THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE BELIEVER
Notes of a sermon preached by Peter M. Rowell
at Forest Fold Chapel 6th February 2003
We consider four verses that speak powerfully of the sensitive relationship between the believer and the Holy Spirit
1. Ephesians chapter 4 and verse 30, ‘And grieve not the holy spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.’
Every believer is totally dependent upon the person and work of the Holy Spirit, just as they are on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. These are people being warned about one of the dangers in spiritual life, and it is sad that it should ever have to be said, ‘and grieve not the Holy Spirit of God whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.’ The verse I have just read to you is one of warning and exhortation, especially about the way we live, because our relationship with the Holy Spirit is going to be affected by the way we live. Are we living as truly converted people? Are we living as people who have turned their back upon the world and its sin and its ways? Are we living as disciples of Jesus Christ?
Many of the warnings and exhortations surrounding this verse tell us there are certain things which, if we allow them into our lives, will indeed grieve the Holy Spirit of God, and when that happens the Holy Spirit’s influence will be lessened and there will be less evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.
We do believe in three Persons in the Trinity; the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is revealed to us in scripture as having certain characteristics. It is not that the Holy Spirit is a kind of vague feeling of God around us, it is far more personal than that, and the Holy Spirit is given to us in Scripture as a Person who has work to do, who has a character to sustain.
What are the things then that are going to grieve the Holy Spirit of God? They are things that are contrary to God Himself because the Holy Spirit is God, the third Person of the Trinity, these Divine persons are co-equal and co-eternal. The Father is God and the Son is God and the Spirit is God and these three are one. Not three Gods but one God, yet three Persons, so anything that is anti-God or anti-Christ is going to grieve the Holy Spirit of God. That is very evident from His name in this verse, He is the Holy Spirit of God. He is the Holy Spirit who comes from God the Father and from God the Son to work in the lives of the people of God. Anything then that is opposed to God and to Christ is going to grieve, deeply grieve, the Holy Spirit of God. We are not to take the name of the Lord in vain for instance, we are not to use God’s name as a curse or a blasphemy, we are not to be casual or careless about our speaking regarding God or the Lord Jesus Christ, these things are grieving to the Spirit of God.
He is the Spirit of truth, so anything which is contrary to truth revealed in the Scriptures, is going to grieve the Holy Spirit. We are not to allow into our lives those errors and heresies which are contrary to the word of truth because he is the Spirit of truth, and He is the One who inspired men of old to write the truth down for us for our instruction and edification. Anything in our hearts which is rebelling against the truth of the Scriptures, anything that is rebelling against the words of command in the Scripture, these things grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
Anything contrary to the spirit of love, for the Holy Spirit is the source of our spiritual affection. The Holy Spirit is the One who enables us to live in harmony and peace and love with the brethren. Go back to the earlier part of chapter 4 here in this epistle to the Ephesians verse 2. With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit’ and it will surely grieve the Spirit if there are those things allowed in our lives, in our relationships, of division and strife, and bitterness and impatience, that will grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
And just to re-emphasise the importance of not grieving the Holy
Spirit of God, Paul goes on to say that through Him, through His gracious work in our lives there is a mark upon us, there is a seal upon us, and a seal in those days was a sign of possession. It was a sign of security and the Holy Spirit is like that. God in His grace and the Lord Jesus in His mercy bas given to us the Holy Spirit to abide with us for ever, and the Holy Spirit marks us out and there is a kind of confirming, emphasising the relationship between our souls and the living God by the presence of the Holy Spirit, and as a sort of mark and seal and reassurance telling us we are redeemed, and we are waiting for the final day when we shall be redeemed from this evil world and taken into glory, and be freed from sin eternally.
You see how dependent we are, you see how important it is that we have every evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives, we must not grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
2. 1 Thessalonians 5, verse 19 ‘Quench not the Spirit’
If you take those two words together, ‘grieve’ and then ‘quench’, I think that you will sense that there is a sort of deepening, strengthening feeling about the word ‘quench.’ There is something awfully threatening about that, it is like putting something out, blowing a flame out, pouring water on a fire to quench it. So if grieving the Spirit is what causes the Spirit’s influence to be lessened in our lives, quenching the Spirit is something which causes the influence of the Spirit in our lives to cease. We not only just grow cold spiritually, we have quenched the Spirit and the Spirit in that sense has, (I will not say forsaken us, because that is not true of God’s children, it cannot be true) has turned His back on us and left us for a while to go in our own way. We have been behaving as though we can do without Him. It is almost as though He says, ‘Very well then, see how you get on without Me.’
That is quenching the Spirit, doing anything which causes the Spirit’s influence to cease in our lives. That is a spiritual disaster. If we have not been warned by the word ‘grieve’, we shall be painfully warned by the word ‘quench’. What are the particular things which would quench the Spirit? Well, to persist in any of the other things which I mentioned under the first heading, if we wilfully and sinfully persist, if we don’t genuinely and honestly repent and turn from the things that grieve the Spirit, then I believe the next stage, as it were in our backsliding, will be the quenching of the Spirit.
This is particularly true in regard to anything that directly opposes or questions the Holy Spirit Himself. Turn to Matthew chapter 12 v.31-32 where our Lord says, ‘Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men; but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come,’ and that has often been referred to as the ‘unforgivable sin’. It is an awesome and dreadful thing to contemplate. Jesus said, ‘Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man it shall be forgiven him,’ the inference of course here being, here is someone who has done that and has sought forgiveness and has repented of the sin, and there is forgiveness, but there is something so utterly awful about blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, because the Lord says that shall not be forgiven unto men, and so this word ‘quench’ is a word which seems to me to bring us to the edge of the precipice. `Quench not’ because if you do and you go on like that, the next step is blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, the next step is turning against the very Person whom you say you depend upon for every aspect of spiritual life.
I believe if we persist in wilfully going contrary to the word of God, to the teaching of the Spirit of God, if we persist in a life of unholiness, we are in grave danger of quenching the Spirit and that is but a step, as it were, from the edge of the precipice. You cannot survive spiritually on your own, so ‘quench not the Spirit’ .
One of the things that Satan is always trying to do is to inject some evil into our lives and encourage us to belittle it, to justify ourselves, to excuse ourselves so that we can deaden our conscience and go on in the way we know to be wrong; and that is the way to quench the Spirit. I believe that is one of the greatest griefs that anyone can have who is really a child of God, that they have quenched the Spirit, they have sorely and sadly backslidden. The way back is very, very hard and painful. ‘The way of transgressors,’ the scripture says, ‘is hard.’
3. Ephesians 5.18-21 ‘Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.’
If we grieve the Holy Spirit and we are in danger of quenching the Holy Spirit, there are certain things that we will find it an awful ‘drag’ to do, if you understand what I mean. We shall be dragging ourselves to prayer, we shall be dragging ourselves to services of worship, we shall be dragging ourselves to read the Bible, there will be a dark, cold, deathliness about our spiritual lives; we shall hardly be able to call them spiritual lives, and we certainly will not be speaking to ourselves or to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord. We shall not be feeling like that at all, we shall be finding that singing hymns is a miserable business, there is something that you feel is wrong, ‘How can I sing songs of praise if I am not praising God? how can I sing hymns of
prayer if I am not praying to God?’ and so on. ‘Oh,’ says Paul, ‘be filled with the Spirit,’ and certainly of course in the contrast in verse 18 we shall not be filled with the Spirit if we are filled with wine, and drunk through wine. The drunkard is never filled with the Spirit of God though he may be filled with a lot of other sorts of spirits, not the Spirit of God.
Have you ever prayed to be filled with the Spirit? You certainly need to do that if you have grieved the Spirit, and you specially need to do that if you are near to quenching the Spirit. Do plead with the Lord to be merciful to you and to fill you with His Spirit. Surely it is right to seek a fuller measure of the Spirit’s influence in our lives. If you have begun to sense the pain of having grieved the Spirit or even have got to the point of almost quenching the Spirit, surely all real Biblical reason points you in this direction, you should be seeking a fuller measure of the Spirit’s influence in your life. ‘Lord, make me to be more spiritual, let me know more of the power of the Holy Spirit in my life, fill me with the Spirit.’ The very word fill indicates that we can be more or less full of the Holy Spirit, we need to be filled up as it were with the Holy Spirit.
We need to have our whole life influenced by the Holy Spirit. What do you allow in your life? Angry words, impatient words, and you felt as you came along to the service too embarrassed to turn back and go home but not at all inclined to come here because of what you have been, you have a sort of feeling of hypocrisy about you. The devil will say, ‘Don’t pray to be filled with the Spirit,’ he will argue with you about this because he knows that this is a defeat for him; the more we know of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives the greater defeat to the devil and the more strong you will be in resisting the devil.
`Be filled,’ there is an urgency about it says Paul, ‘be filled with the Spirit.’ Your past life, your unconverted life has been filled with all these other things. You will remember how you urgently went after this or that or the other, but now you have a new life to live, a new direction in your life, so be filled with the Spirit and you will see that your life is filled with those things which are truly of the Spirit of God; and so you pray through temptation and in spite of the evil suggestion of the wicked one you say, ‘Lord, sinful and unworthy as I am, I do want to be filled with the Spirit, I do want to be forgiven, I do want to know a closer walk with God, I do want to be filled with the Spirit.’ So don’t be put off, don’t be tempted not to pray, but urgently pray that you might be filled with the Spirit, and then you will find a fresh joy in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, your singing will be different.
4. Romans chapter 8.1-10.
`There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ (Now there is a contrast that you are going to be seeing in these following verses; on the one hand there is the flesh, that is the carnal and ungodly person, on the other hand the Spirit and the pattern of life which you can call spiritual, under the influence of the Holy Spirit).
`For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.’ (That is, according to the direction and pattern and teaching of the Holy Spirit. There is a spiritual way in life and there is a fleshly way and the two are so contrary). ‘For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.’
So what are you minding? It is perhaps an expression you would not use today in modern English. What do you really mind about or what do you really care about? What are you really concerned about? It is that kind of word. What is it that is occupying your mind, your attention, your concern, your ambition, your desires?
Is that the new direction of our lives, we want the things of the Spirit, our minds are concerned about the things of the Spirit? They are the things we want to know about and think about, they are the things that concern us now. However, if we are grieving or quenching the Spirit the things of the Spirit are going to be secondary. We shall not be seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. We shall be seeking all these other things as being the principal things in our lives.
To be spiritually minded is life. There is a liveliness when you are filled with the Spirit. There is a liveliness in your singing and the reading of the scriptures and your interaction with others. There is a greater clarity in your Christian testimony when you are spiritually minded. The truly important things are important when you are spiritually minded. A life of grieving the Spirit is not peaceful. If you are a child of God you will never have a peaceful conscience if you are grieving the Holy Spirit of God. It cannot be. To be spiritually minded is life and peace because when we are spiritually minded and the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, we shall have that deepened sense of relationship with the Lord, reconciliation, peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And so Paul goes on in these verses, he says, `Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh,’ (that is, you are not carnally minded, you are not dead in trespasses and in sin) but you are `in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness’
There is a new sense of that right relationship between you and the Lord. To be spiritually minded is life and peace. Let me ask you another question. I asked if you ever prayed or prayed frequently to be filled with the Spirit. Do you pray to be more spiritually minded? Actually that is a spiritually minded thing to do, it sounds like a paradox, doesn’t it, but that is a spiritually minded thing to do, to pray to be more spiritually minded, to have your affection to be set on spiritual things, things that are eternal, things that are of eternal consequence.
That will make a wonderful difference to your own personal spiritual life. It will make a wonderful difference to your church life, to your relationship with other believers. You may be finding relationship with other believers at present particularly difficult; then you need to be exhorted to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, and that is not easy sometimes. You need to pray, ‘Lord, make me so spiritually minded that I can live at peace with this person who is causing me such aggravation, and who is such a difficult person to get on with; do make me spiritually minded, keep me humble, keep me resilient in a sense, so I can just take things; if they want to throw things at me, let me just be quiet and calm about it, let them do it. Let me pray for them.’ To be spiritually minded is life and peace. So grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, quench not the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit and be spiritually minded because that is life and peace. Amen.
The natural man may have excellent notions in divinity, but God must teach us to know the mysteries of the Gospel after a spiritual manner. A man may see the figures upon a dial, but he cannot tell how the day goes unless the sun shines; so we may read many truths in the Bible, but we cannot know them savingly, till God by His Spirit shines upon our soul… He not only informs our mind, but inclines our will.
Fire is quenched by pouring on water or by withdrawing fuel; so the Spirit is quenched by living in sin, which is like pouring water on a fire; or by not improving our gifts and graces, which is like withdrawing fuel from the hearth. Thomas Manton.