What Does It Mean to Grieve the Holy Spirit?

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We all do it even though we know we shouldn’t. Sometimes, we are aware when we do it, and sometimes we are not. But, we all do it, and it hurts him when we do. In Ephesians 4:30, Paul told the Ephesians to not grieve the Holy Spirit. But, what does it mean to grieve the Spirit?

When someone gives us a precious gift, our response is to cherish it. The most precious Gift Jesus gave us when he left earth, besides salvation, is the Holy Spirit. Instead of cherishing this precious Gift, we disregard the Holy Spirit. We grieve the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is a Person, Not a Force

Before we say what this very important command means, we have to first settle the truth that the Holy Spirit is a person, not a force. The Spirit is not an inanimate object. The Spirit is a person, with a real personality and real emotions. He can be treated in personal ways (Acts 5:3; Acts 5:9; Hebrews 10:29). He teaches (Luke 12:12), affirms or testifies (Romans 8:16), prays for us (Romans 8:26), warns (Acts 20:23), speaks (Acts 8:29; Acts 10:19), knows, calls out (Galatians 4:6) and hears (John 16:13). Forces don’t act in personal ways like this; only people do. The Holy Spirit is a person who acts in personal ways.

The Holy Spirit Transforms

The Spirit does the work of spiritual transformation in us. As we submit to his work in our lives, he produces lasting fruit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23).  Christlikeness is the ultimate goal of the Spirit’s work in our lives. He leads us to put off the thoughts and deeds of the old self and put on those of the new self. When we behave in a way that shows we are not willing to put off the old self, we grieve the Spirit.

Grieving the Spirit

But, what does it mean to grieve the Holy Spirit?  To grieve the Spirit means to cause him pain, sorrow, and disappointment by our sins.  In the context of the passage, several sins grieve Him. Lying to one another grieves the Spirit (Ephesians 4:25). Uncontrolled anger grieves the Spirit (Ephesians 4:26). Stealing from one another grieves the Spirit (Ephesians 4:28). Obscene, foul and worthless language grieve the Spirit (Ephesians 4:29). Being bitter grieves the Spirit (Ephesians 4:31). Unforgiveness grieves the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:32). Sexual immorality grieves the Spirit (Ephesians 5:2-3). Thus, any sinful attitude, thought, or behavior grieves the Holy Spirit.

In short, when we treat one another with contempt, we deny the presence of the Spirit in our lives. Our sins, especially our sins against people in the covenant community (the Church) disappoint and even alienate the Spirit. This is unfortunate because He is the one who identifies us a belonging to God and to one another. He guarantees our future redemption. He empowers us to persevere until Jesus returns. Therefore, the Spirit is the most important person in our lives until Jesus returns. One scholar says grieving the Spirit is like rejecting a priceless gift from God.

Giving the Devil a Foothold

When we grieve, resist, disappoint, sorrow, and pain the Spirit means we give the devil a foothold in our lives. He takes advantage of and schemes against us (Ephesians 4:27). The devil wants us to resist the only power that can keep us from falling prey to his devious tactics and schemes

How Not to Grieve the Spirit

So, how do we not grieve the Spirit?

  • First, we must fill our lives with the words of Jesus. The Holy Spirit reminds us of all that Jesus said.
  • Second, we must repent or turn from the sin of disappointing the Spirit.
  • Next, we should ask the Spirit for the desire to hear and respond to Him.
  • Lastly, do what He tells you to do. Sometimes, he asks us to do things that are strange. But, remember He will never invite you to do something that is not aligned with Scripture.

Followers of Jesus should be radically different than people in the world. We have to constantly remind ourselves we are not who we used to be. We are actually new people in Christ, and we have the Holy Spirit to help us live new and transformed lives.

What are some other ways we grieve the Holy Spirit? 

What are some spiritual practices that help you respond to the Holy Spirit’s work in your life? 

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