The Leading of the Spirit
Basket of Figs, December, 2008
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Ro 8:14 AV)
The Charismatic Mind. The charismatic movement has so screwed up the mind of the modern Christian, that our understanding of Scripture does not come close to that of the church in earlier times. There is no greater evidence than in the matter of “being led by the Spirit.”
I knew a man once who didn’t go to work one day because he turned over a board in his yard that morning, saw some fat worms, and felt the “leading of the Spirit” to go fishing. [He also caught some very fine fish, which confirmed that he had been correct about the leading.] I knew a woman once who claimed inspiration for her pies. I admit they were very good, but not better than some made by an infidel. Both thought they were “led by the Spirit.” It is dangerous to read the Bible only once.
The Whole of Scripture. This is the danger of reading a verse here and a verse there, not only out of the immediate context of the local passage, but also not relating the meaning to the whole doctrine of Scripture. In this text, for instance, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” has nothing to do with recipes for pie or whether to go fishing. This is the reason God gave us brains, enabled us to develop the art of writing recipe books, and wisdom to use knowledge aright to decide whether today would be a good time to leave my employer without the help he needs and has paid for.
Jesus said it is a “wicked and adulterous” generation that seeks after signs. God has given man all he needs to live a godly and productive life. Man has a brain. He has opportunities to learn and think. The Bible explains the way of the Lord. To demand a sign or special attention is to denigrate the clear and perfect revelation of God and is an affront to God.
The Sons of God. Who? Those who receive revelations about pies? Not on your life. The sons of God are those who have received the Gospel, confessed Christ, and are disciplined in the way of Christ, and finally raised from the dead and received into glory. This is what the whole book of Romans is about, and this verse [Romans 8:14] may come close in importance to Luther’s text, “The just shall live by faith.” The life that we live by faith is a supernatural
life—eternal life that is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is by the preaching of the Gospel that we receive the Holy Spirit, according to Paul in Galatians 3, and not by the hearing of the law.
What a Glorious Thing is Salvation! It is from beginning to end the work of the Triune God: the Father who appointed us to eternal life, the Son who died for us and perfectly obeyed God on our behalf; and the Holy Spirit. He takes us by the hand and leads us through all the works of God: Calling, justification, adoption, sanctification and glorification.
It is the work of the Holy Spirit that Paul is speaking of in Romans 8:
“Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered…. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” (Ro 8:26-30 AV)
“Led By the Spirit.” In the Greek, “Led” means to personally attach yourself and conduct a person to the destination. We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear [vs. 15], but we have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry “Abba, Father.” We are called by the Spirit, receive faith by the Spirit, are justified by the Spirit, baptized into Christ by the Spirit, sanctified by the Spirit, kept by the Spirit, raised from the dead by the Spirit, glorified by the Spirit, and taken to heaven by the Spirit.
This is not to denigrate the work of the Spirit in natural things, such as invention, imagination, science, music, art, etc., even including pie recipes and the ordering of the mind to organize our lives. Our natural life comes from the Spirit, but this does not make us sons of God in the sense of our text quoted above. Natural life is poor indeed in comparison to the magnificent work of our Comforter [John 14:16], who is given to us now that our Lord is in Heaven, given to us to make certain that we do not fail of the grace of God that is given to us [Phil. 1:6].
God’s Mighty Power. This work of the Holy Spirit is the “mighty power” that works in those who believe, the power that raised Christ from the dead and makes us His “workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk therein.” [Eph 2:10] This is the work that is begun in us that will be performed unto the day of Christ. [Phil 1:6] We can work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who works in us both to will and to do his good pleasure [Phil 2:13].
Amen! What a glorious power that works in the church of Jesus Christ, “from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” (Eph 4:16 AV)
Paul’s point is that we must have more than a natural life, one received from Adam. In this he echoes the words of our Lord, “Ye must be born again. That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”