Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, a baptist church in Jessup, MD. B.A. in Bible, B.S. English Ed., M.S. in Educational Leadership.
The Spirit Leads Us
In previous articles, I explained that every true believer is baptized with the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit gives every true believer life, and that every true believer needs to walk in the Spirit to overcome temptations to sin.
I also explained that walking in the Spirit requires following the Spirit, for the Spirit leads God's children.
"For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." (Romans 8:14, ESV)
The Spirit can lead us, believers in Jesus Christ, to the truth and to God's will.
The New Testament clearly teaches that the Spirit leads us to the truth:
"13 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, ESV).
"26 I write these things to you about those who are trying to deceive you. 27 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him." (1 John 2:26-27, ESV)
The Bible clearly teaches that God teaches us His will, and I infer He does this through His Hoy Spirit:
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8, ESV)
Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground! (Psalm 143:10, ESV)
In the verses above, the Spirit appears to lead believers not through either an interpersonal exchange (what we may call a "spiritual" experience) rathern than through a written passage in the Bible. This interpersonal exchange between the Spirit and the believer is what this article is about.
A Logical Bridge
Just as it woudn't make sense for you to hand a blind person instructions written with ink on paper for her to figure out how to navigate from Manhattan, NY to the White House on Washington D.C.—and just as it wouldn't make sense for you to hand a deaf person an audio recording of instructions to do the same—it does not make sense to suppose the Spirit leads in ways that we cannot perceive and understand.
When the Bible says that the Spirit leads God's children, it implies at least three things:
- The Spirit can give us directions
- The Spirit does give us directions
- We can follow those directions
- Because we can understand those directions.
If we cannot follow those directions (the Spirit's lead) because we cannot understand them, the Spirit might be giving directions, but He isn't really leading us: and the Bible says that God's children are actually led by the Spirit.
However, Bible passages that teach that the Spirit leads believers do not necessarily teach how He does this. For example, the context in Romans 8:14 does tell us how the Spirit leads us, neither do the contexts of Galatians 5:18 and the verses I quoted above.
But what does the Scripture say?
"16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17, ESV)
Consequently, I believe it is legitimate for us to consider how the Spirit led believers in the rest of the Bible.
How The Spirit Leads Believers
In the Bible, the Spirit leads believers through several spiritual experiences. Some believers may think that these experiences are strange, nevertheless these experiences are Bible-based, and the Bible does give us principles to guide us.
Convicting our Conscience
The Holy Spirit gives our conscience conviction, which is composed of belief and emotion. The Holy Spirit is not our conscience: instead, He interacts with our conscience so we can experience conviction.
"And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment." (John 16:8, ESV)
This kind of conviction will lead a person to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
Reminding Us of Biblical Passages
In the passages below, we see that the disciples remembered scriptures. This remembering was significant to them because it provided them with a biblical understanding of the events they were witnessing, and because the passages imply that the remembering was an experience caused by God.
His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.” (John 2:17, ESV)
And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 11:16, ESV)
In some Bible passages, it is evident that the Holy Spirit gives believers sensations to show them God's will.
For example, in Jeremiah 20:9. the prophet experienced the sensation of a fire in his heart and in his bones.
But if I say, “I will not mention him and I will no longer speak in his name,” then it becomes in my heart like a fire burning, locked up in my bones, and I struggle to contain it, and I am not able. (Jeremiah 20:9, LEB)
The Lord's disciples also experienced a similar sensation while the resurrected Lord spoike to them:
32 And they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was speaking with us on the road, while he was explaining the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32, LEB)
Clearly, these sensations were the work of the Holy Spirit in the prophet and the Lord's disciples.
The Holy Spirit also leads believers through emotions, such as peace. For example, the prophet Isaiah wrote that God will grant peace to those who trust in Him:
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. (Isaiah 26:3, KJV)
The Apostle Paul also wrote that beleivers' can experience a supernatural peace:
7 And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7, LEB)
The kind of peace of which Isaiah and Paul wrote was obviously not the natural result of faith, but the supernatural intervention of God on behalf of those who trust Him and obey Him.
Certain passaes in the Bible also appear to indicate that the Holy Spirit leads our reasonging to arrive to conclusions that are true.
When the Lord Jesus asked his disciples who they thought He was, Peter declared that HE was the Christ. Look at what the Lord said to Peter:
17 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 16:27, LEB)
Although the text does not explicitly say how God revealed to Peter that Jesus is the Christ, the absence of more details, the Lord asking the disciples about His identity, and the Lord declaring to Peter that he had received revelation, all appear to suggest the following scenario: Peter had been considering the Lord's works and teachings, and he had been listening to how the other deisciples answered the Lord's question, so Peter deduced that Jesus was the Christ. Nevertheless, although Peter reasoned that Jesus was the Christ, God had actually been guiding Peter's thoughts to arrive to such conclusion (this process is similar to the process of biblical inspiration, in which God providentially guided the writers to produce Scripture).
There is also evidence of this process in Paul's epistles—take Paul's opinion about singlehood as an example.
40 But she is happier if she remains thus, according to my opinion—and I think I have the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 7:40, LEB)
When Paul mentions that he believes it is better for a woman to remain single, he does not say he believes this because God spoke to him (as he does in other passages like Galatians 1:2). Instead, he expresses faith that his opinion is being influenced by the Holy Spirit.
Dreams and Visions
The Bible also tells us that the Spirit can lead believers through dreams and visions.
And it will be in the last days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. (Acts 2:17, LEB)
We should all know from experience what dreams are: when we sleep, we imagine and believe that we are living through some situations or events, but these are only taking place in our minds. Often, the dream feels as if we're watching a scene from a movie.
In the Bible, visions are like dreams: except that they happen when the believer is awake. You might call them hallucinations, but they are not induced by thrist, hunger, illness, or drugs—they are caused by God's Spirit.
The difficulty with dreams and visions is that they are often symbolical, and therefore we do not immediately understand what they mean. For example, Daniel did not immediately understand his visions (Daniel 8:15).
In the case that we do understand what a dream (or vision) means (just as Jacob understood Joseph's dream in Genesis 37:10), we may not know how exactly it will be fulfilled.
Finally, the Bible also appears to indicatre that that some "vision" are only auditory. In other words, the believer hears God speak, but does not see anything.
And the Spirit said to Philip, “Approach and join this chariot.” (Acts 8:29, LEB)
And while Peter was reflecting about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, men are looking for you. (Acts 10:19, LEB)
In the two passages above, the believers heard the Holy Spirit speak, but they did not see anything when He spoke to them (Peter had previously seen a vision, but he was no longer seeing the vision when the Spirit spoke to Him).
Such experiences were also mentioned in the Old Testament:
And your ears shall hear a word from behind you, saying, “this is the way; walk in it,” when you go to your right and when you go to your left. (Isaiah 30:21, LEB).
It also appears that some of these auditory visions can be experienced by more than one person at a time:
And while they were serving the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart now for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2, LEB).
The reader should understand that some Christians believe that these kinds of experiences are not meant for believers today, but only for the believers of biblical times. I will discuss this in a future article.
The reader should also understand that, just because someone has any of the experiences above, it does not mean that the experiences are from the Spirit of God. The Bible warns believers not to believe every spirit, so I will also discuss this in a future article.
© 2021 Marcelo Carcach