We have a new question shared with us by Christservant:
A couple more questions were brought up, brother, if you may please help clarifying them:
(Ephesians 4:30) “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:19) “Do not quench the Spirit;”
In the above two verses, please explain how/when the Holy Spirit may be grieved (Ephesians) or quenched (Thessalonians).
May the Lord give you to continue working in His field with such zeal,
Thank you again for these very interesting questions.
The two expressions — grieving the Holy Spirit and quenching the Spirit — are related to the Holy Spirit. So let’s see in brief the essential characters of the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church and of the Christian.
The Lord Jesus promised:
“And I will beg the Father, and he will give you another Comforter, that he may be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see him nor know him; but ye know him, for he abides with you, and shall be in you.” (John 14:16-17)
THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH: This is how the Lord of the Church introduced the other Comforter whom the world cannot receive and who always was with the believers, and now He is in the believers.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world, leading to righteousness or Salvation by faith: “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (John 16:8) “For the word of God [is] living and operative, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and penetrating to [the] division of soul and spirit, both of joints and marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of [the] heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
We are born again of the Spirit: “Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) The water is the Word of God, the truth (see John 15:3, and Ephesians 5:26) that the Holy Spirit uses to bring us forth (see James 1:18 and 1 Peter 1:23) and then to sanctify us more and more each day (see John 17:17 and 1 Peter 2:2)
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Sanctification or holiness: “who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4); “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13) The Holy Spirit sanctifies or separates us from the world to belong to Christ as saints.
The Lord has made the Church one body by baptizing the believers into one body with the Holy Spirit: “For also in [the power of] one Spirit we have all been baptised into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bondmen or free, and have all been given to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)
By the Holy Spirit we are sanctified more and more each day to be like Jesus: “But we all, looking on the glory of the Lord, with unveiled face, are transformed according to the same image from glory to glory, even as by [the] Lord [the] Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) And this image is found in the Word of God, the Gospel of the Glory of Christ: “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) And this Gospel is the truth: “but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:2) We are sanctified each day by the truth of God’s Word: “as newborn babes desire earnestly the pure mental milk of the word, that by it ye may grow up to salvation” (1 Peter 2:2) “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Much more can be said about the Holy Spirit, and we may write volumes about this truth. But in the limit of our topic, let us consider the points that were mentioned above:
The Holy Spirit convicts the world with the truth.
The Holy Spirit brought us forth by the Word of God, i.e. the truth.
The Lord made us one body by baptizing us with the Spirit of truth.
The Holy Spirit sanctifies us in the truth.
And in fact, the Holy Spirit always works by His Word which is the truth. Therefore, anything that is contrary to the truth will grieve Him and will quench the fire of His work, whether in the life of the Church or in the life of the individual believer. The verb “to grieve” denotes personality, so we grieve the Holy Spirit when we don’t walk according to the truth, whether as church or as individual believers. And the verb “to quench” denotes power, as it refers to the fire, and so we quench the power of the Holy Spirit when we don’t allow Him to work by His truth in the life of the church or of any individual believer.
Let’s see these truths in more details:
1. How/when the Holy Spirit may be grieved?
Here is the verse where we read about grieving the Holy Spirit:
“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which ye have been sealed for [the] day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30)
The Holy Spirit is a Divine Person equal to the Father and the Son, and He can be grieved. You can grieve a person, not a thing nor a power. So the verb “to grieve” is used in this verse to denote personality, and to exhort us not to do anything that will make this Person, the Holy Spirit, be grieved.
God does not have human carnal emotions. But He uses the verb “to grieve” that denotes emotions in order to make it possible for us to understand what is His Nature and how He acts concerning our disobedience.
How can we be in danger of grieving the Spirit of Truth?
Let’s read together the context of Ephesians 4:30, and let’s study it in that context:
1I, the prisoner in [the] Lord, exhort you therefore to walk worthy of the calling wherewith ye have been called, 2with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love;
3using diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the uniting bond of peace.
4[There is] one body and one Spirit, as ye have been also called in one hope of your calling;
5one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
6one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all.
7But to each one of us has been given grace according to the measure of the gift of the Christ.
8Wherefore he says, Having ascended up on high, he has led captivity captive, and has given gifts to men.
9But that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth?
10He that descended is the same who has also ascended up above all the heavens, that he might fill all things;
11and he has given some apostles, and some prophets, and some evangelists, and some shepherds and teachers,
12for the perfecting of the saints; with a view to [the] work of [the] ministry, with a view to the edifying of the body of Christ;
13until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, at [the] full-grown man, at [the] measure of the stature of the fulness of the Christ;
14in order that we may be no longer babes, tossed and carried about by every wind of that teaching [which is] in the sleight of men, in unprincipled cunning with a view to systematized error;
15but, holding the truth in love, we may grow up to him in all things, who is the head, the Christ:
16from whom the whole body, fitted together, and connected by every joint of supply, according to [the] working in [its] measure of each one part, works for itself the increase of the body to its self-building up in love.
17This I say therefore, and testify in [the] Lord, that ye should no longer walk as [the rest of] the nations walk in [the] vanity of their mind,
18being darkened in understanding, estranged from the life of God by reason of the ignorance which is in them, by reason of the hardness of their hearts,
19who having cast off all feeling, have given themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greedy unsatisfied lust.
20But ye have not thus learnt the Christ,
21if ye have heard him and been instructed in him according as [the] truth is in Jesus;
22[namely] your having put off according to the former conversation the old man which corrupts itself according to the deceitful lusts;
23and being renewed in the spirit of your mind;
24and [your] having put on the new man, which according to God is created in truthful righteousness and holiness.
25Wherefore, having put off falsehood, speak truth every one with his neighbour, because we are members one of another.
26Be angry, and do not sin; let not the sun set upon your wrath,
27neither give room for the devil.
28Let the stealer steal no more, but rather let him toil, working what is honest with [his] hands, that he may have to distribute to him that has need.
29Let no corrupt word go out of your mouth, but if [there be] any good one for needful edification, that it may give grace to those that hear [it].
30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which ye have been sealed for [the] day of redemption.
31Let all bitterness, and heat of passion, and wrath, and clamour, and injurious language, be removed from you, with all malice;
32and be to one another kind, compassionate, forgiving one another, so as God also in Christ has forgiven you.
As you can see, this passage is about walking worthy of the calling by which we have been called (see verse 1).
What is our calling?
That’s an interesting question, and one that many do not really understand today. Brethren, we are called as saints, in holiness, and not only to be saints and not only for sanctification. Let’s see where this is said:
“to all that are in Rome, beloved of God, called saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and [our] Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1:7)
We are saints by calling. We are sanctified to the Lord, i.e. we are separated from the world to be His, from the first moment we put our trust on Him as Lord and Savior. Becoming a saint is not a future event that comes a long time after Salvation. If you’re not a saint by faith, you will never be sanctified more and more each day to become like Jesus.
“For God has not called us to uncleanness, but in sanctification.” (1 Thessalonians 4:7)
We are called IN Sanctification, and not only for Sanctification.
In other terms, we are called to be children of Light:
“for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light
(for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth)” (Ephesians 5:8-9)
So we are by nature or by calling children of obedience to the truth. We are in the Truth. We are in Christ. We are children of Light by calling, i.e. we are children of the Father of Truth. While the devil is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). So walking in a manner worthy of our calling (see Ephesians 4:1) means walking in the light and in the truth:
“If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practise the truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:6-7)
“I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4)
Walking in the light means walking in the truth.
Indeed, we have seen above that it is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, that sanctifies us by separating us from the world and making us one with the Lord. And He does that by the truth. And then He keeps sanctifying us each day in the truth.
So anything that is contrary to holiness and truth grieves the Holy Spirit. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we don’t walk according to our calling as children of light and truth. We grieve the Holy Spirit when we don’t walk according to our calling as children of obedience but we disobey the leading of the Holy Spirit. And this is what the context of Ephesians 4 says. After exhorting us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling (as saints and children of the truth), the Apostle explains how that spiritual walk looks like, and then exhorts us not to grieve the Holy Spirit. He tells us that we should walk according to the truth that is in Jesus: “if ye have heard him and been instructed in him according as [the] truth is in Jesus“ (Ephesians 4:21). So anything that is contrary to our calling in sanctification grieves the Holy Spirit. For instance, and looking to the context of Ephesians 4, we know that, as Church and individual believers, we may grieve the Holy Spirit in the following ways: by pride and lack of long-suffering and love (verse 1), by causing disunity in the life of the Church that the Holy Spirit united to be one body (verses 2-6), when we use the gifts of the Spirit with selfishness and we do not use them for the edification of the Church with love, and thus we are not built on the truth and we follow lies and false teachings without care for what is true, therefore we don’t glorify the head which is Christ (verses 7-16). Let’s note here that the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Christ: “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:14) So anything that does not glorify Christ grieves the Spirit. Going back to Ephesians 4, we also grieve the Spirit when we walk like the world (verse 17), and when we don’t walk according to the Wisdom of God revealed in His Word (verse 18), and when we follow uncleanness and lust (verse 19). And Paul tells us in verses 20 and 21 what I was saying above: that all these things are contrary to the truth that is in Jesus. He explains that our new nature as children of light is according to the truth of righteousness and holiness, as we saw above: “and [your] having put on the new man, which according to God is created in truthful righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24) Then he continues to tell us what is contrary to this truth and that grieves the Holy Spirit: when we speak lies and falsehood, including false doctrine of course (verse 25), and when we are angry with sinful anger that does not glorify God and thus give room to the devil (verse 26-27), when we steal (money, reputation, possessions, or anything that belongs to another) (verse 28), when we are lazy and don’t want to work (verse 28), when we are not honest in our work and we disobey the Lord in our jobs (verse 28), when we don’t help the needy (verse 28). How rich this verse 28!! And we grieve the Spirit of holiness and truth when a corrupt word goes out of our mouths, and when we don’t speak good words that edify with Grace and love (verse 29). And here comes the verse that we are studying: in brief, we should not grieve the Holy Spirit with which we have been sealed to belong to Christ (verse 30). And then the Apostle continues to explain how we may grieve the Spirit: with bitterness, heat of passion, wrath, clamour, injurious language, malice, lack of kindness, of compassion, and of forgiveness (verses 31-32).
Of course, we could continue and we could quote all the passages of the Bible where we find anything against the truth! All what is contrary to the practical truth of God grieves the Spirit of truth.
Notice with me that all the sins that grieve the Holy Spirit are contrary to love. And in fact, the fruit of the Spirit is love (see Galatians 5:22). And the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of love who rejoices with the truth and is grieved with whatever is contrary to the truth and to love:
Love “does not rejoice at iniquity but rejoices with the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6)
That’s the Holy Spirit! He does not rejoice (or grieves) at iniquity, but rejoices with the truth.
Let me finally note that there are in the visible Church believers who are not true believers. They have never really accepted the truth and are still children of darkness. But outwardly they look like children of light, and that’s not strange:
“For such [are] false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And [it is] not wonderful, for Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. It is no great thing therefore if his ministers also transform themselves as ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)
These false believers are partakers of the Holy Spirit who is present in the Church, but they don’t have the Spirit within them. We have studied this fact in our study of Hebrews 6:4-6. Please, read the details of that study here.
These false believers grieve the Spirit all the time as they are falsely called “Christians” by the Name of Christ, and yet they do all what is not worthy of that calling. But they grieve Him only in the life of the visible Church and they cannot grieve Him individually, as they don’t have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them personally.
And the judgment belongs to God.
2. How/when the Spirit may be quenched?
Here is where we have a warning not to quench the Spirit:
“quench not the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19)
This is a passage at the end of the first Epistle to the Thessalonians where, after giving some exhortations concerning the relations of believers with those who work among them and with each other, the Apostle gives short but general commandments: to rejoice always, to pray unceasingly, to give thanks in everything, not to quench the Spirit, not to despise prophecies, to examine all things and to hold fast the right, to abstain from every form of evil. These are short but general and deep exhortations, and each of them involves in it all the truths related to it in the whole Bible.
One of these exhortations is not to quench the Spirit. And this also is a general commandment concerning the work of the Holy Spirit among this newly born Christian church. The verb “to quench” is used, and that means suppressing the fire. As soon as you say fire, you’re speaking about a power: power of purification, power of judgment, power of Sanctification… And we have seen that this power is in the truth of the Word of the Holy Spirit. So while “to grieve” denotes the personality of the Holy Spirit and all what is related to the personal character of the Holy Spirit who hates iniquity and rejoices with the truth, “to quench” denotes the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church and all what is related to that character of power in the Holy Spirit. As we said above, the Holy Spirit always works by His Word which is the truth. When you grieve the Holy Spirit, you do something against the personality of the Holy Spirit by doing something contrary to the practical truth and to holiness. When you quench the Spirit, you do something against the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the Church or through you by His Word which is the truth. This happens when you hinder the display of the power of His truth that is powerful to change hearts and to regenerate and to sanctify and to teach, etc… In other words, you quench the Spirit when you forbid in any way the declaration of His powerful truth, a truth that is declared with power in words and in deeds.
I will explain this in a more simple but detailed way.
We said that the Holy Spirit works by His Word which is the truth. He is the Spirit of truth. Here is what God says about His Word:
“”Is not My word like fire?” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer which shatters a rock?”” (Jeremiah 23:29)
This is the power of God’s truth.
Quenching the Spirit means hindering His Word which is like fire that is quenched. This means hindering the work of the Holy Spirit through you and in the Church; this work is done by the power of the Word proclaimed. In Jeremiah 23, after this verse about the Word of God which is like fire, the prophet speaks about false prophets who were declaring their human words and deceiving people. And in 1 Thessalonians 5, after speaking about quenching the Spirit, the Apostle speaks about prophecies and encourages the believers to examine everything and to hold fast what is right. That is because the Apostle is telling about the power of the Word of God which is like fire, and he exhorts believers not to quench the declaration of that Word which is done whether by preaching, or prophecies, or teaching, or anything that may declare that Word with power.
In other terms, the exhortation not to quench the Spirit is the negative form of the following commandment:
“And be not drunk with wine, in which is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and chanting with your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:18-19) And the Apostle continues in this passage to explain to us how the filling of the Spirit is manifested.
So “quench not the Spirit” means “be filled with the Spirit”, but the former is the negative way to say the latter.
You remember that on the Day of Pentecost, when the Lord baptized the Church with the Holy Spirit, they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and were declaring the truth. The Holy Spirit also gave a sign of His power which is this:
“And there appeared to them parted tongues, as of fire, and it sat upon each one of them.” (Acts 2:3)
Once again, you see that the fire is the symbol of the power of God’s Word at work through the believers. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, you will proclaim the truth with all courage, whether by words or with the gifts of the Spirit:
“but ye will receive power, the Holy Spirit having come upon you, and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
This baptism with the Holy Spirit happened once for all on that Day of Pentecost. It doesn’t happen again and again. All believers who are born again by faith receive this same baptism once for all the day they are born again. For more details about this, consult this comment. But while the baptism with the Holy Spirit happened once for all in the history of the Church, the filling with the Spirit happens whenever the Spirit wants to use a believer in a service. For instance, Peter who was already baptized with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost is said to be filled with the Holy Spirit:
“Then Peter, filled with [the] Holy Spirit, said to them” (Acts 4:8)
The Holy Spirit wanted to use Peter to proclaim His truth, so he was filled with the Holy Spirit.
Again, others are filled with the Holy Spirit and receive power to declare the truth with all courage:
“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.“ (Acts 4:31)
You see that the filling with the Holy Spirit is always related with a service for which the Holy Spirit calls a person.
I remind you again that this filling with the Holy Spirit is not the baptism with the Holy Spirit that happened once for all on the Day of Pentecost. Long before that baptism, believers were filled with the Holy Spirit to be used for a service or a mission or the declaration of the truth in a way or another: believers are filled with the Holy Spirit in Exodus 31:3, Exodus 35:31, Micah 3:8, Luke 1:15, Luke 1:41, Luke 1:67. All these happened before the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
In brief, if you quench the Spirit, you hinder the work of the Holy Spirit who proclaims His truth through persons filled with the Spirit, using the different gifts that He gives, whether prophecy, or preaching, or teaching, etc…
Timothy was in danger of quenching the Spirit. He had received a gift of the Spirit, but he was passing through a hard time in his spiritual life, and so he was in danger of quenching that gift which was the way by which the Holy Spirit would use this servant of the Lord to proclaim His truth. So the Apostle Paul exhorts him and says:
“For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Timothy 1:6)
Once again, we have a verb that denotes fire and power: “to kindle afresh”. Timothy had to be careful not to quench the Spirit, but to kindle afresh the gift of God through which the Spirit would manifest His truth. How would Timothy do that? By not neglecting that gift:
“Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” (1 Timothy 4:14)
Timothy was an evangelist, so he had to do the work of an evangelist and not to neglect that, as that is the way in which the Spirit uses him to proclaim His truth:
“But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
This last example of Timothy shows a close relation between grieving the Holy Spirit and quenching the Spirit. We will see this in more details below.
Now, in brief, you quench the Spirit in the Church when you want to make people follow human commandments and rules in worship and service and preaching, instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to use whom HE wants. You quench the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church when you teach human teachings instead of the truth of God’s Word. You quench the Spirit when you teach wrong things about the Holy Spirit that are against the Word and do not glorify Jesus. And you quench the Spirit in your individual life if you refuse to be used by the Spirit in a certain service for which the Spirit has prepared you by giving you the gift and power to do it and which will proclaim His Word.
We have seen with the example of Timothy that the Holy Spirit will surely help a true believer to the end so that he may never quench the Spirit and be fruitless. He comes with exhortations in His Word that true believers take to heart and obey.
As for a false believer, he doesn’t have the Holy Spirit, so he can’t quench Him in his individual life. At the maximum he may keep refusing to listen to the truth presented to him by the work of the Spirit. But he may hinder His work in the life of the visible Church. Many local churches today have become fruitless (with very little fruit seen in the few true believers) because false believers have taken the leadership and have made people follow human teachings instead of the truth, and thus have quenched the fire of the Spirit. These churches may seem very active and very enthusiastic, but the power of the truth is lacking; so all is lacking! All is in the flesh and does not please God. Therefore the Lord warns the churches in His Word not to quench the Spirit.
3. The grieving and the quenching of the Spirit are mutually affected.
As we have seen in this study, the grieving has to do with the personal character of the Spirit and the quenching has to do with the power of the Spirit at work. But both affect the proclamation and/or the application of the truth. The grieving affects the application of the truth through the fruit of the Spirit which is love, and the quenching affects the power of the truth by hindering the proclamation of this truth through the gifts of teaching, preaching, prophecy, etc. And we know that if the true doctrine is not taught, you will not learn how to walk in the truth, and thus you will grieve the Spirit. And if you grieve the Spirit with disobedience, you will not be ready to be used by Him for any service that glorifies the Lord and you will not be filled with the Spirit. And thus you see that grieving the Spirit will make you also quench His power, and quenching the Spirit will make you also grieve Him.
The Word of God warns us about grieving and quenching the Spirit. Let’s examine ourselves: If our lives are characterized by disobedience to the Lord, then the matter is serious; there is a possibility that we have never received the Holy Spirit and thus we do not belong to Christ, and so we are deceiving ourselves! Let’s be serious about these issues. The Word of God is clear that only those who are led by the Spirit are children of God: “for as many as are led by [the] Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14) True believers are not in the flesh, and those who do not have the Spirit of Christ do not really belong to Him: “But ye are not in flesh but in Spirit, if indeed God’s Spirit dwell in you; but if any one has not [the] Spirit of Christ he is not of him” (Romans 8:9).
Grace be with you!
Disciple of Jesus Christ