|Vol. 15 No. 7 July 2013||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Sometimes students of the Bible must satisfy themselves with less information about a topic under scrutiny than they prefer. This is true about the intercession of the Holy Spirit. Little is recorded in Scripture respecting the intercessory ministry of the Spirit. Deuteronomy 29:29 advises us to search the things provided man by God and not tamper with or speculate about the rest. This attitude must be adopted regarding the intercession of the Holy Spirit. “The fact of the Spirit’s intercession is taught in the Bible. We may not know much more than the fact of it, but we may believe the word of God” (L’Roy 91). There are, though, certain points that can be extracted from the limited statement or deduced about the intercession of the Spirit. “(1) A mediator stands between two while an intercessor stands by one pleading to another. (2) A mediator represents both parties; the intercessor represents one” (L’Roy 91). “The Holy Spirit aids us in our infirmities (weakness)… we do not know what, or how, to pray as we ought… the Spirit makes intercession for us "with groanings which cannot be uttered'” (Woods 72). “This is not a work done in us nor upon us, but is something done for us before the throne of God” (Sweeney 135 emphasis added).
…this passage has no relevance to any discussion regarding the manner or mode of the Spirit’s indwelling in view of the fact that it deals with what the Spirit does for us, not to us, and describes an action which occurs in heaven, not on earth—an influence wrought upon God and not upon man! It is a gross perversion of this passage to cite it in support of any theory of “indwelling” of the Spirit. (Woods 72-73 emphasis added)
Putting Romans 8:26-27 in its proper perspective is essential to understanding it properly. “…it is not the Spirit, but the burdened Christian who groans, and these groans are by the Spirit borne to our heavenly Father and used by the Spirit as the instrument of intercession” (Woods 72). Surely, every child of God can relate to dire circumstances in life for which we lack adequate expression of our emotions. “Every man who is devoted to the Lord finds times when deep down in his heart there are vague desires and longings, and a sense of need, that he is unable to put in words. These are the groanings which cannot be uttered; these are the groanings which the Holy Spirit conveys to the Father in our prayers” (R.L. Whiteside from Annual Lesson Commentary for 1941 qtd. in Woods).
Grief, sorrow or distress may inhibit the full expression of ourselves in prayer for that for which we should pray. Through the intercession of the Spirit, those prayers are complemented and presented to God. However, the fact the Holy Spirit intercedes for saints in this way is not license for lazy or careless Christians to defer to the Spirit.
L’Roy, Elmer. The Holy Spirit. Shreveport: Lambert, 1966.
Sweeney, Z.T. The Spirit and the Word. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, n.d.
Woods, Guy N. Questions and Answers. Henderson: Freed-Hardeman College, 1976.
T. Pierce Brown (deceased)
While reading Psalm 19, I was struck by a simple truth that most of us may know, but which needs to be emphasized again. The last part of verse 8 says, “The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.” Since that is so, one might expect this also to be true: “The commandments of men are impure, confusing and blinding the eyes.” As I meditated on that, I thought of many denominational doctrines that do exactly that, whether they are commandments or supposed exegeses of passages of scripture.
A classical case in point is found in The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches by Edward Hiscox. Under the subject of “Regeneration” on page 63, it says, “We believe the Scriptures teach that in order to be saved, men must be regenerated, or born again; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind; that it is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel; and that its proper evidence appears in the holy fruits of repentance, faith, and newness of life.” If you have a friend who is a genius, with a Ph.D. in language or communication, or a Th.D. in Theology, see if you can get him to explain that sentence in terms of anything the Bible says, or anything you can understand.
Note that Jesus says in John 3:7, “Ye must be born again.” So, here is an imperative of God, prerequisite to entering the kingdom of heaven. Yet, according to the manual, you could not understand how to do that if you wanted to, would not want to if you could understand it, and if you understood it and wanted to, you could not, for not only is it “above our comprehension,” it is something done to you by the Holy Spirit without your will or desire. However, it is “in connection with divine truth,” but you have no way of knowing what that connection is. Whether you read it, hear it, sit on it or throw it in the fire, you cannot know, for it is above your comprehension! However, it is defined as consisting of “giving a holy disposition to the mind.”
Although Jesus commanded man to be born again, you cannot want to, for you are supposedly “hereditarily totally depraved” or “by nature utterly void of that holiness required by the law of God” (page 60). So it has to be done to you by the direct operation of the Holy Spirit “in a manner above our comprehension.” So, if you ever get to where you want to, it is too late, for it has already been done to and for you! And when it is done to you, all that is done is that your mind is now “disposed to be holy.” It was supposed to be holy, but could not; now it is disposed to be holy and cannot keep from it!
In the next place, whenever it happens it “secures your voluntary obedience to the gospel.” Note two things about that: 1. You must be regenerated before you can even want to obey the Gospel, for your mind is not yet disposed to be holy, and 2. It makes you voluntarily obey the Gospel (whatever that may mean). It must be something similar to a man putting a pistol to your head and saying, “Voluntarily give me your money” but it is “above our comprehension.” There is little doubt of that! That process is beyond the comprehension of anybody!
Next, after whatever happens does happen (and you neither know how, when, where or why) and you have been made to voluntarily obey the Gospel, then you are to realize that the proper fruits of this regeneration are repentance, faith and newness of life. You have to be regenerated (according to that doctrine) before you can repent, for you are “hereditarily totally depraved” and could not repent if you wanted to, would not want to if you could, and if you did it would not make any difference, for “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:7), and you could have no faith before regeneration (according to that doctrine).
Although the Bible says “The goodness of God leads to repentance” (Romans 2:4) and “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word or God” (Romans 10:17), this doctrine teaches that somehow repentance comes before you either believe in Christ or care about the goodness of God, but are “inseparable graces, wrought in the soul by the regenerating Spirit of God” (page 64). That is, you cannot repent without believing, nor believe without repenting, nor can you really do either, for both are produced in you by the Holy Spirit in a way that you cannot comprehend!
We could go on and on with illustrations of the utter confusion, contradictions (both internal contradictions with the doctrines themselves, and contradictions with the Bible) and results of almost every denominational doctrine. However, we do not want to be responsible for your having to go to the hospital with an ulcer or mental breakdown trying to figure out what is beyond your comprehension, so we desist. Remember, though, that “The commandments of the Lord are pure, enlightening the eyes,” not confusing and contradictory.
It was not hard for about 3,000 to hear and obey the commandments of the Lord as spoken by Peter in Acts 2, and climaxed in Acts 2:38-42. It was not “above the comprehension” of Paul to “arise and be baptized and wash away his sins” as recorded in Acts 22:16. So, if anything in God’s plan for your salvation is so far beyond your comprehension that you cannot do it, you may be assured it is not God’s commandments!