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In what sense is the Holy Spirit grieved?

  by aymon de albatrus

"And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed to the day of redemption." (Eph 4:30)

"Do not quench the Spirit." (1Th 5:19)


These verses are generally interpreted to mean that man has power over the Holy Spirit to control and influence Him in some ways. The human perversion, the arrogance and his delusion are so great to fantasize a god of his image over which he has ascendancy.

Before moving on we must understand whom the Holy Spirit is. Immediately we understand that the Holy Spirit is a person and not an influence for only a person can be "grieved". But what type of person He is? The Holy Ghost is mentioned by Christ more than anyone else. This takes us at the difficult concept of the Trinity. The word Trinity is not mentioned in the Bible, but Jesus said: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:" (Mat 28:19 AV). Here Jesus identifies the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and putting them at the same level. Therefore, if the Father is God, so are the Son and the Holy Spirit, by definition.

How can we prove that the Son and the Holy Spirit is God? Simple, we just make a list of all the major attributes of God the Father and then we find in the Bible if the same attributes are also applied to the Son and the Spirit, and it is just like that. From this we can say that in the unique God there are 3 persons of equal importance though the Father has the pre-eminence.

This concept of a unique God that manifest Himself in 3 persons is impossible for us to understand, but we know that it is so, for the inerrant Word of God tells us so.

Anyway, for our purpose here it is sufficient for us to know that the Holy Ghost is in reality God and here are 10 of His major attributes that are the same as those of God the Father.

Omnipotence Infinite power, no limits

Omniscience Total knowledge of Past, Present, Future

Omnipresence Present in every places, even in Hell

Just Impartial, loyal, perfect

Holy inherently holy, perfect righteousness, inviolable goodness

Eternal Life From the Past without and to the Future without end

Immutability Changes not, absolute invariability

Truth Pure veracity, the truth

Felicity He needs nothing, He lacks nothing, fully self sufficient

Love (Agape) The essential motivation of His Being.

Let us consider the "Felicity" attribute, God, the Holy Spirit, cannot EVER be grieved or frustrated otherwise He would be lacking something and thus would not be God, by definition. No human or angelic tragedy can touch his happiness, the least, or cause the minimum moment of consternation and frustration, for He is ALL SELF SUFFICIENT and lacks nothing. Moreover He is Omniscient and Omnipotent and Omnipresent, thus nothing can surprise Him, whether human or spirit, indeed NO ONE has power over Him to disturb His pleasure.

The other attribute to consider is His Immutability, for God does not change thus nothing external to him can possibly interfere with what He has proposed and consequently he cannot be grieved at all: "For I am Jehovah, I change not. ÖÖ.." (Mal 3:6)

When we look at verses such as And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God we must keep in mind who God is and His attributes. In NO Way we can scratch His Felicity for if we did He would come short of His immutability and not be God, again by definition.

How to interpret then?
God has given us names to identify the persons of the Trinity, but in fact the Trinity has no names as we understand. Indeed the word "God" (Yahweh) is an invention of His to favour our human understanding. We humans are in need of definite terms, definable concepts to think and to understand, and God has provided those things we call "language of accommodation". Every parent uses this "language of accommodation" when he wants to communicate with his small children, a language to their level that they can understand. It is simplified language to make the child understand what the parent has in mind.

For example if Eric wanted to tell Heidi to avoid touching the Chinese vase he has in the corridor worth Ä 10,000 he would not say to her: "Heidi, listen, that vase is very expensive and delicate, please refrain to touch it." Instead he would say: "Heidi, NO! No." In the same way God formulated his communications to us in very low terms in comparison to His mentality, using words and concepts that we understand.

For this reason He says to us: "For as the heavens are high from the earth, so My ways are high from your ways, and My thoughts from your thoughts." (Isa 55:9)

Often the Bible expresses Itself from the human view point (anthropologically) that places man at the centre of reality, and other times attributes to God human emotions (Anthropopathy)

For example: "And Jehovah repented that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved to His heart." (Gen 6:6) A superficial reading would indicate that God was surprised by the happenings, as if He were human and had made an error in creating man and was sorry for it. But this is impossible because in His attributes God is also Omniscient and thus He knows everything of the Past, of the Present and of the Future. If he knew everything, even before starting His creation, why repent on how things went, for He knew beforehand how things would have gone? It makes no sense at all. Also, it impossible that He was grieved, as a human would, for His unchangeable attribute of Felicity, would have failed, and this would have made Him not the Omnipotent Immutable God.

With the same principle we now understand that when the Word says And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God it is not to be understood as if we have power over the Holy Spirit, and can scratch His Felicity, but it is an expression of "language of accommodation" to favour our comprehension of what God wants us to understand.

The Word here, as everywhere else, speaks specifically for our benefit, exhorting us to walk according to Godís commandments and not contrary to them. These commands are sanctified in us by the Holy Ghost so that we do not hurt ourselves and walk away evermore from the Lord as it seems to us. In other words, we live badly if we persist in our ways.

Naturally, from manís point of view (anthropologically) we can conceive that the Spirit is grieved when we offend Him with our behaviour contrary to the will of God, (as if He were a man).

But in fact the warning of the Apostle is that if we walk badly in front of God He removes from us His protection allowing the evil one to sift us as we deserve. This may seem to us that the Spirit is grieved and has become our enemy as Isaiah says: "But they rebelled, and provoked His Holy Spirit, so He was turned to be their enemy; He fought against them." (Isa 63:1)

This is the warning of the Apostle.

From the Anthropopathic point of view (that is attributing human emotions to the Spirit) He is grieved by our sinful behaviour, by the iniquity in our souls, by our continuous rebellion, by the prevalent corruption in us and by our continual resistance to His work of sanctification in us. So this expression is to make us understand (at our level) how evil is our heart and our behaviour. He wants to understand the feelings that a father has for his wayward son.

However the happiness of God cannot be effected in any way, and thanks to God that it is so, for otherwise we would be lost for sure, for it is God who is the author of our birth, the giver of Grace and the finisher of our faith. He is the comforter of the saints, our advocate, our succourer, the strengthener and our constant companion, that is in us and remains in us, till death. It follows then that He will bring to competition His work in us till our prefect salvation in Heaven, thus how can we possibly grieve his Holy person.

This "grieve" does not mean that we make Him displeased, since He cannot be displeased being God an Omniscient, but we are doing evil to ourselves for in so doing we put on us the consequences of sin. This is what the Word is telling us.

What "grieves " the Holy Spirit:

When we live like pagans. (Eph 4:17-19)

When we give in to our sinful nature. (Eph 4:22-24)

When we lie. (Eph 4:25)

When we get upset (Eph 4:26-27)

When we steal. (Eph 4:28)

When we swear. (Eph 4:29

When in Sexual immorality. (Eph 5:3-5)

The list could continue ad infinitum, but I guess it is sufficiently long to make the point clear. Grieving the Holy Spirit is behaving in a sinful way, both in deeds and in thoughts, things that a child of God should not do or think, but he should continually renew his mind: "And be not conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, in order to prove by you what is the good and pleasing and perfect will of God." (Rom 12:2)

To note that the Holy Ghost is not that delicate as modern theology would want us to believe for he can forcefully forbid us to do anything as with the Apostles: "And passing through the Phrygian and the Galatian country, being forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the Word in Asia," (Act 16:)

Let us not forget the story of Ananias and Sapphira (Act 5:1-11) where the Holy Ghost killed them on the spot for lying to Him. Is this grieving the Holy Spirit? Then we would all be dead.

Let us take the other verse: "Do not quench the Spirit." (1Th 5:19)

Is it really possible to quench the Spirit in the light of what we said above?

Again here is not intended that man can quench God, rather "quench" refers to the reception of graces and blessings that God gives liberally.

These graces and blessings cannot totally be turned off, but can be quenched for a period. The light of Faith can weaken, the flame of Love for God can be reduced, the Zeal for the Word of God, can become lukewarm, (as the church of Laodicea). This is the direct result in delving in sin, in keeping bad companies and in neglect the ordinances of the Lord, such ad: prayer, witnessing, preaching and practicing the gifts of the Spirit. These graces and blessings can be quenched for a while, but the Lord will surely bring to fruition what He has predestined for us, His elect.

The concept is similar to the in 2Ti 1:6: "For which cause I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands." The gift here referred to would be that of the ministry that Paul exhorts Timothy to not quench but to revive it by putting it into use. This gift was in Timothy and continued to be in him, it was not spent nor taken away from him, but was quenched for Timothy was reluctant in putting it to use due to his shyness. For this reason the Apostle exhorts Tim to revive the gift, in a metaphorical sense, for this gift was quenched through disuse and negligence.

Indeed, later, Timothy became the bishop of Ephesus and made many good works for the Lord, suffering, him as well, martyrdom in Ephesus during the feast to Diana.

(Incidentally, speaking of Diana, her cult continued in Ephesus until 431 when she was supplanted by the cult of Mary by the Catholic church to legitimize that Mary was the "mother of god" and the "mother of all" and not Diana that also had these attributes. They also gave to Mary all the other attributes of Diana such as: "queen of heaven" and "divine virgin" etcetera. Before 431 Mary was not recognized and so they effectively paganised Christianity at Ephesus and Diana, still alive, had her name changed to that of Mary.)

The same principle adopted for Timothy is valid for us, and so does the meaning of "Do not quench the Spirit." With this phrase God is asking us to put vitality in the holy fire that God has kindled in ourselves through constant prayer, meditation on His Word, witnessing and putting into practice the gifts He has given to us.

It is not the Spirit that gets quenched, but the reception of His gifts and blessings is reduced.

In Conclusion

  1. The Holy Spirit is the 3rd person in the unique Godhead having the same attributes of God the Father.

  2. In NO way the Felicity of the Holy Spirit can be influenced, saddened, frustrated or grieved, Him being God and immutable.

  3. Often the Bible talks in Anthropological terms (from manís point of view) and some times in Athropopatic terms (attributing human emotion to God), this to bring His lofty concepts to our human understanding: "For as the heavens are high from the earth, so My ways are high from your ways, and My thoughts from your thoughts." (Isa 55:9)

  4. In Athropopatic terms when the Word says And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God it is not that gets "grieved" but we damaged ourselves by our sinful behaviour, by the iniquity in our hearts, by our continuous rebellion, by our prevalent corruption and by the perpetual resistance to His sanctification work in us.

  5. In Anthropological terms "Do not quench the Spirit" we "quench" the reception of the graces and blessings that God so liberally gives to us when we indulge in some sins, in keeping bad companies and in neglecting the ordinances of the Lord such as: Prayer, Witnessing, Preaching and practicing the Gifts of God.

  6. "Grieving" the Spirit is not a sign that the believer has lost his salvation for we are sealed till the day of redemption, for the believers are eternally secure, but it does influence our daily walk with the Lord.

  7. "Grieving" and "Quenching" the Spirit are similar in their effect both hinder a holy life. Both come about when the believer sins and follows his sinful desires. The only way to live a Christian life is to walk on that narrow road that runs closer to God and away from the world and sin: "For narrow is the gate, and constricted is the way that leads away into life, and few are the ones who find it." (Mat 7:14)