religion, christianity, articles
Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost

Is a Direct Operation of the Holy Spirit in Sanctification Fatal False Doctrine?

By Jerry Moffitt

religion, articles, christianity

Since the times of Alexander Campbell our brethren have taught that the Spirit operates on the human mind in conversion and sanctification only through his Word. We have always labeled a direct operation of the Spirit as false doctrine. In the debate with the Presbyterian N.L. Rice, Alexander Campbell affirmed, "In conversion and sanctification the Spirit of God operates on persons only through the word" (p. 611). He made this statement: "The doctrine which I oppose, so far as it is really believed and acted upon, neutralizes preaching, annuls the Bible, and perfectly annihilates human responsibility. I know no doctrine more fatal" (p. 644).

We cannot do justice to all that Campbell said in the proposition or the statement I have quoted. However, I would like to first notice a couple of the brethren who agree with him; then give a bare hint why a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the human spirit is not only false doctrine but also fatal false doctrine.

Two Quotes

E.R. Harper quoted the Baptist J.N. Hall (co-resident of the Hall-Moody Institute), "God's doctrines, ordinances and teachings are embodied in his written Word and that not beyond, or without them, but in conjunction with them, there is a distinct personal power of the Holy Spirit."

Speaking of sister Bass at Highland in Abilene brother E.R. Harper says:

She said she believed that both the Word and the Holy Spirit worked together. That is what J.N. Hall said, only he used the word 'conjunction.' ... This is the most destructive of all supposed Christian religious doctrines known to me. It is as destructive, if not more so, than miracles and tongues. It must be stopped in our ranks, or we are soon to be a 'forgotten people' (p. 65, Harper on the Holy Spirit Issues in the Twentieth Century).

In the open forum at Freed-Hardeman College brother Guy N. Woods said this on the subject:

It isn't a minor matter that we are dealing with here! Don't let anybody leave you with the impression that it's not a critical situation. At stake here is the all sufficiency of the word of God. At stake here is the question of whether or not hunches, leadings, indications that people may feel must or may be interpreted as leadings of the Holy Spirit. That's it and that is a serious question and if something is not done about it, it's going to cause a major division in the church which all of us of course want to avoid. But we won't avoid it by sticking our heads in the sand and saying it doesn't exist (Guy N. Woods, Open Forum, Freed­Hardeman lectures, 1967).

Once when doing mission work in Vermont, I studied until daybreak with a Baptist regarding baptism. Sometime during the night he took a big black cigar our of his mouth, held it in front of my face and proudly said, "Someday God is going to take this cigar away from me."

Now suppose some preacher with an ongoing affair with a woman not his wife talks to another preacher. He knows adultery will send him to hell (1 Cor. 6:9­11). However, he sobs pitifully and exclaims after hours of counseling, "I just can't break it off. I want to be faithful to my wife but I don't have the strength."

His fellow preacher finally says, "I understand. But I believe if you will just be compliant, the Holy Spirit, in conjunction with all those passages we have studied, will strengthen you, and he will enable you to bear his fruit of faithfulness."

The other preacher says, "I hope so, and soon. I just can't obey God's command without direct help." He should be told the Bible says he can obey by self-control and faith (1 Cor. 9:23­27). While waiting with false hope in his heart he is killed one month later, still in the grip of fornication, still waiting for that which God never promised. To that man it was fatal, false doctrine, though neither preacher thought so.

Brethren, I have tried to put how the doctrine will be received, by some, into a conversation. I have not made the conversation so much as the doctrine will be actually presented. The Baptist who believes "once saved always saved" does not actually teach, "Go out and sin and enjoy the pleasures of sin, for once you are a son you are always a son. Once you are saved you are always saved." However, openly or not, many gladly receive the teaching that way; the consequences follow. So, we view it as fatal, false doctrine.

What Does God Say?

In part God simply says, "Flee fornication (1 Cor. 6:18). "Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin" (Heb. 12:4).

No, there is a power in God's Word (Heb. 4:12; Jer. 23:29). Its promises, reproofs, rebukes, warnings, and exhortations need no mysterious supplement to enable the honest and good hearers to bear fruit (Luke 8:15). God requires us to add self­control to our desires (2 Pet. 1:6), cleanse ourselves of all defilement of flesh and Spirit, and perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord (2 Cor. 6:17­7:1). To wait for a direct influence on our mind or heart by the Holy Spirit both contradicts and adds to the words of the Spirit of truth. With ill will toward none, I must believe a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the human spirit is fatal false doctrine. I invite you to look at this offer.


Does the Holy Spirit Operate Directly on the Human Spirit in Sanctification, or Only Through the Truth?

Controversial Correspondence Between Roy Deaver, Mac Deaver, and Jerry Moffitt and others.

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Portland Church of Christ
P.O. Box 1275
Portland, TX 78374
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Published September 1997