Grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

I think there are great numbers of Christian believers who ought to go home and go into their places of prayer and apologize to God for their demeaning attitudes toward the Holy Spirit of God.

Included in their numbers are Bible teachers who are guilty of leading us astray. They have dared to teach Christians that the Holy Spirit will never speak of His own person or position, as though the third Person of the Godhead may be ignored and His ministry downgraded!

Jesus said, “[When He comes] he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak” (John 16:13).

Jesus was actually telling His disciples: The Comforter will not come to stand on His own, to speak on His own authority. He will guide you into all truth—He will speak and act on the authority of the divine Godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

If you do not yield and honor the Holy Spirit, your lives will not show forth the blessed fruits of the Spirit!

Lord, I pray that my life will produce the fruit of Your Spirit today (see Galatians 5:22–23).[1]

A powerful motivation for putting off unwholesome talk is that not to do so will grieve the Holy Spirit of God. All sin is painful to God, but sin in His children breaks His heart. When His children refuse to change the ways of the old life for the ways of the new, God grieves. The Holy Spirit of God weeps, as it were, when he sees Christians lying instead of speaking the truth, becoming unrighteously rather than righteously angry, stealing instead of sharing, and speaking corrupt instead of uplifting and gracious words.

Whatever violates the will of God and the holiness of the heart will grieve the third Person of the Trinity. Grieving can lead to quenching (1 Thess. 5:19) and to a forfeiture of power and blessing. It should be noted also that such responses by the Holy Spirit indicate His personhood, which is seen in the use of personal pronouns referring to Him (cf. John 14:17; 16:13; etc.). His identity as Comforter, or Helper (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7), indicates that He is like Christ, who is a person. The Holy Spirit has intellect (1 Cor. 2:11), feelings (Rom. 8:27; 15:30), and will (1 Cor. 12:11). He works (1 Cor. 12:11), searches (1 Cor. 2:10), speaks (Acts 13:2), testifies (John 15:26), teaches (John 14:26), convicts (John 16:8–11), regenerates (John 3:5), intercedes (Acts 8:26), guides (John 16:13), glorifies Christ (John 16:14), and directs service to God (Acts 16:6–7).

Specifically in light of this text in Ephesians, the personhood of the Holy Spirit is seen in the fact that He can be treated as a person. He can be tested (Acts 5:9), lied to (Acts 5:3), resisted (Acts 7:51), insulted (Heb. 10:29), and blasphemed (Matt. 12:31–32).

Paul asks, in effect, “How can we do that which is so displeasing to the One by whom [we] have been sealed for the day of redemption?” (see 1:13–14). The Holy Spirit is God’s personal mark of authenticity on us, His stamp of divine approval. How can we grieve the One who is our Helper, Comforter, Teacher, Advocate, Divine Resident of our hearts, and guarantor of our eternal redemption? How can we ungraciously grieve God’s infinitely gracious Holy Spirit? He has done so much for us that, out of gratitude, we ought not to grieve Him.

The command not to show ingratitude to the Divine Spirit is based on the fact that He has secured our salvation. Paul is not saying we should avoid sin in order to keep our salvation, but rather that we should be eternally grateful to the Holy Spirit for His making it impossible for us to lose it.[2]

  1. When the apostle warns against ill behavior and urges Christian conduct upon all the addressed, he is never forgetting about all the “interested” parties. He has already mentioned the neighbor, the devil, the needy one, and the listeners (verses 25, 27, 28, and 29). It does not surprise us, therefore, that he now refers to one more interested party, most interested indeed, namely, the Holy Spirit. He writes: And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. It is said at times that the church has failed to do full justice to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit; that it has neglected to bestow upon him the attention given to the Father and to the Son. There may be truth in this. As for Paul, however, he has no share in this blame. The term “the Holy Spirit” occurs about thirty times in his epistles, if we include such synonymous appellatives as “Spirit of God,” “Spirit of Jesus Christ,” etc. In addition I have counted at least seventy instances in which I, for one, would interpret the term pneúma (occurring without the adjective “holy”) as referring to the third person of the Holy Trinity. On that subject, however, there is some difference of opinion among commentators. Be that as it may, the epistle to the Ephesians mentions the Holy Spirit again and again, using the very term (1:13; 4:30) or simply the designation: “the Spirit” (1:17; 2:18, 22; 3:5, 16; 4:3, 4; 5:18; 6:17, 18). In most of these cases there is general agreement that the reference is to the Paraclete.

The reason for this frequency of occurrence is obvious: Paul wishes to impress upon us that apart from God we cannot be saved; that is, that whatever good there is in us has its origin in the Holy Spirit. He both imparts life and sustains it. He causes it to develop and to reach its ultimate destination. It is he, therefore, who is the Author of every Christian virtue, every good fruit. Hence, whenever the believer pollutes his soul by any deceitful, vengeful, covetous, or filthy thought or suggestion, he is grieving the Holy Spirit. This is all the more true because it is the Spirit that dwells within the hearts of God’s children, making them his temple, his sanctuary (2:22; 1 Cor. 3:16, 17; 6:19). By means of every evil imagination, cogitation, or motivation that indwelling and sanctifying Spirit is therefore, as it were, cut to the heart. Besides, not only does the Spirit save us but he also fills us with the joy, the assurance, of salvation; for, as was made clear earlier, and as is repeated in substance here in 4:30, it was “in” him (“in connection with,” hence also “by means of,” him) that we were “sealed for the day of redemption,” that great day of the consummation of all things, when our deliverance from the effects of sin will be completed. It is the day of Christ’s return, when our lowly body, refashioned so that it will have a form like Christ’s glorious body, will rejoin our redeemed soul in order that in soul and body the entire victorious multitude may inhabit the new heaven and earth to glorify God forever and ever. The very meditation on the fulfilment of this hope should have a purifying effect on us (1 John 3:2, 3). For further explanation see on 1:13, 14; cf. Luke 21:28; Rom. 8:23. Hence, reversion to pagan attitudes and practices is a sign of base ingratitude. How this must grieve the indwelling Spirit! We may call this a highly anthropomorphic expression, and so it is, both here and in Isa. 63:10 from which it is borrowed. It is, however, in a sense, a most comforting anthropomorphism, for it cannot fail to remind us of “the love of the Spirit” (Rom. 15:30), who “yearns for us even unto jealous envy” (James 4:5). That is also the context in Isaiah. Read Isa. 63:10 in connection with the verse which precedes it. To be sure, “grieving the Spirit” may not be as strong a term as “resisting” the Spirit (Acts 7:51); which, in turn, is not as trenchant as “quenching the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19). Nevertheless, one step in the wrong direction easily leads to the next. Let the Ephesians, and all those down the centuries for whom the epistle was intended, take this to heart! Note also with what emphasis the Comforter’s full name is spelled out: “the Holy Spirit of God,” or, even more literally, “the Spirit, the Holy One, of God,” with special emphasis on his holiness. The stress is both on his majesty and on his sanctifying power. He is “holy” and this not only as being spotlessly sinless in himself, but also as the very Source of holiness for all those in whose hearts he deigns to dwell![3]

30 With a linking “and,” Paul connects the preceding prohibitions to a much larger issue—offending the Holy Spirit. Their behavior affects God! Paul issues another prohibition using plus the present imperatival form of the verb to call on the readers either to avoid or to stop grieving the “Holy Spirit of God” (cf. “put out the Spirit’s fire,” 1 Th 5:19; “resist the Holy Spirit,” Ac 7:51). Paul underscores the personality of the Spirit—one who can be grieved. “Grieve” (lupeō, GK 3382) means “to cause severe mental or emotional distress, vex, irritate, offend, insult” (BDAG, 604). The thought may parallel Isaiah 63:10: “Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit.” When believers disregard God’s will concerning how the community of Christ ought to behave, they cause grief to God’s Spirit, whose work it is to build up the body (cf. 2:22; 4:3–4). Again we note Paul’s parallelism: not dealing properly with anger gives the devil an opportunity to harm the body of Christ (v. 27); so sinning with the tongue offends the Holy Spirit, who desires to bless and build up the body. Of course, sins other than those involving evil speech can grieve the Spirit (and so this prohibition could reflect the entire section), but avoiding destructive speech is probably the primary point in this context. To tear down a brother or sister rather than to build him or her up distresses God’s Spirit.

Paul then reminds his readers of a crucial truth about the role of the Spirit in the body—and a crucial incentive against misusing the tongue: believers were sealed in (with God as agent) or by means of the Spirit for the day of redemption. A “seal” could be a security measure or a mark of identification denoting ownership. As we saw earlier (see commentary on 1:13), a seal implies God’s protection for those who enter the Christian community. The Spirit authenticates them as his people “who have been stamped with the holy character of their owner” (Lincoln, 307). At their entrance into the body, God marked believers as his own—giving them the Holy Spirit as the down payment—ensuring their status until the end, the day of their redemption. (On “redemption,” apolytrōsis, GK 667, see comments at 1:7, 14; cf. Ro 8:23.) “Day” points to an especially significant event (cf. “day of the Lord” or “day of Christ”). The “day of redemption” points to the final consummation of believers’ salvation (cf. 1:10, 14). So in view of this certainty, why would they engage in any behavior that would insult the very one who has marked them out for that special day?[4]

4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. If this is taken in connection with the preceding verse, it means that worthless talk grieves the Spirit. It may also be linked to verses 25–28 to indicate that lying, unrighteous anger, and stealing also hurt Him. Or in a still wider sense, it may be saying that we should abstain from anything and everything that grieves Him.

Three powerful reasons are suggested:

  1. He is the Holy Spirit. Anything that is not holy is distasteful to Him.
  2. He is the Holy Spirit of God, a member of the blessed Trinity.
  3. We were sealed by Him for the day of redemption. As mentioned previously, a seal speaks of ownership and security. He is the seal that guarantees our preservation until Christ returns for us and our salvation is complete. Interestingly enough, Paul here uses the eternal security of the believer as one of the strongest reasons why we should not sin.

The fact that He can be grieved shows that the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a mere influence. It also means He loves us, because only a person who loves can be grieved. The favorite ministry of God’s Spirit is to glorify Christ and to change the believer into His likeness (2 Cor. 3:18). When a Christian sins, He has to turn from this ministry to one of restoration. It grieves Him to see the believer’s spiritual progress interrupted by sin. He must then lead the Christian to the place of repentance and confession of sin.[5]

[1] Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1986). Ephesians (p. 189). Chicago: Moody Press.

[3] Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953–2001). Exposition of Ephesians (Vol. 7, pp. 221–222). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

[4] Klein, W. W. (2006). Ephesians. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon (Revised Edition) (Vol. 12, pp. 131–132). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[5] MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (p. 1940). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.


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