Thursday, June 30, 2005

Grieving the Spirit

One of the books I am reading at the moment is called God's New Community: New Testament patterns for todays church by Graham Beynon. It is a great little book of adapted sermons published by IVP and I am really enjoying it. There is nothing I have not heard before in it but it is making me think critically about church, especially as I am soon to be leading my cell group. I am not very far into it though, but the chapter I read today was looking at Ephesians 4. When I read it though I was struck by the context of the famous phrase 'do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God' (Eph. 4:30).

In the following two verses we read:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (4:31-32)

So the Spirit it is grieved by un-kindness, and bad feelings towards other Christians (cf. also v.29 and v.25). But we have to look earlier in the chapter to find why that grieves the spirit. In 4:2-6 Paul links 'humility, and gentleness, with patience, [and] bearing one another in love', which we know from v. 30 grieves the Spirit, with the Spirit in a different way. In vv. 3-6 we read that we should do and feel these things towards our brothers and sisters in an attitude...

Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call - one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (my beautiful colours)

Graham Beynon uses this passage to describe how the church should grow, and downplays how important church unity is to it. This though is probably because he is dealing with that subject in both the chapter before and after the one in which he deals with Ephesians 4. But, church growth in the 'knowledge of the Son of God' (v.13) is necessarily linked to attaining 'the unity of the faith' (also v.13) and the two should be thought of as only occurring together. I have a few more reflections on this passage:

  1. The 'unity of the faith'/'unity of the Spirit' should ideally be an institutional unity as well as some vague feeling of fellowship including occasional cooperation which most evangelicals contend it is. I don't have time to argue that here though, and how that can happen without dilution of the verbal spreading of the gospel (the non-verbal witness is damaged by church disunity I think) is difficult.
  2. Unity is around Christ and the knowledge of him, which includes doctrine (vv.13-14).
  3. Unity is not just about agreeing on doctrine though, it also requires radical and difficult love between brothers and sisters.

Its difficult though, and will never be fully achieved this side of Christ's coming, and applying the truth is difficult to apply in many different ways.

[NB I suspect 1 Thessalonians 5:19 ('Do not quench the Spirit.') is something altogether different]


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