by Richard Lim
Recently we had a discussion with a friend from the denominational background and the subject of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit was raised. As the discussion proceeded, we began to look at the various accounts in the book of Acts on how various people were taught the Scriptures and the role of the Holy Spirit in all those events.
- The Holy Spirit used Philip to preach to the Ethiopian eunuch:
We first looked at Acts 8 on the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch. In this account we saw that the eunuch was on his way back from Jerusalem and was reading the scriptures. Did the Holy Spirit directly teach the eunuch? Did the Spirit somehow enlightened him and suddenly he understood the passage of scripture that he was reading? If you notice in verse 29, the Spirit told Philip to go to the eunuch. It was Philip who taught the eunuch the scriptures and helped him understand the passage that he was reading to the extent that the eunuch believed Jesus and was willing to confess and submit himself in baptism. The Holy Spirit did not operate directly but used servants of God as in this instance, Philip as the agent to teach the eunuch about Jesus. It is interesting to note that at the end of this incident, after the conversion of the eunuch, “the Spirit caught away Philip” which would mean that the Spirit was present all the while yet did not do the teaching directly. The Holy Spirit was not somewhere far away! How about Acts 10, the account of the conversion of Cornelius? Who was sent to teach him? Although an angel of God appeared to him in a vision, yet he was told to go to meet Peter where he will be told what to do in order to be saved.
- Well, our friend then commented that the above accounts were referring to the work of the Holy Spirit on those who were seeking the truth and were not yet Christians.
Well, in the account recorded in Acts 18:24-26 concerning Apollos, the scriptures in verse 24 and 25, observed that he was “mighty in the scriptures” and “was instructed in the way of the Lord”. He was a very fervent preacher but he did not teach correctly concerning the baptism of John. Question: Did the Holy Spirit directly correct him or somehow enlightened him so that he suddenly knew the truth and began to teach more accurately? Why did Luke record that it was Aquila and Priscila who “expounded unto him the way of God more accurately”. Apollos was not an unbeliever but was “an eloquent preacher “and in verse 25, he was a “diligent” (KJV) teacher and the ASV said that he taught “accurately” the things concerning Jesus but he knew only the baptism of John. Thus we see the Holy Spirit did not operate directly to correct and teach a person but used servants of God as the means to teach and correct those who taught inaccurately.
- Why the need for apostolic epistles if the early Christians could be enlightened directly by the Holy Spirit?
Think about this, if the Holy Spirit directly taught and corrected every believer or disciple, then why did Paul have to write all those letters to the churches in Corinth, in Colossae, in Galatia, in Thessalonica, etc. to teach them and correct their mistakes? As you are aware, technology at that time was rather primitive and writing letters was not “a walk in the park” but was tedious. The mailing system was not fantastic either. In those days, there were no airplanes that could enable one to travel from one place to another within a day or less. There were no electronic mails either. Yet, it was necessary for the apostles to write so that the Christians could understand the revelation of God: “how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, 4 by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), 5 which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Eph 3:3-5)
- The above discussion highlights to us the following:-
The Holy Spirit brought to the remembrance to the apostles all that Jesus had taught them (John 14:26) and guided the apostles into all truth (John 16:13). As the apostles preached the revealed truth, God confirmed the word taught, with signs and miracles (Heb 2:4; Mark 16:20). We now have the confirmed word, the faith, which has once for all been delivered unto the saints (Jude 3) and we need to contend earnestly for it. The Holy Spirit does not work directly on people today, to help them become enlightened to the truth. It did not do that even in the first century other than revealing the truth to the apostles (Eph 3:5), God’s chosen witnesses of the resurrection of Christ (Acts 1:8). There are no new revelations of the truth other than what have been taught by the apostles (Gal 1:8; 1 John 4:1,6). We need to be careful in handling the scriptures and not wrestle the scriptures to our destruction (2 Pet 3:16).
- We need also to realize that if we are not going to do the work of preaching and teaching others, people will not be able to know the truth that can set them free (Rom 10:13-17; John 8:31-32). Let us study the scriptures daily and diligently, in order to be able to handle the word of God aright (2 Tim. 2:15). Let us allow God to use us as “vessels for honor, fit for the master’s use, perfect for every good work” (2 Tim. 2:21). Listen to Isa 6:8: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here amI! Send me.” Will we go and preach the gospel as commanded by our Lord in Matt 28:18-20?