Sunday, February 06, 2022

Baptized and Led

You are a fly resting on the wall of an auditorium. It is not long before you are able to identify the sort of church you are observing by the way its members use certain scriptural language to describe an experience they had, and one they think should be known by more Christians. You hear testimonies of the baptism of the Holy Spirit being experienced, and teaching given that urges members to seek this blessing.

Who would you think you were among?

The Baptism of the Holy Spirit

The baptism of the Holy Spirit as taught among these folk either results in members being discouraged because they were not able to achieve or receive the ‘baptism’, or in satisfaction at having ‘arrived’ because they identify it with some spiritual experience they claim to have been theirs. Either way they are disabled as far as understanding the full significance of the day their name celebrates.

Pentecost and its fallout accomplished for believers that for which the Lord Jesus had prayed, “that all the Father gave to him might become one”; not only those with him then, but a unity that would include those who would later believe. It was the birthday of a body consisting of believers from a great variety of cultures, the breaking down of the wall of partition between Jew and Gentile which existed under the Law. It was an act of incorporation for all to appreciate and live out practically when encountering other Christians.

It is not an experience after which individual saints should strive: “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.”

The Leading of the Spirit

I have used the foregoing as an example of the unhappy results of using a biblical term that refers to a unique, historic activity of the Spirit of God that forever impacted all those who believe to erroneously describe an experience each believer should strive to attain. We now want to consider another misunderstood doctrine.

The fly is in a different building, listening to the members of another church talking about being led by the Spirit. If the focus is on the church when it is gathered and especially at the Lord’s Supper, who would you be among? This group is guilty of the same type of mistake as the former. They are limiting their being ‘led’ to something to be desired for times of corporate worship, rather than to the ongoing privilege of simply being God’s sons.

If we are led by the Spirit we are not under the Law. But if not by an external standard, how are God’s people to be constrained and/or restrained to do his will? Israel had been under the Law for centuries when Jeremiah summed up the inability of the most privileged of nations to do anything but break it. Under the New Covenant, God promised in a future day to put his law in their minds and write it on their hearts. We join Paul in praying for this national salvation to occur.

All Believers All the Time

In the meanwhile, Jews and Gentiles who believe have been baptized into one body. We are under the umbrella of the New Covenant and the privilege bestowed on each member is to be led internally by the Spirit of God to do his will. Both these activities of the Holy Spirit are misunderstood in Christian circles, and the benefits to be enjoyed in appreciating each is thereby lost. We should be thankful that ‘led’ describes the ongoing, inner working of the Holy Spirit in all believers all the time.

As Harriet Auber wrote:

“And every virtue we possess,
And every victory won,
And every thought of holiness,
Are his alone.”

If so, it means there is no room for pride in that effective sermon or well phrased prayer! Others may thank or praise you, but if you sincerely redirect the honor to your Lord, you will surely be led by the Spirit to do it. Such reactions are natural to one born of the Spirit; he will always lead you in the path of humility.

Some may say, “But you can resist his leading.” Yes, but though grieved, he will lead you to confess and repent. He never stops leading the sons of God. In any case, the emphasis in the text is on the Holy Spirit’s constant faithfulness rather than on our occasional appropriate responses.

Leading vs. Guidance

Often used as synonyms in scripture, guidance and leading are ideal when seen together: “[God] guided [his people] in the wilderness” and “he led them in safety”. However, it can still be helpful to note examples of an inner impulse not working in harmony with the guidance being given. Moses smote the rock in a spirit of anger when divinely directed to speak to it. Gifted and useful servants of God may get results while envy and strife are inwardly motivating them. In Numbers 24, Balaam was not led but compelled to speak the truth. Caiaphas likewise prophesied correctly in John 11. Saints too may speak the truth but lack the love in which it should be spoken. Those led by the Spirit will be concerned about both.

Guidance may be required periodically, especially because we cannot always know where we should be or what we should be doing in the Lord’s service. But the Spirit’s leading needs to be understood as a constant privilege granted to the sons of God. (See the only two places in which the term appears in scripture.)

C.F. Hogg wrote, “The words ‘led by the Spirit’ ... refer not to an isolated occasion ... but to the whole course and tenor of the life of the regenerate.” Let us not, by focusing our attention only on the former, limit the impact they are intended to have on the latter.

— Colin Anderson, “Baptized and Led by the Holy Spirit”, September 2016

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