“AND grieve not the holy spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” - Eph. iv. 30.
WE have been requested by a friend in Chester Co., Pa., to give our views on the above text, through the “Signs of the Times.” The popular sentiment of Arminians and work-mongers in general seems to be that the children of men, even in their fallen condition, have power to inflict upon the eternal and unchanging God, the Holy Ghost, disappointment, sorrow and grief; they have therefore supposed that the above text was designed as an exhortation to unregenerate sinners to beware of their liability to grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by obstinately refusing to be quickened by his divine operation. They hold that God, the Holy Ghost, operates to some extent on all hearts, and strives with all sinners to regenerate them; but some sinners are so hardened or careless that the Spirit becomes grieved with them, and gives them over to hardness of heart and a reprobate mind, &c. If by any fair construction of the admonition of the text under consideration, we could arrive at any such conclusion, we would be compelled to yield the ground we occupy in regard to salvation being of the Lord alone, and in this surrender yield also the doctrine of the immutability of God, and of the depravity and consequent inability of men. The absurdity, however, of such notions will sufficiently appear, at least to such as are divinely enlightened, when we present the true meaning of the subject.
In the discussion of this subject, we take the position that neither the above text or any other part or portion of the epistle was addressed to unregenerate sinners. The whole epistle, by authority of the Holy Ghost, was addressed to the saints at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus; such as were blessed with all spiritual blessings, according as they were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world; predestined to the adoption of children, by Jesus Christ unto himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. Eph. i. 1-5. Such as were quickened by the Holy Spirit, from a state of death in trespasses and sins; raised up together with Christ, and made to sit together with Christ, in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Eph. ii. 1-6. Paul having fully identified the subjects of address, as the blessed, chosen, predestinated, redeemed, called and quickened people of God, organized into a gospel church, as one body, in one hope of their calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in them all; beseeches them to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called. Had their calling, like many professors in modern days, been of men, then to walk according thereto would require them to follow the traditions, doctrines and inventions of men; but their vocation or calling was of God, and that according as he had chosen them in Christ before the foundation of the world; saved and called, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in him before the world began, (2 Tim. i. 9;) therefore to walk worthy of such a heavenly calling would require that as they had received Christ Jesus the Lord they should walk in him. Suffer us here to remark, when men exhort unregenerate sinners, they have to present selfish motives, such as their eternal destiny at stake. The terrors of damnation on one hand, and the prospect of eternal happiness on the other, or their exhortations avail nothing; but to the living children of God the apostle could present no more powerful incentive than the nature of their vocation; the eternity of God’s love toward them in Christ Jesus, their election, safety and identity with Jesus Christ as the Head over all things to his church, which is his body, and the fullness of him that filleth all in all. Eph. i. 23.
If by the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed, &c., we are to understand God himself as a Spirit, infinite, eternal, independent and immutable, or the Holy Ghost as God, we would be compelled to consider him susceptible of grief, sorrow, disappointment, &c., which things are quite incompatible with what we have been taught of God; but our Lord told Nicodemus, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” as that which is born of the flesh is flesh. So in this text, the Holy Spirit of God appears to mean the spirit of the renewed mind, otherwise called the “New man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” - verse 23, 24. This Spirit of God, whereby the saints are sealed, is called the spirit of promise, and is the earnest of our inheritance, until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of his glory. Chap. i. 13, 14.
This spirit then we understand to be the spirit of life; the incorruptible seed by the word of the Lord that liveth and abideth forever; the seed that remaineth; the spirit of him that raised up Christ from the dead, and which dwells in all that are born of God. It is here called the spirit because it is born of the Holy Ghost; it is called the Holy Spirit, for that which emanates only from the Holy Ghost must necessarily be holy; it is called the holy spirit of God because it is of God. That spiritual life which was given to the saints in Christ before the world began is called, when received by us experimentally in the new birth, “Christ in you the hope of glory,” for in him, the eternal word, was life, and that life is the light of men. When we receive it we receive Christ; for Christ is our life. “He is the Resurrection, and the Life; and when he who is our life shall appear, then shall we appear with him in glory.” That life which was given us in Adam, and which the apostle here distinguishes from the spiritual by the appellation, “the old man,” which is corrupt and carnal, standing connected with law, sin, condemnation and wrath; but this holy spirit or new man is spiritual, incorruptible, undefiled and cannot fade away; for it was and is reserved in heaven for you who by him do believe in God; an earnest of it is given us when quickened, or after that we believe. As the first operation of the Holy Ghost on our hearts brings us to believe, or in other words, convinces us of sin; of the spirituality of the law; of the impossibility of salvation by works of righteousness that we can do; so after this is effected by the exceeding greatness of his mighty power that brought again our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, the struggle the labor, the travail of regeneration gives place to deliverance of the new man, which, not after Adam is created a natural, carnal or corruptible man, of the earth earthy; but is created after God (Christ) in righteousness (Christ) and true holiness (Christ.) By this renewing of the Holy Ghost a spiritual life is communicated to the child of God, which is the spirit of promise (in distinction from law) and whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these we might be made partakers of the divine nature. 2 Peter i. 4. This spirit in our hearts exerts a transforming influence, by it the saints are sealed. This metaphor teaches two things; first, as the seal makes its full impression on the wax, and which cannot be counterfeited, so the indwelling life born from above makes an inimitable impression upon believers, conforming them to the image of Christ; and secondly, as the seal makes the instrument, covenant, will, testament or promise valid, so this incorruptible seed implanted in the saints is an earnest of their divine inheritance in glory.
This seal of God, instamped on his children, is to serve as an earnest or assurance to the saints, until the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of his glory; or as in our text, until the day of redemption. That is, as long as the saints are to live by faith upon the Son of God.
The day of redemption in this text means the same as in the first chapter and 14th verse, viz: the redemption of the purchased possession unto the praise of his glory. The possession which Christ purchased with his blood is the flock or church of God. “The Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.” The purchase of this possession was a redemption purchase; not effected with such corruptible things as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, &c. The day of their redemption, in this case, means their final deliverance from corruption, depravity and death; but our apostle says, even we ourselves, who have received the first fruits of the Spirit, do groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit: the redemption of our body. Rom. viii. 23. Until, therefore, these mortal bodies of the purchased flock of Christ are arrayed in spotless immortality, until these corruptibles shall put on incorruption, and the saying be fulfilled, “Death is swallowed up of victory,” and the saints prepared to sing the triumphant anthem, “O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory” this holy spirit, as the signet of our God, shall be to us an earnest, evidence and assurance that when this earthly house shall be dissolved, and fall, we have a building of God; a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. Until that illustrious day shall dawn on us we shall need this earnest, but no longer; for
“When from the dust of earth we rise,
To take our mansion in the skies,”
we shall see as we are seen, and know as we are known. Until then may it be our inexpressible happiness, through grace abounding to the chief of sinners, to stand upon Mount Sion with the hundred and forty and four thousand, and the innumerable multitude redeemed out of every nation, kindred and tongue; having the seal of our Father God deeply impressed upon us in heart, in life, and in practice.
But the solemn admonition of our subject demands our special attention. “Grieve not the holy spirit.” While the eternal God is infinitely above being moved by any such passions as grief, sorrow or disappointment, being of one mind, and none can turn him, that spirit begotten in his saints, which is an emanation from him, can be grieved. In Noah it strove with a world lying in wickedness, and devoted to awful destruction. In Lot, his righteous soul was vexed with the ungodly deeds of those among whom he dwelt in Sodom. This holy spirit, as it has existed in all the holy prophets since the world began, has been resisted by the generation of vipers, who do always resist the Holy Ghost; they fight against God, resist God, &c., but they cannot grieve nor change the immutable God, for he that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, and God will hold them in derision; but the spirit begotten of God in his people can be grieved, burdened and sorrowful. For example, witness the case of our blessed Lord in incarnation; he rejoiced in spirit, he groaned in spirit, &c. In all the saints also may be found the same spirit of God which was in Christ;, and that susceptibility to sorrow and grief implied in our subject. From the world the saints expect persecution, and in the world tribulation; it does not grieve them when they realize such opposition from that quarter; but they rejoice and give thanks to God that they are accounted worthy thus to suffer for the sake of Christ. The exhortation in our subject is not therefore to the men of the world; let them rage and waste the fury of their spite; but the spirit of God in the hearts of all his saints is grieved when they witness the departure of their brethren from the simplicity of the gospel of Christ; they are deeply afflicted when they see any in whom they have had confidence as christians giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; or when any who profess to know and love the truth depart from a gospel walk and correct deportment. Christians too frequently inflict deep wounds upon the hearts of their brethren by an unbecoming course in life and deportment. Indeed, examples have not been lacking within the last twenty years in the church of Christ. An awful disregard of the admonition before us has marked the course of very many who have now gone out from us, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. Christians are often grieved in spirit with the corruptions of their own natures, indwelling sin; and perhaps this is the most prolific source of all their grief.
To avoid grieving the holy spirit of God, in the sense of this admonition, requires that all the saints should walk worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. That we be no more children tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive. That we walk no more as other Gentiles walk - in the vanity of their mind. That ye put off concerning the former conversation, the old man which is corrupt, according to the deceitful lusts. And putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Let not the sun go down upon your wrath, neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouths. By indulging in any of those things discountenanced by the apostle, or by neglecting anything enjoined, will necessarily grieve the holy spirit of God, whereby they are sealed unto the day of redemption.
O that the Lord may enforce this important admonition on all his dear children! We feel our need of its special application to our heart, and we would, in the language of the apostle, beseech our brethren to attend to these things. Let all our arrows be hurled at Babylon, and our artillery thunder against the hidden things of dishonesty; let us fight the good fight, and never, under pretension of divine influence, cease to contend against principalities and powers, and spiritual wickedness in high places; but while valiant for the truth, and ever hostile to the spirit of compromise with Zion’s foes, let brotherly love continue among all those whose calling is by a vocation from God, to one hope of our calling. And as the apostle closed this chapter, so close we this article in his words; (not that we pretend to write by inspiration as be wrote, but because we wish to be guided and directed by apostolic precept and example;) “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice; and be ye kind one to another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
NEW VERNON, N. Y.,
June 1, 1840.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 1
Pages 619 – 626