“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) How the Holy Spirit Operates Today (Tom Edwards)
How the Holy Spirit Operates Today
There are various misconceptions some have today concerning the Holy Spirit and His work in the lives of others. Many folks, for instance, are of the notion that the Holy Spirit is working directly and miraculously upon the hearts of individuals in our time — such as in supernaturally enabling them to understand the Bible; to miraculously impart to them the conviction of sin and the desire, along with the ability, to obey God; and to miraculously speak to them and supernaturally lead them in the way He wants them to go.
There, of course, was a time when God spoke miraculously to men, such as to the apostles and the prophets. During the early church there was a great need for that until “that which is perfect is come” (1 Cor. 13:10, ASV). And that “perfect” is not referring to Christ, but to “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25), which is the New Testament in its entirety. For the “perfect” is seen in contrast to “that which is in part” (1 Cor. 13:10, ASV), which would be done away with when the completeness of the New Testament would be delivered. For it contains “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3), whereby “…the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:17, ESV).
We strive to encourage people to look to the Bible. For other than what we can infer about God from the creation – “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature” (Rom. 1:18-19) – it is through the Scriptures that the Lord can truly speak to us. And it is through that message that the Holy Spirit can work in our hearts.
Shortly prior to His leaving this world, Jesus promised the apostles the Holy Spirit who would be a “Helper” to them. He would teach them all things and bring to their remembrance all that the Lord had said to them (Jn. 14:26) — thus guiding them “into all the truth” (Jn. 16:13). The Holy Spirit would also “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn. 16:8).
In the Scriptures we see how He did this. In Acts 2, for example, as Peter preached about Jesus whom they had crucified, but whom God raised from the dead to be “both Lord and Christ,” there were those that “…when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart” (Acts 2:37). In other words, they came to believe in Jesus and were convicted of sin by that gospel message, which also led to their desire to ask Peter and the other apostles of how to be saved — and “those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” (v. 41).
Consider, too, Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 7:8-11, he speaks of having caused them sorrow through his letter, which was a gospel message to them (v. 8). By it, they were “made sorrowful to the point of repentance” (v. 9). For it was not merely a sorrow of the world; but, rather, a “godly sorrow” (v. 11) that ”produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation” (v. 10).
The point we can see in these examples is that the Holy Spirit was convicting these people of sin — but not through some direct, miraculous operation upon their hearts; but, instead, through the word of God which they were hearing.
So we are seeing in this a relation that the Holy Spirit has to the Scriptures. For that message is the instrument that He is using to convict men today concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment. And this connection of the Holy Spirit to the word is exactly what Paul is speaking of in Ephesians 6:17, where he exhorts the brethren to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
So just as a logger would use a chainsaw or some other tool to fell a tree, the Holy Spirit uses the “instrument” of God’s word to work in the hearts of people today.
In realizing this connection of the Spirit with the word, we can better understand passages that might otherwise seem somewhat contradictory. For while one verse shows a certain thing to be accomplished by the Holy Spirit, another passage attributes the same thing to the word of God. Consider, for instance, these following examples:
Holy Spirit: “..He…will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (Jn. 16:7-8).
Word of God: “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart…” (Acts 2:37).
Holy Spirit: “…unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. …that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (Jn. 3:5).
Word of God: “for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23).
Holy Spirit: “…but you were washed…in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
Word of God: “…just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:25-26) .
Holy Spirit: “…you were sanctified…in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
Word of God: “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth” (Jn. 17:17, a prayer of Jesus).
Holy Spirit: “…but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
Word of God: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10: 17).
Holy Spirit: “He saved us…by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
Word of God: “…in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (James 1: 21). “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).
One would be greatly mistaken to cite these Bible passages as contradictions. Rather, they show how the Holy Spirit is working today through the written word of God. And keeping Ephesians 6:17 in mind – to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” – better helps us to realize this.
This also shows why it is so important for man to hear the gospel, to believe it, and to respond to it.
The gospel is “the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints”; and what we are to “contend earnestly for” (Jude 1:3). It has been given to us so that we may learn of the way that leads to everlasting life, be freed from the bondage of sin, and know how we are to live and please God while on earth. By our submitting to the word of the Lord, the Holy Spirit then works in us, helping us to grow spiritually and to develop more of the mind of Christ. And may that always be so of each one of us.
(All Scripture from the NASB unless otherwise indicated.)
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)