The Lord Showed Me…

Fredy Peter

Who is the Holy Spirit? Whom does He lead, and how does He do it? A biblical and practical exploration.

Every child of God with a sincere faith desires to be led and guided by the Lord. “Oh, Lord, show me what to do. How do I decide?” That’s as it should be: God has a plan for our life, and He wants to share this plan with us. The Bible testifies to this in many places; for example, Psalm 32:8: “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

But some people end up stuck in a place of disappointment, because they’re not experiencing the grand and extraordinary guidance they’ve heard about in other believers’ testimonies. They may even begin to doubt their fundamental ability to recognize God’s plan in their life. And then they search desperately for various solutions, so they can finally experience this special kind of personal guidance. But things don’t get any better. What went wrong? This scenario frequently plays out because we have an unbiblical idea of what being led by God actually is.

When the Lord reveals Himself to us, shows us something, directs us, or teaches us, it always happens through the Holy Spirit. As Romans 8:14 says, “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” This chapter mentions the Holy Spirit nearly 20 times, which is more than any other chapter in the Bible. These verses demonstrate what the Holy Spirit does in His children who are born again. Romans 8 is the ultimate chapter on the safety, assurance, and confidence of God’s children.

In the first verse, all condemnation is abolished; in the last verse, 39, anything that separates us from God’s love. The Holy Spirit plays an immense role in this. Verses 2 and 3 show us the Holy Spirit’s work in delivering us from sin and death. Verse 4 shows us that the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill God’s Law. Verses 5-11 show us that the Holy Spirit changes our nature. Verses 12 and 13 show us that the Holy Spirit gives us power to triumph over the flesh (meaning our selfish, headstrong, and egotistical human nature). Verses 14-16 show us that the Holy Spirit leads us, and that we are adopted by God and have access to Him through the Holy Spirit. Verses 17-30 show us the glorious future that awaits us, and the extent to which the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf. And finally, verses 31-39 are the very strongest expressions of our complete certainty and assurance in Christ. Isn’t that wonderful?

Verse 14, the very heart of this chapter, reads: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” It’s of utmost importance to know who the Holy Spirit is, whom the Holy Spirit is leading, and how the Holy Spirit does this leading (what the Holy Spirit reveals).

If we don’t take these things into account, even the most genuine Christians are at risk of being led astray by a false spirit, a deceptive angel of light (cf. 2 Cor 11:14), or even by Satan himself.

Who Is the Holy Spirit?
In the foundational work Systematic Theology, Lewis Sperry Chafer and John Walvoord emphasize the following points:

The Holy Spirit’s personhood is indicated in the Scriptures, “since the Spirit is said to do that which is possible only for a person to do: He reproves the world (John 16:8); He teaches (John 14:26); the Spirit speaks (Acts 13:2); the Spirit intercedes (Romans 8:26); the Spirit leads (Romans 8:14); the Spirit appoints the service of men (Acts 13:2); the Spirit is Himself subject to appointment (John 15:26); and the Spirit ministers.” 

Many people don’t think of the Spirit as a person, but as the personification of God’s power. But all of these Scriptures clearly show that the Spirit of God is a person.

“What constitutes the essentials of a personality? Usually three things—a person must possess intelligence, emotions, and will. A thing lacks these. But the Holy Spirit is not a thing because He has intelligence, emotions, and will” (Charles Ryrie, Understanding Bible Doctrine).

He interacts with others like a person: God the Father sends Him into the world (John 14:16, 26), and God the Son sends Him into the world (John 16:7). People can grieve (Eph 4:30), quench or stifle (1 Thess 5:19), blaspheme (Matt 12:31), lie to (Acts 5:3), outrage (Heb 10:29), and speak against the Spirit (Matt 12:32). Each expression that the Bible applies to the Spirit refers to Him as a person.

He is called “another helper” (or “Comforter”), implying He is a person like Christ: “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (John 14:16). He is called a spirit in the same way that God is spoken of as a spirit: “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).

But the Holy Spirit is more than just a person: He is God, eternally united with God the Father and God the Son. Benedict Peters once put it this way: “The Father can never exist and act without the Son and the Spirit. The Son can never exist and act without the Father and the Spirit. The Spirit can never exist and act without the Father and the Son.”

He is called God and is of one essence with Christ. This is clear from Acts 5:3: “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?” And it says at the end of verse 4, “You have not lied to man but to God.” Paul emphasizes in Romans 8:26, “The Spirit himself intercedes for us,” but then in verse 34, “Christ Jesus […] indeed is interceding for us.” The Holy Spirit is called “the Spirit of God” and “the Spirit of Christ” in verse 9.

He possesses the essential qualities of God. He is omniscient: “Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD, or what man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?” (Isa 40:13-14). He is omnipresent: “even the Spirit of truth […] for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). He is almighty: “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4). He is eternal: “how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God” (Heb 9:14).

The Holy Spirit carries out the works of God: “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet 1:21).

Scripture presents the Holy Spirit as a person who is the object of faith: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). And we are not only to believe in Him, but also to obey Him: “And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, ‘Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them’” (Acts 10:19-20).

Yet, the Holy Spirit is not the object of our prayers. Although the Holy Spirit is God, nowhere does the Bible tell us to pray to Him. His ministry is to lead to Jesus and to glorify God; it’s never about Him.

In Ephesians 3:14-17ff., we see an example of how we should pray and how the divine Trinity operates. In this passage, Paul states: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…”

The answer to the question, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” can be summarized as follows: He is a person. He is God. He never acts of His own accord, but always in relationship to the Father and the Son, and He glorifies the Father and the Son. We are to believe in Him, but not pray to Him.

Whom Does the Holy Spirit Guide?
Romans 8:14 is clear on this matter: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” In the context of Romans 8, this verse is meant to grant certainty in confidence. And verse 14 gives one of the most succinct answers in the whole Bible to the question of who is really a child of God.

Our new life is revealed as we are led by the Holy Spirit. Anyone who is “led by the Spirit of God” is a son (or daughter) of God. Everyone, without exception. The Greek grammar of the original, used in the present tense, emphasizes sustained, incessant guidance. So, it’s not a matter of a one-time, special experience sometime in the past, but about constant current guidance—a life shaped by the Holy Spirit. With this statement, the Apostle Paul is also clearly emphasizing that not all people are children of God. Is proper behavior proof that someone is a child of God? What about going to church ... reading the Bible … obeying your conscience? These things can all be indications, but not always. Only those who are “led by the Spirit of God” are “sons of God.”

Every human being is one of God’s creatures because God created us. We are created in God’s likeness. We can think, love, and speak like God can. But we are not divine, because we only have biological life and not a spiritual one. We do not possess the same essence, nature, or life as God. Additionally, many of the divine traits in us are corrupted by our innate, inherited, sinful nature. The natural man is not a child of God; he is an enemy of God. Proverbs 15 emphasizes, “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (v. 8); and, “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (v. 9). Also notice what Paul says in Romans 3:10-12: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Everything that God does in such a life is common grace, in that the Holy Spirit is convicting people of their sinfulness and drawing them to Jesus. As humans, we’re capable of creation—for example, a robot. But what we create isn’t human, but at best human-like. Only what is begotten from us is human. The begotten thereby becomes a child of a human being, and bears the nature of a human being. And so it is with God: Only what is begotten of God is divine and has divine attributes such as eternality and sinlessness. In order to live after physical death—eternally and sinlessly in heaven, in fellowship with God—His life is just the thing that needs to be within us. And that only happens when we are born of God. Jesus explains this very tangibly in John 3:3: “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

The Holy Spirit brings about this rebirth in people who admit their own lost state, hopelessness, and inability to face God, while trusting in Jesus’ forgiveness of sins which He achieved on the Cross. This is the only way we become sons and daughters of God. Note that we are not becoming exactly like Jesus Christ, the Son of God, since He was begotten of the Father before time began. We only become children of God through adoption and regeneration—through the only begotten Son of God’s death on the Cross. This is a miracle: that everyone who is converted to God is given a new heart, mind, and family identity. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).

The Holy Spirit causes all of this to happen instantaneously. And in doing so, the Holy Spirit works the following seven enduring blessings (which are His ministry to us):

First, receiving the Spirit (Gal 3:2), a gift of the Lord from grace, not through works. Second, being born again by the Spirit (John 3:3-5), an act of God which enables us to live forever. Third, the indwelling of the Spirit (1 Cor 6:19), which is God’s constant presence, help, and work in us. Fourth, the sealing with the Spirit (2 Cor 1:22), which is His protection and preservation. Fifth, the guarantee of the Spirit (2 Cor 1:22), which is the assurance that God will preserve our inheritance. Sixth, the anointing of the Spirit (2 Cor 1:21), which is our qualification for ministry. Seventh, the baptism through the Spirit (1 Cor 12:13), which unites all believers in the body of Jesus into the Church.

All of these are an incredible gift of grace from the Lord—We didn’t do anything to merit them! Conversion and regeneration are the Holy Spirit’s great work, but His ministry doesn’t end there. We are equipped with spiritual gifts for all kinds of service, and the Holy Spirit is simultaneously unfolding the ninefold spiritual fruit in our hearts: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).

Being filled with the Spirit is another of the Holy Spirit’s special works, but it isn’t unique like those previously mentioned. It needs to be renewed again and again, and is dependent on our personal faith and obedience. That’s why Paul explicitly commands in Ephesians 5:18b, “be filled with the Spirit.”

How Does the Holy Spirit Lead Us? What Does He Show Us?
All of the confusion we’re experiencing today concerning the Holy Spirit (and the resulting uncertainty), is based in part on a misunderstanding of His ministry. He ministers to us as a Spirit of sonship (adoption). Paul speaks of this in Romans 8:15: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’”

In those days, adoption was seen very differently; it was a privilege to have been chosen. When someone was adopted in Roman culture, they lost all rights and duties to their old family, and in return received all the rights and privileges of a child belonging to the new family. This is precisely what happens when God adopts us at our rebirth. J. I. Packer once wrote the following:

“Just as adoption itself is the key thought for unlocking, and the focal thought for unifying, the New Testament view of the Christian life, so a recognition that the Spirit comes to us as the Spirit of adoption is the key thought for unlocking, and the focal thought for integrating, all that the New Testament tells us about his ministry to Christians.

“From the standpoint provided by this focal thought, we see that his work has three aspects. In the first place, he makes and keeps us conscious—sometimes vividly conscious, always conscious to some extent, even when the perverse part of us prompts us to deny this consciousness—that we are God’s children by free grace through Jesus Christ. This is his work of giving faith, assurance, and joy.

“In the second place, he moves us to look to God as a father, showing toward him the respectful boldness and unlimited trust that is natural to children secure in an adored father’s love. This is his work of making us cry ‘Abba, Father’—the attitude described is what the cry expresses.

“In the third place, he impels us to act up to our position as royal children by manifesting the family likeness (conforming to Christ), furthering the family welfare (loving the brethren) and maintaining the family honor (seeking God’s glory). This is his work of sanctification […]

“So it is not as we strain after feelings and experiences but as we seek God himself, looking to him as our Father, prizing his fellowship, and finding in ourselves an increasing concern to know and please him, that the reality of the Spirit’s ministry becomes visible in our lives. This is the needed truth which can lift us out of the quagmire of nonspiritual views of the Spirit in which so many today are floundering” (Knowing God).

These thoughts shed even more light on Romans 8:14: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” The spiritual guidance here is in the passive tense—the sons of God “are led.” We’re not leading ourselves!

There’s another important aspect of spiritual guidance: “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17b). No coercion, no pressure, no being pushed, and no enslavement. The Holy Spirit guides us like a teacher guides his students or a shepherd guides his sheep, in accordance with our unity with Jesus. This is already visible in the Old Testament: “And he said, ‘My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest’” (Ex 33:14). A pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.

He is our guide on the way to our home above. Not with violence but with conviction, admonition, and personally, lovingly drawing us. Of course, our inner spiritual urgings can be strong, but not compulsive or domineering. This is the case in other religions, but not with the living God. He doesn’t guide us like prisoners shackled together, but as liberated individuals holding onto a rope of love. We aren’t forced, like animals driven by instinct. We’re guided as rational creatures. This guidance comes through illuminating the mind and motivating the will.

In John 14:21, Jesus says: “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” This revelation comes through the Holy Spirit. We see two things here: first, the involvement of the whole of the divine trinity; and second, the absolutely essential role played by the commandments (that is, the Word of God).

This cannot be stressed enough: There is no guidance from the Holy Spirit independent of the written Word. He is “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17) who inspired “the word of truth” (Eph 1:13). He therefore leads into “all truth” (John 16:13). How could He be expected to deviate from it? This is a very important point in understanding the Spirit’s guidance.

When writing to the Ephesians, Paul doesn’t pray for them to receive grand signs and wonders accompanied by exhilarating experiences. He prays that they will have “the eyes of [their] hearts enlightened” (Eph 1:18). And this happens through “the Spirit of wisdom and understanding” (Isa 11:2).

God created us as rational creatures. Therefore, God leads us first and foremost by means of rational understanding, followed by the practical application of His Word. God’s Spirit guides us inwardly only according to the outward Word of God; He will never do otherwise. This Word is in us through His Spirit, and we should hold fast to this Word.

Yes, the Spirit blows where it wishes (cf. John 3:8), but only within the boundaries of God’s Word. We can only confirm that the Spirit has truly spoken to us by comparing this Word with the written Word. The written Word is our only evidence that the inner voice admonishing or urging us is indeed of the Spirit. It saves us from our own wishful thinking or imagination, or worse still, from a false spirit’s deception.

Because the Word of God is available to us in full in the Church Age, the Holy Spirit leads each child of God individually. Not vocally, but morally. This means that His guidance doesn’t come by means of a resounding voice, but with inner impulses and desires aligned with God’s Word. Yet not compulsively! And of course, He also guides us through circumstances, opening one door or closing another.

Do we understand how important it is to know the Bible? The importance of discernment? If we’re expecting the Holy Spirit to lead us without knowledge of the Scriptures, then all sorts of unbiblical decisions will follow, up to and including ecstatic experiences. The Bible won’t give us clues as to what color socks to wear, what car to buy or avoid, or who to marry. The Bible isn’t a book of oracles. God only reveals principles through Scripture that should guide our decisions.

If we hoard all of our money, giving nothing to our neighbor or church, then buying a fancy car is wrong. But if we’re generously supporting our church and our brothers and sisters in need, and still have money left over, then we can buy what we want. The same applies to our choice of life partner. The Bible is clear: “only in the Lord” (1 Cor 7:39b), which means that they must be a believer. Within this framework, an unmarried man may prefer a black-haired or blonde woman, or an unmarried woman might be looking for a tall or a short man. If we’re heeding biblical principles, there are few decisions where we actually need specific situational guidance!

How can I experience spiritual fullness and power? How can I receive strength, encouragement, comfort, steadfastness, joy, peace, hope, insight, wisdom, understanding, and revival? Through the Spirit. But these expressions are also the glorious outcomes of God’s Word, as described in Psalm 119. So, we can equate being filled with the Spirit to being filled with the Word.

Let’s not be in search of mystical experiences, but follow in the footsteps of the Psalmist: “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Ps 119:97).

In doing so, we’re submitting our hearts, thoughts, feelings, desires, intentions, and actions to the Lord. And the Holy Spirit causes us to align, be shaped by, and submit to what we have read and understood in the Bible. Scripture calls this process sanctification, and it is the consequence of faith and obedience. Then we’re able to experience what Paul testifies in 1 Thessalonians 2:13b: “the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”

This is what God wants to show us.

Midnight Call - 10/2023

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