Why Would Your Words Grieve God’s Spirit?

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
Laity 1

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:30

Yesterday, we saw that our words can grieve the Holy Spirit. When we use "unwholesome talk," rather than choosing words that build up and benefit others, then we sadden God's own Spirit.

Why? Why does Ephesians 4:29-30 make such a close connection between words and grieving the Spirit?

Our passage implies that any sin will grieve the Spirit. When we fail to do what God wants us to do, when we choose instead to do that which dishonors our Lord, the Spirit of God grieves. But, if this is true, then why does Paul mention grieving the Spirit in the context of using language that tears others down rather than building them up?

One answer to this question comes from the end of verse 29: "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. We were first exposed to this hopeful notion in chapter 1: "When you believed, you were marked in [Christ] with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory" (1:13-14). The presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is a sign, a guarantee of the full redemption that is coming, when God makes all things fully right, including us. In that day, our relationships will be completely what God intends them to be. All of our words will build up, offer grace, celebrate beauty, and be expressions of love. So, when we act and speak in ways contrary to our future redemption, we grieve the Spirit who is the guarantee of that redemption.

Consider this rough analogy. In movies, and, I would imagine, in real life, when married people choose to have affairs, they often remove their wedding rings. Why? Because there is something terribly wrong with wearing a sign of one's marriage covenant while breaking that very covenant. If a wedding ring had feelings, and if the wearer of that ring committed adultery, then surely the ring would grieve.

So it is with the Spirit of God. When we sin, in words and in deeds, the Spirit grieves because we are acting contrary to who we are in Christ and to the covenant God has made with us. We are contradicting the reality of who we will one day be when God redeems all things.

Yet, and here's some astounding good news, we cannot "take off" the Spirit when we sin. Moreover, our passage does not suggest that God will remove the Spirit from us. Rather, when we sin through our words and in other ways, God's Spirit remains faithfully present, ready to help us repent, confess, receive forgiveness, and live so as to honor God in all we do.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you ever think of what you will be like in the day when God redeems all things? How might focusing on this coming reality make a difference in your life today? How can you speak and act today so as to live consistently with the seal upon your life, the Holy Spirit of God?

PRAYER: Gracious God, thank you for claiming me as your own. Thank you for placing on me a permanent sign of the fact that I belong to you. Thank you for the Spirit who guarantees the redemption that is to come, when I will be fully the person you have created me to be. And thank you, Lord, for not removing your Spirit from me when my words and deeds are grievous to you.

Help me, Lord, to speak and act in ways that are consistent with who I will be on the day of redemption. Help me to honor the seal you have placed upon me, your very Spirit. Amen.


Sports for the Glory of God

If God has created humanity with bodies that are “fearfully and wonderfully made,” we need to develop a Christian way of living that incorporates play and recreation, leisure and competition, sports and athletics. Faith in the Creator and Redeemer should lead us to identify the way sports and athletics are meant to be, discern when something is wrong with sports in our broken and sinful culture, and imagine ways to be instruments of redemption in this sphere. In this series, Sports for the Glory of God, we engage with stories of people who are working through these issues on a daily basis.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in The H. E. Butt Family Foundation.