By Larry Ray Hafley
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into (1 Pet. 1:10-12).
Five items in the above text are essentially interchangeable expressions of the same thing; namely, the gospel of Christ. Observe: (1) “Salvation”; (2) “Grace”; (3) “The Sufferings of Christ And The Glory That Should Follow”; (4) “Things . . . Now Reported”; (5) “Gospel.” These terms fly in the face of those who would have us preach a sentimental “salvation” and a “gentle” grace which ignores terms and conditions of the gospel. “Speak unto us smooth things” is the cry of the ages (Isa. 30:8-11). So, today let us hear of great grace and salvation, but do not burden and oppress us with the binding, chafing “commandments of the Lord.” We want to hear of great grace and sweet salvation, but do not tell us what we must do to receive it. That is legalism. Preach the greatest love story ever told and thrill us with the free gift of grace, eternal life, but do not turn sinners “off” with the necessity of repentance and baptism.
However, the passage in 1 Peter cited above shows us that salvation, grace, the sufferings of Christ, and the things now reported are the gospel, the word of God, the incorruptible seed, the word of the Lord that endureth forever (cf. 1 Pet. 1:22-25). It is in “obeying the truth … .. the gospel … .. the word of the Lord,” which was given “through the Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:22), that one receives the grace, salvation and redemption provided by the “precious blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18, 19). Hence, one cannot fully preach the grace and salvation of God without preaching the terms and conditions of the gospel of God.
Certainly, if men are ignorant of grace, salvation and the blood of Christ, by all means tell them of those things – When the lost hear the good news, when they learn of the goodness of God, it will lead them to repentance (Rom. 2:4). When their heart is cut, stabbed and pierced through thoroughly, they must then be told to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:36-38). Grace has been granted. Blood has been shed. Salvation has been offered. Now, truth must be obeyed (2 Cor. 8:9; 1 Pet. 1:18,19,22).
Usually, when a man talks about “the spirit of Christ” and decries the preaching of the commandments of Christ, he has a hidden agenda, a plan of his own. No man speaks by the Spirit of Christ if he disdains the word of Christ. Do not be fooled by sentimental tears and heart touching stories that de-emphasize the terms and conditions of gospel obedience.
Another characteristic of religious enthusiasm is to plead for the “leading of the Spirit.” Let us, they say, open our hearts and minds to the guidance and direction of the Spirit of Christ. Perhaps, they infer, we are missing out on the message of the Spirit if we devote too much time to trying to figure out legal commandments and patterns. Mark and eye closely the teacher or preacher who attempts to get you to pay attention to some deep spiritual “meaning” while diverting you from the words of the Bible. Do not be deceived by mystical allusions to “the deep things of the Spirit,” or the “real” message God has for us, and that we can only attain this special, hidden, inner wisdom if we are willing to “launch out in faith,” while not being so concerned or consumed with cold, literal Bible texts. We should, they say, not be arguing our positions; we should not be debating; rather, we should allow the Spirit of Christ to lead us to relevant and kindly feelings of brotherliness. “Heart felt,” “devotional,” “meaningful relationship,” “inner calling and leading,” “the real, living message of the living Spirit,” – these and a host of other similar terms, words and expressions are all “buzz” words of those who would “beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshiping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not beholding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God” (Col. 2:18,10).
Of course, we are to be led by the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of Christ does indeed testify and signify. He is a witness unto us. No one who is a Christian could ever doubt or deny it. But, how? How does the Spirit of Christ testify and witness unto us? That the Spirit of Christ testifies unto us is not a matter of dispute. Peter said the Spirit testified. Of what did he testify? He testified of “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” But in Luke 24:25-27, no less an authority than Jesus our Lord said, “0 fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?” The Spirit of Christ testified when the prophets spoke. When I read what the prophets wrote of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow, I am reading the Spirit’s testimony. There is no other way under heaven to have the Spirit’s testimony of the sufferings of Christ than to read what the prophets said about it.
“The Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before. . . ” (Heb. 10:15). The Holy Spirit is a “witness to us” by what he said through Jeremiah. When the Spirit said what he said through the prophets, he witnessed to us. The only way on earth for the spirit of Christ to witness to you today is to read his testimony given through the apostles and prophets through the Spirit” (Eph. 3:5). The witness and testimony of the Spirit is found in the word of the Spirit, the Bible.
Still, we are told that we need to “get to know the Person of the Spirit,” rather than merely studying the Bible. That is just so much “vain jangling.” You cannot know the “Person” of the Spirit except as he reveals himself to you. The only place he has revealed himself is on the pages of the book we call the Bible. Can I know and obey the word of the Spirit and not know the Spirit? Can I know the “Person” of the Spirit and not know and obey the word of the Spirit (I Cor. 2:10-14)? One can only receive the Spirit of God as he receives what the Spirit has said. Can you receive the Spirit and reject his word? Can you accept his word, obey it, and not receive him?
Finally, what is the effect of all this? If I accept the gospel and obey the word of the Spirit sent down from heaven, what then? “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 1:13).
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 21, pp. 658-659
November 1, 1990