“Grieve not the Spirit” (Eph. 4:30)
In John 20:21 we read: “Then said Jesus… As My Father hath sent Me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost.”
A little later at Pentecost this promise received its evident fulfillment, and so dawned the new age of the Church, so was ushered in the new era of the Spirit. The Saviour’s action and words were deeply significant and intentional. He whom they had known and loved and followed was going away. He who had died and won Heaven for men was returning to that Heaven and the Father.
So before He went He solemnly committed them to the Holy Ghost with whom each one of them would have to deal, the One who was to be the executive of the Godhead on earth, and who as such, was to be honored and obeyed. Christ indeed was to be their life, but that resurrection life of His which they all needed and would continue to need, would only be available through this one Divine channel. His life could only be enjoyed by the aid and through the ministry of One Person, the Holy Spirit. This they must realize once for all, and never forget. For them and for all believers there were to be two great Persons supplying life, and power, and victory —Christ Himself, the one source of that life, and the Holy Spirit, the only One who could and would manifest and communicate that life—and with both Persons they would ever have to do, as well as with the Father in Heaven.
Yet in the Christian Church today, in quarters where the deepest truths are taught and the purest ambitions toward God are cherished, there is a real danger lest One of those great Persons should be set forth to the exclusion of the other; lest in rightfully exalting Christ, the Holy Spirit is unconsciously ignored and so grieved.
Today much of the teaching about the abundant life in Christ, and the way of power and victory over temptation and sin, seems to be more and more along the lines of what is called “identification with Christ.” Verses such as Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live”; and Col. 3:3, “Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God,” being made the ground and the way of dealing with the old nature, in order that here and now it may become blessedly true that “Sin shall not have dominion over you.”
These terms and conceptions are completely scriptural; they do give the doctrinal basis by which we are to overcome; but stated thus continually, and only thus (as with many teachers), the Holy Spirit is practically unmentioned, His work and ministry unintentionally ignored, and His personality lost sight of. If this were the whole presentation of deliverance from sin found in the Scriptures, then all would be well; but an examination of the Epistles shows that it is certainly not the whole truth. Therefore the omission of the ministry of the Spirit cannot please the Saviour, and must be hurtful to the believer.
Without doubt, “great is the mystery of godliness” and of the truths, great and far-reaching, which we are called to set forth to believers. And it does seem, particularly today, that we need special Divine guidance and wisdom in “rightly dividing the word of truth” to give each Person of the Godhead and each doctrinal aspect their right and proportionate and Scriptural emphasis. For instance, the Saviour is mentioned in the doctrinal portions of the New Testament some three hundred times, the Holy Spirit no less than one hundred and fifty times. Do we mention their names in this proportion, so that for every twice we mention the Saviour we refer to the Holy Spirit at least once? To ask the question answers it. Except for what is often doubtfully referred to as “the guidance of the Spirit,” He is hardly ever mentioned at all, and this from the mistaken idea it might take away from the glory of Christ. In support of this idea the text is quoted: “He shall not speak of Himself,” where the context shows the meaning is, “He shall not speak from Himself,” or of His own volition, but “Whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak.” The Saviour stresses the same truth about Himself in John 12:49: “I have not spoken of (or from) Myself, but the Father… gave Me a commandment what I should say and what I should speak.” Each at the time spoke under control.
Let us now turn to the Epistles wherein are set forth the liberties of the child of God. It is deeply significant how in each case, after the special truth of the Epistle has been set forth, the Holy Spirit is brought in as the Divine Agent through whom that truth may be applied and accomplished in the believer.
Thus in Romans the main subject is freedom from sin; in chaps. 3-5 Christ justifies the believer from its penalty. In chapter 6, through identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, and by a double reckoning (ver. 11), the believer is set free from the power of sin. Yet let us hear “the conclusion of the whole matter,” In chapter 8:2 we are finally told: “The law of the Spirit (of life in Christ Jesus) has set me free from the law of sin and death,” and in this chapter the Spirit is set forth as the active liberating Agent no less than nineteen times. His ministry is making effective in the believer all that Christ has done for the believer, in liberating from the power of sin.
In First Corinthians we find the clever Corinthians, with their great head-knowledge, seeking after wisdom, yet knowing little of the deep things of God. Then the splendid destiny of the believer is set forth, “in Christ,” who only can be unto them “wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” All this was to become possible. Yet it was quite impossible to the natural man. “For eye hath not seen nor ear heard … the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” How then were these wonders to be known and possessed? The answer is in chap. 2:10, 11: “God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit search-eth … the deep things of God” and of Christ. For “the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God…which things also we speak…in the words…which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” Here then the Spirit is seen revealing and teaching the truth as it is in Christ Jesus.
In Second Corinthians Paul’s apostleship is in question. Was he sent of God? Could they believe his revelations? Was his message authentic? Well, God had sealed him and given him the earnest of the Spirit in his heart, (chap. 1:22), for after he believed he was “sealed with that Holy Spirit” (Eph. 1:13). That is another of the Spirit’s functions, and the Corinthians too, were to be “epistles,” “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God” (chap 3:3), who was able to give them liberty and change them into the same image (chap 3:17,18). So here the Holy Spirit seals and delivers and transforms the child of God.
In Galatians the deep-seated conflict between the flesh and the Spirit is shown to be the reason for their fickleness and bondage, and confusion of law with grace. Here again it is the Holy Spirit who takes up the conflict on the believer’s behalf, and “lusts against” the flesh. So in Galatians the Spirit is set forth fighting on the believer’s behalf.
Passing to Ephesians, we are there shown our wonderful position and privileges in Christ, which we might and ought to occupy here and now. But how can this wonderful prospect be realized? Well, because of the death and resurrection of Christ, “through Him we…have access by one Spirit unto the Father” (chap. 2:18). We therefore need to be continually “filled with the Spirit.” Again, all that Christ has bought for us must be effected in us by the Spirit, who here gives us access to the Father.
In Philippians we have the Joy Epistle, written by a man in prison and in peril of his life, who is yet able to cry: “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always…making request with joy.” How did he attain to this height? He was Nero’s prisoner, yet he was the Lord’s “free man.” He had unshaken confidence that all should “turn to my salvation through … the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,” the kingdom of God “righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost” (Rom. 14:17).
These then are some of the doctrinal positions, all of which are to be ours. Paul with his keen legal brain, inspired by God, has laid bare the underlying principles. He has shewn us in how many guises the Holy Spirit works in the believer. But these are not to be disguises! He indeed will not speak “from Himself,” but will take of the things of Christ and reveal and impart them unto us; but He is not to be ignored or forgotten.
Let us go back to the inspired description of those early years to see how the whole matter looked to the early Church. In the Acts of the Apostles, which might well be named the Acts of the Holy Ghost, how does the inspired historian, Paul’s constant companion Luke, describe the general impression produced upon the early Church? “The Holy Ghost said” (Acts 13:2), is the refrain of the whole book. He is clearly recognized as the mighty Executive of the Godhead. He loomed very large in their daily thinking and living. Does He loom as large in our lives? In our thinking is He but an influence? One of our Solomon Island native teachers said he thought of the Holy Spirit “all the same as wind that blows all about!” For our own sakes, and for the sake of those we teach, the Holy Spirit must mean much more to us than that. He must not only dwell in us, He must fill and control us if God’s work is to be done in us and in our people. God is waiting to continually verify His word: “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” Is that really true in our daily lives? And if not, why not? Is it because we have grieved Him by tacitly ignoring Him? Oh, may we allow Him His full ministry in our lives, that He may without hindrance work in us to will and to do of God’s good pleasure.
Let us clearly remember that truth over-emphasized becomes error, doctrines designed by God to be helpful become hurtful. A plank in the floor when in its proper place makes a firm foothold; when lifted out of the floor, out of relation to the other planks, it becomes a stumbling-block. The Word of God is not bound, neither must the Spirit be. We must continually cry to God to give us “the spirit … of a sound mind,” that we may “rightly divide the word of truth,” and rightly set forth God’s promise of liberty. We should not think it taking away from the honor of the King of England, were he to send the Prince of Wales, his son, to represent him. Neither let us think that it will take away from the glory of Christ, to honor and recognize and refer to the Holy Spirit He has sent to represent Him to us and reveal Him to our hearts. “Grieve not the Spirit!”