How The Holy Spirit Leads Us

By Larry Ray Hafley

False ideas of the Holy Spirit’s work are at the bottom of much that is to be regretted in the spiritual culture and movement of our times. This one-sided supernaturalism of Mr. Moody is the most conspicuous feature in his ministry, and the unquestionable source of the greater part of his remarkable power over man. This belief is none the less a source of power in his preaching, because it is only a fanaticism without a corresponding reality.”

The quote above was made over a century ago. In the early part of this century, the names of McPherson, Allen, Coe and Jenkins could have been inserted. Today, Swaggart, Falwell, Robertson, Roberts, Peale, Schuller, Humbard and Angley would fit as well. As you do not recognize the names of Moody or McPherson, so, years from now, a generation will not know Jerry Falwell, Jim Bakker or Oral Roberts. However, a later age will have its own corp and coterie of false prophets, priests and erring evangelists to add to the citation noted above. The names change, but the melody is the same. The beat goes on, but the word of the Lord endureth forever.

Falwell’s and Roberts’ revelations are too well known to require documentation. The Holy Spirit, we are told, leads believers to become basic Baptists under Falwell and Graham. He leads Roberts by visions, dreams and direct communication that supercede even that known to Moses or Paul, or so we are told. The Spirit leads Roberts into charismatic, tongue-speaking Pentecostalism, but he denies it to Falwell’s followers. He promises material riches through Bakker and Schuller’s power of positive thinking.

But why tire you with all the tedium and minutiae of the contradictory doctrines of men who presume Spirit guidance, assume Divine prerogatives and consume deluded souls? Let us simply set forth how the Holy Spirit leads us.

When we do that, we will (1) know the truth, (2) be truly led of the Spirit, (3) be “free from the law of sin and death,” and (4) avoid “being led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Pet. 3:17).

Misused Passages

(1) John 14.17,26, 15.26, 16:7-13: Modern TV evangelists base their claims of Divine guidance on the promises of Jesus in the gospel of John. These texts, even if applicable today, cannot include men like Roberts, Swaggart, Robertson and such like.

First, they preach conflicting doctrines. Did the Spirit lead John, Paul and Peter to contradict one another? No (1 Cor. 15:11). Second, they belong to churches unknown to the New Testament. Falwell and Graham are Baptists; Swaggart is of the Assemblies of God; Oral Roberts is a Methodist. The Spirit did not lead James and John into denominationalism. Third, these claimants cannot confirm their alleged revelations “with signs following” (Mk. 16:17-20; 2 Cor. 12:12; 1 Cor. 2:5). Fourth, Swaggart has recently expressed doubt that Oral Roberts has really received revelations from God. Did Peter and Paul question one another’s revelations from the Spirit? No (2 Pet. 3:15,16; Acts 15; Gal. 1; 2). Fifth, “He (the Spirit) shall glorify me (Jesus)” (Jn. 16:14). But the TV evangelists today use their “ministries” to glorify the Spirit (and themselves).

(1) The texts in John’s gospel were promises to “the twelve” apostles (Jn. 13:1; Matt. 26:20; Acts 1:2-8). (2a) The one’s promised the Spirit were to remember what the Lord had taught them while he was with them (Jn. 14:26). (2b) The witnesses of John’s gospel had “been with (Jesus) from the beginning” (John 15:27; cf. Acts 1:21,22). (2c) These were the witnesses “who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead” (Acts 2:32; 10:39-42; Lk. 24:48, 49). These three factors eliminate today’s TV pretenders. (3) The promise of John 16:13 was guidance into “all truth.” That truth was once for all delivered (Jude 3). It is not being fulfilled today (2 Tim. 3:16,17; Jas. 1:25).

(2) Ephesians.3:16. “That he (God) would grant You . . . to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man.” We are not in the business of answering or explaining away Scripture. The Holy Spirit does strengthen the inner man with might. That is not the issue, the question. How does the Spirit strengthen the inner man? That is the question. Hear the apostle Paul. (A) “And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up” (Acts 20:32). The word of God builds up, strengthens with might. The Spirit’s sword is the word of God (Eph. 6:47). The word is the Spirit’s agent or instrument. By it, he strengthens the inner man – “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). (B) Further, “the word of God . . . effectually worketh also in you that believe” (1 Thess. 2:13). The Spirit works (that is who) effectually in the believer, in the inner man (that is where), through the word (that is how). (C) The “inward man” is renewed by the “word of God,. . the truth . . . the gospel” (2 Cor. 4:1-16). (D) “Thy word have I hid in mine heart that I might not sin against thee” (Psa. 119:11). “The law of God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide” (Psa. 37:31).

(3) Ephesians 5:18.- “Be filled with the Spirit.” Being filled with the Spirit is contrasted with being drunk with wine. Note the comparisons of the context in the following chart:

Be Not . . . But Be

(Eph. 5:18)

Contracts of Context

(1) “Gentiles” vs. “Christians” – 4:17-21
(2) “Old Man” vs. “New Man” – 4:22-24
(3) “Darkness” vs. “Light” – 5:8
(4) “Unfruitful Works” vs. “Fruit of Spirit” – 5:9, 11
(5) “Asleep, Dead” vs. “Light (Life)” – 5:14
(6) “Fools” vs. “Wise” – 5:15
(7) “Drunkenness” vs. “Spirit Filled” – 5:18
Excess, Riot, Waste vs. Goodness, Truth, Righteousness

Ephesians 5:18 is but one of the numerous contrasts in its context as outlined above. The left side of the chart shows the sinful state of excess, riot, drunkenness. The right side reveals the righteous state of being filled with the Spirit. The Gentile, heathen, the old men, walks in darkness, produces unfruitful works, and is asleep, dead and drunk in riotous living. The new man, on the other hand, walks in the light, has life and produces the fruit of the Spirit in goodness, righteousness and truth. So, rather than be like the old man, be filled with the Spirit, i.e., live like the new man, the child of God.

Compare Titus 2:11, 12. God’s grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly, righteously, godly. As such, the text in Titus is parallel with the text and context of Ephesians 5:18.

To be filled with the Spirit is to walk in truth, to let the word of Christ dwell in you richly with all wisdom (cf. Col. 3:16).

Old Testament Passages

Stephen said the Jews did “always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye” (Acts 7:51). First, let us see how the Jewish fathers resisted the Spirit. When we see how they did it, we shall know how those of the first century did so. Second, if they had not resisted the Spirit, they would have received the Spirit. To resist the Spirit is to refuse to be led by the Spirit. To receive the Spirit is to be led by the Spirit. Hence, by revealing the method of resistance, we shall see the means of reception, i.e., how the Spirit leads us.

“Thou gavest thy good spirit to instruct them” (Neh. 9:20). “Yet many years didst thou forbear them and testifiedst against them by thy Spirit in thy prophets, yet they would not give ear” (Neh. 9:30). Remember, Acts 7:5 1. The fathers resisted the Spirit by resisting, by refusing to hear, the words of the prophets. God said, “They refused to hear my words” (Jer. 11:10). “Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his prophets” (Dan. 9:10). “But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets” (2 Chron. 36:16).

God spoke unto the fathers by the prophets (Heb. 1:1). What God said, he said through the prophets. God “spake by the mouth of his holy prophets” (Lk. 1:70). Psalm 95:7 is quoted in both Hebrews 3:7 and 4:7. In Hebrews 3:7, the Psalm is what “the Holy Ghost saith. ” In Hebrews 4:7, the Psalm is what God said “in David.” God spoke “by the mouth of David” (Acts 1:16; 4:24, 25). David said, “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2). Jesus said, “David himself said by the Holy Ghost,” as he quoted from Psalm 110:1-4 (cf. Mk. 12:36; Acts 2:34). Joel 2:28-32 “was spoken by the prophet Joel,” yet when Peter cited the passage, he said, “saith God” (Acts 2:16,17). “The mouth of the Lord hath spoken” the words of Isaiah 40:1-5; yet, when John the Baptist quoted that text, he said, “as said the prophet Isaiah” (Jn. 1:23).

Separate and apart from the word of God, we could never know “whether there be any Holy Ghost.” However aware we may be of the leading of the Holy Spirit, that guidance is not independent of the word of God, but it is a product of it.

Again, remember Acts 7:51-53. They resisted the Holy Spirit “as” (in the same manner) did their fathers. How did the fathers resist the Holy Spirit? They did so by resisting the preaching of the prophets. So, when the people resisted Stephen’s preaching, they resisted the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, had they heard the prophets, they would have received the Holy Spirit, been led by the Holy Spirit. Thus, when we believe and obey the word of the apostles and prophets, we receive the Spirit and are led by Him.

2 Timothy 3:16, 17

If I had but one text on how the Spirit leads us, it would be this, “Ali scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).

Is there something the Holy Spirit can lead us to, separate and apart from the word of God, that will complete, equip, or perfect the man of God? If so, the passage is false. “Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar. ” Is there any teaching, any reproof of false doctrine, any correction (straightening up again), or any instruction to proper conduct, or any good work the Spirit can lead us to, separate and apart from the word of God? If so, 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 is false.

The word of God, like the Spirit of God, is alive and powerful (Heb. 4:12). The Holy Spirit leads children of God by His instrument, the word of God (Eph. 6:17). The Spirit builds up, strengthens and guides the child of God by the word of God (1 Pet. 2:2; Acts 20:32; 1 Thess. 2:13; Jas. 1:25; Eph. 3:4; 5:17).

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 12, pp. 359-360
June 18, 1987