The Goodness of God’s People (3)
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4.28-30
Grieving the Spirit
The idea that we can grieve the Holy Spirit is a curious anthropopathism. And it is just that, a way of speaking about the Spirit which is not strictly true, but which communicatesan important truth.
The Holy Spirit is at all times inseparable from the Father and the Son. Together in the Trinity, these Three are sufficient in and to Themselves, and They have no need of anything else (Acts 17.25). Nothing we might do can add to or detract from the joy the Holy Spirit knows as perfect God.
So what does Paul mean to suggest by the idea that we might grieve the Spirit?
The Holy Spirit is given to believers to bring them to new life (Gal. 4.6), and to bring new life to them (2 Cor. 3.12-18). While we inhabit this flesh, we will never attain to that fullness of our great salvation that finds us wholly without sin and manifesting all the fruit, power, gifts, and attributes of the indwelling Christ. Nevertheless, it is the Holy Spirit’s work to increase in us that essence of Christ which He Himself embodies, and that essence is holiness.
Holiness, as we might expect, is the expression in humanbeings of the being and character of God. The Holy Spirit, Who is God, and Who dwells in all who believe, is at work within every Christian to will and do of God’s good pleasure (Phil. 2.13). And it is God’s good pleasure that we should be holy, as He is holy (Matt. 5.48).
Holiness, then, is merely the Holy Spirit leeching His presence and power into all our being – heart, mind, conscience, words, and deeds. We are holy as the Holy Spirit transforms us into His own image, the image of Jesus Christ. And when we do not joyfully, consistently, diligently, and earnestly workat being holy as He is holy (Phil. 2.12), then we may be said to grieve the Spirit, because He so longs to stretch out within us unto holiness.
God wills His people to be holy; therefore, holiness is good, and shows forth the goodness of God in the land of the living.
But in what forms?
Three forms of holiness
First, as we might expect, is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5.22, 23). The fruit of the Spirit is the outward evidence of His inward presence and work in our lives, such that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control become increasingly the defining attributes of our lives. All this fruit manifests the character of God, Who dwells within us. As Christ increases in us and we decrease (Jn. 3.30), such fruit becomes established in all aspects of our lives, and we fulfill the holiness to which God calls us.
When we are walking in the Spirit, filled with Him and operating out of His mind, we will neither yield to the flesh nor fulfill the desires and lusts of the world (Gal. 5.16-21; Eph. 5.18-21; Rom. 8.5-8). Instead, the Spirit will show Himself in and through us, and the goodness of the Lord – in the form of all this varied fruit – will be seen in us.
Second, the tokens of love provide a more detailed description of the first fruit of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 13.4-7). Love is the greatest of God’s good gifts because it infuses such other fruit as patience, kindness, gentleness, and selflessness with the living presence of the Spirit of God. As the Spirit loves God and others through us, He manifests His presence – since we are unable to love like God on our own strength – and thus expresses the holiness God intends forus by the grace He shows through us.
Few will doubt that self-denying love is good. As the Spirit bears His fruit in us, love for God and neighbors increases, and we demonstrate the holiness of God – the character of His Spirit – in ways that bring God’s goodness to the people around us.
Finally, the Spirit manifests the holiness of God in giving us power for witness. All believers are called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ (Acts 1.8), and the power to do so, and thus to fulfill an important aspect of our calling to holiness, comes from the Holy Spirit. As we reach out to the people around us with deeds of love and words of witness, the Spirit steps into our fear and weakness and makes His powerful presence known, by giving us just the words we require (Lk. 12.11, 12).
Do not grieve the Spirit!
The Spirit of God is ready to work every day, and every moment. He longs to help us realize more of God’s holiness, and to express through us more of His goodness to the people in our lives. We “grieve” Him when we are neither as zealous nor as energetic as He is in working out our great salvation in the forms of holiness.
We are called to bring holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7.1). We know that in this life, we will always fall short of that holy and perfect standard. But we press on, knowing that holiness brings the goodness of God into all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities. And the goodness of God, thus manifested, leads to repentance and the glory of God.
1. How do you experience the inward work of the Holy Spirit in your life? How does that inward work manifest itself outwardly?
2. Holiness is good. Explain.
3. How can you improve in your quest to be holy, as God is holy?
Next steps – Preparation: How can Christians encourage one another in the pursuit of holiness? Ask a few Christian friends.
T. M. Moore
The Spirit of God executes the will of King Jesus, as His Agent on earth, for the progress of His Kingdom. Learn more about the kingship of Jesus and our place in it by ordering a copy of the book, The Kingship of Jesus, from our online store (click here).
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.