Ephesian 4:30: Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit

If I were to ask you ‘why shouldn’t the Christian sin?’, ‘what makes a sin wrong?’ we would likely hear a number of different arguments. Today many feel that a certain action is inappropriate because it is not culturally acceptable, it is a taboo, it is not a societal norm and this is what makes an action wrong. This betrays a more post-modern way of thinking where we are trying to live with the premise that everyone has their own truth and that our morality is a societal construct. You will also hear the more pragmatic view that says we should do those things that work for personal and societal benefit and not do those things that cause harm. Here you can see that the rationale behind the morality is the supremacy of human comfort. In contrast to this is the view the says that freedom is the basis of morality, as long as I choose to do what I want, it does not matter whether it hurts me or not, the point is I chose it. And as long as I don’t stop your choices then all is good. Then there is the Christian ethic, now you might think off hand that this is an ethic that is based on a set of rules, the law of God, and in part this is true for God’s law reflects Him, but Paul gets to the very heart of why a thing is a sin and the ultimate compass for Christian behaviour, Eph. 4:30, ‘And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.’ The rationale behind all Christian ethics is God. In this verse Paul is seeking to motivate the Ephesians to put off those ways that belong to their old sin dominated lives. He has made the argument on the basis of God’s work in having put the old man to death. Here is the second big idea that Paul puts forward to motivate the believer to leave sin behind and pursue love, ‘And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.’ Put sin aside because it grieves the third person of the Godhead.

Lets remember the context. Paul is in the practical part of the letter calling these Ephesians to be what they are, they are one body and so should be pursuing love and unity; they are dead in Christ and so should be putting off the old ways and putting on the new. Paul has been spelling out the specifics of this in putting of lying and speaking the truth; in putting away all anger; in putting away stealing and in its place industry and generosity; again Paul went after our speech. It is at this point that Paul tells us not to grieve the Spirit. After this Paul goes after speech again, and then urges us to kindness, tenderness and forgiveness in imitation of God. In one sense the call to not grieve the Spirit is linked to every one of Paul’s points in the context, our lying, getting angry, sinful tongue lashings, etc can all be brought to this principle, don’t do them because they grieve the Spirit. This principle is very effective because it is deeply personal. The Christian ethic is not one set of rules contending with another for your conscience it is a life of pleasing God and not grieving God. It is not a to-do list that we tick off with legalistic scrupulosity but living for the pleasure of our loving and holy God.

Today as we go through this verse we want to take the opportunity to dig a little bit into the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, looking at the person of the Spirit; and secondly we want to think deeply about what it means to grieve the Spirit.