Question: Why does the presence of God depart a believer?
This question, I assume, is in response to some sin in a believer’s life. Does God depart from a believer depending on the extent of their sin? In addition, one of the reasons Christians may believe that God’s presence can leave them is probably due to a few Bible passages that refer to such an outcome. For example, Psalm 51:11 says, “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.”
When we read these passages, we must ensure they are understood through the lens of the entirety of scripture. If read in isolation without understanding the rest of the scripture, you will misunderstand your relationship with Christ. To begin, in the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit had a different relationship with people. He did not permanently indwell a person in the Old Testament; instead, He would come upon a person to briefly empower them for the purposes of God. There are many instances in the Old Testament where the Spirit came upon a person.
These examples can be seen right throughout the Old Testament. Starting with:
- Bezalel, who was filled to be a skilful craftsman for the tabernacle (Exodus 31:3)
- The Holy Spirit upon Moses was also given to the seventy elders (Numbers 11:25-9)
- The Holy Spirit came upon the judges (Judges), and so on.
We are also familiar with the story of Saul and David, where the Holy Spirit departed from Saul and came upon David instead because of Saul’s disobedience and unrepentance. Later, David commits adultery with Bathsheba and, as a result, fears the Holy Spirit will leave him. This incident caused David to pen Psalms 51 when Nathan, the prophet, had spoken to him of God’s displeasure in this act of sin. David cries out in repentance, knowing that He had disobeyed and grieved God and pleads that God would not take His Holy Spirit away from him.
Now transitioning to the New Testament – scriptures teach us that the Holy Spirit will never leave a “true” believer. The ministry of the Holy Spirit has changed after the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus spoke in John 14:16-17 saying, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.” So, the Holy Spirit comes as a helper and comforter. The Greek word translated as “Helper” is “parakletos“, which has the literal meaning of “one who is called alongside“. He is not called “alongside” to leave; instead, He is called alongside to help, guide, reveal, and to glorify Christ. He is the guarantee of our inheritance. Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
So, if the Holy Spirit and God’s presence never depart from a true believer, what happens when they sin? You must realise that we receive the gift of salvation from Christ through His Spirit as a gift and a guarantee. It is not by any works we do but by His grace alone. Even so, our sin can quench the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:30 says, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” There are always consequences for your sin. Rather than being full of sin, we are to be “filled with the Holy Spirit.” Ephesians 5:18 says, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,”
Again, it says in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, “Do not quench the Spirit”. Taken in its context, this is an instruction not to diminish or discourage the work of the Holy Spirit in prayer, or the giftings, etc., in the congregation. As the Holy Spirit burns, do not quench the burning by discouraging those who are under His extraordinary inspiration. Amen!
When a believer continues in sin, it impacts their relationship with Christ. Unconfessed sin hinders our relationship, grieving the Holy Spirit and quenching His mighty work. You will lack the joy and benefits of His presence. A believer must constantly examine themselves and ensure they walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. Seek the Holy Spirit for help all the time, and remain in constant fellowship with Him. If not, you can expect severe discipline from the LORD. God will never leave you nor forsake you because you are a child of God. If you are a child of God, it means that when you do wrong, as a loving Father, He will bring discipline to bring you back to the way of Christ.
Hebrews 12:4-6 says, “In your struggle against sin you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lighlty the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:11 goes on to say that for the moment, all disciplines will seem painful and unpleasant, but it results in the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those trained by it.
In conclusion, the presence of God and His Spirit never departs a “true” believer in Christ. But scriptures also teach that a believer living in sin can grieve and quench the work of the Holy Spirit in one’s life. This sinfulness is when the children of God will be disciplined and chastised. It is so that the painful process of discipline will produce the fruit of righteousness in the place of sin. He has chosen us as sons and daughters for good works, which God prepared beforehand. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by his grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
This is why His Spirit has sealed us, the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14). In the meantime, I encourage you to examine yourself and walk in a manner worthy of Christ. If there is sin in you, come in repentance before God, seek the help of His Spirit so that you may walk in fellowship with God, enjoy His presence, and glorify Christ in all you do. Amen!