The Holy Spirit
By Tracy Dugger
While working within the prison system, we see many misconceptions regarding the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of Calvinism prevails extensively among inmates who often sit at the feet of denominational preachers.
In a recent teaching session, we were discussing how to determine the right or wrong of a particular activity. One man explained that if we were in a saved state, God's Spirit would move on us to determine the proper action; an inner movement would reveal truth. We were further told that the Holy Spirit would convict us of sin, and thus we would be able to know if the thing was approved of God.
Think about what this position does to God's Word. It dispenses with it. According to this man, I was wasting time searching the scriptures for spiritual direction (Acts 17:11). If the Holy Spirit reveals directly to each person how he is to live, then why even study the Bible? Why did Paul write, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15)? We would need to cease appealing to the authority of Christ through his Word for all we do in religion (Col. 3:17). Why would God have wasted the time of Matthew, Luke, Paul, and other New Testament writers?
If the Holy Spirit directly leads us into the truth by convicting us of sin and confirming the truth from within, why did Paul need to rebuke Peter in Galatians chapter two? Where was the Holy Spirit in Peter's case? Where was the inner moving of the Spirit upon Peter?
This Calvinistic doctrine leads to the situation that existed in the days of the Judges, "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). Maybe this is why our society is in such a religious quandary today. This subjective doctrine opposes what Paul stated about the scriptures in 2 Timothy 3:1617: "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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." Scripture is sufficient in guiding us.
What do we do when one person believes an activity is right and another believes it is wrong based on what they feel to be an inner confirmation or "conviction" of the Holy Spirit? God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33), but of unity (1 Cor. 1:10). Whose Holy Spirit "nudge" are we going to believe? The Mormon's? The Baptist's? The Catholic's? There can be no unity in the Spirit with this kind of contrary authority (Eph. 4:16).
Solomon said, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). There is a way that may feel right but leads to destruction. The only way we can be sure about the right or wrong of a thing is by consulting the Bible. Paul proclaimed, "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, for therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Rom. 1:1617). Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). It alone is our standard in religion and moral (1 Pet. 4:11). It is more than adequate in informing us about sin and salvation (2 Tim. 3:1617). It is so complete and sufficient that it will judge me at the last day. Jesus clearly said, "He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day" (John 12:48).
After raising some of these points to the inmate, he revealed his belief that one could not even understand the Bible to be saved without a direct operation of the Holy Spirit. This is pure Calvinism. Why would one even need to understand the Bible if the Holy Spirit will determine it for us? The New International Version gives credence to this position in its sad rendition of 1 Corinthians 2:14: "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."
Another problem with this idea is that it lays the blame of those who are lost at the feet of God. If a man cannot understand the truth that saves until Holy Spirit operates directly upon him, and if the Holy Spirit moves only at the direction of Jehovah, then whose fault is it if he is lost?
Paul told the Ephesians, "How that by revelation he 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)" (Eph. 3 :34). He said nothing about how one must first have the aid of the Holy Spirit in understanding those inspired words. The only part the Spirit played in their understanding of God's Word was the revealing of it to men like Paul. This is explained in the next verse: "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. 3:5).
The only way to know the will of God is by consulting his Word; it alone reveals his wisdom and makes us wise unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).