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And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. John 8:32

The Work of the Holy Spirit
Through The Word

Perry B. Cotham

There is much confusion relative to the Holy Spirit among religious people. There can be no clear understanding of the scheme of redemption without a clear understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit. To be ignorant on this subject is to lead one, in one way or another, into serious errors on the whole plan of salvation.

Neo-Pentecostalism, which is based on misconceptions of the Spirit, and is largely emotionalism, is growing all over the world. So it is imperative that we know what the Bible teaches concerning the Holy Spirit and His work in relation to man's salvation. The multitude of voices speaking on the subject has largely added to the confusion, misconceptions, and one-sided views on this topic.

All that we know about the Holy Spirit is from the word of God. Therefore, no one can say anything about the work of the Holy Spirit without examining what the Bible teaches.

Holy Spirit a Person

There are three basic truths that we need to understand at the outset of this lesson. First, the Bible teaches the Holy Spirit is a Person. He is one of the members of the Godhead. There is God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 8:6; John 1:1-3,14; Acts 5:34; 2 Cor. 13:14; Heb. 1:8; 9:14). They are three divine, distinct, eternal personalities, and yet there is one God -- one divine nature (Acts 17:29). Many think of the Holy Spirit as a mere "influence" or "force." He is Deity. To speak of the Holy Spirit as "it" is not correct. Jesus referred to the Spirit as "he" (John 16:13).

Second, the Holy Spirit had a part in the creation of the material universe and man (Gen. 1: 1-2, 26; Job 26:13; 33:4; Ps. 104:30; cf. Col. 1: 15-17). Hence, He helped in creation and in the establishing of divine law in the natural realm (Gen. 1:11-25).

Third, the Holy Spirit revealed the truths of Christianity (the scheme of redemption) to the world and miraculously demonstrated its divine origin. (This will be pointed out as we proceed in our study.) Regarding the system of Christianity, God planned, Christ executed, and the Holy Spirit revealed.

God's Eternal Purpose

We learn from the apostle Paul that God had a way, or plan, called the eternal purpose of God, which from the beginning of the world had been hidden in the mind of God, and which concerned man's salvation in Christ Jesus (Eph. 3:8-1 1; 1:4). This "purpose" was, in due time, made known that man might learn the way of salvation. Now, the thing needful for us is to learn how, when, and by whom this hidden mystery in the mind of God was made known, what there is in it for us, and how we may obtain it. The Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit revealed the will of God through certain ones, confirmed this message by many signs and wonders, recorded it in words, and that we today have this complete inspired message in the New Testament.

The Spirit's Work

In order to understand the Spirit's work in the scheme of redemption, it is necessary that we go back to the time when Adam and Eve sinned and God drove them out of the Garden of Eden. It was then that Jehovah made a promise that the "seed" of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head (Gen. 3:15). This is the Bible's first reference to Christ. Here we have a ray of hope for man's salvation. Some 2000 years passed by in the Patriarchal Age, until God called Abraham to leave his kindred and go into a strange land. God informed Abraham that he was to be the father of a great race of people, saying to him: " . . . in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed" (Gen. 26:4). This had reference to Christ, as Paul explained: "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one. And to thy seed, which is Christ" (Gal. 3:16). Later, the Law of Moses was given to Abraham's descendants at Mt. Sinai. It ". . . was added because of transgression, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.. . " (Gal. 3:19). Finally, after the passing of the centuries, " . . . when the fulness of the time was come . . ." (Gal. 4:4), Christ, the promised seed came to earth to execute Godís plan and to die on the cross of Calvary for the sins of the whole world (John 3:16; Tit. 2:11-12; Heb. 2:9). Prior to this event, however, God's prophets in Old Testament days had spoken many things about the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom, the church, and of the blessings to be found therein (Heb. 1:1). How did God speak by the prophets? "For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost [Holy Spirit, ASV]" (2 Pet. 1:21). It was the Spirit's work to speak through the prophets. Their words were the words of God given by the Spirit. Nehemiah, speaking of God's work of teaching the people in the long ago, said: "Yet many years didst thou bear with them, and testifiedst against them by thy Spirit through thy prophets" (Neh. 9:30 ASV; cf. Gen. 6:3, the preaching of Noah to the wicked antediluvians). Also David said: "The spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue" (2 Sam. 23:2; cf. Ps. 41:9; Acts 1: 16 and Acts 28:25-26; Isa. 6:9-10).

The Mystery

However, the many blessings in the Lord's church, spoken of by the Old Testament prophets, were kept secret in the mind of God (called at that time a "mystery"), until revealed by the Holy Spirit at God's appointed time. Paul, in I Corinthians 2:9 cites Isaiah 64:4, and says, "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." This text is often quoted as referring to things to be revealed in heaven, but the context shows that it is a prediction of provisions and blessings to be unfolded in Christ in the gospel dispensation, for Paul says in the next verse, referring to those blessings, "But God hath revealed them unto us [apostles, inspired men, P.B.C.] by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." Thus, "the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" have now been revealed by the Holy Spirit, through the apostles, and these things have been seen and heard in this the Christian Age.

Christ To The Apostles

At this point it is necessary to examine what Jesus said to His apostles prior to His death and ascension regarding things He wanted them to accomplish after His departure. John, chapters 14, 15, and 16, contain a private talk by Christ to His apostles (cf. Matt. 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14; John 13:5). The Lord promised His disciples that after His ascension He would send them another "Comforter," the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17, 26; 16:7). After having trained them for three and one-half years, Jesus had in mind a great work for the apostles to do, and they would need the power of the Holy Spirit. But while Christ was on earth the Spirit would not come, because Christ was not yet glorified (John 7:37-39; 17:5). However, the power of the Spirit here named by Christ was to the apostles only, and was a power the world could not receive. Jesus said: "Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive."

Notice what the Holy Spirit was to do to the apostles: "He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26). Jesus had taught them many precious truths; it was not possible for them to remember all that Christ had said to them. Hence, the Holy Spirit, when He came, refreshed the minds of the apostles with the teachings of Jesus. The apostles, therefore, by the power of the Spirit, had an infallible guide. But the Holy Spirit does not bring to our remembrance today the teachings of Jesus as He did to the apostles. The language of Jesus here is not applicable to us. Again: ". . . he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning" (John 15:26-27). In the New Testament we have the testimony of the Holy Spirit through the apostles concerning Christ, and this testimony is for us to believe (John 20:30-3 1). But no man can read John 15:26-27 today and make this Scripture apply to himself, because he has not been with the Lord "from the beginning."

Hear Christ again: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he will show you things to come" (John 16:13). Here we learn that the Spirit could both speak and hear. To whom was He to speak? He was authorized to speak to the apostles. What was He to speak? That which He had heard from the Father. What was He to do? He was to guide the apostles into " . . . all the truth" (ASV). Note, also, what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do for the world? "And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (John 16:8). How did the Spirit do this? He did it by coming to the apostles, and through their words people were convicted of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

The place where the apostles were to receive the Holy Spirit was Jerusalem. Jesus said to His apostles, after His resurrection and prior to His ascension, "And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high"(Luke 24:49). Christ repeated this to His apostles just before He ascended (Acts 1:2-4). The apostles were to tarry in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit. The apostles (not preachers of today) were to be endued [clothed, ASV] with power from on high. When was the power to come? "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8). The power here promised, which Christ called the baptism "with [in, ASV] the Holy Ghost" (Acts 1:5; cf. Matt. 3:1 1; Mark 1:8; Luke 3:16; John 1:33), would enable the apostles to execute the Great Commission by going into all the world to preach the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16:15; cf. Matt. 10: 19-20; Mark 13:1 1; Col. 1:23).

The Day Of Pentecost

Notice now when, where, and how the Holy Spirit came to the apostles. In Acts 2 we read of the Spirit's coming: when He came, where He came, how He came, and to whom He came. Christ, having accomplished the object of His mission to this earth, ascended back to the Father from the Mount of Olives; and the apostles, after His ascension, returned to Jerusalem (Acts 1: 12). There they waited ten days. Then, on the day of Pentecost, Christ sent the Holy Spirit on His mission, in the city of Jerusalem, to the apostles only, not to the 120 disciples. "And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they [i.e., the apostles of Acts 1:26, P.B.C.] were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they [i.e., the apostles, P.B.C.] were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance" (Acts 2:14). When the Holy Spirit came to the apostles, they were clothed with power from on high.

No one today has been baptized with (in) the Holy Spirit as the apostles were on Pentecost, for no one living today was there, and no one today can do what the Holy Spirit-baptized apostles did; such as, speak in tongues, heal the sick, raise the dead, impart power to work miracles, and reveal truth (Acts 2:43; 3:1-16; 5:12; 8:14-20; 9:32-41; 13:9-12; 20:9-12; 2 Cor. 12:12).

When the Holy Spirit came to the apostles and began His work, the murderers of Jesus were convicted of sin. The Spirit preached through the apostles the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Christ as existing facts for the first time in the world's history. The people listened, and upon hearing the words proclaimed, "they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, 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" (Acts 2:38), Here the apostles, guided by the Holy Spirit, preached "remission of sins" for the first time "in the name of Christ," "beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47). This was the first gospel sermon ever preached. The results are reported by Luke in Acts 2:41: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls." The Holy Spirit converted these people by the instrumentality of the gospel preached by the apostles. This was the beginning of the Christian Age. Those baptized "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (v. 42; cf. Matt. 28:20).

The Written New Testament

When the Holy Spirit came to the apostles, they then communicated God's thoughts and ideas to man by the medium of words chosen by the Spirit. Words are signs of ideas. This is how the mind of God was conveyed to the human mind. Paul makes this clear in his statement: "How that by revelation be made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Eph. 3:3-5).

The Holy Spirit revealed the gospel; Paul, an apostle, guided by the Spirit, wrote it in words in his letter to the Christians, and they could read and understand it. The same is true of all the writers of the New Testament. The Holy Spirit revealed God's will to certain men; the Spirit inspired these men to record the truth in the Scriptures, and we can now understand God's will by reading the word of God (2 Tim. 2:15; Acts 17:1 1 12; John 7:17; Luke 8:15). In no other way can we today learn God's will than by reading, or hearing proclaimed, this gospel message.

The gospel came by direct revelation (Gal. 1: 12), through the Holy Spirit; it was confirmed (Heb. 2:34), and recorded. The faith has been one time for all time "delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3), and it is perfect, complete, and our infallible rule of faith and practice. We must be governed by the written word of God in all religious matters (John 12:48). Today, we do not have inspired men living, but we have the inspired BOOK, and we can read that Book, the Bible. This is how the Spirit teaches us today.

All Scripture Inspired

Speaking not only of the Old Testament writings but also of the new, Paul boldly declared: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God . . . " (2 Tim. 3:16). (Literally, the Scriptures are "God-breathed.") The Scriptures are the revelation of God's will, and inspiration is the method by which revelation was delivered. Thus the Holy Spirit revealed God's will to man, and the manner in which the Spirit did this was through the prophets of the Old Testament, and through his "holy apostles and prophets" of the New Testament.

Plenary And Verbal Inspiration

The wisdom of men knew not the great truths of Christianity, for Paul stated: "But we [apostles, inspired men] speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew ... For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we [apostles, inspired men] have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we [apostles, inspired men] speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual [words, ASV]" (I Cor. 2:7-13). This is a verbal inspiration. Now, what about the man of the world, the uninspired man? "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (v. 14). This is a very significant statement, but it has often been taken out of context and grossly perverted. Some say the "natural man" cannot receive the Spirit. Paul said he cannot receive the things of the Spirit. Others say there must be a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the sinner to convert him before he can understand and appreciate the things of the Spirit. But Paul did not say that the unregenerate man cannot understand or grasp the things of the Spirit, the word of God. Paul was contrasting human philosophy with divine revelation. He was not speaking of conversion; he was talking about inspiration. There is nothing in this verse that supports the theory of a direct operation of the Spirit to enable a sinner to understand the gospel and obey it. The Bible does not teach that a person is born in sin, totally depraved, and thereby needs a direct operation of the Spirit for conversion. The "natural man" in this statement is the uninspired man; the "spiritual man" is the man inspired by the Spirit. The apostles had to be inspired by the Holy Spirit to know the things of the mind of God and to reveal them to man in words selected by the Spirit.

The apostles, therefore, had the "ministry of reconciliation," the "word of reconciliation"; they were the "ambassadors for Christ" (2 Cor. 5:18-20). The things of God concerning salvation for both Jews and Gentiles in the one body, by the blood of Christ (Eph. 2:13-16), were not known to man prior to the coming of the Holy Spirit to the apostles and his revelation of this truth through them. The Holy Spirit searched and revealed the deep things of God. The apostles preached the gospel with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven (I Pet. 1:11-12). The Holy Spirit taught the apostles all things; he guided them into all truth. The power of the Spirit was in the apostles by inspiration.

Inspired men were needed at the beginning of Christianity. The early Christians had no New Testament from which to read. Now we have that inspired teaching which the apostles gave in the Scriptures. The "mystery" of the will of God has now been made known, and the New Testament system is "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:2). The apostles finished their work. They had no successors.

Thus, the work of the Holy Spirit to reveal, record, and guarantee this divine message of Christianity to the world has been accomplished (Rom. 15:19; 16:25-26; Mark 16:20; 1 Thess. 1:5, 2:13). The Holy Spirit, however, in his miraculous power does not accompany preachers today.

The Powerful Word

Now, since all of the truth has been given, confirmed, and recorded, the important question is: How does the Holy Spirit operate on the minds and hearts of men today for their salvation? The Bible teaches that all the influence of the Spirit upon the human mind for man's salvation is only through the word, His gospel message. In conversion, the Holy Spirit does not operate independent of the word on the sinner's heart by a direct impact to bring about his salvation. The Bible does not teach that the word, unless accompanied by a direct influence of the Spirit, is dead, and therefore has no power to convert or turn sinners to God. Paul clearly stated: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1: 16). The gospel is God's only power to save; it is the only means that God has appointed to save sinners (cf. Isa. 55: 10-1 1; Jer. 23:29). The Greek word here translated "power" is dunamis, the same in the original from which we get our words "dynamo," "dynamic," "dynamite." All these words suggest POWER. The gospel is God's dynamite--unto salvation!

The Holy Spirit is the agent in every conversion, and whenever the word of God is faithfully preached, the Spirit works through the word upon the mind and heart of the hearer for the purpose of making him a child of God; but only those who receive the Spirit's teaching and become obedient to it, are saved. Man has the moral freedom to accept or reject the word (Acts 7:5 1). (Some may think they have had a direct operation of the Spirit, but all that they have had is an emotional "experience." Their "experience" is no proof that they are right.) "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul" (Ps. 19:7; cf. 119:9). "For the word of God is quick and powerful [living, and active, ASV], and sharper than any two-edged sword . . . " (Heb. 4:12). The Holy Spirit gave by inspiration the Scriptures, and when the Scriptures influence men, the Spirit operates on men.

Everything that is necessary to conversion and to living the Christian life is represented in the Bible as being accomplished by the Holy Spirit through the word of God. Note a few examples: (1) A person needs faith, for "he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mark 16:16) and "without faith it is impossible to please" God (Heb. 11:6). But how does faith come? "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10: 17; cf. John 20:30-31).(2) Men need to be drawn to Christ. But how is it done? It is by being taught and by learning the gospel that men are drawn (2 Thess. 2:13-14). Jesus said: "Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me" (John 6:44-45). Men are not drawn to the Lord by some direct power of the Spirit. The gospel is the power to draw men to Christ. (3) Alien sinners need to be begotten of God and born again (John 3:3-5). But how is it done? James 1:18 says: "Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth." Paul said to the Corinthians: "I have begotten you through the gospel" (I Cor. 4:15; cf. Acts 18:8; 1 Cor. 6:9-1 1). Peter wrote to Christians: "Being born again (having been begotten again, ASV), not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever" (I Pet. 1:23). "The seed is the word of God" (Luke 8:1 1). Life is in the seed. In the new birth the Spirit works in and through the gospel. One is begotten of the word when he is made a believer (I John 5: 1). Since the Spirit is the author of the word, this explains how one is begotten or born of the Spirit; it is only as the Spirit works through the word. No one is born again without the word. The "water" in the new birth refers to baptism. (John 3:5 is a parallel to Mark 16:16.) (4) People need to be purified. But how is it done? Purification comes by obedience to the word. "Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit . . . "(I Pet. 1:22). "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). One must obey the gospel to be made free from sin. (5) The sinner needs to be quickened, made alive (Eph. 2:1). But how is it done? "This is my comfort in my affliction: for thy word hath quickened me." (Ps. 119:50). "I will never forget thy precepts: for with them thou hast quickened me" (v. 93). The words of the Spirit give life. Jesus said: "it is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life" (John 6:63). The conversion of those on the day of Pentecost, as already noted, shows how people are "quickened," or spiritually made alive. Luke says that after the people had heard Peter's sermon they were "pricked in their heart" (Acts 2:37). On that day hearts were pierced, people were convicted, and three thousand turned to the Lord and were baptized. The gospel was the power which converted these individuals; the Spirit influenced them by his words. Since the word of God is "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17), it was the word preached by the Spirit through the apostles that "pricked" these people in their hearts. The Spirit did the work, but not in a direct manner. This one example shows how the Holy Spirit operates upon sinners in conversion. However, the same is true in every example of conversion in the book of Acts: the word of God -- God's power to save -- was always taught. By hearing, believing, and obeying the gospel, as those did on the day of Pentecost, people are converted, or born again, born of water and the Spirit. The gospel is the instrument which the Holy Spirit always uses in His work of conversion, in quickening the soul. When an act is said to have been done by a person and by a certain instrument, it is clearly understood that the person performed the act, but used his instrument as a means. James says the word of God is "able to save" our souls (Jas. 1: 2 1; cf. Acts 11:14). The theory of a direct operation of the Spirit destroys man's moral freedom, makes salvation wholly unconditional, and charges God as being a respecter of persons. If the Spirit operates directly on sinners, why are not all sinners saved? If God sends a direct, irresistible operation of the Holy Spirit to one person, He must send it to all, or show respect of persons. Yet the Bible says that "God is no respecter of persons" (Acts 10:34-35). (6) In addition, after one becomes a Christian, he needs guidance in living the Christian life. But how does that guidance come? God's word furnished guidance. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Ps. 1 19:105). "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple" (v. 130). (7) Christians need to be strengthened and built up in the faith. But how is it done? Paul said to the elders of the church at Ephesus: "I commend you to God, and to the words of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified" (Acts 20:32). Christians are strengthened by the "Spirit in the inner man" (Eph. 3:16), but it is by the Spirit's message, the word of God. Jesus said: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). The Psalmist said: "Strengthen thou me according unto thy word" (Ps. 119:28). The word works within us (I Thess. 2:13); it provides spiritual nourishment. (8) Children of God need to grow (2 Pet. 3:18). But how is it done? Peter admonished new converts: "As new born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (I Pet. 2:2). (9) Christians are led by the Spirit: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom. 8:14; cf. Gal. 5:18). But how is it done? They are led as they follow the teaching of the Spirit in the word. "Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory" (Ps. 73:24). The Spirit leads, guides, and directs the child of God through the word and in no other way (2 Cor. 5:7; Rom. 10: 17). Christians who live by the instruction of the Spirit, as obedient children, bring forth the "fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-25). The word produces that fruit (Col. 1:5-6). (10) "The Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are children of God" (Rom. 8:16 ASV). There is the joint testimony of two spirits -- the Holy Spirit and man's spirit. But how does the Spirit bear witness with our spirit? It is by the words of the gospel, the Spirit's teaching, and not by our feelings (Acts 2:38, 42; 22:16; 8:36-39; Rom. 10:10; Mark 16:16; cf. Heb. 10: 15-17). "There is a way which seemdth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12).

Therefore, the Bible teaches that the only way the Holy Spirit leads anyone is through the word of God. The seven churches of Asia were led by the written word (Rev. 2 and 3). The Bible does not teach that the Spirit guides or leads anyone in a mysterious way or in a miraculous manner. (This does not overlook the idea of divine providence, God working through natural law. Cf. Gen. 50:19-20; Esther 4:14; Philemon 15-16; Rom. 8:28.) The inspired word is sufficient for all our needs. Paul wrote: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Peter affirmed: "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue" (2 Pet. 1:3). Since the word furnishes for man all that he needs, nothing else is needed. Of what use would a direct operation of the Spirit be? What would He do in us that is not affirmed as being done by the word of God? As David Lipscomb correctly asked:

If the Spirit works outside of and independent of the word of God, what more could he do than he does through this word? What more can he do than to make man perfect and thoroughly furnish him unto all good works?1

Many public debates have been conducted in the Restoration Movement concerning the work of the Holy Spirit through the word. For example, Alexander Campbell affirmed in the great Campbell-Rice Debate, held in Lexington, Ky., in 1843: "In Conversion and Sanctification, the Spirit of God operates on Persons only through the word."2 Years later, in 1938, in Little Rock, Ark., N.B. Hardeman said in his debate with Ben M. Bogard:

But how does the Spirit operate? That is the question. My answer, first, last and all the time, is that he influences through the gospel, which is God's power. The word is the medium through which the Spirit accomplishes his work.... There is not a single step taken by any man from the time he decides to leave the cold, bleak world of sin until he enters the door that stands ajar, but said step is effected either directly or indirectly by the word of God .... There is no such thing as the Spirit of God operating away or distinct from the written word.3

David Lipscomb is also clear in writing of the work of the Holy Spirit through the word in the Christian:

The only spiritual instruction, guidance, or influence possible to man is to be gained through coming to the word of God and taking it into the heart as the seed of the kingdom, treasuring it there, and guiding our feelings, thoughts, purposes, and lives by its sacred teaching. In this way the Spirit that dwells in the word, introduced into our hearts, infects, pervades, and molds our feelings, thoughts, purposes, and lives. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16) . . . It is akin to blasphemy to call it the "mere word" of God. God's presence and power are always in his word.4

Whatever influence, therefore, is ascribed to the Spirit's work within us for our salvation is likewise said to be done by means of the living, powerful word of God, and God's word is sufficient.

A Direct Influence On Christians?

Others, however, hold to a different view. They think that the gospel alone is not sufficient, that the Holy Spirit acts directly on a man's heart, without the agency of the word. To teach that the Spirit works in conjunction with the word, but in addition to the word, on the heart of the Christian today, encourages the doctrine of Neo-Pentecostalism. Once this concept is accepted, there is no logical limit to what could be ascribed to the Spirit's working directly in, or through, the child of God, such as "divine illumination," "tongue speaking," and "miracles." We do not need another "revelation of the Spirit" to explain the words of Scripture. Besides, all so called "latter-day revelations" are either the same as the word of God or contrary to the word. Furthermore, this idea of special guidance by the Spirit, above the word of God, is nothing but the old Calvinist doctrine of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the sinner for salvation applied to the Christian. It is equally false. There are not certain things that the Spirit does within man, separate and apart from the word, and then certain things the word does, separate and apart from the Spirit, and then certain things the Spirit does in conjunction with the word. Two persons may work together, one in conjunction with the other, but the word of God is not a person; it is a medium. The Holy Spirit is a Person. So, it is the one Spirit accomplishing things for man's salvation through the medium of revealed truth. There is no such thing taught in the Bible as a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the soul of man (either saint or sinner) for any purpose. Today, the religious world is being filled with many cults and false movements, which are claiming to be led and guided by a direct influence of the Holy Spirit. Yet they contradict one another and the Bible. The concept of the insufficiency of the revealed word of God is the root of the whole charismatic movement. When one is baptized into Christ and becomes a Christian, the Holy Spirit does not come into his life directly and personally, to lead, guide, and direct him, in conjunction with the word and in addition to the word, or to give him supernatural power. If the Holy Spirit has ever impressed, led, or guided a human being in any other way than through words addressed to the understanding of the human mind the Bible does not state the fact. The revelation of God's will has been made by the Spirit in words which we have in the Bible, and all who are led by the Spirit are led the same way. We are not governed in spiritual matters by our "hunches," or so-called "inner readings." The person, therefore, who reads or hears the word of God, hears the Holy Spirit, and he who rejects the revealed will of God rejects the Spirit.

Measures Of The Spirit

However, the Holy Spirit is promised to Christians today. The gospel consists of facts to be believed (John 20:3 1; I Cor. 15:1-4), commands to be obeyed (Acts 10:48; 17:30), and promises to be enjoyed (2 Pet. 1:4; Rev. 22:14). On the day of Pentecost Peter promised two things to all those who would repent and be baptized, namely, the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38). What is "the gift of the Holy Spirit" here mentioned? To answer this question correctly, it is necessary that we observe that the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit has been given in different "measures," by which is meant varying portions of power which the Spirit has exercised through people (not varying amounts of the Spirit); but the Spirit has not always exercised the same influence in all cases on those who had the Spirit. A clear understanding of this point is very essential to a proper understanding of the way and manner in which Christians today have the Holy Spirit.

Baptismal Measure

The apostles of Christ had the Spirit, but they did not have the Spirit without measure; they had the baptismal measure of the Spirit (Acts 1:5), received on Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). (Later Paul became an apostle, and we know from such passages as I Cor. 2; 14:37; 2 Cor. 11:5; and 2 Cor. 12:12, that he, too, had the baptism of the Holy Spirit.) This measure of the Spirit gave the apostles power to teach and perform all manner of miracles. They were overwhelmed in the influence of the Spirit; this was the baptism. The baptism of the Spirit was supernatural, and was necessary for their work; it was not to save them or cleanse them from sin. Cornelius and his household (Gentiles) received a direct outpouring of the Holy Spirit some ten years later (Acts 10). Peter said: " . . . the Holy Spirit fell on them, as on us [apostles, Jews] at the beginning [Pentecost]" (Acts 11:15). The Spirit's coming to the Gentiles was not to save them (Acts II: 14; 15:7), but to convince the Jews that the Gentiles were accepted of God and that the gospel could go to them on the same terms as to the Jews (Acts 10:4448; 11:17-18; Mark 16:15-16). These are the only two recorded cases were the Holy Spirit was "poured out" from heaven, without mediation: Pentecost (Acts 2, A. D. 33) and the house of Cornelius (Acts 10, A. D. 43).

By A. D. 62, Paul could write: "There is ... one baptism" (Eph. 4:4-5). That one baptism is in water, for the remission of sins, to put one into Christ, and it is a burial and a resurrection (Acts 2:38; 8:36-39; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27; 1 Pet. 3:2 1). This is the baptism of the Great Commission, and it is done "into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19 ASV). This baptism is a command for man to obey, not a promise (Acts 10:48). Holy Spirit baptism was administered by the Lord, but water baptism is administered by man and is intended for all the believers until the end of time. Holy Spirit baptism was a promise, not a command, and was never intended for all believers of all ages. No one was ever commanded to be baptized with the Holy Spirit for any purpose. No one today should expect to receive a baptism in the Holy Spirit, nor does any one have the Spirit in this miraculous measure. Today there is only one baptism, and that is water baptism (Eph. 4:4).

Thus, the Holy Spirit exercised an influence in and upon the apostles of Christ which He does not exercise upon any one today.

Miracle-Working Measure

Some of the early members of the church had miraculous gifts, imparted by the laying on of the apostles' hands, usually called the miracle-working measure of the Spirit (Acts 6:6, 8; 8:13-21; 19:6; Rom. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:6). These "gifts" were miraculous manifestations of the power of the Holy Spirit, but this measure was not the baptismal measure of the Spirit. These gifts were always bestowed by an apostle, and the person having a gift could not in turn pass it on to someone else (I Cor. 12; Acts 8:14-20). Christians who possessed these gifts were to use them for the edification of the church, the body of Christ. These members in the Apostolic Age were needed as helpers to the apostles, since they could not always remain with all the congregations. These gifts were extant before the complete will of God (the New Testament) had been given and recorded. Possessing any of these gifts did not make the one any more spiritual or devoted in his own personal life. These gifts were temporary and were to cease with the completion of the last will and testament. "Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away" (I Cor. 13:8). When will this happen? "But when that which is perfect is come; then that which is in part shall be done away" (v. 10). That "which is perfect"--that perfect thing (not Christ) --was the word of God, "the perfect law of liberty" (Jas. 1:25), and it has come. We should now "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). The word of God contains all that Christ wants us to believe, teach, and practice religiously; it excludes everything we are not to believe, teach, and practice. Once the whole (perfect) body of truth had been one time for all time given and confirmed, then these miraculous gifts ceased (Eph. 4:7,11-13). There are no miracles being done today by the power of the Holy Spirit.

So, this is how, and how long, these signs followed the body of believers (Mark 16:17-18). There is no man living today who has any of these miraculous gifts, and there is no apostle living to bestow them. When the last apostle died, and the last man died on whom an apostle had laid his hands, these gifts ceased. By that time, however, these gifts had served their purpose; the complete will of God had been given and confirmed (Heb. 2:34; Mark 16:20). These miraculous gifts in the early church were just as scaffolding that is needed for the erection of a building, that is torn down once the building is finished.

Hence, the purpose of miracles being performed no longer exists; the means of performing miracles no longer exists; and the fact of miracles being performed no longer exists. Indeed, lying frauds are in abundance today (2 Thess. 2:9-12); but real miracles are not being done or seen, as we read in the New Testament. The so-called "healers" have all been tried and found wanting. Their system is a scheme to make money in the name of religion (Matt. 7:22-23). If the "charismatic" doctrine were demonstrable, they would heal the sick, speak in tongues, drink poison, take up serpents, and raise the dead. But they cannot do these things. The "Holy Spirit Movement" is a hoax, a great deception.

Therefore, this secondary "measure" of the Holy Spirit (miraculous gifts), which some Christians in the apostolic age possessed by the laying on of the apostles' hands, was also a supernatural measure, but is not available for any one today.

Ordinary Measure

Finally, the ordinary or normal measure of the Holy Spirit is common to all baptized penitent believers, for Peter said: "... ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Each one of these measures to man -- ( 1) the baptismal measure, (2) the laying-on-of-hands-of-an-apostle measure, and (3) the ordinary measure -- is called the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:45; 1 1: 17; Rom. 1: II; Acts 2:38).

When one is baptized into Christ,, he receives salvation. He then begins to receive and enjoy the spiritual blessings in Christ, for "all spiritual blessings" are "in Christ" (Eph. 1:3; cf. 2 Cor. 5:17). The child of God can grow and become a partaker of "the divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4); he can fill his heart with the word of Christ and thereby be guided by the Spirit (Col. 3:16); he can remain faithful in God's family and finally go home to heaven and receive eternal life (Rev. 2: 10; 22:14; 2 Pet. 1:4-1 1; Rom. 6:23; Mark 10:30). The Lord planned for all mankind, both Jews and Gentiles, to receive these blessings in the Christian Age ., as they are called by the gospel (Acts 2:39; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; cf. Acts 13:26, 32, 38, 39, 46, 47; Gal. 3:14, 2629). If we will read, believe, and obey what the Holy Spirit has said in His word, God will do His part; and we will have all the blessings that the Lord has promised us in this life and eternal life in the world to come.

Acts 3:19 is an exact parallel to Acts 2:38. Both statements were made by the inspired apostle Peter. "Repent ye therefore and be converted [turn again, ASV), that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord." Hence, "refreshing . . . from the presence of the Lord" is the same as "the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Likewise, I Cor. 12:13 speaks of Christians receiving spiritual blessings, in figurative language also, from the Holy Spirit: "For by one Spirit [the instruction, teaching of the one Holy Spirit, PBC] are we all baptized [in water, for the remission of sins, PBC] into one body [the church, PBC], whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (emp. mine PBC). So, the word "gift" does not tell what manifestation (measure) of the Spirit is under consideration.

The Holy Spirit dwells in Christians, as is clearly stated in several verses of Scripture. "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his ... But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you" (Rom. 8:9,1 1). "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost, which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" (I Cor. 6:19; cf. 3:16). But the manner or mode of the Spirit's indwelling in the Christian today must be learned from the total teaching of the Bible. The teaching of the Scriptures is that this is a non-miraculous indwelling, and it is through the word of truth and by one's obedience to the truth. This is a common (measure) indwelling, like our "common salvation" (Jude 3). The evidence of a Christian's reception of the Spirit is not some miraculous manifestation or "feeling," but rather by his good manner of life (Gal. 5:22-23).

Paul asked a rhetorical question to the Galatians: "Received ye the Spirit by the words of the law, or by the hearing of faith?" (Gal. 3:2, cf. 4:6). He showed these Christians that they had become children of God by faith in Christ(Gal. 3:26-27), by the gospel of Christ, and not by meritorious works of the Law of Moses. So we receive the Spirit by the hearing (message) of faith, and by our obedience to that word.

Paul commanded Christians to be "filled with the Spirit" (Eph. 5:17-19). He also commanded Christians to "let the word of Christ dwell" in them richly (Col. 3:16). Both of these commands are parallel. Holy Spirit baptism, as has been pointed out, was not a command to obey; obtaining miraculous gifts was not a command to obey. However, be "filled with the Spirit" is a command to obey. One today is "filled with the Spirit" (but not in a miraculous way) when he allows the word of Christ (the teaching of the Spirit) to dwell in him richly. The more faithful a child of God is, the more of the influence of the Spirit of Christ he has in his life. Thus, not every statement in the New Testament about the Holy Spirit and the Christian refers to a miraculous or extraordinary "measure" of the Spirit.

The Bible teaches that Christ dwells in Christians: "Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27; cf. Gal. 2:20). God also dwells in Christians: ". . . as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them" (2 Cor. 6:16). "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us" (I John 4:12). "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God ... and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God and God in him" (v. 15-16). But how does Christ and God dwell in Christians? "That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (Eph. 3:17), and faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10: 17). The Holy Spirit dwells in Christians exactly the same way that God and Christ dwell in Christians; and when God and Christ dwell in Christians the Holy Spirit is dwelling in them. This indwelling, however, is indirect, that is, through the medium of revealed truth. The Holy Spirit indwells all Christians in exactly the same way -- through their obedience to the word of God. This is how the Godhead indwells Christians today. Neither God, Christ, nor the Holy Spirit indwells in some direct, mysterious, miraculous manner.

Some are misleading people by teaching them to pray for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, or for one of the miraculous gifts of the Spirit, or by saying that a certain "feeling" is due to some direct and secret influence of the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. To assume that receiving "the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38) means receiving the baptism of the Spirit, or receiving some miraculous gift of the Spirit, or having the Spirit to dwell in a person directly, literally, and personally for special guidance and help in a supernatural way, in addition to and beyond the word of God, shows an incorrect understanding of the different measures or manifestations of the Holy Spirit. If the Spirit dwells directly, then he dwells miraculously, and this I believe to be contrary to New Testament teaching.

It is through the word that the Holy Spirit dwells in Christians. Batsell Barrett Baxter clearly expressed the Biblical truth on this particular point:

As the gospel of Christ which we received from the Holy Spirit dwells in us this happens. That is not merely the written word dwelling in us, for that would mean that the man who memorized the most scriptures or read the Bible most often would have the most of the Holy Spirit. As H. Leo Boles says, that would be to confuse a man's tool with the man himself. The Holy Spirit uses the written word as his tool. What it means is that as you and I meditate upon God's word, understand the teachings from God and Christ and the Holy Spirit, open our lives unto them and imbibe the spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within us.

You have known certain people of whom it could be said, "He is a very spiritual man." It simply means that God's word, which the Holy Spirit brings, the Bible, has had a very great effect upon that man and he has grown in spirit ... He does not work miracles; he has never been baptized with the Holy Spirit, but in the ordinary way the Holy Spirit through God's word has come into his heart and life ... the Holy Spirit comes into our lives exclusively through God's word ... The Holy Spirit provides for us through the written word everything that we know of God, and of Christ and his church. Surely we need to listen as he teaches. Let us learn more of the Holy Spirit and let us work that he may dwell in our hearts, just as Christ dwells in our hearts, and just as God dwells in our hearts.5

H. Leo Bales expressed the same thought in these words:

As God and Christ dwell in us through the Holy Spirit, so the Holy Spirit dwells in us through his agent, the word of truth ... When the word of Christ dwells in Christians, the Holy Spirit dwells in them. The Holy Spirit and the word of God are inseparable; the word of God is the word of the Holy Spirit ... it is the way for the Holy Spirit to dwell in us.6

Obey The Word

Since all of the influence of the Holy Spirit upon the human mind for man's salvation and edification until he ultimately enters heaven is accomplished only through the word, our appeal is for people to believe all that the Bible teaches and practice all that it commands. Let us "hear what the Spirit saith [in the words of Sacred Scripture] unto the churches" (Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22). The Holy Spirit made the teaching for man clear when He gave the inspired Scriptures to the world. May we all continue to read the grand Book of God, believe it, love it, and obey it, letting the Holy Spirit lead us through His word, while we trust God for the fulfillment of all of His promises, until some sweet day heaven will be our eternal home.


1. David Lipscomb, Salvation from Sin, McQuiddy Printing Co., Nashville (p, 95).
2. Campbell-Rice Debate, Standard Publishing Co., Cincinnati (p. 61 1).
3. Hardeman-Bogard Debate, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, (pp.21,64,80).
4. Ibid., (pp. 93,101,102).
5. Batsell Barrett Baxter, The Holy Spirit, O'Neal Publishing Co., Rossville (pp. 17-19).
6. H. Leo Boles, The Holy Spirit, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville (pp. 207-208).

H. A. "Buster" Dobbs, email:
P. O. Box 690192
Houston, Texas 77269-0192
(281) 469-3540

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