THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
T. PIERCE BROWN
I am totally committed to the idea that the Holy Spirit does not use any “convicting and converting power” on the alien sinner except through the Word of God. I no longer use the argument that since Romans 16:1 says, “The gospel is THE power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” that God has no other power to use in the total process of conversion. Neither do I find any evidence in the Bible that the Holy Spirit guides the Christian today in the same Bible that the Holy Spirit guides the Christian today in the same way He guided Paul by preventing him from going into Asia (Acts 16:6). There are some connected with the Lord’s church who believe (or more accurately, have an opinion, for true Bible belief comes of hearing the Word) that the Holy Spirit leads them to put on one particular shoe first, or to start shaving on the left side of the face before the right side. I find nothing in the Bible to support that view.
However, when brethren argue over whether the Spirit “personally” indwells the Christian, I think of the usual statement of the major denominations that you must accept Jesus as your personal Savior. I have an opinion that a large number of those who read this would agree that you should accept Jesus as your personal Savior, and perhaps and equal number would strongly deny it, without either group actually knowing what the other group meant.
Before we argue about that, or any other proposition, we should at least clarify terms. What is the exact difference in accepting Jesus as a personal Savior, and an impersonal one? May a doctor who personally operates on you, operate on another impersonally? If a bank president says, “We want to give you personal service” does he mean that he will come and take your deposit, or that whoever waits on you will be friendly and treat you as a person rather than as an account number? If you hear a doctor in the hospital say, “Bed 17 died last night” would you feel that had personally cared for the patient in bed 17, or if he had personally cared for him, it was in an impersonal way?
Do those who refer to the “personal Savior” mean that He, in His own person saved them, as a man might with his own hand snatch a drowning man from the river? If John threw you a rope and you took it, and Bill then pulled you out, would both or either be your personal savior, since they did not touch you personally, but used an instrument (a rope) by which you were saved? Does “personal Savior” mean that you think of Him as a real person who died for you, and your salvation is dependent on Him, rather than merely a set of rules, which you must obey? Does your personal physician cease to be such if he sends you a nurse who gives you a dose of his prescribed medicine? Or does he cease to be your personal physician if he uses an instrument to operate? Could the Holy Spirit operate personally, using the Word as His instrument, or does it mean that He must operate without an instrument?
When Paul says in Ephesians 1:2 “to the faithful in Christ Jesus” does he mean you are personally in Christ? If you are not personally in Christ, are you impersonally in Him? May you be “personally” in Him, but only in a spiritual or figurative sense? When Paul prays in Ephesians3:17″that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith” is it a personal matter with you, or just an impersonal ritual? Does anyone mean, no matter how they answered the previous question, that Christ bodily (in person) dwells in you? If you respond, “It means that I have His mind or spirit,” you surely could not mean that His own personal mind that caused Him to respond to anything or His own personal spirit without which His body would be dead (James2:26) dwells in you!
Part of what I am trying to accomplish by this article is to help you to see that often when one dogmatically asserts that another person is wrong, they may be talking about two different things, and neither may know exactly what he or the other is talking about. If I ask, “Does your spirit abide in your body” do you not see that whatever answer you give will be incomplete? You can answer correctly that the body without the spirit is dead for James 2:26 says so. But if you try to explain why this dead body may still have enough life in it to grow hair and finger nails, you may discover that your explanation may differ from other learned persons.
For the person who claims that the Spirit influences him separate and apart from God’s Word, we ask for proof, either Biblical or otherwise. For a person who claims that the Spirit cannot even give a person wisdom except through the Word, as we read yesterday, we would ask, “Did the Spirit give you any wisdom originally, or can a person who does not know the Word have any kind of wisdom, either from above or from below?”
If you do not even know how to explain how your own spirit dwells in your own body, it ill behooves you to speak with dogmatic omniscience about how God cannot do anything except what your limited knowledge can grasp. When a person asserts that God cannot even give a person wisdom apart from what wisdom he finds by reading and practicing God’s word, he has gone beyond Bible revelation. When the Bible says, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God” it is not to be re-written to suit some notion of a dogmatic exegete, “If any man lack wisdom, let him read the Word and practice it” even if that is one way to get wisdom.