Chapter 3, from Tozer Speaks to Students
By A.W. Tozer
And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)
THE HOLY SPIRIT IS A MEMBER OF THE TRINITY, one of the blessed Three, but He is the forgotten member in the day in which we live. The Spirit of the Lord is present in the world. This is taught in the Bible. One of the old wisdom books of the Apocrypha says, “The Spirit of the Lord fills the world.” Just as our souls permeate our bodies and just as the air fills all space around the earth, so the blessed Holy Spirit is here.
You are never sinning alone; you are never grieving alone; you are never alone, for the Spirit of the Lord is here. He is nearer to us than our bodies and our breath—and He is God. He is not as ether, or gravitation, or energy, but He is one of the holy Godhead three. It is so taught all through Scripture that the divine Being consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes last in our formula, but there is no last in the Godhead. The Athanasian creed states,
And in this Trinity there is none before after or; none is greater or less than another; but the whole three Persons are co-eternal together and co-equal, so that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshiped.
The creeds of the church have always taught that the Holy Ghost is God, including the Apostle’s Creed. And if they did not, it is still all through the Bible. The point is, we are not dealing with one another primarily, but we are dealing with God’s Holy Spirit on earth. The Holy Spirit is here and has always been here.
It is inconceivable that there is any place where He could not be, but when He came after fifty days (see Acts 2), He came in a sense that He had not been before, manifesting Himself in a way that He had not before, and carrying a commission that He had not had before. He is concerned with people; the Holy Ghost is concerned with you. He is here earnestly, eagerly, and intimately concerned, working in, for, toward and among, and He is in harmony with the Father and Son. “Such as the Father is,” says the Athanasian creed,
Such is the Son and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Ghost uncreated; the Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible; the Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet there are not three Eternals, but one Eternal, as also not three Uncreated nor three Incomprehensibles, but one Uncreated and one Incomprehensible. So, likewise, the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty.; and yet not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; and yet not three Gods, but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords, but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by Christian truth to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say, There be three Gods or three Lords.
So the Holy Spirit is here working in harmony with the Book. He will maybe do things you have not yet discovered in the Bible, for He wrote the Book. It is His book, and it is the Word of the Father. It is the book in print which is the revealed will of God, not on every subject, but on that pertaining to our salvation. There is much to learn that is not in the Bible, but there is nothing to learn pertaining to my everlasting welfare that is not in the Bible. The Holy Ghost will always teach according to the Book in harmony with the Father and the Son and in pursuance of the eternal purpose of God.
The Holy Ghost has sovereign right over us. I believe in the sovereignty of God. My definition of the sovereignty of God is simply God Almighty’s freedom to do always all that He wills to do. This is the Holy Ghost—He’s sovereign. He has the freedom and right to do all that He wills to do, and He will not be hindered. He is the creative power of our being, and He holds our life in being by His presence. It says in Hebrews 1:3 that all things are held together by the Word of God, and the Holy Ghost, filling all space, is the adhesive element in the universe that holds it together. If God were to remove Himself from His creation, if that were possible, it would fall back into chaos and cease to be. The Holy Ghost is here and He has priority—remember that. The Holy Ghost has priority over your pastor, your church, your teachers, priority over every human thing. He is God, and being God, His voice has priority over all voices, His will over all wills, and His instruction over all other instruction.
The Holy Spirit can be intimate and personal, and He insists upon being so. There is nothing that the Holy Spirit does not claim the right to examine and decide. The Holy Spirit is not interfering with my habits, He is doing His divine work when He deals with them. The Holy Ghost has the right to examine and decide my conduct, the flow of habits, whatever they are. When it becomes a chain of habits, it becomes conduct, so the Holy Spirit has the right to examine the flow and chain of habits that become conduct.
The Holy Ghost also has the perfect Sovereign right to decide on my friendships. Of all things that hinder Christian growth, I think bad friendships come close to the top. The Holy Ghost has a perfect right to decide my love life and to deal with marriage, ambitions, plans, possessions, destiny and all that I do. He claims and has the right to deal with, examine and decide whatever I do and what I am. That is the blessed Holy Spirit.
He is here, but He is the forgotten person the Trinity. We deal with Him as politicians deal with Abraham Lincoln—we fall back on Him for a point or quote Him reverently, but we always think of Him as being somewhere else at some remote time. But neither “somewhere-elseness” nor “former-timeness” belongs to the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is now and here.
The difference between unbelief and faith is the difference between there and here, between now and then. The unbeliever says, “I believe in God there.” The believer says, “I believe in God here.” The unbeliever says, “I believe in the Holy Ghost then.” The believer says, “I believe in the Holy Ghost now.” It is a difference between now and then, here and there.
Anybody can believe in the God of the day of Abraham. Anybody can believe in the Holy Ghost of the Millennium. But believers believe in the Holy Ghost now. He is not just then, He is now; He is there, but He is also here. We are in His hands whether we like it or not—whatever our background or religious teaching might have been, whatever excesses might have been clustered around the teaching and practice of the Holy Ghost, we cannot escape the fact that we are in the hands of the Holy Spirit.
This is the dispensation of the Holy Spirit. You cannot know Jesus Christ except as the Holy Ghost reveals Him unto you. You, by your fall in Adam, were altogether blind. You can know about the history of Jesus, but you can never know Jesus except as the Holy Spirit makes Him real to you.
We cannot afford to ignore the Holy Ghost. We cannot afford to let Him continue to be the forgotten member of the Trinity. We must give Him the place our fathers gave Him, the place the Bible gives Him, the place that He holds by virtue of the fact that He is one with the Father and the Son, one in eternity, one in substance, one in glory and one in majesty.
How We Treat the Holy Spirit
How do we treat this Holy Spirit? We can blaspheme the Holy Spirit. This is extreme irreverence toward Him—scurrilous thoughts and scurrilous remarks, and indignity offered to His holy Person. As far as I know, there are only two passages in the Bible that tell us about this—one is Mark 3:29 and the other is Matthew 12:31. 1 I doubt if any who read this has ever been guilty of this tragic and unpardonable sin. But there is always danger. The Pharisees were guilty of this tragic and deadly sin because of their pride, prejudice, bigotry and unforgiving spirit. They betrayed the highest thing that was in them. They grieved, and then finally blasphemed, the Holy Ghost. Jesus said they had not forgiveness.
Another way we treat the Spirit in our time is to resist Him. Resisting the Holy Spirit is chronically disagreeing with God and persistently disobeying the leadings of the Spirit. Disobedience has become the sin that we shrug off. Someone will say in testimony, “I love the Lord. He is good to me, and He is patient with me,” and then they will say, “I disobey Him, I admit it, I disobey Him.” It was disobedience that wrought the fall. One act of disobedience plunged us into this moral mess we are in now. Disobedience is not a light sin to be shrugged off.
If you looked me in the face and said, “Mr. Tozer, I have just been to a doctor. I have cancer,” you would not chuckle and shrug and say, “I am all right, I only have cancer.” Chronic disobedience breeds cancer of the soul.
Instead of resisting God, resisting what you know is true, resisting the findings of your own conscience as enlightened in the Word, and resisting the instructions of the Book, I recommend you cease to chortle over that which brought the fall of man, made a devil out of a cherub and brings grief to the Holy Ghost. If we persistently oppose His leadings, as known from the Bible which the Holy Spirit wrote and as felt in our own hearts by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we are grieving the Holy Ghost.
The very fact that He can grieve proves that He loves. The psychological nature of grief is such that it cannot be felt where there is not love. A father goes to the police court and there he sees two boys. They have been caught red-handed in some terrible crime. One of them is his own lad who grew up in his home, and the other is a perfect stranger for whom he has no feeling at all. For one boy he may have a sort of pity, but for the other boy he has bitter grief, because grief can only be felt where there is love, and love breeds grief when the object of our love displeases us and offers us affront. So the very fact that the Holy Ghost can grieve is the proof that He is the Spirit of love.
He is not an angry Holy Spirit nor a flippant Holy Spirit. There is so much flippancy among Christians these days. The evangelist tells a story, and he always sets it up so there is a punch line—he, of course, is the hero of the punch line. Everybody laughs and it sounds all right, but that is flippancy.
But the Holy Spirit never deals frivolously with anything. He deals with loving seriousness, but He is never heavy. Heaviness comes from our flesh, or something we ate, or from the bad air in a building, or whatever it might be, but the Holy Ghost always has a sprightliness (if I may so express it), a moral sprightliness. He has about Him something of the song of the birds and the beauty of the sunshine, the loveliness of the landscape and the freshness of the baby’s voice. He has about Him all the freshness, creativeness, and the beauty of God’s primal creation for He made it.
God the Great Musician
The Holy Ghost is always fresh, and original, and loving, and yet He is always serious. Heavy-heartedness and long-facedness are never borne of the Holy Ghost, for the Holy Ghost is mirthful, and it is written in the Old Testament that God sings over His children. He sings over them and rejoices over them. It is written that in the creation the morning stars sang together (Job 38:7).
The old Greeks used to talk about “the music of the spheres.” They conceived the idea that the heavenly bodies gave off music as they moved. I do not know whether they do or not, but I think it would be quite expected that they would. God Almighty is the musician of the universe, the great songleader of the world, who dances through His universe like the beat of a baton, who brings music wherever there is anything created, who put the chortle in the throat of the baby and the song in the throat of the thrush, and who gave us hymnody and all the music of the world. God sings over His people.
If you will listen in your heart, you may hear God rejoicing in His family. A father comes home at night tired, but not too tired to sit down and take a baby or two on his lap and talk with them, maybe even break out into a song? I sang our first baby to sleep the first year of his life, and I do not know how he ever survived, but he is thirty-two years old now and several inches taller than I, so God must have translated my bad baritone into sweet music to my boy. It is perfectly normal for a father to sing over his family. So God sings and the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Love and of music and of sweetness.
He is here, and He is not angry or heavy-browed, but He is serious, and He is loving, and He is grieved when He is resisted and we quench Him by dimming His light and putting it out—damping the fire of His of enthusiasm within our heart out of fear. He wants us to testify, and we don’t. He wants us to pray, and we have got something else to do. He wants us to go to a friend and talk quietly about Jesus to him, and we are too busy or scared—plain scared. We quench the Holy Ghost. According to the text, all those things grieve Him. But this is for Christians only. The world cannot grieve the Holy Ghost, I suppose, in the sense a Christian can.
The Hidden God
What are the consequences of a grieved Spirit? He hides Himself. “Thou art a God that hideth thyself, O Lord God of Israel” (Psalm 89:46). God hidden is the church’s woe; God revealed is the church’s glory.
What is a revival but a sudden revelation of God in the hearts of people? Now the preparation for that revival is something else again, but the revival itself is nothing more than a sudden flashing in of the consciousness of “Why, God was here all the time! And my God in whom I live is now pressing in upon me like the air seeking to enter my heart.” We throw our heart open and say, “Come, blessed Holy Ghost.” That is revival, but this is the age of a grieved Holy Spirit. I do not hesitate to say it.
I have not long to go before I will meet my Savior, and I cannot afford to fool around, so I want to say frankly that I could be extreme in my position. There may be churches, schools, colleges, and groups here and there that are better than I know, but I have been around quite a little, and I think I can say that almost universally the Spirit of God is being quenched within His church. He has not forsaken us. I do not believe in that. But He is grieved within us.
If you hurt the feelings of a friend, he doesn’t leave you, but he talks to you with an obvious chilliness upon his heart. He is not angry; he is hurt. The Holy Ghost is like that. He does not leave, but He tightens up. He ceases to be free, homelike with us. He wants to be like a member of the family, but we grieve Him by resisting Him and quenching Him by our habits.
The Holy Ghost suggests in Ephesians 4:31 how we can grieve Him. He mentions bitterness, anger, clamor, evil-speaking and malice. He also mentions in Galatians 5:19-21 fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking, improper jesting; those things which the Holy Ghost says in a blessed understatement (in our English)— “These things are not convenient.” Certainly they are not convenient. These are the things that hinder revival.
I am convinced there is not a college student body in the world—in spite of all the hard work and study, burning the midnight oil and hurrying to make classes and all the rest—that could not have a glorious, high-level, sweet revival all the time. And I am sure there is not a church in the whole world that could not have maintained within it a beautiful, high-level, joyous revival all the time—if we would get honest with ourselves and deal with the things that grieve the Holy Spirit.
Bitterness, wrath, uncleanness, impurity, dishonesty, cheating, failing to pay our bills, complaining, lying, excessive exaggeration, levity and frivolity—these things grieve the Holy Ghost and keep Him from working. You may have been praying for a long time for your pal, and he is not saved yet. Maybe he could be, but he has not seen in you that which makes him want what you have. A grieved Holy Ghost keeps the light out of your countenance.
Let us be serious. Let us cut everything else to the bone, and let us deal with our relation to this Person who is in our midst.
[This sermon was delivered at Wheaton College, Pierce Chapel, September 30, 1952.]