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THE DIRECT OPERATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, PART 1

Calvinism, from its beginning, has contended that the Holy Spirit operates directly on the human heart. Ben M. Bogard, Baptist preacher, with whom brother N. B. Hardeman conducted more than one debate, one of which is recorded in a book, said: "That is exactly what I am coming to now, the Holy Spirit actually touches (emph. his, GE) the human heart. Nothing between at all." He also said, Even so the Holy Spirit has written his word to us, and there is power in the word, but when the Holy Spirit actually presents himself and comes into personal contact with the sinner there is a much more powerful influence.

Bogard, could not have been farther from the truth!  Through the years, sound brethren have opposed and exposed the view that the Holy Spirit operates in a "direct" way, i.e., actually comes in contact, touches, the human spirit.  In response to Bogard's contention that the Holy Spirit "touches the human spirit" brother Hardeman said, But how does the Spirit operate? That is the question. My answer, first, last and all the time, is that he influences through the gospel, which is God's power. The word is the medium through which the Spirit accomplishes his work. If that book there were the sinner's heart and this hand were the Holy Spirit (placing hand on book) there is direct and immediate contact; if you put something between, the hand will operate on the book, but this time it is through the medium of this tablet. That represents the only two ideas that can be had from this proposition. That represents the difference between Dr. Bogard and me, the difference between error and truth! (Hardeman-Bogard Debate, pp. 21, 31).

Amazing as it is, some brethren are now contending for a "Direct" operation on the heart of a Christian, and some are also contending for Holy Spirit baptism for an alien sinner. In thus, “It is my opinion that in the providence of God, we have come to a point in the history of the church when God wants the error taught for years by the "word only" advocates (on the Holy Spirit issue) corrected. contending, they are just as wrong as Bogard. The Holy Spirit does not operate directly on the heart of saint or sinner, but He always operates through His Word (Eph. 6:17). Paul, wrote by inspiration:  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Rom. 1:16).

Then he wrote, For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).  The Holy Spirit uses His "law," the Word of God, to make men free from sin, and He also uses His Word to influence Christians. At Miletus, Paul said to Christians, elders of the church in Ephesus:  And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the Word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified (Acts 20:32).

In these passages, Paul points out two things that the Word of God does for faithful Christians: (1) The Word will build up the Christian. (2) The Word will cause the faithful Christian to receive an "inheritance." The "inheritance" is heaven, for Peter wrote: "To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Pet. 1:4).

To deny what Paul said, that the Word is able to do, is an impeachment of the all-sufficiency of the Word. James wrote, Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls (Jas. 1:21).  This scripture teaches that the Word of God is able to save the soul. Nothing is said about a need for the Holy Spirit to operate on the heart in a "Direct" way. Therefore, when Ben M. Bogard said, "That is exactly what I am coming to now, the Holy Spirit actually touches the human heart," he was as wrong as wrong can be. Neither did James say that "The Holy Spirit in conjunction with the word" must operate on the heart of a Christian.

Brother Mac Deaver contends that the Word alone is not capable of saving the soul. In a personal letter to me, dated July 9, 1998, and later published in Biblical Notes (July-September, 1998, p. 11), he wrote:  When the inspired Paul and James pointed out the all-sufficiency of the Word of God to save both saint and sinner, that settles the matter! When God's Word teaches a thing, that is the final word on the subject. Paul wrote, For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar (Rom. 3:3-4a).  The Holy Spirit has a sword--the Word of God. Paul wrote, "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (emph. mine, GE).  It is not a question as to whether the Holy Spirit dwells in a Christian, but the question is how? Paul wrote, And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Eph. 5:18). 

In a parallel passage he wrote, 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 (Col. 3:16).  Inspiration reveals to us that the Holy Spirit dwells within us as Christians, but He does this through the Word of God!

Garland Elkins, Yokevellow, A Publication of the Memphis School of Preaching, February, 2004