The first aspect to note is that ‘grief’ is a concept that involves emotion. It is linked with sadness and disappointment. This imagery of a grieving Spirit should cause us to realise the sensitivity he has concerning the sins of his people. One emblem of the Spirit that fits with the possibility of grieving is when the Spirit is likened to a dove. Since the Spirit indwells all believers, it means that the person sinning can grieve him and he may also be grieved in the person that has been sinned against. At an elementary level, the sense of horror that the recipient feels is evidence of the grief of the Spirit. The least sin grieves the Spirit.
What are the consequences of grieving the Spirit? I suppose that there are many, but I will mention three areas that are among the most important. In doing so, I want to connect them with the Spirit in his role as comforter or helper.
First, we lose his help in providing us with assurance that we are the children of God. In Romans 8, Paul writes that the Spirit witnesses with our Spirit that we are the children of God. What he means is that the Spirit strengthens our own weak sense of assurance. A Christian can deduce he is converted because of God’s promises or he can deduce he is reborn because of his obedience to God’s will. Both types of assurance need constant divine strengthening by the Spirit. When we grieve the Spirit, we don’t have that strong sense of belonging to God.
Second, we lose his help in obeying God’s commands. Sadly it is possible for a Christian to go through the motions outwardly, with no awareness that he has lost the Spirit’s enabling. This was the case with the church in Ephesus later on when it lost its first love (Rev. 2:4). Much of the Christian life can be carried on outwardly without the help of the Spirit. Also there can be strong inner compulsions for truth that have nothing to do with the Spirit. We see that in the case of David when Nathan told him the parable concerning the rich man who used the poor man’s lamb – David was furious with the rich man (2 Sam. 12:1-6), but his fury was not from the Spirit because he had been grieved for David’s sin.
Third, we lose his help in our prayer lives. The Spirit in a healthy Christian causes him to live in a spirit of prayer. Such a Christian talks to God about everything and talks to him all the time. But when the Spirit is grieved, prayer becomes a dry formality, which a Christian discovers he can do without. There is no longer a joyful interaction with God.
We will consider other aspects tomorrow of grieving the Spirit.