From the Comments: Is direct operation of the Spirit essential? Part 1

HolySpirit7Jeff R asked,

Do you believe in the Calvinist doctrine, that it takes a direct operation of the Spirit to influence the heart of an alien sinner? I believe that it’s the word preached that influences that heart, causes it to be pricked. It’s the human heart that must decide if it will believe the message given and obey.

I do not believe in Calvinist double predestination. I’m an Arminian. Ish. Not exactly Arminian, but close enough.

Why then must there be a direct operation of the Spirit to keep the Christian faithful?

Why must there be a “must” in your question? Why must something be essential to be true? Why do you assume a black and white world?

Jesus himself describes the Spirit as the “Helper.” So why would it be so bad if God gave us some help to make it to the end?

The question isn’t whether the Spirit is essential but whether the Spirit would be helpful. If God himself, through the Spirit, wants to enter our hearts and help us make it, why would that be a bad thing? Even if it’s not necessary? Even if it’s only helpful?

When I travel, I turn my GPS on. But before the GPS was invented, I traveled without a GPS. I just got lost a lot more. The GPS wasn’t essential. But it’s sure helpful. And I’m glad for it. So why not be glad that God wants to help us obey so that we can live with God forever?

See how far removed this kind of thinking is from Calvinism and anti-Calvinism? The NT was not written to teach for Calvinism or against Calvinism. Calvinism was invented in the 16th Century, one thousand five hundred years after Jesus. The Spirit came to be our Helper — just like Jesus said. It’s just not complicated.

As Thomas Dohling pointed out better than me, Eph 5:18 says for us to be filled with the Spirit. Col 3:16 tells us to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly. Why can’t both be true? Who dares tell anyone that he must choose one or the other? By what right? The word helps. The Spirit helps. This is not the least contradictory. I need all the help I can get.

Is the word enough to get us into heaven? It’s an irrelevant question. The proper question is: Did God promise his Spirit to help us get into heaven — and do we believe his promise?

You impose standards that God and the Bible do not impose. There is simply no requirement that the Spirit be essential for the Spirit to be true — because God isn’t required to do as little as possible to help us. He’s not required to do only what he must — as though God were bound by some Church of Christ rulebook. He makes the rules. He is the rules. And because he loves us so much, we should expect him to do far above and beyond only what we need.

Now, there’s an argument to be made that the Spirit is essential. There are also arguments the other way. I really don’t care either way. I just believe that it’s true, that he’s given to help us, and I’m glad for all the help I can get.

Those who feel no need for help need to check their pride.

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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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28 Responses to From the Comments: Is direct operation of the Spirit essential? Part 1

  1. Jim H says:

    Jeff R might want to ponder the Wesleyan doctrine (teaching) of “prevenient” grace. Aren’t we free to determine what we believe scripture teaches about the operative role of the Spirit in the salvific process? Sadly, pneumatology is too often a foreign word in Churches of Christ. Too many of us are afraid of considering, much less adopting, a personal belief outside our denominational orthodoxy that is extremely narrow. We prefer that someone tell me what I’m suppose to believe!

  2. laymond says:

    “When I travel, I turn my GPS on. But before the GPS was invented, I traveled without a GPS. I just got lost a lot more. The GPS wasn’t essential. But it’s sure helpful. And I’m glad for it. So why not be glad that God wants to help us obey so that we can live with God forever?”

    Long before the GPS, there were maps printed on paper. And they kept you pointed in the right direction ,very well if you cared enough to read them. But there were many who didn’t read a map, they depended on someone else to guide stopping along the way and asking which way they should go
    That is fine as long as you know who it is that is guiding you, and has your best interest at hand.

  3. Larry Cheek says:

    Would we also consider that the method of asking and telling like Laymond suggests, was used very extensively by many Christians prior to them being able to have or read a copy of the scriptures? There were several centuries past prior to each believer being able to read, search God’s Word for themselves. I personally cannot verify a date when men became accountable to totally understand what they have read in scriptures without help from a Divine source. But, many of our Brothers in Christ seem to believe that the Divine source is no longer needed as they testify that they do not believe the Spirit is not in each of us. I understand Paul to be stating that unless the natural man has become Spiritual (has the Spirit of God dwelling in him) he will not understand the Spiritual message in of the scriptures.
    1Co 2:12-16 ESV Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. (13) And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (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. (15) The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. (16) “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
    Therefore, a natural man could never read the scriptures and fully understand God’s message. Even the Apostles who were being taught by Jesus had so much difficulty understanding that Jesus had to open their minds.
    Luk 24:44-45 ESV Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (45) Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

  4. laymond says:

    Therefore, a natural man could never read the scriptures and fully understand God’s message.

    Larry, can you give at least three, examples of scripture where your thinking has changed , after the indwelling. say a before, and after. something that can’t be explained by bible study, and ageing.

    When we read Paul, we need to remember where Paul came from, and his final position.
    Paul switched from the worst, natural, or world influenced person to become one of the most spiritual . so Paul should know of which he speaks. and he gave evidence of his change. So I don’t think it is asking to much of those who claim spirit indwellment to give an example. Paul changed immediately, so how did you change (immediately) after the indwelling.?

  5. Laymond offers a double-bind question intended, as usual, to try to make a point rather than to learn anything. Laymond, can you relate to us any good thing you have ever done that could not be attributed to self-interest, rather than altruism? Just a heads’ up– anything you have done, no matter how noble, could be attributed to seeking your own glory or seeking approval for yourself from God. What does this mean? Does it prove that you have never done anything decent out of sheer altruism? No. it does not prove that. in fact it means absolutely nothing. Just like any answer to your question would.

    And, BTW, you do Saul of Tarsus a disservice in your description of him. Your description is directly at odds with the Bible’s description of him and his description of himself. As to this silly, arrogant idea that anyone owes you any sort of proofs about the indwelling of the Spirit that you already reject, well, that’s like the mailman having to explain to a barking dog why he is on the porch. What would be the point?

  6. Dwight says:

    I used to very judgmental, which I thought was being Godly, but actually it was very “natural”, but then I changed to what I consider spiritual and that is realizing that we are all under God’s grace on the same level and are all in judgment. And this thinking was based on what others had taught me.

    From what I understand, before the printing press, the scriptures (at least in Jesus time and before) used to be red out loud, as in the synagogue (word for word) and then the person would sit down and the next person would read from the scriptures. The listener was supposed to listen and capture the scriptures to their heart and then apply them. There was no explanation of the scriptures or lesson on them.
    Now in the Temple they would gather to read and talk the scriptures over, but this was usually the rabbis and learned that would do this and often these people would go out and oppress those that were just following what they had heard and determined for themselves.
    The common people weren’t trying to separate scripture from scripture or reduce to finer points, but rather in application and often they were better off.

  7. Jeff Richardson says:

    Is the direct operation of the Spirit essential? It was in the beginning of the Lord’s church. Why? because the truths of the New Covenant were just beginning to be revealed. God used signs and wonders, miracles and gifts to reveal and confirm. Does anyone doubt that this happened? Jesus Promised the Apostles a helper, a helper to guide them into all truth, to remind them of the things that He had said to them. He promise that He would not leave them as orphans. We see in Acts 1 and 2 the beginning of this miraculous age. The Spirit being given. We see this occur in chapters 2, 8,10 and 19. All concerning the miraculous. Why we believe that Acts 2:38 is the “exception” meaning, Acts 2:38 is the only place we see a non-miraculous reception of the Holy Spirit. Can this be proved. 1 Thess 3:21 says, “prove all things, hold fast to that which is good.” Does it anywhere in chapter 2 inform those there, that they would not be receiving the miraculous, what they saw and heard being poured out, the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy. Is that not what they would expect? But we say, no your not receiving that, your receiving a non-miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit. Where do we get this idea from? Shouldn’t we let the bible interpret itself? If the phrase “gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 10 clearly means the miraculous, Acts 2:38 by default (without explanation) means the same thing. And going to other verses which speak of people having the H.S. only shows that they had the H.S., not how they received the H.S. We see in scripture how people received the H.S., they did so by the laying on of hands of the Apostles. And by the way, that is a figure of speech, they did not receive the H.S. Himself as a gift. They received what He brought, gifts, (miraculous abilities) so that they might know “truth”, which was just beginning to be spoken. I believe that the only way today for the Spirit to indwell us is the same way Christ dwells in us, and that is by faith. And faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Rom 10:17. Jesus said in John 6:63, that His words are spirit, and the spirit is life. The bible says that the Father and the Son dwell in us. Who believes that they actually, literally and personally do? We understand that, so why can’t we understand it the same for the Spirit? I condemn no one for believing as you do, all I ask is consider what I have said.

  8. Dwight says:

    Perhaps we should ask, “Is believing in the direct operation of the spirit essential?” The Holy Spirit will operate as it will and many people have varying degrees of what that means in “direct” in general. It was taught for a long time that the HS only acts through the word, here is that word “only”, because it does act through the word, but not “only”. Cornelius and his household were in the middle of being taught and they received the HS, The people in Acts 2 were told that if they “repent and are baptized they would receive the gift of the HS” and this from only a short sermonette. They were saved and didn’t know what it meant to get the HS, but they had it none-the-less. Sometimes having the HS included miracles and sometimes it didn’t, but we do know that it was passed on by the laying on of hands as well. Christians were told to walk in the Spirit and that they were the Temple, because the Spirit dwelled in them.
    So the Spirit is there and operates in whatever way it will, but it is man who tries to define the terms of operation and divide over it.

  9. laymond says:

    Jeff Richardson says: ” I condemn no one for believing as you do, all I ask is consider what I have said.”

    Maybe, Jeff can do what I have been trying to do for years, but I have doubts.

    I believe it is written”the gift of God is eternal life”

  10. laymond says:

    Charles, if you can’t explain it, how do you know you have it. I understand people want to be more important in life than they really are. but if you can’t prove it, why are we supposed to believe it.

  11. Profile photo of Kevin Kevin says:

    Jeff wrote:

    But we say, no your not receiving that, your receiving a non-miraculous gift of the Holy Spirit. Where do we get this idea from? Shouldn’t we let the bible interpret itself? If the phrase “gift of the Holy Spirit” in Acts 10 clearly means the miraculous, Acts 2:38 by default (without explanation) means the same thing.

    Jeff, this is not as clear as one might think, even among the conservative wing of the CoC. The 2005 Lubbock Lectures were on the “Holy Spirit of God.” Three different preachers presented three different views of the gift of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:38:
    -Miracles Were The Gift Of The Holy Spirit In Acts 2:38 – Bobby Liddell
    -The Spirit Is The Gift Of The Spirit In Acts 2:38 – Burt Groves
    -Salvation is The Gift Of The Spirit In Acts 2:39 – Marvin Weir

  12. laymond says:

    Kevin, two are wrong, I don’t accept that, I have one out of three chances of being right. I don’t like the odds. especially when it comes to something so important. Which one of the three was indwelled?

  13. laymond says:

    Charles, sit down and compare your life after the indwellment, to that of Jesus Christ after the spirit came to dwell on him. how do you stack up. surely you at a minimum would be sinless .

  14. D. Thomas says:

    A sincere question: Does anybody know anyone who can perform a miracle by the gift of the Spirit? In Acts, the apostles and others actually performed the miracles (through the gift/power of the Spirit of course). Today, the only responses I get when I ask for miracle examples is the healing of an illness even though the doctor said it was hopeless or the birth of a baby being a “miracle”. These are wonderful things no doubt, but nobody laid their hands on them and healed in the name of Jesus as the examples in Acts showed.

  15. laymond says:

    Habakkuk 2:3b-4 Greek version reads If the vision is delayed, wait patiently, / for it will surely come and not delay. / I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away. / But the righteous person will live by my faith. Compare Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:37-38.

    Rom 1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
    Gal 3:11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
    Heb 10:38 Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.

  16. laymond says:

    D. Thomas, you need to talk to Charles Mclean .

  17. Dwight says:

    I believe I have the indwelling of the HS on the same level as the indwelling of God and Jesus, but I cannot qualify or quantify how this is so, but I do have faith and I believe that if I let them, they will work on me on the level that they do and the level I let them.
    I believe the gift of the Holy Spirit is the Holy Spirit itself as we are told that the HS dwells within us. Acts 2:28-39 “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The remission of the sins was tied to repentance and baptism, then the HS would come.
    The HS was also called “the comforter” in that it would comfort those in need, so it worked within the saints to the extent they needed it. Why and how I do not know, but it is by faith.

  18. Larry Cheek says:

    You appear to question the comment about the lack of understanding of a natural person as if I was the author of that concept. But, I’ll quote Paul again so you can plainly see that he is the one whom you really question.
    1Co 2:14 ESV 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.
    1Co 2:14 KJV But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
    I do not normally use the Contemporary English Version, But it seems very plain in its description.
    1Co 2:14 CEV That’s why only someone who has God’s Spirit can understand spiritual blessings. Anyone who doesn’t have God’s Spirit thinks these blessings are foolish.

    Laymond, why would you expect an immediate physical change in a person who was reared in the church from birth and trained to live like a Christian should prior to becoming a Christian? We all understand that living the life like a Christian is not what saves an individual. It takes a commitment to Christ for him to save an individual. But, I will give testimony that it is much harder for an individual who has not caroused life in the worldly fashion to feel the burden of sins lifted from them as Christ forgives them than an individual who has participated in and understood their sinful actions.
    We see so much sin around us which we are not participating, we really attempt to justify what we do become guilty of as very minute (maybe not even classified as sinful), because of the good and the effort that we are constantly striving to do.
    But, none of this has any bearing upon Paul’s statement, he says that the Spirit is vital in an individual’s understanding of God’s Word.
    This is nothing about abilities to perform miracles and the such like. Having The Spirit does not equal those abilities.

  19. D. Thomas says:

    Laymod, I would be happy to talk to Charles. I don’t know him, but would like to meet him. Do you know if he can perform miracles?

  20. Larry Cheek says:

    D. Thomas,
    A question? What do you pray for, do you expect any benefits from prayer? Has anything that you have ever prayed for appeared to be answered? Have you ever prayed for something which looked impossible to be resolved in any other way than a miracle?

  21. D. Thomas says:

    Larry, yes absolutely! God has answered my prayers any many ways at many times. He is all powerful and can work any miracle he chooses. In Acts, however, PEOPLE performed miracles by the power of the Spirit. I have not met anyone with this gift of the Spirit. Do you know anyone with the miraculous gift of healing? I have never met anyone that can effect a healing like Peter, Paul, or other disciple like those found in Acts.

  22. laymond says:

    D Thomas, you can leave a message right here for Charles, and yes he told us all here that he did have that power.

    Charles left me a message here Charles Mclean on April 4, 2016 at 10:36 am

  23. laymond says:

    Larry, I am always open for correction, when it is justified, but if you bothered to read my full comment, I do believe I said Paul should know of what he speaks. and he reveals to us how it affected him both physically, and spiritually, when Jesus spoke to him, I can’t imagine how one would be affected if God were to move into his body. The change occurs in the mind of those who accept Jesus as their lord, in their “heart” . the heart of man refereed to in the bible is the mind , when we accept God as God over all things, our heart/mind begins the change , and it grows to accompany more understanding. and if you intend to be a “good Christian” you study, and the more you study the more you learn, the more you learn the more your mind opens to receive that learning. One of the gifts God gives is knowledge .

    1Co 2:14 ESV 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.

    This is like saying a person who does not believe in medical healing, cannot become a doctor.
    But God in his wisdom, made man a changeable being. So a natural man can become a spiritual being. and a man who believes only in natural healing, can become a medical doctor.
    And Paul could change to become one of the best known preachers. fighting for Christianity, rather than against it.

  24. Jeff Richardson says:

    Kevin, your right, there are differing views. But there shouldn’t be if, we understand and keep the context of a statement in context, and allow the bible to interpret itself. Again, ask twelve people their opinion and you will get twelve different answers. Acts 10 defines Acts 2:38. We need to be able to accept that as truth. In Acts 19, Paul asks the question to those he believes are disciples. “Did you receive the H.S. when you believed.? They didn’t know anything about the H.S. Paul teaches them about the differences. They were then baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the H.S. came upon them and they began to speak and prophecy.” This is exactly what happened in Acts 2:38. For those of us who were baptized in the name of our Lord Jesus, what Apostle laid hands on us to give us the H.S? We have the H.S. We have what He delivered. he delivered all truth. How do we walk in the Spirit? What strengthens the inner man? Paul said in 3 john 1:3,4 ” For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth, that is you, just as you walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

  25. Jeff Richardson says:

    Jay asked me, why must there be a “must” in my question? Because that seems to be what your advocating. There are only two choices, direct or indirect. A direct operation of the H.S. or an indirect operation of the H.S. through the agency of the word.

  26. Dwight says:

    I am presently in a class on the HS and one of the problems I see with it is that there is an attempt to corral the HS into one thing or the other, even when we say the HS is able to do anything within the context of God. We are trying to understand the HS better by laying borders. This is like trying to understand Texans by where they live, but not how they live, of which there are many variations, even within an area. It appears that the HS has acted directly and indirectly and could do so at the same time. If we are truly to be bearers of the HS and have that gift, then we have been blessed by the indwelling and the out dwelling in that we have received the word in the first place and reacted to it.

    I think to Jay’s point (if I understand the post) is the HS essential, yes, but the HS isn’t made to help us in any one set way and order, so our understanding of essential or non-essential might be different, but the fact is it does help us in many ways as this is God’s will and we might not even know it or acknowledge it.
    We can debate how it acts (and we do to no end), but there is no debate that it does act and that it acts for our best interest.

  27. D.Thomas, I hope you understand that a lack of experience with the miraculous today is not evidence of any sort. You misunderstand the fundamental reality of the gifts of the Spirit, in that they operate as HE wills, not at the whim of the believer. Such an idea makes Peter and Paul more Gandalf or Superman than the apostles who walked with Jesus. They did not employ some sort of personal magical powers unavailable to believers today. No writer of scripture even suggests this. These believers simply operated in the gifts the Spirit gave as He gave them. Just as we do today. Yes, I have laid hands on the sick and seen them spontaneously recover. I prophesy and speak in tongues, as do millions of believers. It is not rare at all. But I don’t have my own magical superpowers. I can do nothing of power that God is not doing.

    Oh, and Laymond has been misrepresenting me and my beliefs for so long that I take it as a given. He does not believe that the Holy Spirit still works supernaturally and cannot stand it when someone else does believe it. Abraham’s words to the rich man are instructive in this case.

  28. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    D. Thomas asked,

    Do you know anyone with the miraculous gift of healing? I have never met anyone that can effect a healing like Peter, Paul, or other disciple like those found in Acts.


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