His Spirit Is with Us
To grieve the Holy Spirit is something we’re told is possible and we’re commanded not to do. There are two ways of thinking about it. One is you could ask the question, Can God be grieved by humans? Can we cause God pain? Can we make God suffer? Can we ruin God’s day?
If you take the classical Christian view that God has divine impassability, that God is blessed and is not caused to suffer by things outside of him, then you’d have to add that to the fact that the Holy Spirit is fully God. And that means that, in one sense, you can’t grieve the Holy Spirit in the sense of ruining his day or causing him to suffer.
So what does the biblical language mean? It’s one of the Puritans—I think John Owen—who says that we can’t cause the Holy Spirit to suffer grief, but it’s not for lack of trying. We are capable of doing all the things that would cause the Spirit to grieve, if grief were a thing that were permissible to the divine being.
The other thing that I want to say that it means positively is that the Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity who’s kind of the business end of indwelling in us. There is a closeness and an intimacy of the Spirit to our beings and to our spirits, which means that he is, in some spiritual sense, right here with us and close to us. On the positive side, when we suffer, he’s right there with us. On the dangerous side, when we sin he’s right there with us. And so to grieve the Holy Spirit is to do the things that offend the Holy Spirit within us.
Fred Sanders is the author of The Holy Spirit: An Introduction.
These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
A relationship is a two-way street; that means that there is a role for us to play with the Holy Spirit. We need to think about what we need to do in order to enjoy and live out our communion with him.
When you find your mind wandering or getting lost in the details of pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit), just call back to mind the basic Christian confession that there is one God in three persons.
John Owen points out three things that we see in the New Testament in terms of how we can go about cherishing the work of the Spirit.