May 2009 • Volume XII, Issue 13
Grieving the Holy Spirit (2)
It is not only corrupt speech (Eph. 4:29) that
grieves the Holy Spirit (30). Lying (25) grieves the Spirit, for He is
the Spirit of truth. Sinful anger (26-27) grieves the Spirit, for He is
the Spirit of self-control. Stealing (28) grieves the Spirit, for He is
the Spirit who works and enables us to labour honestly. The verse after
our text lists other sins which grieve the Spirit: "bitterness,"
"wrath," "anger," "clamour," "evil speaking" and "malice" (31). These
things are abhorred by the heavenly dove and drive Him away from our
Notice that these sins are sins against our brothers
and sisters in the church. Do not lie, "for we are members one of
another" (25). Do not steal but work in order to help those who are in
need (28). Use wholesome, not corrupt, speech "that it may minister
grace unto the hearers" (29). Instead of "bitterness," "malice," etc.,
we must be "kind one to another" (31-32). Thus the prohibition of sinful
anger (26-27) especially deals with our fellow saints in the church. If
you go to bed at night without confessing the evil of wrath against your
brother or sister, you are not only giving place to the devil (26-27),
you are also giving him room to work destruction through you in the
church, the body of Jesus Christ. And you are grieving the Spirit, the
Spirit of love and communion.
At this someone might protest, "I was bitter only
towards my sister; I spoke harshly only to my brother; I sinned only in
a particular area of my life. I did not realize that the Holy Spirit was
involved. I did not intend to grieve Him!" You did not intend to, but
you did. We must use the truth of Ephesians 4:30 (in its context) to
fight against our iniquities, realising that it is not only that corrupt
speech and all these other things transgress the law but also that they
grieve the blessed Spirit. Surely, we do not wish to treat the Holy
Spirit unkindly or disrespectfully, or displease Him. We do not want Him
to withdraw or depart from us with the comforts of the gospel of Christ.
We need Him. We pray for His presence with us. We love Him as God’s
Spirit and Christ’s representative, who makes us enjoy the blessings of
the covenant of grace.
The result of grieving the Holy Spirit is not the
loss of salvation, for this would overthrow the preservation and
perseverance of the saints. We are God’s inviolable property—past,
present and future—"ye are sealed unto the day of redemption"
(30). The Spirit, personally, is this seal.
The result of grieving the Holy Spirit is the loss of
our assurance. This is the rationale of the text: "And grieve not the
holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption."
Grieving the Spirit results in His withdrawing from us His gracious
operation of assurance as a seal (cf. Covenant Reformed News
XII:8-9). Thus lying (25), sinful anger (26-27), stealing (28), corrupt
speech (29), "bitterness," "wrath," "anger," "clamour," "evil speaking"
and "malice" (31), as well as other sins, especially those against our
fellow believers in the church, grieve the Spirit and cause us to lose
Do you have assurance that you belong to Jesus
Christ, that He died for your sins, that you were chosen in Him before
the foundation of the world, that you are His forever? If you do not,
there is something wrong. Have you been grieving the Spirit by sinning
against the saints? Repent, child of God, and believe in the power of
the cross of Christ for forgiveness and sanctification!
When we grieve the Spirit, the Spirit grieves us; we
are grieved too. You respond, "But Ephesians 4:30 does not say this!"
Ah, but it logically follows. When we grieve the Spirit, He withdraws
from us. Remember that He is the Comforter! Withdrawal of the Comforter
means we lose comfort and thus experience sorrow and pangs of
conscience—grief! Loss of assurance is itself grief. No longer convinced
of the Father’s hearty love for you; not sure if you are His child;
walking in spiritual darkness and coldness; what else is this but grief!
It is grief too for your family, your fellow saints and your church’s
office-bearers, who are to look after your spiritual health. Ultimately
and by sheer grace, the Spirit brings us to the wholesome grief of true
When Christians become deeply backslidden, especially
if, for example, they sinfully stop attending church for some time,
their whole lives become ones of grief. The Bible remains unread; they
lose all joy from the communion of the saints. They are filled with
guilt, losing all comfort and becoming deeply miserable. Sometimes they
even waste their time and make things worse by going to secular
psychologists, who try to alleviate their guilt in humanistic ways
rather than pointing them to the cross of Christ. The grieved Christian
may even sink to the depths of blaming God: "Look at the mess I’m in,
and He does not do anything for me!" What about the atoning death of His
Son? Is this not the central thing that He has done for us? "Why does He
not assure me of His love?" He has written it in blood in the
Scriptures, which tell us that His love is experienced as we walk in the
light. "But He does not hear my prayers!" But what are you asking for?
What about coming to Him with words such as these: "Father, I have
sinned against heaven, and before thee." The Father’s arms are stretched
out for you; the fatted calf is ready; you will experience once again
the formerly grieved Spirit as a seal of assurance and the blessed
Comforter! Rev. Stewart
Was Jacob a Father of Nations?
Genesis 48:19 reads, "And his father [i.e., Jacob]
refused, and said, I know it, my son [i.e., Joseph], I know it: he also
shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger
brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude
of nations." A reader asks, "Was Jacob/Israel also the ancestor of
nations other than Israel (Gen. 48:19)? If so, were they all
Jewish/Israelitish and Hebrew speaking or not?"
The aged Jacob has just pronounced the blessing on
Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim. This blessing of Joseph’s two
sons was done separately from the blessing of the other eleven sons.
This blessing was undoubtedly before Jacob’s blessing of his other sons,
because Joseph received part of the birthright blessing. Judah received
that part of the blessing that made him lord of his brethren, and that
most important part of the blessing, the covenant promise: Christ came
from Judah. But Joseph received the double portion of his father’s
inheritance because Joseph had two tribes among the twelve tribes:
Manasseh and Ephraim.
Joseph brought Manasseh to a spot where Jacob could
put his right hand on Manasseh’s head, and Joseph placed Ephraim where
Jacob could reach him with his left hand. Joseph did this because
Manasseh was the firstborn and ordinarily the firstborn received the
birthright. The blessing of Jacob with his right hand gave to the one
being blessed the pre-eminence. But when Jacob blessed the two boys, he
crossed his arms so that his right hand was on Ephraim’s head and his
left hand on Manasseh’s head. He did this because Ephraim, though not
the firstborn, would occupy a place of pre-eminence over Manasseh.
Joseph attempted to change the blessing so that the firstborn would have
the pre-eminence, apparently thinking that Jacob made a mistake due to
poor vision. But Jacob insisted on giving Ephraim the pre-eminence. And
so it proved to be as Jacob’s prophecy was fulfilled. In fact, the
Northern Kingdom was sometimes given the name Ephraim, indicating that
Ephraim had a certain pre-eminence in Israel.
A better translation of "and his seed shall become a
multitude of nations" is "and his seed shall become a fulness of
people." It was a further explanation of "his younger brother shall be
greater than he." That is, the tribe of Ephraim would be greater in
number than the tribe of Manasseh. Throughout Scripture, Ephraim is more
prominent than Manasseh.
Ephraim is not the father of a multitude of nations,
for that designation belonged only to Abraham. The name Abraham means
father of nations (17:5-6). In a certain sense, Isaac and Jacob could
also be called fathers of nations, for the covenant blessing of the
birthright went from Abraham to Isaac to Jacob to Judah and eventually
to David, Solomon and Christ Himself. Yet the name especially fits
Abraham and not those in the line of Christ who followed him.
There is a good reason why only Abraham could rightly
bear that name and be what his name meant. With Abraham, God revealed a
new truth with regard to His everlasting covenant, which He established
with His elect people in Christ. That truth is the wonder that God saves
His elect in the line of generations. While prior to Abraham God had
also established and maintained His covenant in a line of generations,
God had never explicitly made this clear to His people. Already in
Paradise, God had told Adam and Eve that there would be war between the
seed of the serpent and the seed of Christ (3:15). That suggests God’s
work of realizing His covenant from the generations of His people. But
God had never made a point of that stupendous truth. God did this
explicitly when He told Abraham, "I will establish my covenant between
me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an
everlasting covenant" (17:7).
It is, of course, here that we have the crux of our
controversy with Baptists: Who are the seed of Abraham? Baptists (and
the Pharisees of Jesus’ day [John 8:33, 39, 53]) say the Jew only is the
seed of Abraham. And, so Baptists teach, that in the new dispensation,
only believers are the seed of Abraham.
As such, this is true, but Baptists mean that one can
become a child of Abraham only by believing in Christ. And so children
of believers, who are too young to believe, cannot be children of
Abraham. The Scriptures speak differently.
Already in the old dispensation, God established His
covenant in the line of generations. That means, first of all, that only
in the line of generations did Christ come into the world. In fact,
Christ is always centrally the seed of Abraham. When God said to
Abraham, "I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed
after thee," Galatians 3:16 tells us that the meaning of what God said
to Abraham was, "I will establish my covenant between Me and thee and
The distinction Scripture makes is not between
children and adults, but between elect and reprobate (Rom. 9:6-13). The
seed of Abraham are those who belong to Christ. These elect and redeemed
people of God are to be found in the line of generations. This is true
throughout the whole of history. Never, in all Scripture, is the "seed
of Abraham" used to designate a Jew who is merely a natural descendant
of Abraham. The term always refers to the elect children of God. Of
course, they are also believers, for those whom God elected also receive
from Him the gift of faith. But they are elect from the moment of
conception, and they constitute the true seed of Abraham (Rom. 2:28-29;
Whether one is Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, master
or slave, male or female, adult or child (or baby)—those who are elect
are children of Abraham. Abram is rightly called Abraham, father of many
nations, for the redeemed are gathered from every nation under heaven.
If you would like to receive the Covenant Reformed News free
by e-mail each month (and/or by post, if you are in the UK), please
contact Rev. Stewart
and we will gladly send it to you.