By Cecil Willis
In view of the fact that in the title of our lesson we are asserting that the Holy Spirit produces faith, one readily can see that there is going to have to be a harmonization of this statement with the conclusion of our former lessons, and especially the one last week in which we concluded that men are made believers by hearing the word of God. This conclusion was adequately supported by such passages as Matt. 13:3-9; Acts 11:14; Jn. 17:20, 21; Jn. 20:30, 31 and Romans 10:13-17. One passage would have been sufficient to establish our thesis. Paul said, “So then, faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17). To those who regard the word of truth as authoritative, this statement is enough.
And yet on the other hand, the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit makes men believers, but there is no contradiction in these statements if one will only take into consideration the Bible teaching regarding the work of the Holy Spirit. Many people have become so saturated with the doctrines of error that they have come to think that the only way that the Holy Spirit can operate is directly. They think that if the Holy Spirit should operate through some medium or instrumentality, then it would not be the Holy Spirit at all.
Notice how the Bible describes just what part the Holy Spirit has in making men believers. Upon this one thing we should all agree. Paul says “faith cometh by hearing,” and if words mean anything at all, there is not one person in the world who can fail to understand so plain a statement. It is not a matter of understanding it; but it becomes a matter of believing it.
The Holy Spirit and the Apostles
Let us note this point first. The word spoken by the apostles was the word of the Holy Spirit, and for one to be converted by the word of the apostles was to be converted by the Holy Spirit. One cannot separate the Holy Spirit from His work.
As the inspired evangelists went on their preaching missions, they did not draw their message out of the clear blue sky, but it was delivered unto them of the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit delivered unto them their message, then the Holy Spirit was teaching men through the apostles, and if the word of the apostles made men believers, and this is what Paul affirmed, then it was the word of the Holy Spirit that made men believers. Therefore the Holy Spirit produced faith in the heart of men. It was not in a direct manner, but through the instrument of the word of the apostles. This is what I affirm and believe, but that matters little unless this is what the Bible teaches.
Paul declared of his preaching, “For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:11, 12). Further he said, “Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth; but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words” (1 Cor. 2:13). Paul said that the things that he declared from place to place were not things that he had conjectured in his own mind and clothed in his own words, but these things were delivered unto him by revelation from God, and even clothed in the words of the Spirit.
God had made plans for the revelation of His will to man. He had sent His only begotten Son into the world that He might instruct man. Christ selected certain men that were to aid him in the bearing of the revelation into the whole world. These men were called his apostles. As Christ instructed them, He intended that they relay this instruction on to their fellow-men, but a problem arose. How were they going to be able accurately to relate all that they had been taught? This would be a human impossibility; so the Holy Spirit was given. The accounts of Christ’s teaching were written down thirty or forty years after Christ had spoken them. The apostles could not possibly relate accurately all that Christ had told them without the assistance of divine guidance. Accordingly, Christ told us the purpose of the giving of the Holy Spirit to the apostles: “But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said unto you” (Jn. 14:26). Again Christ said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he shall guide you into all the truth: for he shall not speak from himself; but what things soever he shall hear, these shall he speak: and he shall declare unto you the things that are to come” (Jn. 16:13).
Thus we see that as the Apostles spoke, it was God speaking through the apostles as they were guided in what they should say by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Christ encouraged his disciples and told them not to worry about what they would say when they were delivered up, for “it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father that speaketh” (Matt. 10:20). Consequently, to be converted by the Apostle’s words was to be converted by God, since they spoke the word of God. To be converted by the Apostles was to be converted by the Holy Spirit, since they spoke as directed by the Holy Spirit.
The Operation of the Holy Spirit
We have the principle of the operation of the Holy Spirit very plainly taught in several examples in the New Testament. In Acts 8, we find a man returning from the city of Jerusalem, where he had been to worship. This man was honestly seeking to know the will of God. He had traveled a great distance in a chariot in order that he might render worship to God. About thirty-five miles North of him was an evangelist preaching Christ in the city of Samaria. One might ask, “How is it that God is going to instruct this Ethiopian eunuch who had been to Jerusalem to worship?” The modern theory is that God would just appear to him in some inexplicable manner and would, by some marvelous action, produce faith in the heart of the man in order that he might be saved. But just what did God do in this instance? He sent an angel unto Philip and told him: “Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza” (Acts 8:26). God was going to produce faith in this man’s heart. How did He do it? He sent an angel to a preacher and told him to go preach to the man. So Philip arose, and went, and he found the Ethiopian sitting in his chariot and reading from the prophet Isaiah. Notice the scripture now: “And the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot” (Acts 8:29). Thus Philip began from the passage in Isaiah where the man was reading and preached unto him Jesus, and he was immediately baptized. This man became a believer. How was it accomplished? By the Holy Spirit; but all the Holy Spirit did was to send a preacher to him.
In the tenth chapter of Acts we have a similar circumstance. There was a man in Caesarea, Cornelius by name, who had never become a believer in Jesus Christ. The Bible describes this man as an excellent moral man, but unsaved. An angel of the Lord appeared to him and told him where he could contact Peter, who would tell him words whereby he could be saved. Notice, the Lord did not send the Holy Spirit to give him faith, but He sent an angel to tell him where to get a preacher. Then, as the messengers of Cornelius inquired regarding Peter, “the Spirit said, Behold, three men seek thee” (Acts 10:19). And Peter went and told the man words whereby he could be saved.
The question then arises, “Did the Holy Spirit produce faith in the hearts of these two men?” The answer is yes; but He did it through the preaching of the word of God through Holy Spirit inspired evangelists. They did not have the written word as we have it today, and thus the Holy Spirit guided the preachers directly. Today, since we have the words of the Holy Spirit written in the Bible, the Holy Spirit guides us and teaches us through His Word. This is exactly the same way that the Holy Spirit produces faith in our hearts. The Holy Spirit does it through the Word of God, the Bible.
In Revelation the first chapter, we have a perfect diagram of all that we are trying to say regarding this matter: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show unto his servants, even the things which must shortly come to pass: and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: who bare witness of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, even of all things that he saw” (Rev. 1:1-3). An analysis of this passage shows the pattern which we are discussing. John says that the revelation began with God. It was God’s eternal purpose and intention. This revelation, originating with God, was given unto Christ. Jesus stated this: “When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things” (Jn. 8:28). “And I know that his commandment is life eternal; the things therefore which I speak, even .as the Father hath said unto me, so I speak” (Jn. 12:50). Jesus said that He spoke exactly the things that were given Him of God. John further said that Jesus sent and signified these things by his angel. The angel is just a messenger. This angel delivered the message unto John, which he in turn proclaimed unto men.
By this combination of God, Jesus Christ, the Messenger, and John, the revelation was to be made known. The particular revelation, about which John was speaking at the time, was what we know today as the Book of Revelation. This same pattern-principle of revealing is just as true of all the other Biblical books though. When an apostle spoke, God spoke. What was said by an apostle was said by God, by Christ, by the Holy Spirit, and so to be converted by the apostle’s words was to be converted by the Holy Spirit.
In Rev. 22:17 John said, “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him come. And he that is athirst, let him come; he that will, let him take the water of life freely.” The Spirit was extending an invitation unto the whole world to come and partake of the water of life, but the extension of the Spirit’s invitation was being done through the revelation of Jesus Christ by John. John was relaying the word of the Messenger and the Messenger was relaying the word of the Spirit.
But whether the angel be the Holy Spirit or not, John said that the Holy Spirit was speaking through him. Whatever he said, being directed by the Holy Spirit, was the Holy Spirit speaking. Notice this expression from John’s epistle: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith to the churches” (Rev. 3:22). This particular expression occurs no less than seven times in the first three chapters of the book .of Revelation. John said, if one has ears he may hear what the Spirit has said. : At that particular time, John was writing to the seven churches in Asia and the message that he was delivering to these churches is recorded in the Book of Revelation. John says that-this message was what the Spirit was saying and was not merely what the man, John, had to say about these issues. In other words, when with one’s ears, he listens to what John was saying, in reality it was the Holy Spirit speaking, since John was only speaking those things directed by- the Holy Spirit.
Thus it is that Paul says that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. And yet this expression harmonizes perfectly with the statement that the Holy Spirit produces faith. It is all a discussion of how the Holy Spirit produces faith. Denominationalists would have us believe that He does it directly, independently of the Word of God. The truth about the matter is that the Holy Spirit does produce faith, but He does it through the word of God spoken by the inspired apostles.
One reads in Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” The gospel is God’s power unto salvation. The religious world of today would have us believe that the Holy Spirit exerts a completely different power of salvation-that of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit. God, Christ and the Holy Spirit all save in the same way. It is through the gospel of Christ. Thus, dear friend, we are pleading with each one of you to accept the gospel of Christ and obey it. You can believe it by hearing the word of the Holy Spirit spoken by the Apostles. You can be saved by this gospel by repenting, confessing your faith in Christ, and by being baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins. We plead with you to obey this saving gospel without delay.
Truth Magazine XIX: 40, pp. 627-629
August 21, 1975