Are We Led by the Holy Spirit?
On different occasions, while talking with one of the Pentecostal or Assemblies of God persuasion, the subject of the Holy Spirit will be discussed. Since one of our disagreements lies in the area of the miraculous action of the Holy Spirit, when we deny that miracles occur today, the response is often a surprised, "Then you don't believe that the Holy Spirit leads you today, do you?" His confusion is often compounded when my response is, "Of course I believe in being led by the Holy Spirit." Brethren, that is not sophistry. We certainly should believe that we are led by the Holy Spirit of God in our lives.
"For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom. 8:3-4).
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (8:14).
"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" (Gal. 5:18).
The Bible tells us to pray: "Give us this day our daily bread" (Mt. 6:11). Yet, who among Bible believers will think that our daily bread only comes through the miraculous intervention of God? While instances of miraculous bread being given are in the Bible (manna, Exo. 16:15; miracles of loaves and fishes, Mt. 16:9-10), we are also told that we must work for our own bread (2 Thes. 3:8-12). Is there a conflict in the scriptures about this? No, assuredly not.
There are things concerning our daily bread that only God can supply: sunshine, rain, nourishment in the soil, the seed and the life in the seed. When we pray for God to "give us bread," we are only acknowledging that there are some things about it that are beyond our control that comes from God. At the same time, God expects us to till the soil, plant the seed, tend the ground, reap the harvest and grind, prepare and bake the bread. Having done all that, we still give thanks to God for his part in nature that supplies our bread. When God created "in the beginning," he created by a miracle all seed and commanded it to bring forth after its kind. What was, "in the beginning" a miracle is no longer a miracle, but nature in action. Seed begets after its kind and we use it to make our bread. Are we asking for a miracle each time we pray for our daily bread? No, but it is no less bread given to us by God because of the laws of nature that operate at God's will.
This should serve to illustrate the difference between the miraculous and the non-miraculous. Was creation of all seeds in the beginning a miracle? Yes. But are the continuation of these same seeds today a miracle? No. Are they both from the hand of God? Certainly so.
Without a doubt, miracles occurred in Acts 2 with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The gift of tongues (the apostles spoke in the languages of the assembled people - Acts 2:4, 8) was by and through the power of the Holy Spirit. We are told that the Holy Spirit chose the very words that the apostles used (1 Cor. 2:13). The prophets did not decide on their own to prophesy, but were able to do so only as moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). This was inspiration and it was a miracle.
Having been revealed by the Holy Spirit through a miracle, the word of God continues with us today without a miracle. The providence of God has provided that "..till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Mt. 5:18). Knowledge of God's word passes from one generation to another by reading it. "..By which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4) We are to teach it to succeeding generations: "And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also" (2 Tim. 2:2). This was true even in the Old Testament when Israel was commanded to teach each generation the word of the Law (Deut. 31:9-13). The Law of Moses came on Sinai by a miracle but it continued as a written document, no less the word of God on paper than it was on stone or in the mind of God.
One does not do despite to the Holy Spirit by acknowledging that he works in different ways on different occasions. One does not "quench the Spirit" (1 Thes. 5:19) by allowing the Spirit to act as the Spirit determines to act. In fact, it seems rather presumptuous for one to demand today that every act of the Holy Spirit upon man today must, without fail, be miraculous. Is this not the equivalent of man telling God what to do?
Paul wrote of:"the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17). A sword is a tool that is utilized by the person wielding it. As a figure of speech (metonymy: a part used for the whole), what the sword does, the user of the sword is said to do.
For example, when a man uses an axe to fell a tree, it may be said that "a man chopped down a tree" though the axe did the actual chopping. The statement is true as stated: a man chopped down a tree.
Likewise, when the Holy Spirit uses his sword (the word of God) to convert a sinner, it may be said that the Holy Spirit converted a sinner though the word did the actual teaching. The statement is true as stated: the Holy Spirit converted a sinner.
Friend, it is no less the Holy Spirit in action when his word is used non-miraculously than when the Holy Spirit operated miraculously as in Acts 2. Please note that the result is the same! In Acts 2, a miracle occurred when the apostles were empowered by the Holy Spirit to speak in tongues. What they taught that converted the lost in Acts 2 is what we use today to convert the lost. Those converted in Acts 2 were baptized into Christ; those converted today by the written word are baptized into Christ. It is the Holy Spirit today no less than it was the Holy Spirit in Acts 2, though non-miraculous.
Whatever one is as a child of God, he is made so by the leading influence of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit's sword is used. Remember that Jesus spoke of the New Birth in John 3, teaching Nicodemus that it would be "of water and the Spirit." We see this fulfilled in Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit led sinners to be baptized in water "for the remission of sins" (2:38). This same process of baptism is said by Paul in Romans 6:4 to be the means by which we attain to "newness of life." Baptism is the means of the new birth and we are led by the Spirit's teaching (the sword) to be baptized. Any and everyone who submits to baptism because of what the New Testament teaches has been led by the Spirit!
To the degree that one attains to righteousness and holy living, it because of the power of the Spirit through the word of God. Remember that the "Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). We deny the works of the flesh and produce the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:19ff) only as we read the Bible and learn what each is and how works of the flesh differ from the fruit of the Spirit. Each of us has been led to the extent that reading the word of God has produced faith (Rom. 10:17) and guided us in the right way. As the Psalmist, we can rejoice in the power of God's word in our lives: "How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you" (119:9-11). Thus, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (v. 105). But this word is nothing less than the Spirit of God working with his sword in my spirit to bring me to spiritual maturity.
Books written by men cannot discern the thoughts and intents of the heart. Think about what that says about the Bible. The Bible is living. It is Spirit-filled. It is able, by its construction, to discern our hearts, to convict us of sin, to convert us to God, to bring us to spiritual maturity. How ridiculous it is for some to suggest that the Bible is not as important as the emotions felt in the human heart. For one to claim that they had rather have "the feeling I have in my heart than a stack of Bibles" betrays their lack of confidence in the Bible as the sword of the Spirit.
Let us never apologize for our dependence upon the Bible for our contact with God. Let us never back away from acknowledging that the Holy Spirit is active in our lives today. Yes, we are led by the Spirit of God and we rejoice that we have the living word of God, the sword of the Spirit, in our lives every day.
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