What Does It Mean to Grieve the Holy Spirit?

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.

The Holy Spirit

Fred Sanders

In this addition to the Short Studies in Systematic Theology series, Fred Sanders teaches readers how to hold a proper understanding of both the person and power of the Holy Spirit, exploring his role in both the Old and New Testaments. 

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.

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