The Holy Spirit Can be Grieved
Francis Chan comments, “For a long time whenever I read that we are not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Isa. 63:10; Eph. 4:30), I thought that was a bit of an exaggeration. It almost seems sacrilegious to say that I could grieve God. Who am I to have such power over the Spirit?”
In our programs with Anne Graham Lotz, she made the comment that “grief is a love word.” That struck me as odd, and I had to think about it. The Mayo Clinic offers this definition of grief: “Grief is a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one or from a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received….” The reason the Holy Spirit can be grieved is because He feels; He has emotions—He loves.
Ray Pritchard says of Ephesians 4:30, “This verse tells us that the Holy Spirit is a divine person, not merely an influence or impersonal power. Only a person can be grieved. An influence has no feelings; a power has no emotions. Since the Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity, He possesses the qualities of true personhood, including the ability to feel anger, joy, sorrow, and grief.”
All that to say the Spirit can experience grief. But Ephesians 4:30 warns us, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
But how do we grieve Him? First, Francis Chan explains, “The Spirit is grieved when there is a breach in relationship, whether it be relationship with God or relationship with other people. When we are disunified, unloving, hateful, jealous, gossipy, etc., that is when we grieve the Spirit of God. And since He is the creator of emotions, I believe that the Spirit grieves more deeply than we can even understand.”
Billy Graham draws on the writings of Ruth Paxson to give the following clarification:
“The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of:
“1. Truth (John 14:17); so anything false, deceitful, or hypocritical grieves Him.
“2. Faith (2 Cor. 4:13); so doubt, distrust, anxiety, and worry grieve Him.
“3. Grace (Heb. 10:29); so whatever in us is hard, bitter, malicious, ungracious, unforgiving, or unloving grieves Him.
“4. Holiness (Rom. 1:4); so anything unclean, defiling, or degrading grieves Him.”
Let’s look briefly at the context of Ephesians 4:30 to get a sense from Scripture of some ways we can avoid grieving the Spirit. Beginning in verse 25:
- Don’t lie, but speak truthfully;
- Don’t let your anger lead to sinful action;
- Don’t steal;
- Work hard doing useful things;
- Don’t tear down people by the way you speak of or to them;
- Avoid bitterness, rage and anger;
- Don’t brawl (fight) or slander.
All of these things (this is not an exhaustive list) grieve the Holy Spirit when they are done by someone who is a believer in Jesus Christ. Remember, 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?”
Think about that. We have clear indication from Scripture that the Holy Spirit is God—He is a member of the Trinity. This verse tells us that God—in the person of the Holy Spirit—dwells (lives) inside of each Christian. Now imagine God visibly standing beside you as you lie, as you act out in anger, as you steal, as you slander…? Does that help you understand how you can grieve the Holy Spirit?
Dr. John Walvoord explains what happens to us when we have grieved the Holy Spirit:
“The fact that the Spirit of God has been grieved may be readily determined in the Christian’s experience. There is a loss of fellowship with God and the fruit of the Spirit, and some of the spiritual darkness that engulfs the unsaved descends upon the consciousness. For this reason Christians who have grieved the Holy Spirit may appear outwardly to be living on the same plane of experience as the unsaved.”
Does this describe you? Have you lost the joy of your salvation? Do you find it difficult—if not impossible—to feel love, joy, peace, patience, or any of the other fruits of the Spirit? (See Galatians 5:22-23.)
If that is you, there is a remedy: 1 John 1:9 declares: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Tell God where you have failed. Tell Him you need His help. Remember what Jesus said about the Holy Spirit in John 14:26, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”
If you will just allow Him, the Spirit Himself will help you avoid those things that grieve Him. “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13); and “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Francis Chan, Forgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit (Kindle Edition), p. 71. ↑
Ray Pritchard, Names of the Holy Spirit (Names of… Series) (Moody Publishers, Kindle Edition). ↑
Chan, p. 72 ↑
Billy Graham, The Holy Spirit (Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition), p. 158. ↑
John F. Walvoord, The Holy Spirit (Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition), p. 223. ↑