Ephesians 4:30 (NASB)

Do not grieve λυπέω the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

What is Paul warning Christians not to do - exactly?

I am hoping for support from any of Paul's writings (other Biblical authors, or even the wider corpus of Greek literature), that might illustrate what he means, or what might have inspired him to employ this expression.

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    @elikakohen I have re-formatted and re-worded the question in an effort to make it more palatable to the community. Please roll it back if you are unhappy.
    – enegue
    Commented Apr 21, 2017 at 22:32
  • Congratulations, learning how pístis can translate as Acceptance, and how 'comparison' came from the tree.
    – Decrypted
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 8:30

5 Answers 5


Ambrosiaster, a 4th century commentator whose identity is somewhat mysterious, was commenting on the Latin version and not the Greek version of the text, but I think his explanation is still relevant:

The Holy Spirit rejoices in our salvation not for himself, since he has no lack of blessedness. But if we have disobeyed the Spirit, we have grieved the Spirit. His work in us is cut short, just when he wishes us to belong to life. Yet he is not grieved in such a way as to suffer in a literal sense. For God the Spirit is invisible and not subject to physical suffering. When Paul says the Spirit is “grieved,” he speaks metaphorically on our account to show that the Spirit leaves us to our own self-will when we have, so to speak, wounded him by despising his admonitions1

In this case, one could almost drop "frustrate" here, I think: the Holy Spirit is grieved because we are disregarding what is beneficial for us and following our own will. Paul lists what grieves the Holy Spirit in the surrounding verses: Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth (v.29), eschew all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking (v.31).

Chrysostom, commenting in Greek, also touches on the relation between disregard and grieving the Spirit:

This is a particularly awful and fearful saying. It reminds us of what he said to the Thessalonians: “Whoever disregards this disregards not man but God.”2 … If you say an arrogant word, if you strike your brother, you have not merely hurt him but have grieved the Spirit. He contrasts such arrogance with the benevolence of God in order to sharpen the admonition.3

It seems, though, that the verb λυπέω is also used to simply mean to be sorry or feel sorrowful. It is used in this sense, for example, by Paul in describing mourning the loss of someone who died:

1 Thessalonians 4:13

Οὐ θέλομεν δὲ ὑμᾶς ἀγνοεῖν, ἀδελφοί, περὶ τῶν κεκοιμημένων, ἵνα μὴ λυπῆσθε καθὼς καὶ οἱ λοιποὶ οἱ μὴ ἔχοντες ἐλπίδα.

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

The same word is also used (in the Septuagint) to express sorrow/grief as a sort of disappointment, as in:

Genesis 4:5 LXX

ἐπὶ δὲ Καιν καὶ ἐπὶ ταῖς θυσίαις αὐτοῦ οὐ προσέσχεν. καὶ ἐλύπησεν τὸν Καιν λίαν, καὶ συνέπεσεν τῷ προσώπῳ.

But Cain and his sacrifices he regarded not, and Cain was exceedingly sorrowful and his countenance fell.

In secular writings, the word is, according to Lidell-Scott, used to mean "vex", "distress", or even to "harass" in a military sense, as well as to cause emotional pain (follow link for examples).

1 Commentary on the Epistle to the Ephesians, IV.30
2 1 Thessalonians 4:8
3 Homily XIV on Ephesians

  • user33515 - +1 / Accepted : The connection you make between "submitting to the Spirit" in the surrounding context, and "frustrating, disappointing" - is very sound, I believe. Thank you. Commented Apr 15, 2017 at 22:38

Ephesians 4:30 - What does Paul mean by “grieve” the Holy Spirit?

Ephesians 4:30 (NRSV)

30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.

A dedicated Christian can grieve the holy spirit if he is overcome with fleshy desires and by doing ungodly traits, Paul implores his Galatian brothers to walk by the spirit.

Galatians 5:16 (NASB)

16 "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh."

Galatians 5:25-26 (NASB)

25 "If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another."

Paul explains to Christians (Ephesians 4:25-32) how to conduct themselves and thus avoid grieving God' spirit.

Ephesians 4:25-32 (NRSV)

Rules for the New Life

25" So then, putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. 26 Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not make room for the devil." 28" Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy."

"29 Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up,[a] as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear." 30 "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption."

31" Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, 32 and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you."

I believe the question was meant within the context of the word rather than the actual meaning of the Greek "λυπεῖτε"translated "grieve" or saddened" A correct translation of the verse says "by which you were sealed" (NRSV ,NAB Jubilee, Darby , NWT ) whilst an incorrect translation says "by whom you were sealed". Which one do you mean? To me it means the former, or to act in accordance with what the spirit represents. (Galatians 5:22-23)

  • I think the question was more about the meaning of the word "grieve" (or rather, the underlying Greek word). IE: Is it implying that the holy spirit has emotions? Are you saying, "No, it isn't saying that. It is saying to act in accordance with the spirit"?
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 12, 2019 at 11:27
  • Ruminator : I believe the question was meant within the context of the word rather than the actual meaning of the Greek "λυπεῖτε"translated "grieve" or saddened" A correct translation of the verse says "by which you were sealed" (NRSV ,NAB Jubilee, Darby , NT ) whilst an incorrect translation says "by whom you were sealed". Which one do you mean? To me it means the former, or to act in accordance with what the spirit represents. (Galatians 5:22-23) Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 8:46
  • I might be wrong but as I interpret the question the information you provide in your comment might improve the answer. Thanks. Comments get deleted and aren't supposed to extend the answer so if you could, please copy your comment into your answer. That's where "the rub" is. :)
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 13, 2019 at 11:04
  • Ruminator; Appreciate your positive comments Commented Apr 14, 2019 at 8:08

Paul gave a similar instruction to the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 5:19 ESV

Do not quench the Spirit.

The Cambridge Bible Commentary explains:

But the command, “Quench not the Spirit,” is universal. Whatever obstructs or disparages His work in the souls of men—whether in others, or in ourselves—is thus forbidden. It is a strange and awful, but very real power that we have to “resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51).

Believers have the ability to act in such a way as to quench and/or resist the Holy Spirit. As others explain sin or failing to obey are actions by which believers will resist and or quench the Holy Spirit. In addition, we should add failure to use the gifts of the Spirit. As Paul explains, gifts are given for the benefit of the Church, and failing to use them would be resisting the Holy Spirit and quenching His work.

The meaning in Ephesians is the same, but stated in different terms:

Ephesians 4:30

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

It seems straightforward that resisting or quenching would also grieve the Holy Spirit.

The question then is why did Paul restate the obvious using grieve, λυπέω, rather than quench, σβέννυμι, or resist, ἀντιπίπτω?

Paul and λυπέω
λυπέω is used 26 times in the New Testament; and 15 times by Paul:

Book Occurences
Matthew 6
Mark 2
John 2
Romans 1
2 Corinthians 12
Ephesians 1
1 Thessalonians 1
1 Peter 1

Every use describes the physical state of being grieved, sorrowful, sad, or in pain. This is particularly true of Paul's use of the term. For example:

Romans 14:15

For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died.

2 Corinthians 2:4

For I wrote to you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you.

Paul could have used a word that would have described a believer's interference in the work of the Spirit in spiritual terms. To resist or to quench conveys the meaning and preserves the spiritual sense of the working of the Holy Spirit either in the individual, or in the Church.

Instead, he chose a word that always describes a personal feeling or reaction. In doing so, Paul intentionally personified the Holy Spirit.


Ephesians 4:30 - What does Paul mean by “grieve” the Holy Spirit?

To grieve the Holy Spirit may lead to an outright blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. The grieving of the Holy Spirit is felt in us when we stumble, and acts as a warning to us to stop our faulty behavior. If we don't act on the grieving, the Holy Spirit leaves us and evil spirits attach themselves to our conscience instead, leading us into the next stage; the blasphemy stage. As long as we linger in this next stage there is no forgiveness available to us, because we are not interested in seeking it. Blasphemy means to despise. To blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to brazenly despise God's commandments.

Num 15:15:27-31 (NIV) “‘But if just one person sins unintentionally, that person must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. The priest is to make atonement before the Lord for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made, that person will be forgiven. One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether a native-born Israelite or a foreigner residing among you.

“‘But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or foreigner, blasphemes the Lord and must be cut off from the people of Israel. Because they have despised the Lord’s word and broken his commands, they must surely be cut off; their guilt remains on them.’”

Thus, to grieve the Holy Spirit means to upset the Holy Spirit through unholy behavior. When the Holy Spirit gets upset he grieves. If we are sensitive enough to feel this grieving we grieve too and start working on changing our behavior.


Tobit (S) 4:3

καὶ ἐκάλεσεν Τωβιαν τὸν υἱὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἦλθεν πρὸς αὐτόν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ θάψον με καλῶς καὶ τίμα τὴν μητέρα σου καὶ μὴ ἐγκαταλίπῃς αὐτὴν πάσας τὰς ἡμέρας τῆς ζωῆς αὐτῆς καὶ ποίει τὸ ἀρεστὸν ἐνώπιον αὐτῆς καὶ μὴ λυπήσῃς τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτῆς ἐν παντὶ πράγματι

"And Tobias called his son and came to him and said to him, 'Bury me well and honor your mother, and do not forsake her all the days of her life. Do what is pleasing before her and do not grieve her spirit in any matter.'"

2 Samuel 13:21

καὶ ἤκουσεν ὁ βασιλεὺς Δαυιδ πάντας τοὺς λόγους τούτους καὶ ἐθυμώθη σφόδρα καὶ οὐκ ἐλύπησεν τὸ πνεῦμα Αμνων τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ ὅτι ἠγάπα αὐτόν ὅτι πρωτότοκος αὐτοῦ ἦν

When King David heard all these things, he was very angry. However, he did not grieve the spirit of Amnon, his son, because he loved him as he was his firstborn.

In Ephesians 4:30, the apostle Paul implores the Christian community not to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God," emphasizing the need to align one's conduct with divine principles and righteous living. This counsel can be correlated with Tobias's advice to his son, wherein Tobias urges his son not to grieve his mother under any circumstance. Paul's directive urges believers to shape their lives in harmony with God's will and to refrain from actions or attitudes that would displease or cause sorrow to the Holy Spirit.

To "grieve the Holy Spirit" entails engaging in behaviors that run counter to God's teachings and moral guidelines. These behaviors encompass falsehood, uncontrolled anger, theft, hurtful speech, unforgiveness, immorality, and other actions inconsistent with God's guidance. When believers behave in a manner contrary to God's will, they cause distress to the Holy Spirit, deviating from the divine purpose and guidance set forth for their lives.

Drawing a parallel with 2 Samuel 13:21, the verse presents King David's emotional response upon learning about his son Amnon's reprehensible actions against his half-sister Tamar. Despite David's profound anger, he opts not to exacerbate Amnon's distress, given Amnon's position as David's firstborn and the love David harbors for him. This narrative underscores the intricacies of familial relationships and the challenges of navigating emotions within a family dynamic.

Likewise, referring to Tobit 4:3, Tobias advises his son to honor and not grieve his mother, echoing a similar sentiment of avoiding actions that cause sorrow to a loved one. These biblical passages collectively emphasize the importance of conducting oneself in a manner that aligns with love, respect, and consideration for others, be it within the family unit or in the spiritual context, so as not to cause unnecessary sorrow or distress. The context of familial intimacy is central to understanding and applying these exhortations.

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