The Ministries of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit’s Sorrows and Sufferings
Dr. David Clifford, who makes his home in Plantation, Florida, is currently engaged in international Bible lecturing and teaching.
With sincere appreciation for Dr. Clifford’s series of studies on the Holy Spirit, we commend to you this final study on this blessed theme.
There are several unpleasant things mentioned in the Scriptures which cause grief and sorrow to the gracious Holy Spirit and hinder, more than we can know, His working in the hearts of His own and in the assemblies and fellowships which own the name of Christ.
The all-important question arises: “If the Holy Spirit of the Father and the Son, the third Person of the Trinity has come, if He does really abide in the hearts of Christians and in the midst of the Church, and He is Almighty and All-wise. why is there such shallow Christianity and such poverty of spirit and ineffectiveness among many who profess to be born again of the Spirit?
Let it be understood at once that the Holy Spirit is within the believer to do a mighty work. He wishes to make known His power to reveal Christ in and to and through the life, but there are hindrances to His working. These preventatives to His purposes we shall briefly discuss.
It has been said that “the Holy Spirit is the neglected member of the God-head” (O. J. Sanders). To neglect or even ignore the member of the Trinity who dwells within must, of necessity, cause Him grief, especially when He has come to do so much for God’s people. Dr. A. B. Simpson, only too rightly said: “When we will not yield to His wise and holy will, when we will not let Him educate us, mould us, separate us … His heart is vexed, His love is wounded, His purpose is baffled, and if the Comforter could weep, we would see the tears of loving sorrow upon His gentle face.” There is no compulsion with the Holy Spirit. He will woo believers graciously, strive with men continuously, and enlighten and convince thoroughly but never force any into submission. Where there are restrictions and limitations, He will be unable to work. Liberty for the Spirit, so that there can be the liberty of the Spirit is essential. He needs all the liberty that can be given Him (see 1 Thessalonians 5:19; Ephesians 4:30; etc.).
There is flagrancy against the Holy Spirit by the unregenerate and quite serious offences against Him by believers, too. The first we shall mention briefly, but the latter in more detail.
Resisting His Work
The Holy Spirit is in the world to convince or enlighten regarding sin and righteousness and judgment (see John 16:8), but by the majority of men He is resisted. More than being simply unresponsive, they withstand his overtures in winning them to God and to His salvation in Christ (see Acts 7:51).
Despising His Grace
To do despite to the Spirit of Grace (Hebrews 10:29) is to insult Him, as some translations have it. It is as though one is throwing God’s Word back in His face, and it is no wonder that God has said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever” (Genesis 6:3).
Blaspheming His Name
To ascribe the wonder-working power of the Spirit to the Devil, is referred to by our Lord as blasphemy (Matthew 12:31, 32). One can only blaspheme Deity. It is one of the deadliest sins, being a direct challenge to God, and unless sincerely repented of will bring eternal destruction.
Offences By Believers
The encumberances created by Christians are many and varied, but the hindrances to the Spirit’s working are real. Only He can produce Christian character in the life, and when there is fellowship with the Spirit and yieldness to His control, the results of His mighty and gracious ministry will be manifested.
Grieving His Love
To grieve is a love term. It is impossible to grieve an enemy, for the word does not apply to that case. To grieve is to cause sorrow to one who is loving or one who is loved. The Spirit in His divine love comes to dwell with the people of God and He is grieved worst of all by being ignored, His presence rarely recognized and His injunctions generally disobeyed. In the context of the exhortation, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30), lying is mentioned. Speaking untruths and even half-truths will surely grieve Him. In both verses 26 and 31 anger is spoken of as another grief to the Spirit, whether it is fleshly wrath or malice. Dishonesty is the subject of verse 28, and even if it is pilfering or purloining, it is stealing, and not only dishonouring to the Lord but grieving to His Spirit. In the following verse the apostle warns against the expression of the old carnal and corrupt nature being allowed to manifest itself in corrupt talk. The word is sometimes translated “putrid,” and that is not too strong a word to use when such talk grieves the Spirit who is holy.
The final exhortation in this context is with regard to bitterness (v. 31). David dealt so firmly and graciously with four hundred men under his captaincy, who were filled with bitterness as well as being hopelessly in debt (maybe the latter was the cause of the bitterness), that this problem was eventually overcome and they became his mighty men (see 1 Samuel 22:2 and 1 Chronicles 11:11). No believer with bitterness in his soul will ever become mighty for God, because the might of the Spirit within can never be released when He is grieved through bitterness or an unforgiving spirit. The Spirit will never withdraw Himself but will undoubtedly abandon His working, and that reluctantly, when ill-will, enmity, uncharitableness and resentment gain control in the heart.
Quenching His Fire
“Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) is a significant word, because fire (as we have seen) is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, and quenching has to do with fire. He is the “Spirit of burning” (Isaiah 4:4) and the fire can easily be put out by conformity to the world which crucified the Saviour whom He has come to represent and reveal. It can be quenched by disobedience to the inward promptings of the Spirit and by self-assertion in its many forms and fleshly confidence instead of dependence upon Him. Bigotry or denominational pride will quench the fire both in ourselves and in others, as it will when the praise of men is preferred to the praise of God.
The “fire is not to go out” (Leviticus 6:13) is a needed command, because often the fire within is quenched and is turned to smouldering stubble by sin or, unbelief. The promise to the house of Jacob as seen in Obadiah 18 was to be fulfilled when the Holy Spirit had refined and purified by His fire God’s people of old:
“Jacob shall be like a fire for God,
Joseph a glorious flame;
Sin shall be judged and burn right up,
And both to the praise of His name.”
Defiling His Temple
“Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16), wrote the Apostle Paul to the carnal Corinthian Christians. Believers bodies are holy temples because of the Holy One who dwells therein, and to defile His temple will soon become a real hindrance to the purposes of God in the life of a man. In Nehemiah’s day Eliashib the priest hindered the work in hand, when he allowed Tobiah the enemy to use a room in the courts of the house of God. “It grieved me sore,” said Nehemiah, “therefore I cast forth all the household stuff of Tobiah out of the chamber” (Nehemiah 13:7, 8, KJV). The enemy’s “stuff” in its many forms will certainly defile the temple of the heart and hinder the Spirit’s working there.
The following verse is most emphatic: “If any man defile the temple of God, Him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Corinthians 3:17). Impurity and fleshly-worldly desire will destroy the spiritual life of any Christian who allows such defilement to enter the heart. James reminds us that it is possible for the whole body to be defiled and set on fire by hell (see James 3:6).
Vexing His Values
The Holy Spirit’s purposes in the life, and His standards and values can be thwarted to such a degree that He is hindered altogether in all His many ministries for the believer. We read that Israel vexed the Holy Spirit, who came to them to make the presence of God real to them (Isaiah 63:9, 10), and although He saved them, loved them, pitied them, redeemed them and carried them through, yet they rebelled against Him. Continual rebellion and grieving turns to vexation and it is because the Holy Spirit wants to do so much for Christians, and yet is so often grieved and hindered, that He eventually becomes vexed and thwarted. Abraham’s servant (beautiful picture of the Holy Spirit) when he was becoming thwarted in his mission exclaimed: “Hinder me not,” and he was allowed to go and take Rebekah to Isaac (Genesis 24:56, KJV); so also the Spirit, when He is neither vexed nor hindered, will most certainly take His own again and again to the beloved Lord, to make the blessings of their union with Christ much more real.
D. L. Moody received some counsel from an older saint on one occasion (rather unwillingly we are told, but it was good that he did receive it!). It was this: “Young man, honour the Holy Ghost.”