The Holy Spirit: Our Relationship

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”
John 16:13-14

What does it mean to grieve / quench the Holy Spirit?

When the word “quench” is used in Scripture, it is speaking of suppressing fire. When believers put on the shield of faith, as part of their armor of God (Ephesians 6:16), they are extinguishing the power of the fiery darts from Satan. Christ described hell as a place where the fire would not be “quenched” (Mark 9:44, 46, 48). Likewise, the Holy Spirit is a fire dwelling in each believer. He wants to express Himself in our actions and attitudes. When believers do not allow the Spirit to be seen in our actions or we do what we know is wrong, we suppress or quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). We do not allow the Spirit to reveal Himself the way that He wants to.

To understand what it means to grieve the Spirit, we must first understand that this indicates the Spirit possesses personality. Only a person can be grieved; therefore, the Spirit must be a divine person in order to have this emotion. Once we understand this, we can better understand how He is grieved, mainly because we too are grieved. Ephesians 4:30 tells us that we should not grieve the Spirit. We grieve the Spirit by living like the pagans (4:17-19), by lying (4:25), by being angry (4:26-27), by stealing (4:28), by cursing (4:29), by being bitter (4:31), by being unforgiving (4:32), and by being sexually immoral (5:3-5). To grieve the Spirit is to act out in a sinful manner, whether it is in thought only or in both thought and deed.

Both quenching and grieving the Spirit are similar in their effects. Both hinder a godly lifestyle. Both happen when a believer sins against God and follows his or her own worldly desires. The only correct road to follow is the road that leads the believer closer to God and purity, and farther away from the world and sin. Just as we do not like to be grieved, and just as we do not seek to quench what is good—so we should not grieve or quench the Holy Spirit by refusing to follow His leading.

Can you lose the Holy Spirit?

The Holy Spirit is the third Person in the triune Godhead. The Holy Spirit indwells believers at the moment of salvation. We know from 1 Corinthians 3:16 and 6:19–20 that the bodies of Christians are the Spirit’s temple. The teaching of the New Testament is that the Holy Spirit’s indwelling is permanent. We cannot lose the Holy Spirit.

The Old Testament relates occasions in which the Spirit left someone, such as King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14) or Samson (Judges 16:20). However, in those days the Holy Spirit worked differently than He does since the time Jesus rose from the dead. In the Old Testament, the Spirit is never said to “indwell” anyone; rather, He “came upon” people for a time to accomplish specific purposes (Judges 3:10; 1 Chronicles 12:18). The Holy Spirit inspired the prophets to proclaim truth to the people (Ezekiel 11:1–2). He instructed the leaders of Israel (1 Samuel 16:13). He inspired the writing of Scripture (2 Peter 1:21). But He did not indwell those people as He now does with believers in Christ.

Before Christ’s finished work and ascension, the Holy Spirit came and went, but He no longer works that way. He does not come and go in the lives of believers today. Just before His arrest, Jesus promised His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit, who “lives with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). The Amplified Bible emphasizes the permanency of the Spirit’s presence: “He lives with you [constantly] and will be in you.”

Acts 2 describes the transition from the Old Testament economy to the New as it pertains to the Holy Spirit. The disciples were gathered for prayer, waiting for the promise of the Father, in obedience to Jesus (John 14:26; Acts 1:4, 8). As they prayed, the Holy Spirit fell upon them all and filled them (verse 3–4). Jesus’ promise was fulfilled, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit came upon all who had trusted in Christ. That outpouring resulted in courage in the face of opposition, love for all humanity, and supernatural gifts and abilities to further the gospel (1 Corinthians 12:4; Hebrews 2:4).

Salvation is impossible without the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Jesus explained this to Nicodemus in John 3:1–21. Nicodemus, a leader of the Jewish religion, wanted to know what laws he could keep or additional actions he could perform that would guarantee eternal life. Jesus responded that there was nothing Nicodemus could do and that salvation is a work of the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit’s work in a repentant heart, no one can be born again, regardless of how many “sinner’s prayers” he prays or Christian actions he performs. It is the Holy Spirit who regenerates and renews a heart (Titus 3:5).

An issue related to losing the Holy Spirit is eternal security. There is debate among Christians about whether or not someone can lose his or her salvation. To lose salvation would be to lose the Holy Spirit who provides it. In fact, Scripture says that the Holy Spirit “seals” our salvation until we experience its completion in the presence of God (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). For the Holy Spirit to vacate a heart that He had promised to seal would make Him unfaithful. One of the Holy Spirit’s tasks, after moving into a believing heart, is transforming that person into the image of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:29), and we have the promise that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Philippians 1:6). We do not believe the Spirit will undo His work of regeneration, give up on His transformative work, or redefine eternal life to mean “temporary life.”

Since we did not “find” the Holy Spirit, it is doubtful that we can “lose” Him. Some take issue with the word lose and say that, while a Christian cannot lose the Holy Spirit, he or she can forfeit the gifts and salvation He brings by a willful renouncement of Him. However, Ephesians 1:13 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.” Can a believer truly break the seal placed on him by God? The Holy Spirit is the mark of a true believer; therefore, to lose Him would be to lose any hope of salvation in the future.

Ephesians 4:30 warns us not to “grieve the Holy Spirit.” And 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says that we can “quench the Spirit.” These passages do not imply that the Holy Spirit has left us, only that He is sorrowful because of our sinful actions. The grieving and quenching of the Spirit hinders our fellowship with Him but does not nullify our salvation, in much the same way that a rebellious child may lose the fellowship of a parent but is not kicked out of the family.

What causes confusion on this issue is that we cannot know whether someone else has truly been born of the Spirit or whether he is the “shallow soil” as Jesus described in Luke 8:1–15. Some people seem excited to follow Jesus and may exhibit what appear to be supernatural gifts, but they were never truly born again. Jesus addresses those people with a stern warning in Matthew 7:21–23. Many people profess to have the Holy Spirit but eventually prove that they were imposters when their lives turn away from following Him (see Romans 8:14). Such people did not lose the Holy Spirit; He was never theirs at all (1 John 2:19).

Will the Holy Spirit ever leave a believer?

Simply put, no, the Holy Spirit will never leave a true believer. This is revealed in many different passages in the New Testament. For example, Romans 8:9 tells us, “…if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” This verse very clearly states that if someone does not have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, then that person is not saved. Therefore, if the Holy Spirit were to leave a believer, that person would have lost the saving relationship with Christ. Yet this is contrary to what the Bible teaches about the eternal security of Christians. Another verse that speaks to the permanence of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence in the life of believers is John 14:16. Here Jesus states that the Father will give another Helper “to be with you forever.”

The fact that the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer is also seen in Ephesians 1:13-14 where believers are said to be “sealed” with the 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.” The picture of being sealed with the Spirit is one of ownership and possession. God has promised eternal life to all who believe in Christ, and as a guarantee that He will keep His promise, He has sent the Holy Spirit to indwell the believer until the day of redemption. Similar to making a down payment on a car or a house, God has provided all believers with a down payment on their future relationship with Him by sending the Holy Spirit to indwell them. The fact that all believers are sealed with the Spirit is also seen in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and Ephesians 4:30.

Prior to Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, the Holy Spirit had a “come and go” relationship with people. The Holy Spirit indwelt King Saul, but then departed from him (1 Samuel 16:14). Instead, the Spirit came upon David (1 Samuel 16:13). After his adultery with Bathsheba, David feared that the Holy Spirit would be taken from him (Psalm 51:11). The Holy Spirit filled Bezalel to enable him to produce the items needed for the tabernacle (Exodus 31:2-5), but this is not described as a permanent relationship. All of this changed after Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Beginning on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit began permanently indwelling believers (Acts 2). The permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the fulfillment of God’s promise to always be with us and never forsake us.

While the Holy Spirit will never leave a believer, it is possible for our sin to “quench the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) or “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30). Sin always has consequences in our relationship with God. While our relationship with God is secure in Christ, unconfessed sin in our lives can hinder our fellowship with God and effectively quench the Holy Spirit’s working in our lives. That is why it is so important to confess our sins because God is “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So, while the Holy Spirit will never leave us, the benefits and joy of His presence can in fact depart from us.

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