January 18, 2013

Sins Against the Spirit II: Resisting & Grieving the Spirit

[Continued from Part I]

Acts 7:51

Acts 7:51 ~ “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.”

It should be noted that the context of this passage is with Stephen addressing the people of Israel. This is the climax of Stephen’s speech and the words that cut the hearers to the heart and end up getting him mercilessly stoned (Wiersbe-Vol. 1 432). It recounts a grocery list of rebellion against God all through their history in the Old Testament. It shows the Jews having exhausted the mercy of God. It is harsh and direct as illustrated by Stephen’s pronouncement of “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart”. Just as their ancestors did, so too the Jews did in Stephen’s time having rejected God and His Son/Messiah Jesus Christ (Longenecker 143-144). 

Stephen specifically says that they are, “always resisting the Holy Spirit.” Stephen emphatically uses the pronoun you / humeis in the plural. He is drawing from the Old Testament when Isaiah said that regardless of God’s love and mercy, His people (plural, the Jews) rebelled and grieved the Holy Spirit. Because of this God would not just withhold mercy, He would actually become their enemy (Isaiah 63:10, Psalm 106:33). These people actively and stubbornly were resisting the Holy Spirit and His work (Kistemaker 274). It follows that if they are rejected God through the prophets (by ignoring and killing them) and Jesus, they by default are fighting or rejecting the work of the Holy Spirit. If they reject or resist the Holy Spirit in the face of the obvious truth of Jesus’ incarnation and earthly ministry. At this point there pretty much is no hope for them. In their own Old Testament terms Stephen tells his listeners (the Jews) that they’re outside the covenant they are physically bound to through circumcision, inwardly they are uncircumcised and lack a similar sign: That sign is the obedient regenerated heart that is the product of the Holy Spirit working within them (Kistemaker 274).

In the modern church we can see a similar resisting of the Spirit. We can see people that hear from the pulpit(s) week after week the true Gospel as preached by the Apostles, yet these very same people will prefer things that tickle their ears (2 Tim 4) and prefer to hear theology that adapts more to their life, rather than their lives adapting to the Gospel. They want their “best life now” instead of wanting what God wants for them and what is in accordance with God’s will. God’s will, a will that is most often revealed through the Bible…and the prompting of the Holy Spirit!

Ephesians 4:30

Ephesians 4:30 ~ "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption."

This passage is given in the context of behavior in the Christian walk. Paul has listed behaviors that we (people of Asia Minor as this was probably a circular letter) should either have left behind or should be stomping them out in our/their lives In verse 26 we are told to be angry but don’t let the sun go down on our anger. In the preceding verse 29, we are told that we are to, “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification...”. Verse 30 tells us to, “…not grieve the Holy Spirit by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The verse that immediately follows (v.31) tells the hearer/reader to, “let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice” and to, “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

I call this sin: Shaking Your Puny Fist At the Sky

So the grieving of the Holy Spirit seems to be in the context of bitterness / being bitter and being angry, being slanderous and having malice. All of which are not becoming of reflective of a true Christian. Bitterness poisons the inner man or taints the heart and can lead to the anger mentioned in verse 26. Anger is nothing more than bitterness exploding outward in a physical and sometimes violent manner (Wiersbe 42). Jesus knew this perfectly well and it is why He said what He did in Matthew 5:21-22, “You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘You shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court…”

Quite simply, this bitterness that leads to anger and inevitably to violence if not suppressed grieves the Holy Spirit. The question is why? It is because the Holy Spirit lives within all believers. It follows or stands to reason that when a Christian heart is filled with bitterness, malice or ill-will the Spirit is pushed out of a believer’s heart and it grieves Him or more specifically, the Greek says “creates sorrow”. It literally makes God sad or distresses Him. Why? God is sad or grieved because He loves His children and wants them to obey Him and inevitably conform to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

The fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) do not include bitterness and anger because these are the works of the flesh, not the Spirit (Wiersbe 43). If these are what lies within a Christian, where is there room for the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is not forced out per se but it will get awful cramped in our hearts and we will be in conflict with the Spirit. This cannot possibly be a good thing. In addition, if it grieves the Holy Spirit it follows that we grieve the Son and Father as they are One Being in three Persons. It also stands to reason that if we are bitter, we have failed to forgive others or emulate God. Our heart therefore becomes hardened. The reality then is that we don’t so much hurt others as we hurt ourselves (Wiersbe 43).

We are to be a reflection of the One we serve which is Jesus Christ. The last I checked, Jesus was not a bitter person…not even while He was on the Cross. He realized He was fulfilling the will of God by being there. Sadly, I see a lot of this in churches. A conniving, back-biting bitterness infects certain people because things didn’t go the way they felt they should go. Many times the way these people perceived things should’ve gone were not in accordance with Scripture to begin with. When this takes up residence in a person’s heart there is very little room for the Spirit to work. Sin maintains a stranglehold on a person’s life. The Letter of 1 John, chapter 3 tells us something else altogether and it is in relation to habitual sin, “No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

God’s seed that abides in a person in the Church does not produce bitterness thereby grieving the Spirit. If bitterness and anger is what habitually indwells a believer’s, what is really in their hearts then? It couldn’t possibly be the Spirit of God…could it?

[Completed in Part III]

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