Q. In Ephesians 4:17-32 Paul listed a bunch of do’s and don’t’s (mostly don’t’s) for appropriate Christian behavior. Would I be correct in saying that Paul was warning us not to act in this manner because God will disapprove of our actions? But according to 1 John 1:9, if we do act in that way and ask for forgiveness He is faithful and just and will forgive us because He already died for all our sins. Is that the way you see it?
A. I think of this passage as Paul telling us to avoid certain behavior out of a desire not to grieve the Holy Spirit who is sealed within us unto the day of redemption (Ephes. 4:30). The Greek word for grieve comes from a root that means sorrow, so to grieve the Holy Spirit is to make Him feel sorrowful.
The Lord knew all the sins of our life before we committed any of them. He took them to the cross and and forgave us there (Colossians 2:13-14), so the minute we confess we’re forgiven and purified from all unrighteousness.
But the Holy Spirit dwells within us and is forced to participate in every act of sin we commit, so for His sake we try to avoid sinning.
Someone explained it to me like this. He said, “When I was young I often did things that my parents had told me not to do. Then I learned how much that disappointed them, so I tried to avoid doing those things because I didn’t want to disappoint them any more. But through it all they never gave me reason to doubt their love for me.”
Our relationship with God is much the same. Knowing that God loves us no matter what we do makes us want to behave in a manner that pleases Him. I call this having an attitude of gratitude. Paul called it living up to what we’ve already attained (Phil. 3:16).