When we sin, God cries. He not only cries, but grieves. He feels a deep anguish of His Spirit, a mix of holy anger against the evil of our sin and divine compassion for us as His beloved children. God’s grief over the horrible nature and painful results of sin has existed since sin first entered the world. Surely He wept to see Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit and suffer banishment from Paradise and spiritual and physical death. Right before the Flood, the Bible tells us that when God saw all the wickedness of the human race, His grief was so intense that He was “sorry” and “regretted” making us (Genesis 6:6). Throughout Israel’s history, when His people rebelled against His commands and ways, God has grieved (Psalm 78:40; Isaiah 63:10). When Jesus looked out at the city of Jerusalem in the final days before His crucifixion, “He wept over it,” because it had been doomed by its people’s unbelief in their Messiah (Luke 19:41-44; remember from Heritage Studies 6 that this prophecy was fulfilled when the Romans burned Jerusalem in AD 70). And in today’s passage, we read that when believers sin, it causes God’s Holy Spirit inside of us to grieve.
Christians cannot lose the Holy Spirit, who has “sealed” us for “the day of redemption” (our final glorification with Christ in heaven), but we are warned that we can grieve Him with our sin (Ephesians 4:30). When that happens continually and we don’t repent, our conscience can become dull with sin as we lose fellowship with the Spirit and lose the peace of feeling His presence. Grieving the Spirit constantly is not God’s desire for His children! Notice the timing of this serious warning to avoid grieving the Spirit. Paul has just finished reminding Christians that as new creations filled with new Christ-like natures, believers ought to live new lives worthy of our new identities (Ephesians 4:17-24). Examples of this include telling the truth instead of lying, giving instead of taking, and encouraging instead of tearing people down with our words (Ephesians 4:25-29). Paul is about to finish the examples in verses 31-32 by talking about the overall heart attitude that the believer should maintain – being loving and forgiving instead of mean and bitter. But before he does this, the apostle gives us a very important motivation. He wants us to change our ways so that we do not grieve our God and Savior, the One who loved us enough to send His own Son to die for us. God is saying through Paul that we should avoid sin and do right because we love God and don’t want to hurt our relationship with Him. May we do our best today to give our Lord joy instead of grief.
The Text (Ephesians 4:30-32)
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
Questions to Think About
- When you are tempted to sin, what motivates you to resist sin and do the right thing instead?
- Have you ever thought about your sin causing God to grieve? How could that truth change your attitude about sin?
- If you are a Christian, are you trying to live a life pleasing to the Lord right now, or are you grieving His Holy Spirit that lives within you? How can you tell?
- While we know that God the Father and God the Spirit are not human, we must remember that they are still Persons just like Jesus the Son, who is both human and God. The Christian God is a personal God. When the Bible talks about God as experiencing emotions, we should not be so quick to always dismiss this as just “talking in human terms so that we can understand.” There is some of that in the Bible’s descriptions of God (references to His arm and His hand, for instance, are not to be taken literally unless they are talking about Jesus in the flesh). But we are made in God’s image, and I think that includes emotions. God’s emotions are always pure and without sin, but they are emotions like those we experience in our daily lives. Just look at Jesus in the Gospels! He laughed, He wept, He got tired, He felt compassion, He rejoiced, and He loved. We would not want to worship the passionless God of Greek philosophers and Enlightenment Deists. No, the God of the Bible is a real Person (actually, He is three Persons – Father, Son, and Spirit) who invites us into a personal, eternal relationship with Him based on His love and grace.
- God cares a lot about forgiveness. Of all the holy behaviors with which Paul could close this list, he chose forgiveness to sum it all up. Remember from the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:21-35) that the servant who could not forgive his coworker of a small debt was severely punished by the master who had forgiven him of an impossibly massive debt. The ability to truly forgive others from our hearts is incredibly important because it reveals that we have understood the great forgiveness that God has extended to us. When we meditate on how much Christ has forgiven us, it becomes easier to show love and grace to people who sin against us, especially other believers.