Do not grieve the Holy Spirit.

What Does it Mean to “Grieve” the Holy Spirit? (Eph. 4:30)

In Ephesians 4:30, we are commanded, “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

This exhortation well accords with the Spirit’s being a person, even the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, for a stone or a blind, impersonal force cannot be grieved. Only a person, one possessed of reason and will, one who can think and choose as a moral agent, can be grieved.

This grieving of the Spirit must also be understood in the light of His Deity. Someone is grieved if they suffer sorrow or pain. Man grieves at the loss of a loved one. Believers grieve over their sins. We experience mental pain and sadness. But this does not apply to the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, who is possessed of an infinite and unchangeable blessedness that admits of no diminution. In understanding the grieving of the Holy Spirit, we must not ascribe any imperfection to His glorious majesty.

So what then is it to grieve the Holy Spirit? First, we grieve the Holy Spirit when we do things that He hates. Here it is helpful to think of one human being grieving another: a child irritating his parents, a neighbour doing something you cannot stand, a foolish man speaking in a way his wife detests. And what is the one thing we do that grieves the Spirit? Sin and only sin. The Spirit loathes, detests and abhors the evil that we think and do. He hates our iniquities because they are contrary to His character as the spotlessly pure One, the One who is the personal consecration of the Father to the Son and the Son to the Father. The Spirit abhors our transgressions because they oppose His work in us. His purpose with us and activity in us is to sanctify and cleanse us. So He cannot but loathe our filthiness, our perversity in jumping back into the mire of iniquity. He is the One who leads us according to the Word in paths of righteousness, crying, “This is the way; walk ye in it.” So He detests our unfaithfulness if we (for a time) leave the way of obedience and walk in sin.

Second, we grieve the Holy Spirit when, because of our iniquities, He withdraws the sense of His gracious presence from us, until we are brought to repentance. We can understand this too from the realm of human relationships. You have an acquaintance who uses foul language; you admonish him; he fails to repent; you separate from him. Or you have a son still living in your home who walks openly and impenitently in gross sin, bringing great misery and distress upon your family. After your repeated and earnest rebukes fall upon deaf ears, you tell him that he must leave your home and get a house of his own.

The Holy Spirit is God’s love and covenant friendship in us personally. What does He do, when He sees us walking impenitently in sin? He hates it and withdraws from us His sweet presence, for the Spirit only fellowships with us as we walk in the light. He cannot continue to grant us comfort and peace while we live in sin, as if God approved of our wickedness and was not terribly offended, as if the Holy One of Israel has communion with unrighteousness!

You see this don’t you? You understand the seriousness of disobedience? You do not want to grieve the Spirit or see your children do so. How awful it is to grieve the Spirit: for Him to hate the way we live and to withdraw His comforting presence from us!

We read of God grieving in the days before the flood. Sin developed, especially through mixed marriages between the sons of the church and the daughters of the world (Gen. 6:2), and so God was “grieved” in His “heart” (6). He hated their wickedness (5) and sent the flood.

The other period particularly known for God’s being grieved is that of Israel’s wilderness wandering. “How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert!” (Ps. 78:40). “Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest” (95:10-11). Isaiah 63 speaks of the same period and specifically states that the ‘Holy Spirit’ was grieved: “But they rebelled, and vexed [i.e., grieved] his holy Spirit” (10).

But what about those things which are said to grieve the Holy Spirit in the immediate context of Ephesians 4:30? Notice that the text begins with “And,” linking it to the preceding verse: “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (29). Foul speech, obscene language and malicious words are “corrupt,” that is, putrid and rotten. Such talk grieves the Holy Spirit because He is the Spirit of life and purity. He cannot dwell at peace with one who speaks this way; He hates corrupt conversation and withdraws.

Some point out that the word “corrupt” in Ephesians 4:29 also carries the idea of “worthless.” Why use worthless, corrupt and rotten talk, when you could be “edifying [others by your speech], that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (29)?

It is not only corrupt speech (Eph. 4:29) that grieves the Holy Spirit (30). Lying (25) grieves the Spirit, for He is the Spirit of truth. Sinful anger (26-27) grieves the Spirit, for He is the Spirit of self-control. Stealing (28) grieves the Spirit, for He is the Spirit who works and enables us to labour honestly. The verse after our text lists other sins which grieve the Spirit: “bitterness,” “wrath,” “anger,” “clamour,” “evil speaking” and “malice” (31). These things are abhorred by the heavenly dove and drive Him away from our breasts.

Notice that these sins are sins against our brothers and sisters in the church. Do not lie, “for we are members one of another” (25). Do not steal but work in order to help those who are in need (28). Use wholesome, not corrupt, speech “that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (29). Instead of “bitterness,” “malice,” etc., we must be “kind one to another” (31-32). Thus the prohibition of sinful anger (26-27) especially deals with our fellow saints in the church. If you go to bed at night without confessing the evil of wrath against your brother or sister, you are not only giving place to the devil (26-27), you are also giving him room to work destruction through you in the church, the body of Jesus Christ. And you are grieving the Spirit, the Spirit of love and communion.

At this someone might protest, “I was bitter only towards my sister; I spoke harshly only to my brother; I sinned only in a particular area of my life. I did not realize that the Holy Spirit was involved. I did not intend to grieve Him!” You did not intend to, but you did. We must use the truth of Ephesians 4:30 (in its context) to fight against our iniquities, realizing that it is not only that corrupt speech and all these other things transgress the law but also that they grieve the blessed Spirit. Surely, we do not wish to treat the Holy Spirit unkindly or disrespectfully, or displease Him. We do not want Him to withdraw or depart from us with the comforts of the gospel of Christ. We need Him. We pray for His presence with us. We love Him as God’s Spirit and Christ’s representative, who makes us enjoy the blessings of the covenant of grace.

The result of grieving the Holy Spirit is not the loss of salvation, for this would overthrow the preservation and perseverance of the saints. We are God’s inviolable property—past, present and future—”ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (30). The Spirit, personally, is this seal.

The result of grieving the Holy Spirit is the loss of our assurance. This is the rationale of the text: “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Grieving the Spirit results in His withdrawing from us His gracious operation of assurance as a seal (cf. Covenant Reformed News XII:8-9). Thus lying (25), sinful anger (26-27), stealing (28), corrupt speech (29), “bitterness,” “wrath,” “anger,” “clamour,” “evil speaking” and “malice” (31), as well as other sins, especially those against our fellow believers in the church, grieve the Spirit and cause us to lose our assurance.

Do you have assurance that you belong to Jesus Christ, that He died for your sins, that you were chosen in Him before the foundation of the world, that you are His forever? If you do not, there is something wrong. Have you been grieving the Spirit by sinning against the saints? Repent, child of God, and believe in the power of the cross of Christ for forgiveness and sanctification!

When we grieve the Spirit, the Spirit grieves us; we are grieved too. You respond, “But Ephesians 4:30 does not say this!” Ah, but it logically follows. When we grieve the Spirit, He withdraws from us. Remember that He is the Comforter! Withdrawal of the Comforter means we lose comfort and thus experience sorrow and pangs of conscience—grief! Loss of assurance is itself grief. No longer convinced of the Father’s hearty love for you; not sure if you are His child; walking in spiritual darkness and coldness; what else is this but grief! It is grief too for your family, your fellow saints and your church’s office-bearers, who are to look after your spiritual health. Ultimately and by sheer grace, the Spirit brings us to the wholesome grief of true repentance!

When Christians become deeply backslidden, especially if, for example, they sinfully stop attending church for some time, their whole lives become ones of grief. The Bible remains unread; they lose all joy from the communion of the saints. They are filled with guilt, losing all comfort and becoming deeply miserable. Sometimes they even waste their time and make things worse by going to secular psychologists, who try to alleviate their guilt in humanistic ways rather than pointing them to the cross of Christ. The grieved Christian may even sink to the depths of blaming God: “Look at the mess I’m in, and He does not do anything for me!” What about the atoning death of His Son? Is this not the central thing that He has done for us? “Why does He not assure me of His love?” He has written it in blood in the Scriptures, which tell us that His love is experienced as we walk in the light. “But He does not hear my prayers!” But what are you asking for? What about coming to Him with words such as these: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee.” The Father’s arms are stretched out for you; the fatted calf is ready; you will experience once again the formerly grieved Spirit as a seal of assurance and the blessed Comforter!


Rev. Angus Stewart

(Covenant Reformed News, vol. 12, nos. 12-13)

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True freedom.

“Sin destroys man’s liberty, for it prevents him prosecuting his chief end, which is to glorify God; as it equally hinders him from attaining his highest good, which is to be happy and holy.

License is not liberty, for true liberty is not the opportunity to do what we want but the power to do what we ought. Freedom of heart lies in a course of obedience to God, for there is no satisfaction of the heart until it finds its satisfaction in the “good and acceptable, and pefect will of God.” (Romans 12:2). The natural man is a bond-slave to sin and the spiritual man is the “Lord’s freeman.” (I Cor.7:22). Christ’s yoke is easy because it is lined with love. God’s commandments are not grievous, for they are dictated by infinite wisdom and are designed for our highest good. Loving, pleasing, enjoying, praising God is the only real freedom and blessedness. God’s precepts must be sought-desired and attended to-if we are to walk at liberty.”

A.W. Pink.

Pursuit of Glory (8)



Do we not all want to be good? I think not! We all want to please ourselves and  naturally despise God’s authority. The nature of sin is such that it leads to more sin and the conscience gets weaker. God punishes sin with more sin. Religious cloaks cover much evil and actually perpetuate it-think of suicide bombers who believe murdering infidels will bring them to their idea of heaven. We naturally love to sin.  We do self-righteous acts in an attempt to counterbalance the evil. No act is good unless the motive is to plaese God, it is done in faith, in obedience and for his glory. Unregenerate peoplecannot please God (Rom.8:8)-all is selfish. They sin because the come short of God’s glory (Rom.3:23). “Our thoughts, affections and deeds are all tainted by sin.” Only the Spirit resident in believers enables us to return love to God, bear fruit and have pure motives.(to be continued)

The Pursuit of Glory (6)


We are made to be lifelong students. Sadly the true knowledge of God, which constitutes one of the aspects of the image of God in man, was lost when our parents believed Satan’s lie. This is spiritual darkness, hiding to avoid the truth about our sins and what God says about them (Psalm 82:5). Our inablilty to understand truth is moral. “If anyone will do his will he shall know…” (John 7:17, I Cor.2:14).

 “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (John 3:19-21).

The most pervasive and powerful lie infecting humanity is EVOLUTION…              “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:” (2 Peter 3:5)-JK

“Of  all the knowledge that we can ever obtain, the knowledge of God, and the knowledge of ourselves, are the most important” (Jonathan Edwards). We are full of self-deceit, and love to make gods in our own image. If we only perceive God’s justice and wrath, we will forever hide from him and suppress the truth, but knowing his mercy and grace in Christ leads us to repentance. The truth (Christ) frees us, sanctifies us and brings forgiveness as we confess our sins (John 8:32, 17:17). “I am the way, the TRUTH, and the life….”

Book Review-“The Pursuit of Glory.”

Book Review

The Pursuit of Glory by Jeffrey D. Johnson

Paperback 113 pages published by Reformation Heritage books Grand Rapids 2018

Amazon Books £5.73p


This book is useful as an evangelistic tool and as a spur to believers. By reading it I believe, God uses it to answer the prayer of David in Psalm 139:23,24 to search us and know us and lead us in the way everlasting. This book, like Scripture is a sharp sword (Hebrews 4:12) to expose our motives-why we do things, in the same way as we know God looks at our hearts.

By covering all the basic human needs it shows us how fallen humanity perversely seeks to satisfy them. In the main it is theologically sound and very readable. The forward spells out its basic thesis which is Augustinian namely, “ You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you.” The chapters in turn show that the pursuit of happiness, purpose, truth, freedom (from sin, death and selfishness), companionship, peace, holiness and life (abundant) are all only found in relationship with God.

One basic error he repeats, and it is one widely believed among evangelicals, is that we (though fallen) are made in God’s image. Had he said we WERE made in God’s image he would be correct but now as fallen creatures and totally depraved we have lost all of that image which consisted true knowledge of God, righteousness and holiness which is only renewed when we are born again (Ephesians 4:24). He also ought to have said that pursuing God was part of our original humanity but now no man naturally seeks for God (Romans 3:11). He gets the “ordo salutis” (order of salvation) wrong when he says, “ By faith in God we are not only born again but empowered by the Spirit…” Regeneration precedes faith which is one of its fruits!

Some very pithy sayings include, “The biblical contrast to glory is vanity.” He maintains that the deep seated longings of our hearts (he ought to qualify this by saying regenerated hearts) is for eternal glory that is only found in God, it is the satisfying inter-trinitarian glory (John 17:5). As Westminster Confession states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him for ever.” We can never be self-sufficient simply because unlike God we are dependent creatures. “The cause of sin stems from a heart that desires to satisfy a legitimate craving with an illegitimate experience.” “Finite and perishable things were not designed to fill the God-shaped hole in our hearts.” “The end of love is the betterment of the other while the end objective of lust is the satisfaction of self.”

Near the end of the book he says something I had to contemplate but eventually had to agree with namely, that Christ was the “happiest” i.e. most joyful person who ever lived despite the fact he was a man of sorrows. He never lost his joy and was able to obey the Pauline injunction to rejoice evermore (Philippians 4:4) except when he was deserted in those awful last hours before he said ,”It is finished.”Hence the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

Dr Julian Kennedy, Ballymena.

Consecration of Israel (9)

Psalm 119:105-112

Reading I Peter 1:10-25

Consecration of Israel (God’s people in every age).

In verses 10-12 the Old Testament prophets are said to be taught by the Spirit of the coming Messiah about his future suffering and glory. What was revealed to them they wrote down as inspired Scripture which signified coming reality. Their writings were Christology and soteriology. Their searching was also signified by the cherubim placed over the ark looking at the mercy seat where the blood was sprinkled (see Num.7:89). Here Christ spoke to Moses. Angels long to look into the reality of redemption which they will never experience!

Holiness in Old Testament times was the keeping of a mixture of ceremonial and moral laws e.g. Leviticus which included foods, bodily issues, sexuality and marriage. Today holiness is obedience to God’s word, killing former lusts and hoping for the second coming.

Verses 18-21 concentrate on the covenant blood of the Lamb signified by the O.T. animal sacrifices. In contrast to perishable metals Christ’s blood is eternally efficacious, incorruptible and precious.




George W. Bethune: “What motive can there be for profanity? It has nothing in it, but a gross, stupid, devil-like contempt of all that good men love or deprecate. I have never heard anyone defend it upon any principle, and the only excuse ever offered is that it has become an unthinking habit, though some have owned themselves so lost to proper feeling that (to use their own expression), it did them good to swear when excited or irritated. ‘An unthinking habit!’ The rapid growth and strength of such a habit is another proof of the enormous sin… No one was ever naturally or without intentional practice a profane swearer. When he first attempted his awkward oath, he started and trembled lest the lightning of God would consume him on the spot,—his lips grew pale as he faltered out the fearful phrase; but soon, emboldened by the divine forbearance, callous from custom, and shameless through practised effrontery, he tosses from his leprous tongue oath after oath still more and more daring, until he scarcely knows when he swears and his conversation teems with insulting defiance of his Maker. ‘Unthinking habit!’ Is it not the privilege and dignity of a man to think? Wretched swearer, is there naught that can serve to supply your dearth of words but the titles of your good and mighty God? Naught to swell your impoverished speech but the judgments that ere long, except you repent, will crush your soul in eternal anguish? ‘Habit!’ Does habit excuse a thief, a liar, a debauchee? Has habit so corrupted your heart and lips, rendered you so familiar with the dialect of the blackguard, the drunkard, and the damned, that you cannot choose but to blaspheme like a lost spirit before your time? O surely, of all fools that mock at sin and at God who avenges himself on the sinner, the profane swearer is the silliest, cheapest, maddest, and nearest to hell! So far from getting the world in exchange for his soul, the swearer asks for his gratuitous condemnation” (Guilt, Grace, and Gratitude: Lectures on the Heidelberg Catechism, vol. 2, pp. 469-470).

Fire-a useful servant but bad master!

“And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.” Lev.9:24.
“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.” 10:1,2.
The same fire that confirmed God’s presence and help to his elect people, slew those who were disobedient and reprobate. In the same way God confirms his loving presence to us in answering prayer and opposes and destroys our enemies who do not repent.
 “Observe how jealous God is in matters of worship; how much he dislikes hypocrites, and formal professors; how severe he will be against such who bring in strange doctrines; what will be the fate of the contemners of Gospel doctrines and ordinances; and how much he resents those who trust in themselves, and their works, and bring in anything of their own in the business of salvation, which is strange fire, sparks of their own kindling, a burning incense to their own drag, and sacrificing to their own net.” John Gill.
“I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?” Luke 12:49