IS GRIEVING THE HOLY SPIRIT FORGIVABLE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Recently, I heard a denominational preacher say that grieving the Holy Spirit was not forgivable. Is he correct? Or, is he one of the many pastors leading our churches today who does not have a clue about what the Bible really says? We will investigate and see “For what saith the Scriptures?”
Only one verse in the Bible talks about “grieving the Holy Spirit.” That Scripture is Ephesians 4:30: “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Actually, if you noticed, the Bible says that the Holy Spirit has “sealed”—branded as God’s property, preserved or secured—us Christians until “the day of redemption.” Romans 8:23 defines that “day of redemption” as follows: “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” The “day of redemption” is the bodily resurrection of Christians—commonly called the Rapture. It will occur to close this the Dispensation of the Grace of God, that Israel’s prophetic program resume where it paused nearly 2,000 years ago.
Ephesians 4:30 says that the Holy Spirit will never leave the Christian. The warning in Ephesians 4:30 is not “grieve not the Holy Spirit or He will forsake you.” Ephesians 4:30 does not read, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit, lest you not be forgiven.” This would imply a loss of salvation, which is evidently what that aforementioned denominational preacher believed. He did not give his church members any assurance or confidence. All he did was generate doubt in their minds. I was not surprised because the man has been an apostate on a variety of subjects for decades. Had he had a better reputation for Bible handling, I would have given him the benefit of the doubt that he had merely misspoken. Knowing what I know about his theology, however, I am quite convinced that he meant just what he said—“It is hard to do, but when you do it, grieving the Holy Spirit is unforgivable.”
How could this well-known preacher be so wrong, though? Friend, you would have to ask him and let him tell you. I do know that he does not approach the Bible dispensationally—that is his main problem. He, like many, is so denominationally minded that religious tradition means more to him than the words of the Almighty God. This very topic would be a case in point. What happened here is that he confused grieving the Holy Spirit with blaspheming against the Holy Spirit. The latter is often called “the unpardonable sin,” and rightly so. Jesus Christ Himself warned His audience that if they spoke against (blasphemed) the Holy Spirit, it would never be forgiven them. Notice the Bible’s two references to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Do not take my word for it. Look at the verses—and notice where they are in the layout of Scripture!
Firstly, the Lord Jesus affirmed in Matthew 12:31-32: “ Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men.  And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.” Secondly, Mark 3:28-30, the parallel passage: “ Verily I say unto you, All sins shall be forgiven unto the sons of men, and blasphemies wherewith soever they shall blaspheme:  But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.  Because they said, He hath an unclean spirit.”
People do not know how to handle verses dispensationally so they try to make them all fit together, applicable to and descriptive of one event. Instead of approaching the Bible dispensationally, they mix Israel’s verses with verses about the Church the Body of Christ. That is, they take the “grieving” of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30) and equate that with “blasphemy against” the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30). This will not work—this is why church people get confused. God’s Word is not being rightly divided. Dispensational boundaries are not being respected. Second Timothy 2:15 says: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Paul in Ephesians 4:30, and Jesus in Matthew 12:31-32 and Mark 3:28-30, are talking about totally separate matters, in totally separate dispensations, to totally separate audiences.
Never once does the Apostle Paul, in his Books of Romans through Philemon, warn any of the Gentile believers that they (or we, the Church the Body of Christ) should be careful not to speak a word against the Holy Ghost. We are never told that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is something Christians can even do in the Dispensation of Grace. Again, check the Pauline epistles of Romans through Philemon. Never once is any member of the Body of Christ guilty of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit; nor is there a warning that a Christian can commit such a sin. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was a sin that unbelievers committed. More specifically, it was what unbelieving Israel was guilty of doing in her prophetic program: ultimately, it was a national sin. Remember, Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry—including Matthew 12:31-32 and Mark 3:28-30—were spoken to and about the nation Israel and her prophetic program (Matthew 10:5-7; Matthew 15:24; John 4:22; Romans 9:5; Romans 15:8). Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13), God’s spokesman to us Gentiles, Paul being the man to whom God entrusted the mystery program, the Dispensation of the Grace of God, and the Church the Body of Christ (Ephesians 3:1-11).
Israel had rejected John the Baptist whom Father God had sent to them (John 1:6). They had rejected Jesus Christ, God the Son, by nailing Him to Calvary’s cross (although that was forgiven—Luke 23:34; cf. Matthew 12:32 and Mark 3:28). When the Holy Spirit came down from Heaven in Acts chapter 2, and filled the 12 Apostles, unbelieving Israel began to persecute those men for preaching Jesus Christ. Time and time again, Israel demonstrated her complete disinterest in becoming God’s people. By Acts chapter 7, Stephen, filled with the Holy Ghost, condemned Israel for repeatedly rebelling against God. Israel took Stephen and stoned him, the culmination of the nation’s refusal to listen to the Holy Spirit’s testimony during the Acts period. Israel would blaspheme the Holy Spirit no longer. She fell before God nationally, and her prophetic program was paused, albeit temporarily (see Romans chapter 11). For more information, see our two related studies linked at the end of this article—“Have I blasphemed against the Holy Spirit?” and “Why did Jesus Christ stand in Acts 7:55-56?” Time and space do not permit us to discuss these in-depth topics here.
“GRIEVE NOT” THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD?
Now that we understand that the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit does not apply to us in this the Dispensation of Grace, whereas grieving the Holy Spirit does apply to us, how specifically do we “grieve” Him? “And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Let us do a brief word study, surveying related verses.
The same Greek word for “grieve” (lopeo) is elsewhere rendered in our King James Bible as—Herod “sorry” for having to behead John the Baptist to please Herodias’ daughter (Matthew 14:9), the Apostles “sorry” upon hearing of Jesus’ death (Matthew 17:23), the “sorrowful” and materialistic rich man who went away after refusing to sell his possessions (Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22—“grieved”), the Apostles “sorrowful” when they learned of Christ’s betrayal (Matthew 26:22; Mark 14:19), Christ “sorrowful” on the night before His death (Matthew 26:37), Christ said His disciples would be “sorrowful” when He would leave them (John 16:20), Peter was “grieved” when Jesus asked him the third time if he loved Him (John 21:17), the weaker Christian is “grieved” when the stronger brother uses his liberty to offend him (Romans 14:15), Paul’s writing to Corinth made these wayward Christians “sorry” (2 Corinthians 2:2; 2 Corinthians 7:8-9,11), Paul did not intend to “grieve” the Corinthians by reproving them for all their mistakes (2 Corinthians 2:4-5), Paul and his ministry companions being as “sorrowful” and yet alway rejoicing (2 Corinthians 6:10), we are encouraged to “sorrow not” concerning those Christians who have died and gone on to be with the Lord (1 Corinthians 4:13), and the circumcision believers during the Antichrist’s reign will be in “heaviness” (1 Peter 1:6).
In light of the above verses, when Scripture says “grieve not the holy Spirit of God,” we appreciate the gravity of the term “grieve.” It carries the meaning of intense sorrow, sadness, or distress—very strong language. When we walk contrary to what the indwelling Holy Spirit wants to do in and through us, we make Him immensely sad or sorrowful. Why? We are living contrary to who we are in Jesus Christ. By the way, we see that, contrary to what cults teach, the Holy Spirit is a Person, not a “force.” Only something living could be “grieved” (a force does not experience emotions). Let us look at some other related verses.
We are instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:19: “Quench not the Spirit.” The idea here is “hinder not the Spirit.” Philippians 2:13 explains: “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” When we stop the indwelling Holy Spirit from working in us, then He is displeased (in the words of Ephesians 4:30—“grieved”). That is, when we refuse to take a stand by faith on the grace doctrines committed to the Apostle Paul, we are devoid of God’s power. The Holy Spirit needs that sound Bible doctrine to work in us; otherwise, we will fall back on the flesh and engage in worldly behavior. Sin will dominate us if we ignore God’s grace given to us in Christ (and communicated to us by the epistles of the Apostle Paul).
First Thessalonians 2:13 adds to what we have already discovered: “For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.” Faith/trust in the rightly divided Word of God is the key to have God’s power working in and through you, friend! This is how you avoid grieving the Holy Spirit. First Thessalonians 4:1 says: “Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more.” This is the opposite of grieving the Holy Spirit. Grieving the Holy Spirit is when you displease God in your Christian walk, when your conduct does not match your identity in Christ. You are living like a sinner when you should be living like a saint!
The “grieving” of the Holy Spirit, while tragic, is most certainly forgivable. In fact, if it were not forgivable, not even Christians would ever go to Heaven. There has never been a Christian believer on Earth who lived a sinless life. All Christians past or present have been guilty of preventing the Holy Spirit from working in their lives at some point. It could have been instances of bad thoughts, times of lying or gossiping, cases of idolatry (self-worship, people-worship, education-worship, et cetera), phases of pride, instances of violence, times of profanity, situations of denominational doctrines, and so on. These were all future when the Lord Jesus Christ died. We have been forgiven them for Christ’s sake (Ephesians 4:32—forgiveness is in the context of Ephesians 4:30 I might add!). Now, we need to learn from those mistakes, walking daily in the forgiveness that Father God has given us.
We read the following in Ephesians 5:18, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” The implication is that, while all Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit, He does not control them at all times. To wit, they frequently “quench” Him (1 Thessalonians 5:18). They are “grieving” Him at those times (Ephesians 4:30). When the Spirit of God is not guiding the Christian, the condition is called carnality (“carnal” meaning “fleshly”)—see 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. This is certainly forgivable, though, as we have already stated. But, let us take it a step further.
You can see the two extremes of carnality by looking at Paul’s two epistles to Corinth and his epistle to Galatia. The Corinthians were motivated by human wisdom whereas the Galatians were motivated by human works, the Mosaic Law. Corinth embraced the wisdom of men; Galatia embraced the Law of Moses (non-dispensational Scripture). Both groups of Christians were operating apart from God’s grace; therefore, their lifestyles were not pleasing to Him. They were all “grieving” the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30)—they were all hindering and saddening Him. “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13). The Holy Spirit does not use man’s wisdom to teach spiritual truths. Additionally, the Spirit of God will never lead a believer in the Dispensation of Grace to be under the legalistic demands of religion (including the Law of Moses). “But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). But, does that mean we can live however we please? No!
The Law has no place in our lives as righteous people (1 Timothy 1:9)—a law system only shows us that we need a Saviour, and we already recognized this truth when we came to Christ as Saviour. As Christians, God’s grace teaches us how to live—unlike the Law, Grace equips us with the power necessary to walk in the ways of righteousness. Titus 2:11-15 says: “ For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,  Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;  Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;  Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.  These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee.”
Though we are not saved by works, we are saved unto (the goal being) good works. Ephesians 2:8-10 sets forth this simple truth: “ For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  Not of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” God does not save us just to keep us out of Hell. He wants to live His life in and through us. This is accomplished by we learning of the provisions He has given us in Jesus Christ His Son. We study the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon, and we believe what we read. Then, we apply by faith the verses to the details of our lives, and the Holy Spirit brings to life in our lives those verses we read and believed. This is how we “grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby [we] are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Since He has “sealed” (preserved) us until the day we go to Heaven, it only makes sense that we, until we leave this planet, cooperate with Him by faith! When we make a mistake—and we will—He will be grieved but we will be forgiven. How do we recover? We renew our minds and trust with our hearts the grace principles found in the Pauline epistles!