Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 10, 1960
NUMBER 43, PAGE 3,13c-14a

The Holy Spirit No. IX.

Arthur W. Atkinson, Jr. Columbus, Ohio

This article has to do with the work of God's Spirit in conversion. There are many varied opinions and theories concerning this subject and many people are mis-led into believing these theories. This is a detriment to their soul's salvation. We can see the importance of this particular phase of our study as it concerns the soul. There is little point in going into detail concerning the value of a soul. Anyone who knows anything of the scriptures knows that there is nothing in this world as important as one's soul. Should we conquer and own the whole world we could not exchange it for the home of the soul. The main purpose of God's Spirit and the revelation of that Spirit is the converting of mankind. God, we have learned, can be made known to mankind through His Spirit. We know that God wants man to know what to do to be saved. After man knows, this knowledge must convict man of his sins and thus bring about action upon his part. This action will save him if it is in accord with divine revelation. Thus we can see that revelation brings conviction and conviction in turn should bring conversion. Man can only be convicted of a thing by having something work upon his mind. So the Holy Spirit must work upon the mind of a man to bring about this conviction and the subsequent conversion. No one, I am sure, will disagree with this conclusion. Now the question that must follow and be answered is this, "How does the Holy Spirit work upon the heart or mind of man to bring about this conversion?" In the Old Testament man was convicted of his sins through the medium of the word. We are going to see that this method has not changed.

First let us notice some scriptures that have to do with the conversion of mankind. Matt 16:19, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." This was spoken to Peter, but two chapters later our Lord reiterates the same promises this power to all of the apostles, Matt. 18:18, "Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven." The same thing is said, in substance, in John 20:23, "Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them: and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained." There has been much misunderstanding concerning this passage of scripture. This power has not been handed down from generation to generation. There is no man today that can remit sins by hearing your confession. No man on earth has the power to absolve sins. The apostles themselves did not have the right or authority to speak to a man and say "thy sins be forgiven thee." The binding and the loosing, the retaining and remitting, were done in the sense that they told the people what the Lord required of them, and when the people did that, their sins were thus forgiven. The apostles through inspiration bound certain things upon the people. These things are binding upon them also in heaven. If the people obey, sins are remitted, if they disobey their sins are retained. Let us notice once again the work of the apostles in Matt. 19:28, "And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." The apostles then are to judge throughout the regeneration. Men are being regenerated today, thus we are in the "regeneration" period. The apostles are to be judges of mankind. They judge according to the word of God, which they by inspiration spoke and then wrote. These writings have been preserved by posterity and we have the judgments of these men in the New Testament even today.

But let us also notice that the work has been assigned to the apostles has also been given to the Holy Spirit. John 16:7-11, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you And when he is come, he will reprove (or convince) the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged." We can very easily see that the same work that Christ gave the apostles to do He also said that the Holy Spirit would do. Is this then, a contradiction? No, it is not a contradiction at all. Just who is to do this convicting of the people of their sins? Both the apostles and the Holy Spirit are to do this work. Let us notice what Christ says to the apostles as He speaks to them in the same chapter of John verses 13-16, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All the things the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. A little while and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father."

It is very evident from this passage of scriptures that the Holy Spirit will work through the apostles. He (the Spirit) will guide them and show them the things that they are to say and do. But let us notice still another scripture that makes the working of the Holy Spirit and the apostles very clear. John 15: 16, 27, "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: And ye (the apostles) also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning." Here we learn that the apostles and the Spirit will both bear witness of Christ. But a passage which shows that the Spirit beareth witness to Christ through the apostles by guiding them in what they are to say is, Matt, 10:19, 20, "But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you." A man does not have to have several degrees in education to understand this simple statement. The Spirit would speak through the apostles. Perhaps it would be well before we leave this thought to read the scriptures located in Acts 1:8, 'But ye (the apostles) shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." In all the scriptures we have used on this particular thought the Lord has been promising the Spirit to the apostles and to them only. It can be seen that we must accept the fact that the Spirit and the apostles will cooperate in the work of convicting and converting mankind. Both have a part. You cannot remove the Holy Spirit from conversion, nor can you dethrone the twelve apostles. We must logically conclude that Holy Spirit works through the twelve apostles.

The idea that Holy Spirits works separate and apart from the word spoken by the apostles is a foolish and erroneous idea. There are many who would have us believe that Holy Spirit works upon the mind of man independent of all, or any, human agency. Thus they say that the Spirit comes directly from the mind of God to the mind of the sinner. He then overrules, overthrows, and overrides all the laws of the mind and the sinner is convicted and converted whether or not he wants to be. This is a false theory and cannot be true. No one was ever converted that way. No one ever will be. Some may have had their emotions aroused to such a feverish pitch that they thought something happened to them but it was not the Holy Spirit that worked upon them. The only way that the Holy Spirit works upon a person is through the agency of the word spoken and written by the apostles.

Let us use an example to show the way that the Spirit works upon the mind of man. Someone may come to my home and see a board sawed into two pieces. He may ask who sawed the board, and I might answer that I did. Would I have misrepresented the facts in saying that I did when in reality a saw had really done the cutting? No, of course not. Someone else might ask me what I used to cut the board. I could point to the saw and tell them that it was the medium used. Everyone can really understand this simple illustration. That is just how simple the working of the Spirit through the apostles is. Even as I cut the board through the agency or medium of the saw, the Holy Spirit cuts (so to speak) the hearts of mankind through the agency of the apostles preaching the word. I did not work directly upon the board, the saw did. The saw could not have accomplished the feat without me, nor could I have cut it without the saw. The Holy Spirit does not work directly upon the hearts of mankind but works through the apostles and the word spoken. The Holy Spirit does not work without them and they could not and did not work without Him. The words that they spoke have been preserved and they are still the message of the Spirit to man.

(To be continued)