By Larry Ray Hafley
A spiritual caste periodically arises among God’s people. They specialize in an elite spiritualism. They fantasize that they alone have an insight into the Spirit’s working, power, presence and influence. They feel contempt, which they disguise as sorrow, for those of us who know only the commandments of the Lord. With their haughty humility and pretentious piety, they profess their escape from a cold, sterile, “book knowledge faith” and declare their release into the glorious liberty of the children of God.
What the rest of us need, they insist, is an awakening to the Spirit. We have, they aver, bound the Spirit in a book. We have chained and restrained him, limiting his ability to “impact” our lives. (Ironically, if the charge be true, that makes us very powerful. Imagine being strong enough to restrict the Holy Spirit of God!) We are too formal and ritualistic, merely going through the motions of a “5 step” obedience. We need, therefore, a genuine new birth of the Spirit, a new life in the Spirit. To achieve this, we must be freed from the fetters of the faith once delivered. Without fear, we must be willing to take a “leap of faith,” allowing the Spirit to lead us where he will, as he will.
Look Before You Leap
The devil attempted to make our Lord take a “leap of faith” (Matt. 4:5-7). He gave Scripture to legalize and authorize the jump, but Jesus was not fooled, and neither should we be.
All talk, no matter how sincerely and tenderly presented, about a mystical need for more direct leading of the Spirit is foreign to the New Testament. The “holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” never encourage anyone to do what these spiritual elitists urge upon us. If New Testament writers who wrote the very words of the Spirit never advocated such a course, why should we follow those today who are not empowered and endued with the Spirit when they propose what those truly moved by the Spirit never did?
Yes, we are aware of Galatians 5:16,18 – “walk in the Spirit . . . be led of the Spirit.” That walk in the Spirit was a walk in obeying the truth (Gal. 3:1; 1 Pet. 1:22). It was “faith which worketh by love,” i.e., “the keeping of the commandments of the Lord” (Gal. 5:6; 1 Cor. 7:19). This is the leading of the Spirit in which one runs well; that is, he obeys the truth given by the Spirit (Gal. 3:1; 5:7).
True, spiritual brethren are not developed by appeals and argument. They are grown and nourished by gospel obedience (Gal. 1:6; 2:20; 3:1,26-29), by living and acting as the Spirit through the word teaches (Gal. 5:24-6:10). What do we mean, though, when we say spirituality is not developed by argument? Simply, that “ye which are spiritual” are the ones who obey the truth, who live pure, godly lives, putting off the works of the flesh, who live in righteousness and true holiness. That quality, that character cannot be “argued into” a man. It is not the result of some mysterious inner longing, a persuasion of a latent, subconscious desire which is constructed by “opening your heart to the Spirit.” No, it is knowing, obeying and living in accord with the truth, “the keeping of the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:19; Rev. 22:14).
When the Corinthians became carnal (1 Cor. 3:1-3), Paul did not prescribe a dose of ethereal spiritual guidance. Rather, he directed them to “that which is written” (1 Cor. 4:6,14-17; 7:19; 11:2,23). “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). When the Corinthians persisted in quarrels, jealousy, fits of temper, partyism, gossip, slander, evil speaking, conceited pride, loud, verbal riots, sensual impurity and sexual sins (2 Cor. 12:20,21), Paul did not suggest that they let the Spirit “take over” or that they were trying to bind the Spirit with mere words, and that was the cause of their troubles. No, he directed them to the word of God, to the faith, and commanded them to bring “into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:2; 10:3-5; 13:5).
Who Is Led by the Spirit?
Just who is it that is promised God’s acceptance, pleasure and favor? Who is it that receives God’s Spirit, blessings, grace, mercy and love? Is it those who leave the truth and wander in the mists of the darkness of denominational doctrines? Answer:
If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of this belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive.) (Jn. 7:37-39) Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call (Acts 2:38,39). And we are witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him (Acts 5:32).
Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him and worketh righteousness is accepted with him (Acts 10:34,35). Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whosoever keepth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him (1 Jn. 2:3-5). If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him. Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. My little children, let us not love in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. And he that keepth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him (1 Jn. 2:29; 3:7,18,19,24). Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. . . . We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error (1 Jn. 4:1,6).
And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say (Lk. 6:46)? Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matt. 7:21). Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city (Rev. 22:14).
Let them urge these things of the spirit upon us, and we will have “the communion (fellowship) of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Jn. 1:7) with them. But as long as they persist in their ephemeral vagaries, their misty dreams and dusty delusions that lead men away from the truth and into the errors, doctrines, traditions and commandments of men, we shall oppose them with the sword of the Spirit and burst their idle, idol bubbles of vanity and deception.
Just who is being led by the Spirit?
(1) Is it the man who comes together upon the first day of the week to break bread with the disciples of the Lord (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:23f), or is it the man who eats and drinks whenever he feels like it?
(2) Is it the man who sings, speaking, making melody with grace in his heart unto the Lord (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16), or is it the men who hums and strums a guitar in a Methodist church?
(3) Is it the man who preaches the faith once delivered, one body, one church, one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Jude 3; Eph. 4:4-6), or is it the man who embraces all systems of faith, baptisms, churches, acts of worship and devotion, from lighted candles and counted beads to infant consecrations?
(4) Is it the man who declares faith, repentance and baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Mk. 16:16; Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38; 16:31; 17:30; 22:16), or is it the man who tells men to “accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior,” urges them to recite their Christian experience, acknowledging reception of the Holy Spirit upon the confession that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven their sins and sends them to a Baptist church to be voted on and baptized into that body?
(5) Is it the man who affirms that the signs, miracles and wonders that confirmed the word of God have now ceased and vanished away (Mk. 16:19,20; Heb. 2:3,4; 1 Cor. 13:8-10), or is it the man who professes that the Spirit still so works in Pentecostal and Catholic charismatic churches where men still “speak in tongues” and work miracles by the Spirit of God?
(6) Is it the man who is “set for the defense of the gospel,” who casts down the strongholds and arguments of error (1 Thess. 2:2; Phil. 1:17; Jude 3; 2 Cor. 10:3-5), or is it the man who apologizes for and sympathizes with denominational teachings and never criticizes anyone, except those who expose and oppose “every false way”?
(7) Is it the man who preaches the one fold, one Shepherd, “the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” as the only way of salvation (Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12; 8:12), or is it the man who says that he cannot say that there are no children of God outside the body or church of Christ?
(8) Is it the man who says we must not go beyond what is written, that we must have book, chapter and verse for what we believe, teach and practice (1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18,19), or is it the man who snidely scoffs at such appeals and brands them as “legalism” and “Pharisaical”?
Just who is it that is led by the Spirit of God in these matters? The Holy Spirit witnesses to us through the word of God (Heb. 10:15; Jer. 31:31-34). As we hear that word, we are led by the Spirit. That word is still active, alive and powerful (Heb. 4:12; Eph. 6:17). When one obeys the truth given by the Spirit in the Bible, he is being led by the Spirit, begotten, born by the Spirit (1 Pet. 1:22-25).
So, if you would be Spirit filled, Spirit led, if you would walk by the Spirit, you have but to believe and obey the Spirit of truth in the word of truth, the Bible (Eph. 5:18; Col. 3:16). Do not be deceived by false apostles, by sweet spirited ministers of righteousness, wolves in sheep’s clothing, who could turn you from the Spirit into spiritual wickedness in high places. Men who profess a superior form of godliness and spirituality are “wells without water,” “trees whose fruit withereth.” They “speak great swelling words of vanity” and pride, disdaining with disgust those who would stick to the Bible as their guide, their plan, their pattern for every aspect of work and worship.
In truth, “These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit” (Jude 19).
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 15, pp. 494-495
August 15, 1991