What Does It Mean To Grieve The Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30)? -- By: Joshua M. Greever

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 16:1 (Spring 2019)
Article: What Does It Mean To Grieve The Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30)?
Author: Joshua M. Greever

What Does It Mean To Grieve The Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30)?

Joshua M. Greever

Joshua M. Greever is assistant professor of New Testament at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. [email protected]

Note: A version of this paper was presented at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Denver, Colorado, on November 13, 2018.

In Eph 4:30 Paul commands Christians, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” What does Paul mean when he commands us not to grieve the Spirit? By this I do not mean what effect the sin of grieving has upon the Holy Spirit in his person. This is a good question and is the type of question we need to ask as we construct our doctrine of God, for it affects our understanding of things like impassibility, how the Spirit relates to us, and so on. But I want to focus on the question, What is the sin that grieves the Holy Spirit? What is it that Christians should refrain from so as not to grieve the Spirit?

Some commentators link grieving the Spirit with the sins of speech in the immediate paraenesis of Eph 4:25–32 (e.g., Hoehner), while others argue that it refers more holistically to living contrary to the will of God (e.g., Muddiman). In seeking to discern the meaning of the phrase, commentators often recognize that Paul’s language closely resembles Isa 63:10, a text that describes Israel’s grieving of God’s Spirit in the wilderness. While this is a salient insight, it is rare to see any detailed analysis of what it meant for Israel to grieve the Spirit in the wilderness (Snodgrass’s commentary is a good exception here). Similarly, the commentaries rarely mention the background of grieving a deity in the Greco-Roman world or how Eph 4:30 was received in early Christianity. Hence, there is a scholarly lacuna on the topic of what it means to grieve the Spirit.

With this in mind, I hope to demonstrate this thesis: Paul is commanding Christians to do what is pleasing and not grieving to the Lord by speaking words that build one another up, by refraining from unrighteous anger towards one another, and by putting away falsehood and acting with truth towards one another. In order to demonstrate this thesis, I will first analyze various backgrounds to the text: (1) the Greco-Roman background, (2) the reception history of Eph 4:30 in The Shepherd of Hermas, and (3) the OT evidence for Israel grieving God’s Spirit. Second, I will analyze You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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