In this series of bulletin articles, we’ve been examining the Westminster Larger Catechism, published in the 17th Century. Lately we’ve been looking at the first commandment of the ten commandments: ‘You shall have no other gods before me’ (Exodus 20:3). We saw the duties of the first commandment and have now reflected on the sins forbidden by the commandment.
The first commandment also forbids resisting and grieving the Spirit of God.
Stephen, one of the early church leaders, warns about resisting the Holy Spirit. The Jewish leaders arrested him and put him on trial for his faith. At the end of the sermon he preached before the Sanhedrin, Stephen said: ‘You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him–you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it’ (Acts 7:51-53).
By rejecting Jesus Christ, the religious leaders had resisted the Holy Spirit. Why had they rejected Jesus? Matthew reminds us that ‘it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him’ (Matthew 27:18). The religious leaders had been envious of Jesus and broken the first commandment by choosing to worship themselves and their nation instead of Jesus. And as the Holy Spirit loves to bring people to worship Christ, they were guilty of resisting Him too.
Yet it’s not only non-Christians who upset the Holy Spirit. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul warns Christians against grieving the Holy Spirit: ‘And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption’ (Ephesians 4:30).
What does it mean ‘’to grieve’ the Holy Spirit? The Greek word could also be translated as causing sadness or sorrow. Basically, when we prefer another god over the true God and thereby break the first commandment, this is upsetting to the Holy Spirit who lives in true Christians.
Imagine that you are married and your spouse one day prefers someone else to you. Your spouse thinks the other person is better looking, a nicer person and has more to offer. Your spouse not only prefers that person, but starts to listen to the other person instead of you. Would that not grieve you? Your spouse may only do it for a few hours or a day, but it would still be very upsetting.
That helps us understand just a little of the pain the Holy Spirit feels when you choose to ignore God and go after an idol in your heart. It maybe for a moment, but it’s enough to upset him. We’re supposed to be devoted to the Lord all the time and not cause the Spirit any pain.
The truth is, we’ve resisted and grieved the Holy Spirit many, many times. So what are we to do? We need to look again to the blood of Jesus Christ that purifies us from all unrighteousness, including the sins of resisting and grieving of the Spirit. And if we trust in Jesus he not only cleanses us of all the times we’ve grieved the Spirit but he gives us strength to cause the Spirit joy rather than pain.