“Studies about the Holy Spirit” Study #2
by Bob Burridge ©2022
Part 1 “The Power of the Word of God”
Truth is Eternal. It’s the way things are eternally in the mind of the Creator. There it exists without change. What we believe is only really true to the degree that it corresponds with the way things are in God’s mind.
In Psalm 139 we’re told that God knows everything about us. He knows our sitting down and our rising up, our paths and all our ways. There isn’t a word we speak that the Lord didn’t know it before it was even spoken. The psalm writer ends that section of the Psalm in verse six with the humble exclamation, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”
There is Revealed Truth. Truth as it is in the mind of God would remain unknown if God hadn’t purposed to reveal it to us. The expression or manifestation of God’s truth is often called his “word”. God’s eternal truth is revealed to us in several ways.
1. There is General Revelation: God has made himself known in ways that make the truth available generally. It’s declared God’s truth to all people everywhere without exception. His power and glory are clearly displayed in the works of creation and providence. Psalm 19:1-4, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. …” Romans 1:20, “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
God’s moral standards are also revealed generally to all in our conscience. Romans 2:14-15, ” … They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them” Even in our lost condition we know that some things are wrong, but we suppress the truth revealed there.
This mode of revelation is not redemptive. It displays what’s true leaving us with no excuse for our failure to worship and obey God as we should. These general modes of revelation are not sufficient to break through to our fallen hearts of stone.
2. There is also Special Revelation: This is God’s direct revelation of truth to us humans. It tells us what God really is and what he expects from us as his creatures. It explains the problem of sin, and God’s plan of redemption.
God’s truth has been specially revealed in many forms. He’s spoken in visions, by miracles, through prophets and judges, even by the mouth of Balaam’s donkey! It was displayed in the work and teachings of Jesus, the second person of the Trinity,
The former immediate ways of God specially making himself known are now ceased. The now completed Bible is our only present source of revealed truth. It came into being by the work of inspiration, a special work of the Holy Spirit. God moved men to write the books of Scripture keeping them from any errors of fact, doctrine, and interpretation. (2 Timothy 3:16, 2 Peter 1:19-21, 1 Corinthians 14:37).
The infinite truths in the infinite mind of God are given in the finite form of human language. It’s not compromised or changed, but it’s limited to what we finite creatures are able to understand.
The power and efficacy of the word are well attested in the testimony of God’s word concerning itself. Psalm 19:7, “The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;” 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction,
and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” (See also: Psalm 119:11, 38, 107, Romans 1:16, 1 Corinthians 1:21, Hebrews 4:12, 2 Peter 1:19)
There is also a Distortion of Truth. The revealed truth of God successfully declares his glory, power, and godhead, but there’s something wrong. Psalm 14:1. “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ ” 1 Corinthians 2:14. “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” God’s revealed truth renders the distortion or rejection of it inexcusable (Romans 1:20, 10:18).
Part 2 “The Essentially Attendant Power
of the Holy Spirit”
We fallen creatures suffer from moral inability. Fallen man can’t accept God’s truth by his own examination of nature, providence, conscience, or the Bible. The human fallen nature is morally unable to come submissively to the truth about God or of the gospel. We ask along with the disciples, “Then who can be saved?” Our Lord’s reply cuts sharply to the facts, “With men it is impossible” (Mark 10:26-27). But — there is a true hope for the lost!
There is also God’s Work of Grace. The awesome message of grace is sovereignly set forth in the form of a covenant promise from God.
All three persons of the Trinity work to provide the only salvation that’s possible. The Father, according to his own good pleasure, chose some from the fallen race to be redeemed by God the Son. The Son took the place of these chosen ones bearing their sin and satisfying the demands of holy justice. He represented them as he suffered, died, and is now exalted. The efficacious work of the Holy Spirit explained it all as he oversaw the writing of the Scriptures. The work of the Son is applied by the Holy Spirit to each of those the Father chose. He gives them understanding. He moves them to a true faith, repentance, and a desire to grow in pleasing God in their lives.
There is an Ordinary Administration of God’s Word by the Spirit: Ordinarily the word is administered and empowered by the Spirit through means God ordained and commands.
1. We are called to hear what God has said by reading, studying, and learning what the Bible says. The redeemed should meditate in God’s word day and night (Psalm 1:2).
2. We’re to prayerfully come to God asking for him to help us understand his word, and do what it says. Prayer begins at the beginning of each day and continues on from there. (Psalm 5:3)
3. We’re to encourage one another as a family of believers under the oversight of the church God set up. We’re told to encourage and exhort one another in our devotion to God. (Hebrews 10:25)
4. We’re to humbly worship God daily and as we gather on Sundays remembering the work of our Savior. The worship God should be done as he directs us in his word. (Psalm 96:9, 99:9)
All these means are incorporated in our Sabbath Day gatherings for worship as a church. We hear God’s word, pray together, encourage one another, partake of the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and we raise up our thoughts and voices in praise of the Triune God.
Deuteronomy 6:6-9 commands that covenant homes be places where the word of God is ever present in conversation, study, thought, and behavior. God’s word is to be taught diligently to the children and must always be before us.
The Holy Spirit enables us to the proper and spiritual use of these means of grace.
There’s also God’s Extraordinary Administration of the Word by the Spirit: At times God has moved most extraordinarily where the word and Spirit have turned around nations and churches.
The Bible records the great revival in the time of Josiah. There was a great coming to Christ when the Holy Spirit moved upon thousands on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.
There have been movings of the Spirit throughout the history of the church as Christ’s kingdom grew dramatically. The Protestant Reformation “re-formed” (re-shaped) our understanding of God’s word by comparing what was being taught with what God’s word really taught (Acts 17:11). There were the great revivals of Ulster, Stewarton, Lanarkshire, and Glasgow of the early 1600’s. In the following century there were special outpourings of grace in Northampton and North America.
There is of course a danger. Some try to duplicate the effects of a true revival by just seeing its outward and emotional outpourings. Deluded leaders and preachers stir the emotions, but fail to soundly proclaim God’s truth. They believe that getting great numbers of followers confirms their shallow message. These leaders may become famous and rich in money, leaving their followers with false beliefs. A humble attitude of seeking the real converting work of the Holy Spirit by God’s word may be missing. They fail to see the ordinary workings of God which sustains and grows his true church.
Some have reacted improperly to the true revivals failing to see it as the work of the Holy Spirit. They turn to scholarly messages to turn people around, not based on God’s word and Spirit. They turn to human philosophy and social issues to transform society.
Part 3 “Dangers of an Unbalanced View”
There are four basic views about the relationship of God’s word and Spirit in the administration of God’s grace.
1. Some fail to recognize the power of both the Word and the Spirit. Natural man in his fallen condition rejects the supernatural as the Bible presents it. He may reject the supernatural altogether, or create his own ideas of it. He ends up in theological liberalism, secular humanism, or some form of pagan mysticism.
This position must, by its own testimony, stand outside of the true church.
2. Some emphasize the Power of the Word without the necessary work of the Spirit. Some refuse to confess the extent of human depravity into which all have fallen.They might imagine the Spirit working in a preparatory manner simply encouraging a person to submit to word, but they believe that each must decide on his own to accept the gospel message.
Given the biblical view of our spiritually dead and depraved condition, no amount of moral persuasion from the word alone without the attendant ministry of the Holy Spirit could turn a person from sin to true repentance and a biblical faith in the revealed truths of God.
Romans 3:11, “no one understands; no one seeks for God. ”
1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
2 Corinthians 3:15-16, “Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.”
The lost might believe certain doctrines to be true, and even believe they worship the true God. They might “worship” in outward forms and do what they believe are “good works”, but there is no true inner conviction of the only real way of salvation in Christ alone, by grace alone.
Without the Spirit’s workings the good seed of the word falls upon stony ground where it is can’t take root. Such people, as with Satan and his demons, may even be rationally convinced of certain doctrines, yet remain unconvicted and unredeemed.
3. Some emphasize the Power of the Spirit without the necessary use of God’s Word. There’s a great danger when people seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but undermine having a careful understanding of God’s revealed word.
When God’s word isn’t used as the authoritative test of truth, we can’t know with certainty the truth about the nature and workings of Holy Spirit. We can’t distinguish his operations from the spirit of error and deception. We can’t know that what we “feel led” to do isn’t from our own deceitful hearts. (Jeremiah 17:9)
Some quote the words of Scripture out of their context to justify what they feel is right. They believe that God still gives them special revelation by speaking to them in visions and voices beyond the Bible. They shift their concept of authority to their feelings and experiences which they attribute subjectively to the workings of God the Holy Spirit. These hunger for truth but fail to partake of a full and well-balanced understanding of God’s written word.
4. We need to recognize the full interdependence of both the Word and the Spirit. There must be a full interdependence of the efficacy of the word and Spirit. The word is the objective means which confirms what the Spirit leads us to believe and do. The word is understood properly and made effectual only by the supernatural work of the Spirit. John 16:13 “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth”
Part 4 “There’s Hope in the Power
of the Word and Spirit”
As we read, study, and share God’s word it’s comforting to know that we don’t just depend upon our own skills. While it’s important to learn good study methods and skills in communicating with others, it’s important to remember that the effectiveness of the word is the work of the Holy Spirit.
1. The Bible must be carefully studied. It’s the powerful revealed word of God. We need to pay attention to the meaning of each word, and how they fit together in the sentences and paragraphs. We need to see how it fits in with the whole context of the section we’re studying. It’s important to see where it fits in with what God had already revealed or not yet revealed when it was written. We also need to consider other parts of the Bible where the same things are discussed.
Paul admonished Timothy saying, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
2. Learning and sharing God’s word is ineffective without the powerful attendant work of the Holy Spirit. We should pray as we study the Bible asking God to guide us in understanding what we read, or hear in Sermons, Sunday School lessons, and group Bible studies. When we share the gospel with those we believe need to hear it, we should do it prayerfully. What brings people to Christ isn’t our skilled presentation. it’s the attendant work of the Holy Spirit.
This interrelationship of God’s powerful word and the work of the Holy Spirit is vitally important.
Note: Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.
I would like to credit the following sources which I have found specially helpful in the preparation of this paper. While many standard theological works and other sources were used, these I have learned to treasure specially regarding this topic:
The Office and Work of the Holy Spirit
by James Buchanan, 1843 Banner of Truth Trust 1984
The Work of the Holy Spirit
by Abraham Kuyper 1900 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1969
A Discourse Concerning the Holy Spirit
by John Owen, 1674 Banner of Truth Trust 1972
The Gifts of the Holy Spirit
by C. R. Vaughn, 1894 Banner of Truth Trust 1975