Grieving, Hindering, and Quenching
Abraham Kuyper, the great Dutch theologian of the last century wrote in the beginning of his classic work, “The Work of the Holy Spirit.” The need of divine guidance is never more deeply felt than when one undertakes to give instruction in the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the great comforter, helper, and enabler for all spiritual power and service. In fact, service for God can only be profitable and powerful as it is undertaken in the name of Christ and in the power of an ungrieved Spirit.
The Power of the Spirit
There are two amazing and outstanding facts of this present time which make Christianity what it is in its ideal form. First, there is a man who sits at the right hand of God in heaven, and secondly, we have the Holy Spirit, who is God the Spirit, as a resident upon this planet living with us. The Holy Spirit has not become incarnate, like Christ, but dwells in the bodies of believers. (1 Corinthians 6:17-20) In Old Testament times, the occasions of His coming were to endow with power some chosen instrument for a special work. For example, in Judges 6:34, we find the Spirit endowing Gideon with special powers in order to enable him to defeat the Midianites with a mere three hundred men. (See Judges 6:34 and 7) Additionally, we see this with Samson, who has incredible physical strength through the Holy Spirit’s power, protecting Israel from the Philistines. (See Judges 15:14 and Judges 13-16) We see the Spirit also active in the lives of one of the greatest kings of Israel, David, who is called “a man after God’s own heart.” (See 1 Samuel 16:13)
For us as believers, this means that we have the promise of the Holy Spirit active in our lives. Jesus teaches, “He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38) Jesus also promises this power at Pentecost, when he says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) In Luke 24:49, Jesus assures us, “Behold, I send the Promise of my Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” This means that the Holy Spirit is to be the power of the early disciples and the early church, rather than performing the miracles that followed. These miracles prove quite useful for displaying power in those days of the early church. However, their power does not lie in their eloquence, personal magnetism, mass psychology, or musical abilities. Some of these things have their uses today of course, and God uses them for his glory. However, we must acknowledge and live in a way that relies on His Spirit as our only constant, divine power. In Zechariah 4:6, the Lord says, “Not by might nor by power but by my Spirit.” Perhaps one of the errors into which all of us have fallen is that we try to use the Holy Spirit to bring about the results we desire to see in the Lord’s work, rather than giving Him ourselves – our body, soul, and spirit—to use as He sees fit for the glory and honor of the Lord. Romans 12:1 is God’s ideal for the Christian, where Paul tells us, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” This should actually be considered normal Christian living as our total commitment to God, the Holy Spirit. When we have given ourselves completely and absolutely to Him, we have not done anything spectacular, so far as God is concerned, rather this is what is expected of us!
Hindrances to the Power of the Holy Spirit
Let us consider, secondly, how there might be hindrances to the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
One of the greatest hindrances to power is the course of “self determination” rather than “self abandonment” to the will of God. In the poem, The Master’s Hand, by Myra Welch, the poet describes an old man taking up an old, seemingly worthless violin up for auction and playing a haunting melody. The crowd is astonished when the auction is raised from three dollars to three thousand dollars in exchange for the violin. Suddenly it has become very valuable. Why? The poet describes it thus: “The people cheered, but some of them cried, ‘We do not quite understand - what changed its worth? The man replied, “The touch of the Master’s hand.” The Master’s hand indeed gives our life a matchless, priceless worth since we have been made in His image. We should abandon ourselves to the molding of ourselves through His son, that we might look more like Him. Jesus gives us the perfect example of this when he prays to the Lord in the garden of Gethsemane, saying, “Not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:49) D.L. Moody, the well-known evangelist once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a Spirit-filled man.” Jim Elliot, the missionary to Ecuador who was martyred by the tribal people he had come to serve, said, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim gave his life and gained eternal life through his total commitment. This is total commitment is essential for God’s best and highest. Will we as Christians settle for less? Let us let go of every egotistical, mercenary, worldly, materialistic desire and let God, by His Spirit, fill us, control us, and use us as He sees fit.
Grieving the Holy Spirit
Next, let us look at what “grieving” the Holy Spirit looks like. (See Ephesians 4:30) This is very practical as we think about what in our lives might grieve the Holy Spirit. Lying or over exaggeration will grieve him, as well as anger, stealing, corrupt communication, bitterness, spite, vindictiveness, abusive language, and giving place to the devil. These are all qualities and actions that will grieve the Holy Spirit if put to use by Christians. There is also the danger of indifference, spiritual slumber, worry, over-anxiety, fear, or unbelief that causes the Spirit grief. Let us think about what the antithesis of these qualities are. Being kind to one another, tender-heartedness, and forgiveness are all ways to keep ourselves from displaying the things that might grieve the Holy Spirit. Let us remember the exhortation from Paul in Ephesians 4:30 to “not grieve the Holy Spirit” in these ways!
Quenching the Holy Spirit
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Paul warns, “Do not quench the Spirit.” This phrase, according to H.H. Thayer, means we should not “suppress or stifle” the Holy Spirit. While from God’s standpoint we cannot extinguish the Holy Spirit in an absolute sense because His person is indestructible, humanly speaking, it is possible to quench Him in the sense of resisting or opposing His will. Would any of us here today say that we have ever said “no” to the Spirit? Our unyieldingness, unbending, inflexible, stubborn, or obstinate wills can all be identified as sources of “quenching the Spirit.” These are ways we each individually quench the Spirit. But there is a more corporate aspect to quenching the Spirit as well. One of the great works of the Spirit in the world is to form and reside in the Church, the Body and Bride of Christ. It is always His desire to see the whole church in one accord in one place; it proves to be this way in the early church of the first century. (See Acts 2:1) The church on Earth today is not God’s ideal, because the Spirit’s power has been quenched. As Christians, we cannot hold ourselves guiltless in this matter.
In the matter of the exercise of spiritual gifts, if we believe that God has given gifts to all his children and we do not allow room nor time for the exercising of these, this also qualifies as quenching the Spirit. Moreover, if in our abhorrence of “one man” ministry we have swung to the other extreme of “any man” ministry, we are also guilty of quenching the Spirit. Because Christian brothers and sisters are occupying a position without a gift and perhaps without a message, while others with the gift and the message are denied the opportunity, this should be considered quenching the Spirit.
Let us conclude on a very practical note by pointing out a few suggestions in service that might help us avoid this error of quenching the Spirit. First, elderly brethren are at times monopolizing precious time and being scathing in their remarks. We should choose our words very wisely and consider being kind and tender-hearted towards one another. Secondly, younger brothers need to examine their enthusiasm and look hard and long at the motivating principle of their service. Is it your own spirit or the Holy Spirit that is motivating you? Thirdly, watch carefully in what our prayers consist of. Much of worship often consists of hackneyed and meaningless phrases rather than heartfelt and genuine prayer. Lastly, let us watch over the development of loose morals, unconfessed sins, and illicit relationships, for nothing will sap the power of any church more quickly than pews filled with sinning believers. We should heed these warnings to behavior, for if these conditions prevail, the Spirit’s power is hindered, and thus He also grieved and quenched. Let us remember and proclaim the power available to us in the Spirit by avoiding these hindrances, grieving and quenching of the Spirit!