Grieving The Holy Spirit
“Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”—Ephesians 4:30
The “sealing” of the Holy Spirit is referred to in the first chapter, verse 13, and the reference there is to the experience that came to the church at Ephesus at its beginning, as recorded in the 19th chapter of Acts. It was to this experience Paul referred when he said: “After that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise.” And here in my text he speaks of that sealing again, as being “unto the day of redemption.”
Two things are suggested. It indicates OWNERSHIP AND SECURITY. When we make out our deeds and hand over our property to others, we affix the seal and attest that the promises, or the covenants, of that deed are to be carried out with our consent, and it indicates that the ownership has passed from us to somebody else.
The Holy Spirit is God’s mark upon the believer. “Having this seal, the Lord knoweth them that are his.” A great many things were wrong; a great many people were saying wrong things. When Paul wrote to Timothy, there was much heresy; some teachers even denying the Resurrection. “Nevertheless,” says the Apostle, “the foundation of God stands sure.” God is able to look after His own property. “He knoweth them that are His.” He knows where we are, all about the circumstances that surround us, the environment in which we live. His SEAL is fixed upon His own, and He knoweth His sheep. Blessed be His Name for ever!
We are told in the Gospel that “as many as receive Him, to them He gave the power to become sons of God,” and when we become sons, He “sends forth the Spirit of His Son in our hearts, crying “Abba! Father! The Holy Spirit witnessing with our spirit that we are the children of God.”
I shall never forget the thrill that came to my own life the first time I found my lips uttering that word, “Father,” in addressing God. I had never thought of God as my Father. I had thought of Him as the Almighty, the Omnipotent One, if I dared to think of Him at all, and it brought a sense of terror to my spirit. But that night when I received Jesus as my own Saviour, I went home and went upstairs to my room, and as I knelt down for the first time at my bedside to pray, I found myself intuitively calling God my Father.
What made the change? It was THE SPIRIT OF SONSHIP. God had sent forth the spirit of His Son into my heart, and it was His voice that was addressing the Father. Are you a Christian? Have you had a definite experience of regeneration? If so, then you ought to have that witness. “The Spirit beareth witness to our spirit that we are children of the living God.” That is the SEAL that we are His.
I receive letters every week from numerous persons, expressing their doubts and their fears about their standing before God; expressing uncertainty about the Christian life.
If there is a doubting soul in this audience this morning, I am going to give you a challenge. You go somewhere this day, in some quiet place alone before God, and kneel down before Him, and frankly open the whole of your being to the indwelling Christ, and I will guarantee you, friends, that your doubts will flee like a mist before the rising sun. GOD CAN CLEAR YOUR DOUBTS. You can ask all sorts of preachers all sorts of questions, and they may only confuse you, but HE will lead you in all truth.
A few years ago, in my last pastorate, I had the privilege of fellowship with that celebrated preacher and author, Dr. A.T. Pierson. During his mission, he told us the story of a man that greatly impressed me.
It was during his pastorate of the First Presbyterian Church in Detroit that the building burned down and the congregation was forced to worship in the opera house every Lord’s day. Across the river in Windsor, there was a Canadian lawyer who was an infidel, but also a very unhappy man. On this particular Sunday morning he thought he would go over to Detroit and visit one of the big churches, where he might hear some good singing and cheer up. He saw the sign in front of the opera house announcing Dr. Pierson’s service, so he turned in there. It was the custom of the preacher, at the close of these meetings, to ask for any one who might be in trouble to meet him in his vestry. After the congregation was dismissed, he found this man waiting for him. He had accepted his invitation.
The doctor had never met him before, but in his own quaint way of approaching the sinner, he said:
“Now, my friend, I presume that you want me to act as a physician for your soul. If so, give me the very worst symptoms of your case, and I will try to prescribe for you.”
“Well,” said the lawyer, “you will find my case is a very difficult one, indeed.”
“You believe the Bible,” said the preacher.
“No, I do not believe the Bible.”
“You believe in Jesus Christ?”
“You believe in God?”
“No. I cannot say that I believe in anything of that character.”
“Well,” said Dr. Pierson, feeling a little bit vexed, “I asked for anxious souls to meet me here. You surely don’t expect me to waste my time trying to help a man who does not believe in either God or the Bible.”
But to his surprise, the lawyer said: “My dear sir, you mistake me; you misunderstand my case. I have not come to argue. I have come for help. I cannot say that I greatly enjoyed the service in your church. I do not remember any particular thing that you said, but while you were preaching, I was impressed with one fact, and that is, you believe something that satisfies you. It meets the need of your heart. Now, I WANT TO KNOW WHAT THAT SOMETHING IS. I want to believe it, too. Can you help me?”
Dr. Pierson said: “I felt that I had before me a real honest doubter; a sincere seeker after the truth. I asked God for guidance. I said to this man, ‘I am to be your physician. You will take the prescription that I give you.’”
The man promised that he would.
“Well, now,” he said, “You cannot believe, and yet the Bible informs me that ‘He that willeth to do my will shall know of the teaching.’ In other words, if you are willing to do God’s will, you will know the truth of the Scriptures.”
“Well,” said the man, “What is His will?”
“For you, I should say,” replied the preacher, “Enter into thy closet and pray to God in secret, and he that heareth in secret will reward thee openly.”
“Now, you go back to your home. Take the Bible, read the Gospel of John. It will not take you long. Then kneel before God and honestly ask Him to reveal Himself to you, and I am sure He will help you to see the truth.”
Two weeks passed, when, at the close of the morning service again, just after the doctor had asked for the anxious ones to go to the vestry, a gentleman arose in the congregation near the back of the building and asked the preacher to detain the people for a moment as he had something he felt he ought to say.
Coming up the aisle with hand lifted, he said: “I have found Him whom my soul loveth. I will not let Him go.”
Then he told the story that I have told you, of the conversation between himself and the preacher, and how he went back to his office in Windsor, took the Bible, started to read the Gospel of John. “But,” he said, “I only got as far as the 16th verse of the third chapter, where it says, ‘For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Then there came such a sense of the DIVINE PRESENCE that I could not read another word. I felt this must be the time to kneel and pray, and as my knees touched the floor there came such a revelation of divine love and such a consciousness of the divine presence, and as I opened my heart, HE FLOODED MY WHOLE BEING.”
Yes, friends, GOD CAN CLEAR UP YOUR DOUBTS. He knows the kind of a mind you have. He knows it is harder for some people to believe than others. He knows all about you. He will solve your problem if you will place yourself in His hands. I don’t think there ever was an honest seeker after the light that was turned away in darkness. “When He is come, He will guide you into ALL truth.” That was one of the things Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do.
One of the older writers in the church, in discussing the subject of “Divine Guidance,” tells the story of a young woman in the days of the Covenanters, who was on her way to a secret place of meeting, for in those days it meant your life to be found worshipping the Lord Jesus. She was coming down a hill, when a few hundred years away she noticed a company of soldiers coming towards her on horseback. She knew that these men were searching for worshippers of the Christ, and she also felt that it would mean not only her life, but the life of all who were assembled that morning, if she betrayed the place of meeting. She also felt that she could not tell a falsehood, and she lifted her heart to God for guidance, and there came to her that passage of Scripture, “Take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say; for the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.”
A sweet rest came to her spirit. Sooner than I can tell you the story, the officer of this company accosted her with these words, “Whither away, Fair Lady?”
Without the slightest hesitation she replied, “I am on my way to my Father’s house. My Brother died, and His Will is to be read this morning, and I have a share in the inheritance.”
“I congratulate you, Fair Lady, upon your good fortune,” replied the soldier, as the company went on its way.
Now, that was perfectly true. She was on the way to her FATHER’S house, for the Father’s house now is neither at Samaria, or in Jerusalem, but where a company gathers to worship in spirit and in truth. Her BROTHER, the one who was “made like unto his brethren,” had died a sacrificial death and His WILL, “The New Testament in His blood,” was to be read that morning, and she was a joint-heir with others in the great inheritance He left to the saints.
How real was the Holy Spirit’s presence to the early Christians!
That is what impressed me as I read the history of the apostolic church. HE WAS A LIVING REALITY. “It seemeth good to the Holy Spirit and to us,” said the Apostle.
And again, while they prayed, “the Holy Spirit said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.” They were “sent forth by the Holy Ghost.” Yes, He spake, and they listened in those days, and what the church of Jesus Christ needs today is to get back to that place of SIMPLE FAITH.
The text suggests His PERSONALITY. Grieve not the Holy Spirit. You cannot grieve an influence. You cannot grieve the wind. You cannot grieve the fire. You can grieve your mother because she loves you. You may disappoint others when you fail, but if you go into sin and shame you will grieve your mother. You only grieve those that love you.
Here is personality. “Grieve not the Holy Spirit, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Scripture informs us that we can SIN against the Holy Spirit, and what a solemn word that is—“it shall not be forgiven him,” said Jesus. Over and over again that solemn truth is repeated. It is a sin that shall “NEVER be forgiven, in this age nor in the age to come.”
“All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.”
“And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”
I want to say to those of you who are children of praying parents, and those who come under the influence of the Gospel, it is a serious thing to “resist the Holy Spirit.” That is what many of you do—RESIST! RESIST! RESIST! Being brought almost to a place of decision, having all the light necessary, knowing that Christ is the Son of God, and yet you deliberately turn from it all, “resisting the Holy Ghost.”
Then we can GRIEVE HIM. Sinners resist Him, but saints grieve Him, and, Oh! how we grieve Him!
I sometimes think we grieve Him greatly within the organization we call the church, by not giving Him His true place in the administration of her affairs. We appoint committees. We select a man to manage a certain line of work. Another comes in and usurps his position, puts him to one side and ignores him, and he is grieved and may resign.
God has set the Holy Spirit in the midst of the church to administer her affairs, and we go on usurping His place, and ignoring His presence, and setting Him aside until it seems to me, from many assemblies, His presence has been withdrawn. A lamp without a light. The candlestick has been removed from its place. He wants to be recognized and given His true place in the affairs of the Church which He purchased with His own blood.
There are other things I might say about that, but I want to call your attention to what the Apostle says regarding some habits of our lives that grieve Him. Notice Ephesians 4:31–32. Put away “all bitterness.” Can Christians be bitter? Yes, bitter as hell. Sometimes you will find them in the church, and when you get a Christian that has hate in his heart, it is the worst hate under Heaven. But you cannot be bitter and walk in the spirit. Bitterness is not of the Holy Spirit. You remember the Spirit came upon Jesus in the form of a dove, and they tell us that in a dove there is no gall.
“Oh Comforter, gentle and tender,
Oh, Holy and Heavenly dove,
Sweep over our spirits, I pray thee,
And fill with the tenderest love!”
That is what we need, friends! The Holy Spirit won’t let you think bitterly. Try it and see how it acts. What a sense of “gone-ness” you will have after you have given up to a spasm of bitter feeling. The Holy Spirit won’t bless over bitterness. We must put away all “bitterness,” “anger,” “malice,” “wrath.”
Then there is “evil speaking,” “filthy and foolish talking and jesting.” I have come to feel that if I am to keep myself right before God, I dare not permit myself to speak evil of my brother, even though I may be sure that he is guilty of wrong-doing. Indeed, I always feel condemned when I permit myself to listen to a lot of slander about others.
And then foolish talking. Oh, how much harm comes to our spiritual life through nonsensical jesting. There is a place for mirth and joy, but how frequently, after a most sacred meeting, when we have been under hallowed influences, you will find a lot of folks laughing and jesting, talking away all the blessing that God has sent to their soul.
There is the positive side to the life that the Spirit fills. Tenderness and kindness. “Tender-hearted,” says the apostle, and “kind to one another.” Oh, what opportunities we have for this kind of ministry in our homes; when we go shopping; on the street car; to those whom we employ, and also to our employers. The man who would be filled with the spirit of Christ must let the sufferings and sorrows of humanity move him. He cannot shut himself up and become steeled in the face of the world’s need. “Jesus beheld the city and wept over it.”
Forgiving one another. Notice the standard here for forgiveness. “Even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.” You remember when Jesus was talking to the apostle about forgiveness, Peter said, “If my brother sin against me how often shall I forgive him? Till seven times?” That was the perfect number, and when a Jew had reached the seventh time, he surely had reached the place of perfection in his own estimation, but Jesus carried Peter away beyond all standards of human forgiveness. “Till seven times!” said Jesus. “Nay! Till seventy times seven!”
Luke, in giving the record of that incident, informs us that when Jesus raised that standard, the disciples said, “Oh, Lord! Increase our faith!” But here the standard is infinitely higher, “Even as God, for Christ’s sake, hath forgiven you.”
How does He forgive you? I know how He forgives me. Why, before I can make the full confession, He hugs me to His heart and makes me feel as if I had never committed that sin at all. In all the world there is nothing so wonderful as the way God forgives sin.
Well, somebody may say, “Preacher, you have taken everything out of my life. If I am to live according to this teaching, what is there left for me?”
Now, notice what follows. “Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” When one is drunk with wine the feelings generally find expression in nonsense, blasphemy and lewdness, but when you are filled with the Spirit, instead of foolish talking and jesting, your joy will find expression in “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” Husbands will be loving their wives as Christ loved the Church, and wives will be obedient and loving to their husbands. “Children will obey their parents in the Lord,” and fathers will be considerate of their children, “not provoking them to wrath.” “Servants obedient to their masters,” giving service with singleness of heart as unto Christ. “Not eye service, as men pleasers, but as servants in Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,” and “Masters will do the same thing unto them, knowing that they also have a Master in Heaven.”
Don’t you see, my dear friends, that here is the solution to all the problems of your heart and of your life, and also of the church, and of the home and of the business? The fullness of the Spirit touches every phase of the common everyday existence, as well as leads us to the lofty heights of spiritual and eternal things.