Receiving the Holy Spirit, a Vital Necessity
‘Do not grieve the Holy Spirit’ –Ephesians 4:30 | ‘Do not quench the Spirit’ — 1 Thessalonians 5:19 | ‘Insulting the Spirit of grace’ –Hebrews 10:29 |’Repent. . . be baptized. . . receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ — Acts 2:38
After his resurrection and just prior to his ascension, the Lord Jesus gathered his disciples and told them, ‘Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of my Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’ (Luke 24:46-49). My friends, if anyone was equipped and prepared for ministry, it was the disciples who had been trained by Jesus and lived with him for three years, being set aside as his apostles, and who had witnessed his many miracles and mighty preaching, who had been with him numerous times after his resurrection. Yet Jesus, in essence, said to them, ‘Don’t even think about doing my work until you have the promised Holy Spirit.’
Jesus says something similar in Acts 1:8, just before he ascended into heaven before their very eyes, ‘. . . you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses (the Greek word is martyrs) both in Jerusalem and in all of Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.’ And we know that the promised Holy Spirit was poured out on the day of Pentecost on the one hundred and twenty who had gathered in the Upper Room and prayed for ten days.
Pentecost was a once for all outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the church of Jesus. When you were converted, born again by the work of the Holy Spirit, you were baptized with the Holy Spirit. You were sealed with the Spirit, meaning you gained an assurance of God’s forgiveness and your union with Christ. And you are commanded to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Thus you can daily be controlled by the Spirit.
So, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, then you have the Holy Spirit. You have, therefore, the capacity and ability to be filled with the Spirit and to be used mightily of God. There is, therefore, no reason why you cannot every day be filled with great joy, boldness, growing personal holiness, and efficacy in ministry, seeing people converted and growing in grace.
Sadly, however, this is rarely the case for most of us. Why? Is it possible that you have grieved, quenched, or even insulted the Holy Spirit? What does this mean? Literally the Greek text of Ephesians 4:30 reads, ‘Grieve not the Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God.’ This is quite emphatic. This is a present tense command, meaning we are always, everyday commanded by God not to grieve the Holy Spirit. So, how do you know if you are grieving the Spirit?
The context of this verse gives us the answer. In verses 17-32 Paul lays out a series of commands on how the believers in Ephesus are to live. He begins in verse 17 by saying, ‘So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you no longer walk as the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their minds, being darkened in their understanding, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their hearts . . .’ From there Paul commands them to put off the old man, to be renewed in the spirit of their minds, to put on the new man, to lay aside falsehood and to speak truth to one another, to be angry and not sin, to not give the devil an opportunity, to not steal, to not speak unwholesome words, to put aside bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice.
So to grieve the Holy Spirit is to disobey God in these specific commands. You can be sure that any sin grieves the Holy Spirit. Martyn Lloyd-Jones also says that grieving the Holy Spirit is to disappoint him, to not listen to his promptings that come to your heart and mind.1 This is like a wife who publicly embarrasses her husband. He is grieved. The Holy Spirit can be embarrassed by your actions. And while you still belong to God, the result of grieving the Spirit, besides short-circuiting power in ministry, is losing his gracious influences. The more you sin the less sure you are of God’s love for you, the less joy you have, the less faith you have to believe God will answer your prayers.
But you can also quench the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). What does this mean? The context, again, gives us a clue to its meaning. Verses 20-22 say, ‘Do not treat prophecies with contempt, but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil.’ Prophetic utterance has the idea of speaking forth the word of God. So, one is quenching the Spirit when he resists the preaching of God’s word, when he mocks it, criticizing the preacher who is doing his best to preach accurately and faithfully the Biblical text. By all means, we are to make sure the preaching is Biblical and theologically sound, but to reject, mock, or criticize true preaching just because you do not like the delivery style is a serious matter indeed. To not hold onto the good word that is preached, to disobey the preacher’s clear exhortation to reject every kind of evil in the Biblical text he is preaching, is to quench the Spirit. You see, the Spirit is seeking to work in and through the preacher to promote holiness in you, and your taking lightly the speaking forth of God’s word is throwing water on the fire the Holy Spirit is seeking to burn in you.
And then you are not to insult the Spirit of grace (Hebrews 10:29). The writer here is putting forth a severe warning to second generation believers who have continued sinning willfully, blatantly, and consciously without the slightest desire to repent and return to the Lord. He says they have rejected the person of Christ (trampling under foot the Son of God), rejected the work of Christ (regarding as unclean the blood of the covenant by which they are sanctified), and insulted, mocked, and ignored the Spirit (God’s gracious source of power and ability to obey Him). The Holy Spirit is the One who brings to us regenerating grace, who applies the fulness of Christ’s redemptive work (regeneration, justification, reconciliation, adoption, expiation, propitiation, and sanctification) to every believer. To reject consistently (if we go on sinning willfully, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain, terrifying expectation of judgment, Hebrews 10:26-27) the marvellous overtures of the Spirit’s gracious work is the height of rebellion and folly. When the Spirit is prompting you to put away a specific sin, and you continue in it, unabated, unrepentant, then you are in danger of insulting the Spirit. We love to hear of the mercy and grace of God, but we also must remember the severity of his judgement and wrath upon the unrepentant.
So, if you lack power in your ministry, if you lack joy and boldness, then ask yourself — ‘have I grieved the Spirit, have I quenched the Spirit, am I in danger of insulting the Spirit?’ If so, then would should you do? What is the remedy?
When Peter preached at Pentecost and the people were pierced in the heart, saying, ‘What shall we do?’ Peter said, ‘Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,’ (Acts 2:38).
Peter was calling these people to do three things. First, they were to repent. They were to see the error in their thinking about Jesus, his person and work, the nature of God, and their own sin and guilt. They were to humble themselves before God. Secondly, they were to be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. Repentance led to forgiveness and the outward display of their new union with Christ was to be baptism which signifies the washing away of their sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And thirdly, repentance and forgiveness of sins would lead to the Holy Spirit indwelling them.
If you are born again, this is precisely what happened to you way back when, even though you may not have been conscious of how the transaction occurred. This was a definitive moment in your life.
But we can go further and make application to your daily living in Christ. When you sin, when you grieve, quench, or insult the Holy Spirit, then you must again apply this teaching to your heart, soul, and mind. Repent! Surrender to God. Don’t project your sin to your spouse, parent, child, or friend. Own it. Admit it. Confess it specifically. And if you have wronged someone else, then go to them and confess your sin to that person, asking them to forgive you. Make restitution if necessary.
When you do so, then you will immediately receive the forgiveness of your sins (1 John 1:8-10). You are going to Jesus, bathing in his blood, being cleansed by his blood. And when you do this, you will again be filled with the Holy Spirit. God is rich in mercy. He is slow to anger. He will daily take your sins away as far as the east is from the west. Repent, accept the cleaning blood of Jesus, and receive the filling of the Holy Spirit. Here is your source of power. Here is the source of joy, boldness, and efficacy in ministry.
Al Baker is an Evangelistic Revival Preacher with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship and can be contacted at email@example.com
- D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Darkness and Light: An Exposition of Ephesians 4:17-5:17, pp. 264-277
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