Calvinistic Conceptions Considered --- (2)
The second Calvinistic tenet under consideration is the conception that the Holy Spirit operates separate and apart from, independent of the revealed word of God. Connected with this view is the idea that the sinner is a passive recipient in salvation, that he must wait until he has a feeling that is "better felt than told," or hear the "wee still voice that speaks peace to the soul." The practice of candidates going to a mourner's bench or to an altar to "get religion" stems from the belief of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit.
The Work Of The Holy Spirit
The Bible has much to say about the work of the Holy Spirit, but we shall confine this treatise mainly to the operation of the Holy Spirit, how he convicts and converts. A brief review of his work, however, as seen in the New Testament is in order.
The Holy Spirit is listed as one of the three persons in the Godhead. (Matt. 3:13-17; 28: 19, 20) In the first passage, an account of the baptism of Jesus, all three persons are present, but in different places. God was in heaven, the Spirit of God was descending as a dove, and Jesus went up straightway from the water. God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit are different persons, separate entities, but one in purpose.
In the New Testament, the work of the Holy Spirit is described by measures. There was the measure of the Holy Spirit that was received by the apostles and enabled them to be witnesses. (Acts 1:8) Jesus had promised the Holy Spirit to his apostles. (John 16:13; 14:26; Acts 1:5, 8) The Holy Spirit was to guide them into all truth; He was to bring all things to their remembrance. This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost. (Acts 2:1-4) The measure received by the apostles, the baptismal measure, was a promise; it was not a command; it was given to a few; it was not given to all men; it was to make witnesses; it was not to regenerate; it was seen and heard (Acts 2:33); it was not "better felt than told"; and, it was to confirm the word (Heb. 2:1-4); it was not to save man.
Another measure of the Holy Spirit is the miraculous work through those upon whom the apostles laid their hands. (Acts 8:17-19) Paul enumerated nine spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 12:4-11. These miraculous gifts were to continue until "the unity of the faith," or until all of the parts of the faith (the gospel) were revealed. (Eph. 4:11-13) In his treatise on love, the attribute greater than any miraculous gift, Paul states that these miraculous gifts were to be done away. They were to cease "when that which is perfect is come." (1 Cor. 13:9-12) God's will has been revealed; it is the certified gospel, and it has been signed, sealed, and delivered. (Jude 3) This very fact does not allow any progressive revelation. The faith, the gospel faith, has been delivered one time and one time only for all time and that makes the Testament Of Christ all sufficient in man's salvation.
How Does The Holy Spirit Convict And Convert?
Having considered two miraculous measures of the Holy Spirit, how does the Holy Spirit convict and convert? Three scriptures, among many others, reveal the answer to this important question.
The first passage is Luke 8:11, 12, in which Jesus explains the parable of the sower. "Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. And those by the wayside are they that have heard; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved." We observe here that the power of God to save is in His word. Even the devil recognizes this truth, a truth that is not acknowledged by the Calvinists, because he takes the word out of the hearts of people so that they will not be saved. The devil knows what the Calvinists do not know; he knows that the power of God to save is in His word. The teaching of Jesus in this parable is an obvious refutation of the doctrine of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit. In fact, all three Calvinistic conceptions: hereditary depravity, the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, and the impossibility of apostasy (to be considered in our next article) are refuted in this parable. (1) The doctrine of hereditary depravity is refuted in verse 15 where Jesus explained that the seed fell upon good ground, "these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast." If man is wholly inclined to evil and cannot think a good thought, his heart could not be good and honest and he could not even receive the word in the first place. (2) The doctrine of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit is refuted in verse 12 where Jesus, as we have learned, explains the wayside hearer as those that have heard "then cometh the devil and taketh away the word from their heart, that they may not believe and be saved." Man is saved by the teaching of God's word and not by a direct, unintelligible, intangible, mystical operation of the Holy Spirit. (3) The doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy is refuted in verse 13 where Jesus describes the seed on the rock as "they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe and in time of temptation fall away." "They fall away." The idea of the unconditional security of the believer is that he cannot fall away. Contrary to this notion, Jesus teaches the possibility of apostasy on the part of a believer.
In Jno. 6:44, 45, Jesus teaches that we are drawn to God. We are not left in doubt as to how we are drawn to God because in verse 45 he says, "It is written in the prophets, And they shall all be taught of God. Every one that hath heard from the Father, and hath learned, cometh unto me." The process of being drawn to God is by teaching, hearing, and learning.
The third scripture to which we refer is Roman 1:16. Paul declares that the gospel is God's power to save. It is not questioned that God could save man by a direct converting power but the point is he does not. The power of God to save the sinner is the gospel. It is the power that God employs in the saving of the soul.
The records of conversion in the book of Acts do not illustrate a single solitary case of a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of the sinner. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a gospel sermon. (Acts 2:14-37) The audience was convicted by the gospel that was preached by Peter. The people asked what to do and they were commanded to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins. (Acts 2:38) The people on that occasion did not "pray through." There was no direct operation of the Holy Spirit; their conversion was not a convulsion. They heard the gospel preached, they believed it and they obeyed it. (Acts 2:41) As a result they received the Holy Spirit as a gift. (Acts 2:38; 5:32; Gal. 4:6)
The Holy Spirit operates through the word of God upon the heart of the sinner. While the Holy Spirit and the word are not the same, the Holy Spirit uses the word as His medium to convict and convert. (Eph. 6:17) Those people on the day of Pentecost were convicted by the word that was preached, but they were also convicted by the Holy Spirit. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and he was preaching the message of the Holy Spirit. It can be truthfully said, then, that what the Spirit does the word does. The word begets (Jas. 1:18), the Spirit begets. The word quickens (Psa. 119:50), the Spirit quickens. The word produces the new birth (1 Pet. 1:22-25), the Spirit produces the new birth. The word saves (Rom. 1:16; Jas. 1:21), the Spirit saves. The word makes us free (Jno. 8:32), the Spirit makes us free. The word sanctifies (Jno. 17:17), the Spirit sanctifies. These are a few comparisons of the word and the Spirit.
When one becomes a Christian the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christian through the word (Rom. 8:9; Eph. 5:18; Col. 3:16). The fruit of the Spirit is then produced in the life. (Gal. 5:22, 23)
The Spirit does not operate directly upon the heart of the sinner. One becomes a Christian by obeying the gospel. (Rom. 6:17)
(To be continued)
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