Grieving the Holy Spirit

by Mike Ratliff

8 For He said, “Surely, they are My people,
Sons who will not deal falsely.”
So He became their Savior.
9 In all their affliction He was afflicted,
And the angel of His presence saved them;
In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them,
And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.
10 But they rebelled
And grieved His Holy Spirit;
Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy,
He fought against them. (Isaiah 63:8-10 NASB)

What is this biblical teaching on grieving the Holy Spirit? What is the context? The immediate context is found in Ephesians 4:17-32 within the larger context of a unified Body of Christ and how Christians are to live and interact within that. This begins at Ephesians 4:1 and runs through 6:20. For this post, we will focus on 4:17-32.

17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. 20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:17-24 NASB)

In vv17-19 the Apostle Paul gives us four characteristics of the ungodly lifestyles which believers are to forsake. The words “you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” are the Greek words μηκέτι ὑμᾶς περιπατεῖν, καθὼς καὶ τὰ λοιπὰ ἔθνη περιπατεῖ ἐν ματαιότητι τοῦ νοὸς αὐτῶν, which literally says, “no longer you to walk around, just as also the nations walk around in futility of the mind of them.” What does this mean? This is talking about lifestyle. Those who live with mindsets in rejection of the knowledge of God think of themselves as “enlightened” (cf. Hebrews 10:32). However, they are truly ignorant. Those who walk in the futility of their minds are unregenerate. They are all wrapped up in the ways of the world. They resemble the world. They may call themselves Christians, but their churches and everything about how they worship and serve is patterned after the ways of the world. This is not Christianity. These people are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them. Their hearts are hard because they are unregenerate. In vv19-24 the Apostle makes it clear that those who profess Christ, but who are marked as living in the futility of their minds are more than likely not truly regenerate. They are false professors.

25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another. 26 BE angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. 28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender- hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:25-32 NASB)

On the other hand, there will be some in this group who will hear this admonition who are truly part of the Body of Christ because they have been washed clean by the miracle of regeneration. These will repent. These will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, turn from the focus of the flesh, to the focus of Christ. They will put away falsehood. Along with the mind of Christ will come the character of Christ. They will be angry against unrighteousness, but not sin. They will see the tragedy of man-focused religiosity pretending to be true Christianity such as the Purpose Driven paradigm and stand firm against it, but not sin in their righteous indignation. If they give in to the temptation to become petty and deceitful then they will have given opportunity for the devil and that is sinful. We must not do that. Telling the truth and giving the people of God the opportunity to repent is not grieving the Holy Spirit.

How do we grieve the Holy Spirit? Is it by telling the truth? No! It is by deceitful things that the world does in order to bring others down in order to elevate themselves. We are not doing that. To those who are twisting God’s Word in order to “sell” a false version of the gospel, I warn you to stop it. That warning is from God, not me. If you do not take that seriously then this proves you do not know Him. If you shiver but continue anyway then I fear for you for you are indeed grieving the Holy Spirit.

Soli Deo Gloria.


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