Written Word

How Can We Resist The Holy Spirit?

The Bible records the prominent ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would guide, teach and recall to the apostles all he had said. (John 14:26; 16:13) Through his ministry, the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgement to come. (John 16:8-11) And the gospel, Peter says, is preached to you “by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.” (1 Peter 1:12) God’s plan to save believing Jews and Gentiles in one body, says Paul, “has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” (Ephesians 3:5) The prophecies about Jesus were made known to the prophets; they “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:21) The Word of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit and its power is stated thus: “For the Word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) Because the Word of God is a living oracle, we are exhorted: “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:15) The voice of the living God is heard through his Word.

Resisting the Holy Spirit

The words of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, were spoken to a hostile audience. The message of the risen Christ was being rejected. “You stiff-necked people,” he says, “with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!” (Acts 7:51) Their response was like the response their ancestors gave whenever a prophet came among them; their rejection of the message was tantamount to resisting the Holy Spirit. It was as if the Holy Spirit were personally speaking to them and they were rejecting him. The Jews resisted what Stephen said: “they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him… they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.” (Acts 7:54-57) The Holy Spirit was speaking through Stephen and, when his message was rejected, the Holy Spirit was being resisted.

We get an insight from Jesus into how the Jews in his day resisted the Spirit. Jesus worked miracles “by the Spirit of God” yet they attributed his power to demons. (Matthew 12:25-31) They were resisting the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to them, “You refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:40) Jesus didn’t say that they couldn’t come to him, but that they refused to come to him. They were resisting the Holy Spirit. We see further resistance when Paul was on trial before Felix. Paul “spoke about faith in Christ Jesus [and] discoursed on righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come.” We read that “Felix was afraid and said, ‘That’s enough for now! You may leave. When I find it convenient, I will send for you.'” (Acts 24:25-26) The Holy Spirit was at work in Felix’s heart, but he was resisting the Spirit. He dismissed Paul; he didn’t want to hear any more. The same resistance is seen in many of the Jews who came to Paul while he was under house arrest in Rome. “From morning till evening he explained and declared to them the kingdom of God and tried to convince them about Jesus from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.” (Acts 28:23-24) Those who “would not believe” chose to reject the truth and so resisted the Holy Spirit.

The message Jesus spoke to each of the seven churches in Asia was different, but the conclusion of each message was the same: “He who has an ear to hear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 2-3) Today we can resist the Holy Spirit by rejecting what he has revealed, by ignoring what he has said, by being disobedient to his instructions. Closing our ears to what he has to say because we find it offensive is to resist him. Everything revealed by the Holy Spirit is truth. We must approach the Word of God with a heart that submits to its authority, a heart that desires to know “the mind of the Spirit” and a heart that desires to conform to what the Spirit says.