Monday, March 16, 2009

Blame It on the Spirit

For many years the evangelical world has believed the Holy Spirit operated directly upon their hearts, not only in bringing about salvation but also in day-to-day guidance. How often one might see in religious literature phrases that suggest the Holy Spirit spoke directly to someone or impressed on his heart to pursue a particular course.
Even among churches of Christ, we are seeing churches turning from the truth to error, supposedly at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. An eldership recently wrote a letter to the members of the congregation explaining why they were going to use instrumental music in one of their worship services. They said:

In the last few months we have been led by the Spirit to believe that as one of our tools we need to offer a second service, a service which will include a blend of a cappella and instrumental music. We realize that this is a break from our tradition and that many of you are struggling with this, but we have witnessed the Spirit’s great movement in the Wednesday evening college worship, a worship service with instrumental worship. Where God is moving, we seek to join Him, even if that entails some departure from our tradition. We believe Jesus gave us this pattern in John 5:19 (“The son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing”). …

We have spent considerable time inquiring of God and feel led by His Spirit to pursue the goal we set forth for 2009 and to utilize the implementation of two services as one of the tools for reaching this goal. We ask you to walk with us as we strive to walk with God.

It is indeed hard for me to imagine that the Holy Spirit led them to act divisively by adding a worship activity they knew would violate the conscience of some. While the elders recognized a cappella music as a tradition, they seem oblivious to the fact that it was a divine tradition—a tradition of the Holy Spirit himself. Nor do they recall that neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit would speak new teachings or make new practices not instructed by the Father (John 12:49-50; 16:12-13).
Of course the evidence for their change is not what the Holy Spirit has caused to be written in Scripture but their own observations. They do not tell how they know that the Spirit was moving. We wonder how they knew the Spirit was moving on the college class in their use of the instrument, when there is no record of any church in the first century using an instrument. Did they hear speaking in tongues at they did at the house of Cornelius or at Ephesus? Did they see miracles?
If the Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all the truth in the first century (and He did—John 16:13; this the promise of Jesus), why didn’t the Spirit reveal the need to use the instrument in the New Testament? Why didn’t the early church, who was guided into all truth, understand they were to use the instrument? Why are the members of the congregation being asked to rely on the findings of the elders but given no Scriptural precedence for the practice?
Those who are bringing the Spirit to bear into what they are doing often ignore the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures. They forget the Scriptures claim they are inspired and complete. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If Christianity had all truth and was equipped for every good work in the first, we will not see any new truth or need any further equipping in the 21st century. “All” and “every” means “all” and “every”; not “all,” except when I feel moved.
People today are using phrases such as “the Spirit led me to…,” “the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart to…,” or “the Sprit prompted me to…” to justify their own choices and directions. Such subjective assertions are often more a statement of what they desire than of what the Spirit has revealed.
The argument that they use to justify the instrument is also the argument women who want to preach use to deny the teaching of 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:10-11. It is the argument the emerging church people use to try to reinvent Christianity.
The Holy Spirit is not in the innovation business. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit only speaks and acts what He hears from the Father. We are now to contend for the faith, which was once for all time delivered to the saints, not innovate and reinvent Christianity.
In the days of Jeremiah, some false prophets were always claiming to speak “the word of the Lord.” Jeremiah said:
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”
For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? (Jer. 23:16-18)

“I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.” (23:21-22)

Jeremiah spoke of prophets who were convinced God had spoken to them but the vision came from their own hearts and minds. God did not speak to them; they weren’t listening to God. They spoke out of their own imagination.
To blame the Spirit and say He moved us to innovate, to originate our own beliefs and practices, is ignorant and dishonoring to the Holy Spirit. Don’t blame the Spirit; obey the Spirit who spoke in Scripture (1 Thess. 4:8). Do not go beyond the teaching of Scripture. Only in this way will you imitate the Son and Spirit.



Warren Baldwin said...

Hey Phil,

We just stayed with friends from the Edmond congregation and they told us about you moving there. Our prayers that your work goes well!

Family Fountain:

Bible Fountain:

God bless,

guy said...

While the Scripture does say a great deal about the Holy Spirit doing things, i don't recall any instances where Christians in the New Testament used language like "we feel like the Spirit is leading us to do such and such" or "after praying about it, the Spirit is prompting me to make such and such a decision" or an individual saying "i feel led by the Spirit to tell you this"--do you?

If someone acknowledges the validity of the restoration principle, then it's quite significant (is it not?) to point out that this sort of Spirit talk is *not* an imitation of first century practice.


P.S. i wish you all the best on the TV program--i imagine that Mac left some awful big shoes to fill.

Anonymous said...

When I first read/heard their claim I thought, "What can stop us now from 'claiming' and 'naming' any number of practices?"

The gate, once again, is open and They Are Off....

Anonymous said...


Thought I'd visit your blog after seeing your commitment to a "progressive/conservative" dialogue with Jay and Todd. I look forward to following along.

Zach Cox

Anonymous said...


The Jerusalem council's letter to Antioch contains some language indicating a relationship between the human will and God's will regarding decision making and it is directly linked to the Holy Spirit. "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..." (Acts 15:28). Of course, you can then debate what that means; but the point is that the language does exist.

Zach Cox

Phil Sanders said...

the apostles and brethren in those days, who lived with miraculous gifts and without a completed New Testament, had direct revelation to guide them. Since all truth was delivered to them and no new truth came after they died, then applying this passage to our situation today is unwarranted.


guy said...


actually it's not the same languaged you hear used today. What Acts 15 does not say is anything about "nudgings" or "promptings" or gut feelings as a guide to the Holy Spirit's direction. Furthermore, it doesn't seem to represent a *precedent* for the way early Christians made their decisions or worked out their personal discipleship, whereas our modern use of this language is a trend and almost a bedrock feature of some religious/theological strains.


What passage? Did i mention a passage? Zach mentioned Acts 15, but i didn't mention any in my earlier comment.


Matt Clifton said...


Excellent article, and much appreciated. Keep up the good work, brother.

Matt Clifton

laymond said...

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17)."

Phil, it is easy to quote Paul here and forget the only scripture he was, and could have been speaking of was the "Old Testament" Since the New Testament was yet 300 + years down the road.

Phil Sanders said...

1 Timothy 5:18 quotes from Deuteronomy and Luke in the same breath and gives them equal billing as "Scripture." Paul at the time of writing Timothy was well aware that many of the New Testament books had been written, including his own. 2 Timothy, after all, is his last book.

Passages like 1 Corinthians 14:37 show that Paul knew what he was writing.

The use of the word "every" or "all" in 2 Timothy 3:16 is remarkable when compared to 2 Timothy 3:15, where is merely "sacred writings."

While the OT was essential to our understanding of God's plan of redemption (salvation), it is certainly inadequate to tell all that Timothy needed to know to go to heaven as a Christian. It was a tutor to lead us to Christ, but Christ was also needed.

The Christian evangelist needed more than the OT, just as we do, and we have that in the NT Scriptures.


laymond said...

Phil said "The use of the word "every" or "all" in 2 Timothy 3:16 is remarkable when compared to 2 Timothy 3:15, where is merely "sacred writings." "

Phil, please explain, are you saying Paul included more scripture in 16 than in 15. and are you saying the Old Testament is "sacred" and the New is not. If you believe all scripture is inspired, how is one more sacred than the other?

15: And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16: All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

The first sentence in 15 says to me that Timothy has had this scripture that Paul refers to since he was a child, and by the way, he was taught this scripture by his mother and grandmother.

I hope you do well in your new position, I used to watch Mack every Sunday, I don't believe the program is any longer available in our viewing area. I also used to discuss things with Brother Lyons by email. I hope he is doing well.

Phil Sanders said...

thanks for your post. The only Scripture available to Timothy in his childhood was the OT. But when Paul writes 2 Timothy (66-67 AD), numerous NT Scriptures are available.

Paul, for instance, refers to the gospel of Luke (10:7) in 1 Timothy 5:18 as "Scripture" and equivalent with Deuteronomy 25:4.

The use of "every" or "all" says Paul was including even the writings of the apostles and prophets of the new covenant in his description.

I hope this helps,

Phil Sanders said...

Mack is hard at work today, and on Thursday we'll tape programs 19-22 for the year. I am working this morning on programs:

Walking By the Spirit
Where Are You Going?

You can see our programs online at any time!

God bless,

Terry Ellis said...

Hi Phil,
I just saw on your blog that you are now in Edmond OK. Sorry to hear that you are no longer at Concord Road. I will try to watch your blog and the graceconversation. I am thankful for you.

Terry Ellis
Clarksville, TN

Unknown said...

Good article about blaming the Spirit. It is sad to hear of elders in the church leading others astray from the written word of God to follow their own beliefs (feelings), as you pointed out by Jeremiah's passage. If instrumental music was not in the NT church, and it wasn't, and if we are to worship God as he directs, and we are, then worshipers with instruments find themselves with no scriptural authority. As you said, many lay the blame on the Spirit. The Spirit was given to guide the apostles into all the truth. The first century church worship was Spirit guided in their worship (1Cor 14.26). When the scriptures were complete (1Cor 13.8-13; Eph 4.11-16), they had the word of God in written form to guide them, as we do today. (1Cor 4.6). Blaming the Spirit could lead to many inventions of man in the worship of the church. My facetious answer to the elders would be: Oh Yeah? Well, the Spirit told me for you not to use it.

Jonathan said...

Hope you can get back at GraceConversation soon. It is not much a conversation with just one side talking.

UChenna F. Bekee said...

Brother, Phil,
I am deeply encouraged by your devotion to the things of God. Your Ministry shall take many out of the dark corners of ignorance and stupidity.

The Holy Spirit Lives i us through he engrafted word, He leads us into all truth . ot into personal thoughts that come as a result of desire and appetite like those elders who wrote to their congregation about the Spirit leading them to introduce IM into a second worship. Wht can we say; Does God lead men or moove men out of His written word.?
I wonder why, men who should be for the truth lead the flock astray.
I wish I am a member of that congregation to sound note of warning to the flock, not to heed to the dictates of wolves in sheep clothing. I think every Christian who is open to God, has the Holy spirit and so, it is not an exclusive preserve of the elders.

Thanks and God Bless;
UChenna F. Bekee