THE OPERATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Shelby G. Floyd
A couple of weeks ago, Al and Mary Ruddick gave me a book of a debate by N. B. Hardeman and the Baptist preacher, Ben N. Bogard, held in 1938 in Little Rock, Arkansas, and the first proposition in that religious debate was on the operation of the Holy Spirit. I have just finished that particular section of the debate with great pleasure and profit and while the subject was fresh on my mind I thought I would just deliver a lesson on the operation of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit Operates Through Means
Either the Holy Spirit operates directly upon people for conviction, conversion, sanctification; or the Holy Spirit operates indirectly through means in bringing about those results. It is my conviction that the Holy Spirit operates today just like the Holy Spirit operated in the times of the apostles in the first century—that he operates through the means of the word of God. As an illustration of this, God gives us bread and we ought to pray for our bread. But after we have finished praying for bread, we have to go out and hook up the tractor and plow the field, put in the seed, spray and cultivate the soil and continue to pray that God will give us the harvest in the fall. Now we can do all of that and if God withholds the rain, we will not have any bread. We read of famines in many countries. Man does his part and he prays that God will do His part, but if God withholds His part, of course, there will not be any bread, so God still has a hand in it, but man must do all he can to bring about an answer to that prayer. And God’s appointed means of bringing about bread is the seed. We will not have any bread if we refuse to cooperate with God’s appointed laws of producing bread. Years ago man had malaria and it would be right and proper to pray that God would heal men of malaria, but God’s appointed laws of bringing about a solution to malaria is a little plant that grows down in South America that produces quinine, so you ought to pray that men would be cured of the malaria, but you have to go and find the quinine and give it to them.
THE BIBLE IS THE PRODUCT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
In the same way in the spiritual realm, God operates through his word; the Holy Spirit operates through the word of God to bring about sanctification, conviction and conversion. This Bible that I hold in my hand this morning which you, I hope, have brought with you to check and to examine what I have to say, this Bible is the product of the Holy Spirit. Open the Bible please to 1 Corinthians, chapter two and in verse nine Paul says,
“But as it is written: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
What things is he talking about? Verse ten following tells us what kind of things he is talking about. “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.” The antecedent of the pronoun “them” refers back to the things in verse nine, “the things which eye has not seen, the things which ear has not heard, and the things which have not entered into the heart of man.” God has revealed them, those things unto us. Revealed unto whom? The apostles! How did God reveal these things unto the apostles—by His Spirit? Now notice. “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. (1 Cor. 2:10.) There’s the “things” again. “For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.” (1 Cor. 2:10-11.) Let’s look at that illustration. Can anybody really know you deeply, truly, specifically? No! Nobody can really know you, except the spirit that dwells inside of you. You should know yourself better than any other person, because your spirit can search out the innermost recesses of your soul, your heart and your mind. The only way that I can know you is for your spirit to search out your innermost being and to reveal those things to me through language, whether it is body language or whether it be spoken language. You can tell me what is inside of you and I can do the same thing. That’s the illustration that Paul uses here, and he says,
1 Corinthians 2:10-11
For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God.
Well, that’s exactly what the Holy Spirit has done. The Holy Spirit has searched out the mind and the deep things of God and has revealed them unto us. How did He reveal them? Let’s read on in verse twelve, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12.) The apostles did not claim to have the spirit of the world; they claimed to have the Spirit of God. They received that Spirit that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Why did they receive the Spirit of God—so that they might know the deep things of God? The Spirit was given to them and they received that Spirit for what purpose—so that they could know the deep things of God? Look at verse thirteen, “Which things.” What things is he talking about? “The things that eye has not seen, ear has not heard, and the things which have not entered into the heart of man.” The things that man could not know if the Spirit of God did not search out the mind and the heart and the deep things of God. He says, “Which things also we speak.” Those are the things that the apostles have spoken to us. “These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Cor. 2:13.) I think some translations here have “comparing spiritual ideas with spiritual words” or “combining spiritual ideas with spiritual words.” Now that statement that we have just noticed here in 1 Corinthians 2:9-11 is simply telling us that the Bible which was given to us by the apostles is the product of the Holy Spirit, because the apostles received the Spirit of God, the Spirit of God searched out the mind of God even the deep things of God, and the Spirit, through the apostles, revealed them unto us today through words, which the apostles spoke not in the words of man’s wisdom, but in the words which the Holy Spirit teaches.
The Beauty and Power of One Syllable Words
In the June issue of the Reader’s Digest which just came out there is an excellent article there on the power of language, the simplicity of language, and the author pointed out that there is great power in one syllable words. He pointed out that the King James translators zeroed in on the power of monosyllables, one-syllable words, and I think that has been one of the beauties of that translation that’s always attracted me, the simplicity in which God’s word has been expressed in our own English tongue. And the author of this article pointed out how we ought to learn to use simple words. If you can use a strong word that’s a one syllable word or use another word that’s two or three syllables, we would be better off to use simple words. The Bible is spoken in simple language. Man and his wisdom like to use big words. Brother N. B. Hardeman used to call them fourteen syllable words. We like to use big words, because that makes people think oh, how smart he is; he knows how to use all of these big words. But sometimes we are better off if we can use simple, strong words and God’s word is expressed to man in simple language. Man’s way is not God’s way. God’s thoughts are not man’s thoughts. And Paul says here, “Which things also we speak not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches combining spiritual ideas with spiritual words.”
2 Peter 1:20-21
Let me give you another passage. The apostle Peter said,
2 Peter 1:20-21
Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
The word “interpretation” here in the Greek means, “unloosing.” No prophecy of the scripture is of any private unloosing: “For holy men of God spoke in times past as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” Peter, Paul, James and John did not privately unloose the word of God out of their own hearts and their own minds and their own memories. The things that they spoke were the messages that were borne along by the Holy Spirit of God. And 2 Peter 1:20-21 tells us that in plain, simple and emphatic language. They did not privately unloose these things from their own being, but God’s Spirit bore their minds along and brought that message to us today.
2 Timothy 3:14-17
Then there is one other passage I want to use that Paul wrote to Timothy,
2 Tim 3:14-17
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
What is scripture? It translates the Greek word "grammata" which means letter or writing. "Timothy, from a child you have known the holy writings which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, for all scripture” –all writing, what kind of writing? All holy writing or sacred writing --"is given by the inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.” Does that not state in strong language how the Holy Spirit operates today? He operates through the holy writings to make a man wise unto salvation through his faith in Christ Jesus. And it makes him a complete, mature, and perfect man unto every good work. So that's how the Holy Spirit operates.
Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
Now notice how the spirit is going to reprove the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment. "I have yet many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now. 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." N. B. Hardeman said in his debate with Ben N. Bogard,
"My answer first, last and all the time is that the Holy Spirit always operates through the word of God. Every example bears this out.”
We have pointed out in the first place this morning that the Bible is the product of the Holy Spirit. The Bible is the sword of the Spirit. The word of God is the seed of the kingdom. The word of God is the medicine that cures us of spiritual malaria.
THE OPERATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN SANCTIFICATION
Now I want to show you how the Holy Spirit operates today in three areas. First, let us examine the area of sanctification. I believe that all Bible believing, Bible reading people will admit that to be saved a person must be sanctified. What does the word sanctify mean? It means to set apart. It means negatively to be cut off from evil and positively to be set apart to the good. Now, in John 17: 17, Jesus said, "sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth.” Jesus said in his great intercessory prayer, "sanctify them, father, by the truth, your word is truth." So, according to the prayer of Jesus, if anybody is ever sanctified, they will be sanctified through the truth and he says God's word is truth, therefore, we're sanctified through God's word. But in 1 Corinthians 6: 11, Paul said, "you are sanctified, you are justified, you are washed," And he says that we are washed, we are justified, we are sanctified by the Spirit and by the word of the Spirit. So, there we have it. This is about as simple, about as plain as it possibly could be. We are sanctified by the Spirit, sanctified by the truth; sanctified by the Spirit, and sanctified by the word of God. The Spirit uses the word of God to cause us to cut off from evil and to be dedicated to the good. That is sanctification.
OPERATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE
All right, let us look at the second area. I don't believe anybody can go to heaven and be saved unless they are born again, born from above. The religious world banters around the words "the new birth." And yet from what I read and from what I see, I don't believe many of them know what it means to be born again, to be born from above, to experience the new birth. I do know that in John 3, Jesus had an interview with Nicodemus and in this interview with Nicodemus, Jesus said in John 3: 3-5, "Verily, verily, Nicodemus" (that's simply another way of saying in our day and time—truly, truly.) "Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Nicodemus said, "How can a man be born again when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” He was thinking of the physical birth. Jesus was talking about a spiritual birth. So Jesus explains it to him, "Truly, truly, Nicodemus, except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. The wind blows where it wills and you hear the sound thereof but cannot tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Notice, that aspects of the spiritual birth is invisible. We cannot see the wind; we can see the effects of the wind. We cannot see the Spirit, but we can see the effects of the Spirit. How can we see the effects of the Spirit? In the new birth! How is the new birth brought about? Nicodemus was to be born “of water and of the Spirit.” "Of spirit" is genitive of source. That means that the new birth is begun, consummated and completed by the Holy Spirit. How does the Holy Spirit bring about the new birth, which issues forth in its consummation in water baptism and then a person is said to be born of water and of the Spirit? Well, let us look at 1 Corinthians 4: 15. Paul writing to the church at Corinth said, "You may have 10,000 instructors in Christ Jesus, yet you have not many fathers, because I have begotten you by the gospel?” The Father through the seed begets every child and every spiritual child of God is begotten by the word of God. Paul here likens himself unto a spiritual father. He says, "I have begotten you by the gospel." Look at 1 Peter 1: 22-23, "Seeing you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit." There it is. How did they purify their souls—in obeying the truth through the Spirit?
1 Peter 1:22-24
Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because
"All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
25But the word of the LORD endures forever."
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.
Alright, James 1: 18 says, "of his own will begat he us by the word of truth." How many more passages do I need? How many more do you need? We are born of the Spirit, but how does the Spirit bring about the new birth? We are born again by obeying the truth through the Spirit, by being begotten by the will of God, by being begotten of the gospel. That's how the Holy Spirit operates in the new birth. He operates through an instrument and that instrument, or that means, is the word of God, the truth of God, the gospel of God.
THE OPERATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE INDWELLING
That brings us to the third point as to how the Holy Spirit operates today, and that's in the indwelling. I believe that in every faithful and true Christian the Holy Spirit will dwell in your heart. It's not a question today whether the Holy Spirit dwells in us or not. We all believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in us. The question is not whether he dwells in us, but how does he dwell in us? In other words, it's the question of the modus operandi—the mode of operation. What is the mode of operation of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the child of God? Well, let's look at a couple of scriptures. In Ephesians 5: 18-19, the apostle Paul said,
And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,
If you were singing this morning, the Spirit of God has filled your heart. It's just as simple as that. If God's spirit is down in your heart, if you have been filled with the Spirit, then it will come out in praise, and songs and hymns and spiritual songs. Some people sit in their chair and never open their mouth and never open the book. That's the first evidence that the Spirit of God is not dwelling in you. If God's Spirit has filled your heart, then it must come out in praise in worship and songs from your lips. I like to hear a-men's. The church in many places is so cold and so indifferent to the word of God that nobody ever says a-men. We need to get back to that. If there's anything that will fire a preacher up, it is for man to say a-men. It simply means, "So be it" and "I believe it" and "I believe that and I appreciate that." God's Spirit is to fill our hearts and when God's Spirit fills our hearts the Spirit of God is dwelling in our hearts. But look at the parallel passage in Colossians 3: 16. All religious commentators, all scholars that have any type of credentials at all will tell you that Colossians 3: 16, is exactly parallel with Ephesians 5: 18. And in Colossians 3: 16 he says,
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
They are exactly parallel. In Ephesians 5: 18, "Be filled with the Spirit." In Colossians 3: 16, he says, "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly." And that's exactly how the Holy Spirit operates in the indwelling. As we take the word of Christ into us richly, we are taking the Spirit into us richly, because the Spirit dwells in the word of God.
The Holy Spirit Uses the Sword of the Spirit
Now in the closing minutes that we have, I want to show you how the Holy Spirit works in this indwelling, in this new birth, and in this sanctification. The word of God is said to be the sword of the Spirit. (Eph. 6: 17.) And in Hebrews 4: 12-13, we find out how the Spirit uses his sword.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Paul, in Ephesians 6, gives us the soldier’s armor, like the helmet of salvation, the shield of faith, and our loins are to be girt about with truth. And he says, "above all, take the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God," but we find out in Hebrews 4: 12-13 that we have to pick up the sword and use it, because God's word is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and it will convict, it will cut, it will convert right down to the bone and marrow and the conscience and the soul, the innermost being of every man and woman.
The Holy Spirit Cuts to the Heart by the Word
Next we notice that the Spirit cuts people in the heart by the word. Just a few minutes ago, John Rapp read from Acts 7: 51-60. We looked at that this morning in the adult Bible class. The Jewish Sanhedrin in Jerusalem had called Stephen in question. They did not like what he had to say, because he didn't say what they wanted to hear, so Stephen stood up and he tried to get on their good side by giving them a synopsis of Jewish history. He started with Abraham in Genesis 12 with the promise that God made to him. He led them all the way down to the building of the temple of Solomon and how God dwelled in the temple and yet he dwelled only representatively because he said, "God does not dwell in temples made by men's hands." And then Stephen came to the conclusion of his sermon and what a sermon it was! He said,
"Ye stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart, he do always resist the Holy Spirit as your fathers did, so do ye. And which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute and kill." And then he said, "they have slain before them that show the coming of the just one of whom you are now his betrayers and murderers."
And the Bible says that when they heard this—what did they hear? They heard the words that Stephen was speaking, but he says they were resisting the Holy Spirit. How did they resist the Holy Spirit? They resisted the Holy Spirit by resisting the words of the Spirit that came through a man like Stephen. And so today we resist the Holy Spirit of God when we resist the word of God that is preached by any man who presents God's word in its truth, its simplicity, in all of its purity, and in all of its sublime beauty. When we resist this word, we resist the Spirit of God, because God's Spirit dwells in his word. These words are not just the words of man; these words are the words of God and there is life in these words, whereas there sometimes is not very much life in the words of man. Jesus said and John 6: 63, "the words that I speak and you, they are spirit and they are life.”
An Angel Would Not Directly Tell Us Today What to Do To Be Saved
I want you to know that if an angel were to appear in this assembly today, an angel would not tell you what to do to be saved, for in Acts 10, we have an angel that appeared to Cornelius, but the angel did not tell Cornelius what to do to be saved. The angel told Cornelius to send for a preacher by the name of Simon Peter that was dwelling in the house of Simon the Tanner who lived by the seaside. He declared, “He will tell you what you must do to be saved.” You see, God’s plan is for the spirit to operate through the words that are preached by human messengers, men like you and me. We have a part in the gospel plan of salvation. So, if an angel were to appear today, the angel wouldn’t tell you what to do to be saved; the angel, if he said anything at all would tell to you to preach the word of God and that’s what I am doing and that’s the reason we don’t have any angels doing that today. They’ve already told us to do that.
The Holy Spirit Would Not Directly Tell Us Today What to Do To Be Saved
You know if the Holy Spirit were to appear today directly, he wouldn't tell any of us what to do to be saved. Why? Because it Acts 8 the Holy Spirit appeared to a preacher by the name of Philip and the Holy Spirit told Philip to go and join himself to a chariot in which was riding a man—an Ethiopian eunuch and the Spirit simply got the preacher and the subject of conversion together, so the preacher could deliver the message of God's word.
Jesus Christ Would Not Directly Tell Us Today What to Do To Be Saved
And finally I tell you that if Jesus Christ were to appear in this assembly right this very hour today, he would not tell anybody what to do to be saved. Because in Acts 9 Jesus Christ himself appeared to the apostle Paul as he was on the road to the city of Damascus. Jesus Christ appeared to him and Saul was wondering what he ought to do to be saved and Jesus didn't tell him directly. He said, "go into the city and there it will be told you what you must do." And he sent a preacher by the name of Ananias who said to him,
And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.
You see, Christ and angels and the Spirit of God operate today through the word of God, through his instrument and it would be ridiculous for any of us today to pray for God to save people and not go out and do everything we can to teach and preach and to explain the word of God, because that is God’s appointed means by which men are saved. That's how the Holy Spirit operates today. He operates first and last and all the time through the gospel. Are you going to accept the message today or will you resist it? I hope it will be the former and not the latter, while we stand and sing.*
*Shelby G. Floyd delivered this sermon May 12, 1991 at the
South Central Church of Christ, 265 E. Southport Rd., Indianapolis, Indiana.
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