Is the Holy Spirit the Author of Confusion?

By Sammy Bynum

Simply stated, “No.” Paul wrote, “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). We see in the immediate context that God (inclusive of the Holy Spirit, Acts 5:3-4) was not responsible for the disorder, confusion, and tumult that would arise through the improper exercise of spiritual gifts. Neither is he the author of the confusion that exists in the religious world today. Rather, as the same inspired writer shows from Ephesians 4:1-16, the Holy Spirit is the author of unity, there revealing the attitudes, effort, and teaching necessary to “keep the unity of the Spirit.”

The Holy Spirit Desires Unity

The religious world in general does not view diversity as such a bad thing. A Methodist preacher once stated to this writer that diversity is not a bad thing in that it allows each one to find teachings and practices which suit him. Like countless others, he overlooked the fact that what is important is not pleasing men, but pleasing God. In stark contrast to that prevailing, idea, the Psalmist wrote, “Below, how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Jesus prayed, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father art in me, and I in thee” (Jn. 17:20). Obviously the unity for which Jesus prayed is not a unity-in-diversity, but a unity characterized by oneness such as exists between the Father and the Son. Paul exhorted, “. . . that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” No loose denominational kind of union do we find here, but unity of teaching and practice. This is the kind of unity we find in the first century church and read of in the New Testament. Disciples were simply called Christians (Acts 11:26); and local churches, churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16). Each local church had the same kind of oversight (1 Pet. 5:1-3; Acts 14:23) and engaged in the same worship and work. This unity was achieved because the same gospel was preached to all. Paul taught the same thing in every church (1 Cor. 4:17), and what he taught was the same message that other gospel preachers proclaimed (Gal. 1:23; 1 Cor. 15:11). Not only that, but those who presented a perverted or corrupted gospel stood condemned (Gal. 1:6-8).

The Foundation For Unity

The foundation for unity is truth and the work of the Holy Spirit in producing this unity is the revelation of truth. The Holy Spirit revealed all truth. Jesus, to the apostles, promised concerning the Holy Spirit, “he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance” (Jn. 14:26). “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth” (Jn. 16:13). The Holy Spirit fully accomplished that work and today we have in written form that complete, perfect, and all sufficient body of unifying truth (Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3; Jude 3).

The Nature of Truth

The Holy Spirit revealed truth, and the very nature of truth shows that the Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion. Truth is absolute, not relative. What the Holy Spirit revealed yesterday, is just as true today and will be tomorrow, regardless of how times and men may change. Truth is objective, not subjective. Its origin is external to man, and does not find its source in his speculations, desires, and feelings – the things for which so many exchange it. Truth is consistent and harmonious. One passage of Scripture will not contradict another. If it appears to do so, we can rest assured that it is the fault of our interpretation, and not the word of God. Truth is understandable. It is not uncommon to encounter people in the religious world who, in effect, blame division on the Holy Spirit by referring to the “vagaries and deep, dark mysteries” of the word. Such thinking not only indicts the goodness and power of God, but stands in direct contradiction to the Bible’s teaching. “Whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ” (Eph. 3:4). “Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).

Religious Confusion

Almost without exception, the religious groups and denominations in our land lay claim to being guided by the Holy Spirit. Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopalians, etc. would claim the guidance of the Spirit, and many would allow that others differing from them are also guided by the Spirit. Each group not only holds to many doctrines and practices which conflict with the word revealed by the Spirit, but also with one another as well.

Consider one of many possible illustrations. With respect to the nature of the Godhead, the Mormons teach that God has a body of flesh and bones; the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the Holy Spirit is an impersonal activating force; and Oneness Pentecostals state that there is only one person in the Godhead. Each group claims the guidance of the Holy Spirit. On the surface, obviously, all three could not possibly be led by the Spirit, for their teachings are contradictory, whereas the Spirit is the revealer of truth. Also obvious is that none of these is led by the Spirit for each is in confict of the truth.

Some observations on the preceding:

1. Those who claim that the Holy Spirit leads diverse groups, in effect, place the blame for religious confusion on the Spirit.

2. When two groups teach and practice differing doctrines, at least one (perhaps both) is not being led by the Spirit.

3. Only those whose teaching and practice are contained in the word revealed by the Spirit are led by the Spirit (1 Jn. 4:1-6; Acts 17:11).

4. The Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion.

Some Causes of Confusion

In view of the fact that the Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion, we will in this last section note some things that do produce confusion.

1. A failure to understand that the Holy Spirit leads men today only through the written word (Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Many individuals believe that the Spirit instructs them directly and personally apart from the word. They speak of being moved by supernatural impulse or spoken to by a still small voice. Such erroneous beliefs only give occasion for feelings to be elevated to the level of Scripture (Jer. 10:23; Prov. 14:12).

2. A failure to respect the authority of the word revealed by the Spirit. Many will speak of following the Bible’s teaching, but do not hesitate in the least to augment it, diminish it, or supplant it with their own feelings, human traditions, or creeds of men (2 Jn. 9; Matt. 15:9; Rev. 22:18-19).

3. A failure to appreciate the truth. The claims of many who would say that they desire and love the truth, are contradicted by their own actions. Those who press for unity at the expense of truth, those who shy away from open and honest investigation of differences, and those who simply fail to grow in knowledge and understanding of God’s word manifest a lack of appreciation for truth.

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 8, pp. 246-247
April 18, 1991