By Aude McKee
I commend brother Edwards for his selection of topics to be discussed under the above heading. Everyone is vital to the purity of the Lord’s body and everyone is under attack, not only by the religious world in general, but by some of our own brethren. Fifty years ago it would have been unnecessary to discuss most of the subjects given consideration in this issue, so far as our brethren were concerned, but times have changed! Several of the fourteen subjects are of special significance because of their broad, encompassing effect. This is certainly true regarding the Holy Spirit. The “smooth things” you hear today regarding the Spirit and his work result in a minimizing of the power of the gospel of Christ.
In a volume entitled The Christian Minister’s Encyclopedia and Pulpit Companion I ran across this observation: “It seems unaccountable that intelligent beings should become so foolishly infatuated, that they should prefer deceit to sincerity, and falsehood to truth. And yet men do so, not in reference to temporal things, which are only of secondary moment; but in reference to the soul and the great realities of the eternal world. The more important the subject, and the more valuable is the truth relating to it; and the more needful to avoid error. So that to be willingly deceived in the highest of all concerns amounts to nothing short of moral insanity. Yet of this worst form of madness, men are most extensively guilty” (Sermon No. 15, Isa. 30:10, 559).
Some of the “smooth things” about the Holy Spirit that you hear today from some of our brethren:
- Don’t get hung up on word for word inspiration.
- The word is not the sole influence leading to conversion.
- The prophecy found in Joel 2:28- 32 is being fulfilled now.
- The Spirit is working mightily among our denominational neighbors.
- The Holy Spirit personally in- dwells the Christian.
In Hendersonville, Tennessee there is a group that identifies themselves as The Community Church of Christ. In less than ten years, at least nine people have left the Lakeview church and joined Community. The ones who left and went to Community, while I preached at Lakeview, were continually complaining about the preaching. “You are not giving us what we need. We need more preaching on love. We need more inspirational sermons.” And what has happened in Hendersonville is occurring all over the country. The teaching that the people at Community want and get is a concrete example of all the five points made above. On April 1, 1995, they had this recorded telephone message: “Hey, you’ve got the Youth Message and Prayer Line. Can you imagine what the Lord is doing? It is mighty and powerful, isn’t it? ‘It shall come to pass in the last days, saith the Lord, I will pour out My Spirit on all people: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy’ (Acts 2:16-17). Pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in your home and in your school. God is doing mighty things right now. Don’t let any part of your life be left out.”
In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul forever set- tles the matter of the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. The revelation was made, he affirms, “not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (KJV). The NIV translates the passage: “We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words” (vv. 12, 13).
If it takes more than God’s word to convert the sinner, it is strange that the Holy Spirit had Paul to write: “I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise. So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:14-17). All of us remember well the commission of Jesus: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16). The gospel is the word-for- word revelation made by the Spirit and when a person is led by the gospel, he is being led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14).
The affirmation that Joel 2:28-32 is being fulfilled now is ludicrous (“Laughable or hilarious through obvious absurdity or incongruity,” New American Heritage Dictionary). Can those who make such a claim speak in tongues (languages they have not learned)? Can they prophesy (speak by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration)?
Any time respect for the author- ity of the Spirit-inspired Scriptures diminishes, regard for religious institutions unauthorized by God increases. Several illustrations of this point could be made from the Nashville area, but we will continue with Community. On October 29, 1993, this item appeared in the Hendersonville Star News. “For the first time in Sumner County history, churches are combining their youth for an evening of celebration. This is historic be- cause it involves Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Interdenominational, and Nazarene churches. The event will be Sunday, Nov. 7, at 7:30 p.m. at Music Village.” And then the list of denominations participating are listed and among them is the Community Church of Christ. The Holy Spirit says that “whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God” (2 John 9-11). He then went on to say that anyone who bids God speed to such is a partaker of his evil deeds!
Finally, teaching that the Holy Spirit indwells the child of God personally has the potential for great harm to the cause for which Jesus died. In a sermon delivered at Highland in Abilene, Mike Cope asked, “But what are you going to do with the many wonderful Spirit-filled, Jesus-like prayerful believers who don’t go to church where we go, who weren’t baptized the same way we were baptized, and whose doctrine doesn’t line up exactly like ours? This was the crisis for me” (The Spiritual Sword, Vol. 29, No.2). Brother Cope’s “crisis” exists because he believes the Spirit can fill (indwell) a person separate from the word. It is a fact that deity indwells God’s people.
1 John 4:12-16 teaches plainly that God dwells in the Christian, Romans 8:10 affirms that Christ indwells, and 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that the Spirit is in the Christian. But Ephesians 3:17 makes it clear how Jesus indwells — it is through faith. Note verses 14-19:
For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to be able to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”
The heart of man is the abode of God, his Son, and the Holy Spirit and this condition of heart is brought about by the power of God’s word. Some claim that the Spirit indwells personally, but does nothing as a result of that indwelling. One difficulty with that position (in addition to it being unscriptural) is its potential for harm. I tell my little boy that a butterfly is in his stomach but not to worry be- cause it is dormant — it does nothing. Time passes and then one day he has a queer feeling and the result? “Dad was wrong! That butterfly is doing something to me.” I attended a meeting at one of the churches of Christ in Murray, Kentucky a number of years ago, and the preacher affirmed that he had been guided to a parking place on one occasion by the Spirit and at another time was directed to a hospital room where an opportunity to teach was afforded. The indwelling Spirit, he believed, was acting supernaturally on his behalf.
When we read Isaiah 30:10, we need to remember that it was the people of God who wanted God’s message watered down. Someone wrote some years ago that “this generation has been indoctrinated, brainwashed, and conditioned to react against ‘war,’ ‘defense,’ ‘militancy,’ ‘contention,’ and other such words with contempt. To this group the con- notations which these words conjure up are repulsive and abhorrent by their very nature. In contradistinction, such words as ‘love,’ ‘peace,’ ‘harmony,’ ‘unity,’ ‘brotherhood,’ etc., are pleasing to their ears and essential elements of their vocabulary.” These are the kind of people in the church who are crying the same words that Isaiah heard about 700 years before our Lord was born — “Speak unto us smooth things.