhead, “He is present with us here, I thank his name, he is still visible in our midst. He has not left us. Though we have been as unworthy as others, yet he has given us a long outpouring of his presence. These five years or more we have had a revival which is not to be exceeded by any revival upon the face of the earth. Without cries or shoutings, without fallings down or swoonings, steadily God adds to this church numbers upon numbers so that your minister’s heart is ready to break with very joy when he thinks how manifestly the Spirit of God is with us” (New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 5, 1859, pp.425-432).
Would that we could make claims like that, but, alas, not only we cannot say such things but there is not a single church anywhere in the world today that knows anything comparable to that work of the Holy Spirit in London in 1859, regenerating and illuminating thousands of people each week, as Spurgeon’s congregation experienced throughout all the years of his ministry. He and his church received the fulness of the blessing of the Holy Spirit. They did not grieve the Holy Spirit who had sealed them for the day of redemption.
1 THE HOLY SPIRIT REFERRED TO HERE IS GOD.
You notice how carefully Paul refers to him, “the Holy Spirit of God” (v.30): he is God’s Spirit. Does that mean he is like ‘the angel of God,’ that is, one of his spirit messengers? We might think like that if we had just this one verse in the Bible, but we have many other verses to help us understand who the Spirit of God is. For example, consider the final words of the Lord Christ in what we call the ‘great commission.’ He tells his disciples to go into all the world and makes disciples of all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt.28:19). There the Holy Spirit of God is set so high, up there alongside the Father and the Son. It has often been pointed out how unthinkable it would have been for the Lord to have said something like, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the archangel Michael,” or “and of the virgin Mary” or “and of the apostles.” That would give to created beings the same status as the unoriginated and unbegun members of the divine Godhead. Disciples can be baptized only into the name of God himself.
Or think again of the word of the benediction with which we end our services: “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cors. 13:14). Can you conceive Paul saying something like, “the grace of the Lord Jesus, and the love of God and my fellowship be with you all”? It would be entirely inappropriate. Throughout the Bible the three persons of the Godhead are constantly brought together in fascinating places and phrases. At Jesus’ baptism, for example, there is the Son of God being baptized, and the Father speaking, “This is my beloved Son” while the Spirit of God like a dove descends upon him. Or again you see the three of them involved in the spiritual gifts given by God to the church. This is how this activity is described in I Corinthians 12:4-6: “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.” Notice the remarkable order of persons there. In the benediction of 2 Corinthians the Lord Jesus comes first; in the baptismal formula in Matthew 28 God the Father comes first, but here in I Corinthians 12 the Spirit of God is put first. There is no subordination here. Three persons equal in power and glory.
Or have you ever thought of the words of Peter in Acts 5? He is speaking sternly to Ananias who has lied to the living church about a sum of money he has obtained from selling land. “The entire sum I have given to God,” he claimed. Peter says to him, “‘Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.'” (Acts 5:3&4). According to those words of the apostle Peter (a man steeped in Jewish monotheism, that is, that the Lord our God is one God), to lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God. Or think again of Paul’s words in I Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple, and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” God’s temple is the place where God himself dwells, but Paul here says that it is the Holy Spirit of God who dwells in it. So God’s Spirit is the same as God himself.
“Whither shall I go from your Spirit?” asks the psalmist in Psalm 139. The Spirit of God is omnipresent. Angels are not omnipresent; Mary is not omnipresent, but the Spirit of God is. To go from God’s presence is to go from the presence of his Spirit, but there is nowhere to which David can run and flee from God or from the Spirit of God. Paul says, “No one can comprehend the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (I Cors. 2:10&11).
So when Paul writes in our text about the Holy Spirit of God he is writing about God. The Bible teaches that the Father is fully God; the Son is fully God and the Holy Spirit is fully God. Three equally divine beings, and these three are one God
2. YOU CAN GRIEVE ONLY A PERSON.
It is a person alone who can be grieved. When we quarry marble from a mountain that hill does not grieve. When I boil an onion in a pan the other vegetables in the kitchen do not grieve. When a salmon eats a sprat the shoal of sprats don’t grieve. When a lion kills an antelope the other beasts of the herd don’t grieve. When you put up a windbreak on the beach the breeze doesn’t grieve. When you crash your computer it doesn’t grieve. When you give a sick person an antibiotic the weakening viruses don’t grieve. Only people made in the image of God can grieve. We grieve at the death and sufferings and disappointments which other people endure. If the Spirit of God grieves then it must be that he is not a force like electricity, or a power like the wind, or something impersonal like crystals, or something inanimate like a laptop, or something living but nevertheless inhuman like a worm or a crab or a jackdaw. The Spirit of God has personality, and if you’re not aware of that then how can you render to him the love and obedience and reverence he deserves? Shouldn’t we know as much about God as we can, as much as is revealed to us in Scripture? That’s why it’s there. I think it was Dawsom Trotman, the founder of the Navigators, who once searched out every reference to the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures before choosing sixty of those verses and memorising them. The Spirit is a living entity, endowed with understanding and a will. The Father has life in himself. The Son has life in himself, and so the Spirit also has life in himself. He is the author of our natural and spiritual life and this could not be if he had not life in himself.
Think of the ways we are told that the Spirit of God is a person. He is endowed with understanding; he searches the deep things of the mind of God. He knows God exhaustively. There is nothing in God that is unfamiliar to the Spirit. He has a will, and so he gives gifts to the members of his church as he sovereignly wills. He loves; Paul cries, “I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit” (Rom. 15:30). The Spirit loves us, and he loves the Father and the Son. The Spirit of God can be tempted (Acts 5:9). How can you tempt a cloud, or an atom, or a machine? You can also actually lie to the Holy Spirit, as did Ananias and Sapphira. You cannot tell a lie to rhubarb or a washing machine or a sand castle.
The Spirit of God does things that only those with personality can do. He speaks; he teaches; he commands. He says, “Separate unto me Barnabas and Saul for the work which I have called them to.” The Spirit of God prays; he makes intercession for us. He says as it were to himself, “There is a Christian student in Aberystwyth today who is going through a tough time of disappointment and heartache and I will pray that she will be upheld.” And just like ourselves, when we pray for someone then we also go ahead and do all we can to help that person, so does the Spirit!
Think of his titles. They are not ‘the Force’ or ‘the Influence’. He is called the Comforter, the Advocate, the Witness. When Jesus and the New Testament writers speak of him they don’t refer to him as ‘it’, they say ‘he’ and ‘him’. “If I depart I will send him unto you” says the Lord Jesus (Jn. 16:7). Christ is our great Comforter but when he talks of returning to the Father he says he will send another Comforter. He is not speaking of some abstract influence like memory or the force of tradition, but another person like himself. So the Holy Spirit is not some quality residing in the divine nature. He is not some virtue or power who has come from God. He is a holy, living, divine, loving Person. All this is denied by the so called ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’ as they knock on your doors. They do not believe that Jesus is God, nor do they believe that the Holy Spirit is God, nor that he is a person equal in power and glory to the Father. But if the Spirit is merely some ‘force’ coming from God then he cannot be grieved. You can grieve a person alone. Paul’s concern is that there are things we Christian do that can make the Holy Spirit sorry – as John Wycliffe well translated this verse.
I often speak of the Lord Jesus coming here to this building, and walking the aisles and sitting next to us and teaching us about himself and opening our understanding. I could say exactly the same about the Holy Spirit, that he is as much a person as the Lord Jesus except he is not united to a human body. This Person is responsible for our growth and unity, and for the strength given to us to understand and do the things of God. He takes my words as he sits next to you and he explains them to you and applies their comfort and warnings to you. Without this glorious Person coming here and doing that then my words would fall down and down onto the communion table in a pathetic little pile. I was reading the fascinating biography of Isaac Lewis this week. He was the Staplehurst pastor in the county of Kent for twenty years in the nineteenth century. When he was first married neither he nor his wife attended a place of worship, but she developed a constraint to go, and he decided to accompany her. He said this, “I went for some time with no more feeling that a stone until, one Lord’s Day evening, the minister was speaking on sin, righteousness and judgment to come. The Holy Spirit accompanied the word with power to my heart. My soul felt the shock and fell under its force.” His life went in a totally new direction.
3. YOU CAN GRIEVE ONLY SOMEONE WHO LOVES YOU.
Our enemies rejoice when we hit the dust; friends alone will grieve at our falls. The Spirit of God loves us. Our hearts are full of the precious facts that the Father loves us and the Son loves us and we can quote many verses that speak of their love. That is the stuff of our comfort in times of darkness. We whisper them to one another at moments of agony. On Tuesday next is the first anniversary of the death of the young Forbes Alderton. In the last months of their brief marriage 28-year old Forbes would tell his wife Alison how much he loved her, and she would tell him that she loved him too, but then he would say to her, “but God loves us more.” And sometimes she would be the one to say it to him, as she did exactly a year ago today, ” . . . but God loves us more,” and he would reply vigorously even in his dying weakness, “Amen! Amen!” We never let go of those words of the divine love for us. To lose hold of that comfort is to let the light fade from our lives and the darkness of hopeless agony take over.
But do we remember that the Holy Spirit loves us? Do we comfort ourselves so often and so fully with this great fact? Do our prayers for the coming of the Spirit seem to suggest that we think he’s rather reluctant to come to us? The Father loves us, and Jesus gathers where two or three gather in his name and we almost take for granted the wonder of all that divine love, but the Spirit? What is he doing? Where is he today when we need him? Are we ignorant of the yearning, jealous love of the Holy Spirit for our souls and our gatherings? How wonderful is his love for us, visiting such polluted hearts as ours, even to dwell in them, to make them his home, to work ceaselessly and patiently in our lives, to woo us, to make us fall in love with Christ so that we give ourselves completely to him to serve him for ever – that is what the love of the Spirit achieves, never to cease working in us until what he’s begun he finishes.
Think of how we provoke him. The evil that we would not that we do, and the good we would do we don’t do. We are wretched men and women, and yet the Spirit is there in our lives, not hanging on in our hearts out of a sense of duty but because he cherishes us. There is no sin against the Spirit which we’ve not committed, no coldness, no snubbing, no ingratitude, no rejection, no ignoring, no provocation. We’ve done all that to our gracious friend, but he continues to love us, not provoked by our rebellion nor our disdain, bearing all things, hoping all things, believing all things, enduring all things, never failing. His love triumphs over our terrible backslidings. He continues to draw us from sin to God amidst all the dark opposition which we give to his holy work.
What dull students we’ve been in the University of the Spirit. The Bible is here, much of it so clear, and yet how little of it we know still. What meagre progress we’ve made in the school of Christ’s grace. We are still just beginners in the school, but what an inspirational teacher we have! He’s led us into many a truth and we can remember occasions when our hearts burnt within us as he opened new teaching and insights. I think how stupid and slow I’ve been and I marvel at his patience with me. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had given up on me. It is a wonder that the Son of God became a baby, but it is just as much a wonder that the Holy Spirit should become a teacher of babies! It is a marvel of divine humiliation that God the Son should lie in a manger in a stable, but isn’t it as great a marvel that the Holy Spirit should come into this little chapel in this small town and teach us about Jesus Christ every single Sunday, that he should have made up his mind to make us, the simple, wise? He comes to meet with such dunces and spiritually dyslexic men and women to make them wise. He breaks in wild colts like ourselves and he teaches us the mysteries of a Saviour’s love!
The Father in heaven loved us from all eternity. The Son on the cross loved us – that is why he remained there on Golgotha throughout the dereliction. The Spirit within us also loves us. Christ loves us from heaven above; the Spirit loves us from within. See how close the love of God is brought to us. It throbs in our hearts; it draws us to him from within; it is working gently and persistently in us moment by moment. What a glorious truth this is, that God dwells within us. God dwells there permanently. This indwelling God loves us. This God loves us with such a changeless love that even our constant neglect of his love is met with a yearning affection.
We read of fathers who have been walking the shores of the Indian ocean in recent weeks to look for their children snatched away from them in the great tsunami wave. We know of a brother looking for an erring straying brother, following him to his evil associations, into the pub where he is hanging around, entering the gambling den, standing outside the brothel to plead with him not to enter, seeking every mode of restoration to stop him drinking more, or injecting himself or sniffing more substances, refusing to be driven off by blows and curses and stones and threats, pursuing with unfailing tact and tender perseverance the friend who is destroying himself.
That beautiful conduct is the faintest reflection of the Holy Spirit in his love for us. He sees us steeped in sin, loving evil for evil’s sake, turning from Jesus and all that Jesus is, ever seeking to drain the cup of the indulgence of the world. The faithful Spirit will not be put off; he doggedly and determinedly keeps following us. He won’t be driven away by our foul language and mean spirit. He stays with us because without him we are impotent. His staying with us is conditioned on his love for us, not our love for him. That love is so strong, so mighty, so constant that it can never fail. When he sees us immersed in sin and rushing headlong to our own destruction he doesn’t turn away. He yearns for us with a jealous envy. We have fallen into such loving hands. We have come under such loving care. We are the companion of such a loving Spirit, and that is our hope. When we find ourselves saying to our best friend, “I love you,” he or she must always say back to us, “And I love you too . . . but remember the Holy Spirit loves us more.” He labours away in us when we are as cold as ice and have made the worst mistake of our entire life, he refuses to give up on us. O love that will not let me go!
B.B.Warfield repeats a story of Francis of Assisi riding along on that first day on which he knew he had made peace with God. He wanted to live his life henceforth in the heart of the love of God just like his Saviour. He was riding through a wood when the road went round a bend and turning a a corner Francis found himself face to face with a leper. They were both surprised, but Francis had always had a strong fear and revulsion towards lepers, and the sight of this man brought back all his horror. He instinctively turned his horse in another direction and rode off. He had not gone a few hundred yards before he was deeply disturbed at what he’d done. He stopped the horse and turned it around and came back to the leper. He dismounted and gave the man all the money he had, and then he bowed his head to him, took his hand and kissed it. He had experienced new life in Christ. From that time on he would regularly call in at the leper colony and speak to the men and women living there, and wash their sores and all the more gently and radiantly if they were particularly repulsive scabs.
Whatever truth is in that story of Francis of Assisi we can catch something of what the Spirit’s love for us means. No leprous sores on our souls, no gangrenous infestations in our spirits can stop him working lovingly in our lives. He has entered the leper colony of our hearts and made them his home for ever, not for any good that may come to him but solely that he may cleanse us and make us a fit bride for Christ.
4. YOU CAN GRIEVE THE ONE WITH WHOM YOU WERE SEALED UNTIL THE DAY OF REDEMPTION.
This is something significant that has happened to every redeemed Christian. “You were sealed” (v.30) Paul says to the entire Ephesian congregation. He is speaking to the new Christians as well as to the founder members of the church. He is speaking to the backsliding Christian as well as to the earnest disciple. He is speaking to slave and teenager, young and old, every single professing Christian in Ephesus had been sealed with the Holy Spirit of God for the day of redemption. Not one single unsealed Christian in all the world. You cannot have a non-justifed Christian; you cannot have a non-adopted Christian; you cannot have a non-regenerate Christian; you cannot have a Christian who is not ‘in Christ’; so too you cannot have a Christian who has not been sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption. If anyone is unsealed with the Holy Spirit he is not proving he’s some kind of weak Christian, he is not a Christian at all. He is none of his.
What is the sealing with the Spirit? It is not an experience of the Spirit; it is the Spirit himself. He is the seal, and this can be seen in three things:
i] The sealing of the Spirit declares our divine ownership.
The royal seal is upon a deed. The hot wax has been poured out and the king’s signet ring has been impressed upon it. It is the king’s! This Principality or Duchy belongs to the Crown! Royal land; do not invade! Don’t try to build a little house on it. Don’t even think of it! On a humbler level what we see in the fields all around our town, the farmers having put their different colour dyes on the fleece of their sheep: “These sheep are mine,” each one is saying. Having the seal of the Holy Spirit is a confirmation that this man or woman belongs to God – not for the years of time alone but for eternity. When God sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts it is not for some temporary dwelling. He does not come into our lives for Bed & Breakfast before moving on. He isn’t camping in our lives for a vacation. He comes to stake his ownership of us. As you occasionally see in a shop window or on a business in the town these words, “Under New Ownership” or “Under New Management,” so the work of the Spirit in the life of every Christian is saying, “The Lord of eternity is this person’s Master.” From now on they belong to God. God chose us from all eternity; Christ redeemed us for himself 2000 years ago; the Spirit puts his roots down deep into our lives for ever. We are God’s possession.
ii] The sealing of the Spirit is a confirmation that we are God’s.
I look at the marks of a Christian in the Spirit-breathed Bible, what the Christian believes, and the Spirit of truth enables me to say, “Yes. I do believe those doctrines.” I look at the way Christians are described as living in the Spirit-breathed Bible and the Spirit of holiness in me enables me to say, “Yes. I too seek to live like that, not perfectly, though I would be perfect, but this is the thrust and direction of my life day by day.” The Spirit enables and strengthens me to believe and do what he requires, and in that way he confirms that I have been begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to a glorious inheritance. The camp of Dan soon recognised that the Spirit of God was upon Samson when he walked in armed with the mere jawbone of a donkey cutting down all who dared to oppose him. They recognised that he had more than human strength and skills. God was with him.
iii] The sealing of the Spirit is our preservation.
An envelope is sealed in order to keep the contents safe. You may buy some tablets or medicine from a pharmacist and there will be a notice on the bottle saying, “If this seal is broken then don’t take it. We only guarantee the contents if the seal is intact.” The seal is there for security’s sake. No one has tampered with it or adulterated it in any way. The only way we know that we are Christ’s redeemed people is by a work of God. I am unable to give it to you by baptizing you with water or by laying my hands on your head. God alone can make you his by giving you his Holy Spirit. You must have the Spirit. He is not some bonus that we’d like to have but may not have. He is not a luxury for the journey home. You must have him or you’ll die. Think of all the elect in heaven and how they are all sealed; the divine mark is on them; it is written in their faces; they are safe. Their spirits mounting above the flames they are going to dwell with Christ for ever. The Spirit is given to us sealing our election and Christ’s redemption. Do not grieve the one who has mercifully sealed you until the day of redemption.
“Has he sealed me?” you are thinking. “How do I know that I am amongst the favoured ones sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption?” I will say this to you, preeminently in this way, that the sealing Spirit gives us filial feelings. He makes us cry to God, “Abba! Father.” I think it was John Gill who said that the word ‘Abba’ was spelled the same forwards and backwards and we could take that as indicating God would be a Father to us in times of prosperity and also of tribulation. It is a wonderful thing to be able to say to God, “Abba.” You can search the whole of rabbinical literature and never find a single instance of a believer addressing God as ‘Abba.’ When Jesus called God ‘Father’ he was inaugurating a theological revolution. That had never been done before. God was seen as the mighty and powerful and holy one. When we talk of the sealing work of the Spirit the first mark of it would this that our instinctive words to God are, “Heavenly Father.”
It is the very unusual child who goes through some logical process to come to the assurance that his father is indeed his father. Did you ever hear of a child who did that? Did you ever ask your parents for a birth certificate with an official government seal upon it, and a DNA sample and photographs of Dad holding you in the hospital a day old so that in that way you could be sure he was your Dad? I am saying that that is rarely the means that anyone came to an assurance that her father loved her. My point is this, that if you look in and in and into your heart and life, and examine your faith and good deeds, you don’t normally gain great assurance that way. All your marks will often leave you still in the dark. We all know very mature Christians whom we greatly admire – very greatly revere I would say – and yet they have little assurance that they are Christians. But then there is this, when they bow before God – as when you bow before him – they say to Almighty God, “Father . . .” The seal is there.
Again those sealed with the Spirit daily experience the goodness and mercy of God. Let me bring in the analogy of marriage. How does a husband know that his wife loves him? Is it by the marriage certificate with a heavy wax seal? Does he take it out of the bureau drawer and say, “This piece of paper is the proof of my wife’s love. This certifies that we are married and that she has vowed to love me.” That’s not how it works. I’ve never heard of a marriage that has been revived like that. It works in the context of a living daily relationship. There is a multitude of loving acts, tolerances, gestures, forgivenesses which foster and strengthen the assurance, and each concludes, “He really loves me! She does love me, doesn’t she?” In the same way our daily experience of the goodness of God fosters our sense that we’ve been sealed with the Spirit. We’ve cried to God many times and he’s answered us. We bring our needs to him and he supplies them. Things we hardly dare dream of, God has given us. There are those bad things we’ve done and God has overlooked them. The seal is there!
“Sometimes, of course, it is so demoralising, so humbling, to find that God is so kind. Sometimes, in our perverseness, we wish that God wouldn’t be so loving. Then we could stand up and argue with him and get some of our ego back. But no! The constant flow of acts of goodness and mercy fuels the assurance. There is nothing particularly mystical or dramatic about it, any more than family life is mystical or dramatic. But it is there: God listening to us, God hearing us, God answering us, God supplying our needs, not in some niggardly way but according to his own riches in glory by Christ Jesus. That’s the mark of the seal.
“Let’s not be going back constantly to the Marriage Certificate (or the Birth Certificate) to see if God really loves us. Let’s look, instead, at the way he treats us. Think again of my earlier point about the child who says, ‘I don’t know if my father loves me.’ What kind of father does she have? And what impression do we convey to men of our Father? What impression do we convey to the angels when we doubt our Father’s love? I am almost prepared to say that for a Christian such language is blasphemous. Are we saying that God hasn’t shown us much kindness? that he hasn’t shown us much love? that he’s not very good to us? These would be the normal, logical deductions from the way some Christians often speak! But it is surely a travesty of the truth, because God’s mercies are new every morning” (Donald Macleod, “A Faith to Live By,” Mentor, 1998, p.156). That’s how we know we’ve been sealed with the Spirit.
5 YOU GRIEVE GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT BY DEFYING HIS WILL.
The context provides the answer to the question how may we grieve the Spirit. If we Christians begin to live as the unregenerate Gentile idol worshippers and pleasure-lovers live then we will grieve God’s Spirit (v.17). If we fail to put off our old self and do not put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness (vv.22-24) then we will grieve the Holy Spirit of God. If we fail to put off falsehood and speak truthfully to our neighbours (v.25) we will grieve the Spirit. If we refuse to let the sun go down on our wrath and twist and turn in anger on our beds all night (v.26) then we will grieve the Spirit. If we don’t stop stealing and fail to work (v.28) so that we will have something to share with those in need, then we will grieve the Holy Spirit of God. If unwholesome talk continues to flow from our mouths (v.29) and we fail to build others up with our words then we will grieve the Spirit of God. That is the context before our verse, and afterwards Paul says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice” (v.31) because if you don’t you will grieve the Spirit.
When Jesus was here on earth we are told that on one occasion he looked around on the Pharisees, being grieved at the hardness of the hearts. What Christ felt at that time today the Spirit of Christ feels at the sight of sin especially in those whom he has sealed. We are told that when Christ looked on Peter, Peter wept bitterly. We aren’t told what kind of look it was but no doubt it was one of deep disappointment. His eyes were saying to Peter, “Did I deserve those swear words, Peter? Have I been your enemy, Peter? Have I ever offended you, Peter?”
Is there something in your life that is grieving the Holy Spirit of God? Is there some part of Scripture which you have not attended to? Is there a truth you are rejecting? Are you refusing to let go of your view that you’ve got a ‘free will’?
“No news can suit a ruined race
But sovereign, free eternal grace;
No other gospel an impart
Life, peace and pardon to the heart.”
Are you preaching Jesus Christ in your sermons? There was once a preacher who divided a congregation by his ministry. He was eloquent, vivid, memorable in his preaching and many were delighted with him, but one lady said to another, “but there wasn’t much about Lord Jesus in it.” Her companion replied to her resentfully, “But he wasn’t in the text.” The lady thought for a moment and then she said to her, “I think I’d have managed to bring him in.” If the Spirit’s delight is to glorify the Lord Jesus won’t we grieve the Spirit if we our sermons aren’t full of him?
Again, is there a relationship concerning which you cannot ask God’s blessing? Is there a duty you are neglecting? Are you defying the will of God concerning something? How are you grieving the Spirit of God?
Are you conscious that the best you’ve done needs divine mercy? Is pride grieving the Spirit? George Whitefield was so sensitive to doing this. He once said that if God were to deal with him on the grounds of the best sermon he’d ever preached – and some of his sermons were blessed to hundreds – God would damn him. Do you feel like that?
Is prayerlessness grieving the Spirit? I preach, but do I pray? There may be two preachers. They seem similar in ability and orthodox in their beliefs, but with one the word seems to be abundantly blessed while with the other the word seems to have little effect. The difference is the praying of one of them. There was once a group of Christians in an African village. They lived in their two-room huts close to one another and there was no privacy in them for personal devotions. So day by day they would walk from the hut to a quiet place in the forest to pour out their hearts to God. Soon, with their frequent going back and fore, they wore out a path for themselves to that place of prayer. Someone spoke of it as ‘the prayer path,’ and later commented if the prayer path was getting overgrown. “Watch your prayer path,” one would say with a twinkle in his eye to another; “Watch your prayer path!” Don’t let’s grieve the Spirit by our prayerlessness.
Do not grieve the Spirit by failing to pray for the minister. Where there is a praying congregation that is such a help to the preacher, and that results in his being a greater help to the people themselves. There was an old pastor who in his early days had been truly blessed in his preaching, but in his latter years there seemed to be little effect. Some of the people approached him and spoke of the lack of success. He said to them by way of explanation, “I’ve lost my prayer book.” The people were mystified; we don’t have prayer books do we? Then he explained himself. “In my early days the congregation wrestled for me in prayer. In recent days a spirit of prayerlessness seems to have arisen. I have lost my prayer book.” The people fell under that rebuke, a spirit of prayer was given, and it is said that again there was blessing as in former days. Do not grieve the Spirit by failing to pray for the preacher whom he has gifted and commissioned. Ministers of God these days have many burdens, trials, and disappointments. Few men realise just how the minister can feel on the Lord’s Day morning sometimes empty and barren; sometimes feeling sick; sometimes wondering has he anything to say. It is a wonderful experience for a minister to be borne up by the prayers of the people as “on eagles’ wings.”
6. THE CONSEQUENCES OF YOUR GRIEVING THE SPIRIT.
I’ve taken and modernised some thoughts of Spurgeon on this theme from his two sermons on this text. He says correctly that if the child of God grieves the Spirit then it won’t lead to his final destruction, because no heir of heaven can perish. The Holy Spirit won’t be utterly taken away from him, for the Spirit of God is given as God’s seal to abide with us for ever, nevertheless the ill-effects are terrible. You’ll lose a number of things. You will lose all sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence. He will be like someone hiding from you – no beams of comfort, no words of peace, no thoughts of love – there will be what Cowper calls, “an aching void which the world can never fill.” Grieve the Holy Spirit, and you’ll lose your Christian joy; the light will be taken from you, and you’ll stumble in darkness. Those very means of grace which once were such a delight, will have no music in your ear. Your soul will be no longer like a watered garden, but like a howling wilderness. Grieve the Spirit of God, and you’ll lose all power; if you pray, it will be a very weak prayer – you won’t prevail with God. When you read the scriptures, you won’t see the great burning truths there. When you go up to the house of God, there’ll be no exhilaration – running without weariness, and walking without fainting. You’ll feel yourself like Samson when his hair was lost, weak, captive, and blinded. Let the Holy Spirit depart, and assurance is gone, doubts follow, questionings and suspicions are aroused.
“Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his, or am I not?”
Grieve the Spirit of God, and usefulness will cease: the ministry will yield no fruit; your Sunday School work will be barren; your speaking to others and labouring for other souls will be like sowing the wind. Let a congregation grieve the Spirit of God, and what blight will come! Let the Church grieve the Spirit, and she’ll fail to be a blessing to the age in which she lives; she’ll cast no light into the surrounding darkness; no sinners will be saved by her words and lives. There’ll be few additions to her number; her young men won’t go into the ministry. Darkness and death will prevail. Men and women, beloved in the Lord, may the Lord prevent us from grieving his Spirit as a Church, but may we be earnest, zealous, truthful, united, and holy, so that we may keep in our midst this heavenly guest who will certainly leave us if we grieve him.
And now, to conclude, there may be some here who’ve lost the felt presence of Christ with you. You’ve so grieved the Spirit that he’s gone and you’re in a state of backsliding and coldness. Listen to me for a moment, and God bless the words. Brother, sister, stay not a moment longer in such a perilous condition. Don’t be content for a single second with the absence of the Holy Ghost. I beseech you – use every means by which that Spirit may be brought back to you!
Search out for the sin that has grieved the Spirit, give it up, slay that sin upon the spot; repent with tears and sighs if necessary; continue in prayer, and never rest satisfied until the Holy Ghost comes back to you. Attend an earnest ministry, be much in the company of real Christians, but above all, be much in prayer to God, and let your daily cry be, “Return, return, O Holy Spirit return, and live in my soul.” I beseech you men and women to give God no rest till that prayer is heard. Some of you have become as weak as water. You are fainting and limping because the Spirit has been away from you.
Maybe there are some here today with whom the Spirit has been striving during the past week. Yield to him! Don’t resist him! Grieve him no further! Yield to him! Is he saying to you now “Turn to Christ”? Then listen to him, obey him as he moves you. I beseech you don’t despise him. Have you resisted him many a time? Then take care you don’t do so again, for there may come a last time when the Spirit may say, “I’ll go to my rest, I’ll not return to him.” Hear the word of the gospel, before we part, for the Spirit speaks effectually to you now in this short sentence, “Repent and be converted every one of you, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” Hear this solemn sentence, “He that believeth in the Lord Jesus, and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” May the Lord grant that none of us shall ever grieve the Holy Spirit. Amen.
30th January 2005 GEOFF THOMAS