Updated: Feb 25
When a sinner is saved through the new birth, by repentant faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel, receiving Jesus Christ as Lord, King, Redeemer, and Saviour, a wonderful and mysterious event takes place. At that very moment of the new birth, the Spirit of God enters his very body, his temple, the inner man, there to reside and to guide his new life in Christ Jesus (Ti 2:11-14; 1 Jn 2:27), and to seal him till the day of redemption (Eph 1:13; 4:30; 2 Cor 1:22). Henceforth, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom 8:16). “Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit” (1 Jn 4:13). The indwelling, comforting, leading, witnessing, teaching Spirit is not alone, for Jesus promised that, when the Comforter comes to “be in you,” then through the Spirit, “I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you” (Jn 14:17, 20). Thus, we can “be filled with all the fulness of God” (Eph 3:19).
True spirituality relates to the Holy Spirit. Someone is spiritual when the Holy Spirit indwells him. The Holy Spirit indwells believers, truly converted or saved people only. He doesn’t indwell unbelievers, including those who feign faith evident by their corrupt fruit, worldliness, non-consent to the doctrine of godliness, or allegiance to false doctrine, etc, so unbelievers are not spiritual. The Holy Spirit in His holy nature does not indwell the unrighteous. Every believer is spiritual because every believer possesses the Holy Spirit. The essence of a believer is spirituality. He is spiritual. A crucial verse for this is Rom 8:9:
“But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.”
Those in the flesh are not saved and those in the Spirit are saved (cf. Rom 8:1-9; 7:4-6). Someone with the Spirit of Christ is one of God’s children, and the saint’s body becomes a temple in which the Spirit can reign over his life.
“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor 6:19-20).
So God has not left men without the means of true spirituality. But God has also not left men without a basis for discerning true spirituality. 1 Jn 4:1 indicates that genuine born again Christians can test “the spirits whether they are of God.” At the same time, most people have been deceived in this area. The road is broad that leads to destruction (Matt 7:13-14). As a means of validating their condition, men seek after signs (1 Cor. 1:22) that very often are counterfeits that lure men into a false sense of spiritual security. From the teaching of Jesus (Matt 7:21-23), we know that at the judgment seat, their tragic deception will be exposed with no future opportunity for correction. Men can be fooled into trusting in fraudulent indicators of their spiritual states.
In Jam 1:22-25, James says men deceive themselves with the faulty notion that God accepts the mere hearing of His Word. This reveals the nature of people’s deceit. They can rationalize a tolerance of their own disobedience to what God said. Satan is a deceiver and liar, who would have men mislead by their own unreliable measurements of spirituality. And the Devil majors on spiritual subterfuge in particular—it’s his domain of activity (Eph 6:12). On the other hand, the Word of God is sufficient (2 Tim 3:15-17). We don’t have to be deceived. We have the truth, which sets us apart from spiritual error (Jn 17:17).
Who Is Spiritual?
Sometimes you might hear someone say, “He’s a spiritual person.” Based on a scriptural evaluation, that would be the same as saying, “He’s a saved person.” As mentioned, every saved person is a spiritual person, because at the very point of his justification by faith, he has received the gift of the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 6:19-20; 1 Jn 3:9). Only true, born again believers are spiritual. No unbeliever is spiritual, even if he says he’s “a spiritual person,” and that includes false professors. No true born again believer is any more spiritual than any other born again believer.
The Holy Spirit is a Person. When someone receives the Holy Spirit, he has all the Holy Spirit that he will ever get. He doesn’t need any fresh outpouring or anointing. The concept of “more spiritual” isn’t in the Bible.
Believers, true, genuine Christians are led by the Spirit of God, and not their flesh. Believers are led by the Spirit. The NT doesn’t tell believers to be led by the Holy Spirit. It says that they are. You can tell that they are by the way the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in their lives. Perversion of this truth occurs when people are cloaked with false teachings such as neo-evangelicalism and thus cannot tell the difference between true spirituality and the kind they know, a bastardized version that fits the corruption and perversion of truth they are accustomed to, and they themselves have embraced.
God does command believers to be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), which is to be controlled by the Spirit (Rom 6), to be yielded to Him. When a believer is controlled by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will manifest Himself in various ways described in the NT. Every true believer is controlled by the Holy Spirit to a degree (Rom 6), though it may not manifest itself to where it should be.
Who is the Holy Spirit?
Since the Holy Spirit is spirit after all, so we can't see Him, He is easier for men to mold into what they prefer Him to be. He is Who He is, which what scripture says about Him. The Holy Spirit, yes, gives joy, peace, those fruit of the Spirit, which people want. They want other people to get love, you know, so that they'll be able to receive their love, because they do want that.
The Holy Spirit is a Restrainer. In 2 Th 2:7 Paul gives a title to the Holy Spirit, "he who now letteth," which is katecho, "to hold back,” a modern understanding being, "restrainer." In this chapter, the Holy Spirit restrains from apostasy, restraint without which would be total apostasy. He holds back the sewage by restraining. In general, restraint is negative. People want something and someone stops or impedes what they want. In the case of the Holy Spirit, He is not giving someone something, but stopping him from having it.
The Holy Spirit is a Reprover. When Jesus talked about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in very important teaching of His disciples before His death (Jn 16:8), He said that the Holy Spirit will “reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” “Reprove" is to convict, that is, to prove guilty. He reproves someone for something he has done of which the Holy Spirit does not approve. He points out wrongdoing with the goal of repentance. A believer has the ability not to sin, because of the Holy Spirit. The unbeliever does not have ability not to sin. He might not sin as much as he possibly can, but he does not have the power within him to hold him back from sinning, which is why he keeps sinning. That is why drug and alcohol addicts have to keep going to their meetings and establish certain behaviours in their lives, to offset the temptation of the sin. But it is not so with the truly saved believer. He has the victory at the very moment he is born again (Rom 6; 1 Jn 5:4-5), which is the very moment that Christ heals him through His stripes (1 Pet 2:24). This is why Paul says in 1 Jn 3:9 about the believer:
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
“He cannot sin” is continuous sin, sin as a lifestyle. That is the obvious meaning as we read in the rest of this epistle (1 Jn 1:8–2:1) and Bible. “His seed” is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit remains in him and that’s why he doesn’t sin continuously. If someone continues to live in sin without repentance, he should examine himself whether he be in the faith (2 Cor 13:5), he should “give diligence to make [his] calling and election sure” (2 Pet 1:9-10). Sin and spirituality do not coexist. If it is sin, it is not the Spirit. If it is the Spirit, it is not sin. Someone under the control of the Holy Spirit will be holy as He is holy. He has the power within him to stop sinning, so he will not sin as a lifestyle. If you think you’re saved, and you’ve been living in sin without repentance for some time, you should consider that you are not a saved person.
The Holy Spirit is a Controller of Self. One of the list of the fruit of the Spirit is "temperance." Temperance is about doing something you don't want to do or not doing something you want to do. The Holy Spirit works toward self-control.
The Holy Spirit is the Strength Giver. Some might not like His title of Restrainer as a title, since that means He is impeding something they want, so that they are unable to fulfil their lusts. So they say, ‘Well, He's also called “the Comforter.”’ Right. "Comforter" has changed in understanding since the KJV translators gave that translation to the Greek word paraklesis. The English word comes from the Latin, com, "with," and forte, "strength," so the etymology of the English word is "with strength." The Holy Spirit is the Strength Giver as a title and the Restrainer as one too.
The Holy Spirit is Negative. Negativity is a trait of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit inspired scripture, a lot of which is negative. The ten commandments are almost all negative. When the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in and through a believer, the believer will be negative too. Very often, people who are often negative are assumed to be unspiritual. Spirituality is many times seen almost entirely as chipper and upbeat and high energy. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb (Lk 1:15). How positive was John the Baptist? Not very. He was very often as negative as someone could be. That manifested the Holy Spirit in Him. I'm not saying that you should go out of your way to be negative because now you see the Holy Spirit to be negative. It will just occur in your life if you are regenerated by the Spirit and then filled with the Spirit. You will see sin or scorning or foolishness or scoffing or false doctrine or corruption of Scripture and you will say something negative about it. It's what the Holy Spirit does.
How Does the Holy Spirit Manifest Himself?
The NT indicates several different ways that we can discern true spirituality. We should expect all of these of someone who is spiritual, that is someone that is truly saved. Because everyone has equal spiritual resources (Eph 1:3; 2 Pet 1:1-4; 1 Cor 1:7), everyone also has equal opportunity for manifesting true spirituality. In other words, no one is breathing any kind of pure spiritual air that sets him apart from any other truly saved born again believer (which is where the issue almost always resides; people aren’t actually truly saved though they have deceived themselves to think they are).
God isn’t responsible for spiritual lack. When a man is tempted, he is drawn away of his own lusts (Jam. 1:14). The Holy Spirit will show Himself through a believer, but more than any one thing, self gets in the way. Humbling self is an important first step to revealing true spirituality.
1. First, a person who is filled with the Spirit is letting the Word of Christ dwell in him richly. Eph 5:18 and Col 3:16 are parallel passages. Someone who is controlled by the Holy Spirit is also controlled by God’s Word. When we disobey Scripture, either in thought, word, or deed, at that moment we are also either resisting or quenching the Holy Spirit. True spirituality manifests itself in obedience to the Bible. A Christian life obedient to the Spirit will look like Scripture.
2. Second, the Holy Spirit will show Himself through the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23). I don’t think the emphasis of “fruit” is in the nature of bananas, apples, or oranges. Fruit is production. The Holy Spirit will produce a certain type of attitude that will result in a right kind of behaviour. That disposition is seen in the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit isn’t something you work on, but a work that the Holy Spirit does in and through you. And that fruit will show up because the believer submits to the Holy Spirit. The fruit is all or nothing. He either is manifesting the Holy Spirit or he isn’t. If he is, then all of the fruit will show up. Others will see the Holy Spirit and not self when the Christian is filled with the Spirit.
3. Third, when the Holy Spirit is in charge in someone’s life, this will show up in God-honouring music (Eph 5:19) and perpetual thanksgiving (Eph 5:20). The Holy Spirit directs the Spirit controlled person toward praise and thanks, both pointing toward God and away from self (Jn 4:23-24). The Holy Spirit does not cease restraining from bad and worldly music, so that someone that is professing to be Christian continues listening to ungodly and worldly music (which includes CCM) is simply not saved, since that denies the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the guarantee of godliness, holiness and righteousness through the grace of God (Ti 2:12-14), the same grace that saves the sinner.
4. Fourth, the Holy Spirit will transform the relationships of those who are controlled by Him (Eph 5:21-6:8). This is how the Holy Spirit fulfills the law through love. The Christian is directed by the Spirit to meet other’s needs, which are all different by Divine design. A child has a different need from a parent, an employer from an employee, and a husband from a wife.
5. Fifth, the particular spiritual giftedness of the Spirit-filled person will show up in His church (1 Cor 12). The Holy Spirit divides to a church as He wills, providing it His own unique blend depending on its needs. When the Christian submits to the Spirit, he will fulfill his part in the body. The whole church is more important than his part in it. Jesus will be glorified by being manifested by the Spirit through the local church in the world. That also means the individual will not be part of churches that are dishonouring and disobedient to God. And if there are no churches to be part of that align with God’s Word, he will “home church” until such a point there is a fellowship of truly saved brethren or he moves.
6. Sixth, he will preach the Word of God with boldness (Ac. 4:31). No believer has any more power than any other believer. He can be more bold, however, depending upon his submission to the Holy Spirit. If he’s bold, the Holy Spirit will work through the Word of God unto the salvation of souls. There is no unique power for evangelism. The power rests in the Scripture through the Spirit. Boldness will look, well, bold. Some may confuse this for pride, because proclamation of truth lacks the nuance that some expect of a fake humility that is so rampant today, everywhere, in Christiandom.
These are means for detecting true spirituality. They can be faked for a period of time, moreso amongst others of similar stripe, but not for always among those who are truly regenerate, that have the indwelling Spirit, that have the means of detecting true spirituality from fake. However, we should content ourselves with what God’s Word reveals as genuine indicators. The replacement gauges of spirituality provide people with false positives, fooling them into a dangerous spiritual ease.
Believers, true, genuine Christians are led by the Spirit of God, and not their flesh. Believers are led by the Spirit. The NT doesn’t tell believers to be led by the Holy Spirit. It says that they are. You can tell that they are by the way the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in their lives.
How Does the Holy Spirit Lead?
“I think the Lord is leading me to…”, I feel the Lord is leading me to…”, “I really prayed about it and I felt that…”, “The Holy Spirit led me to…”, “The Holy Spirit told me…” You’ve probably heard these types of statements before. And if it is God leading, who is anyone to question? In many instances, it really is like questioning scripture at this point. Except for one big thing—it isn’t scripture. It is “I think,” “I feel,” and “I felt.” And if not that, then sometimes it is, “The Lord told me.” And that isn’t scripture either, even though, again, it is treated like its Bible.
Just because scripture uses the terminology, led by the Spirit, doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit still talks to people. That isn’t how He directs. He directs through the already completed and canonized Word of God. Believers who “let the Word of Christ dwell in them richly” (Col 3:16) are “filled with the Spirit” (Eph 5:18). It’s not good to replace what the Bible teaches about the Holy Spirit with something made up by a man. The Holy Spirit isn’t directing that. You’re not more spiritual because you’ve got something mysterious, which is impossible to confirm, such as spiritualizing Scripture (allegoricalism), giving something in Scripture or passages a meaning that it doesn’t have. People might think you have something, because they think they should. Nobody can question these things without –ironically — questions of his love, his desire for unity, and the power of God in his life.
One might hear these above type of statements from men that call themselves pastor. How did he know what the church was to do? How did he know what sermon he was to preach? “The Lord told him” or “he felt the Spirit leading.” Some pastors demand full support of his congregation and no criticism for every one of His sermons because it was Holy Spirit-preaching. When he preached, that was the Holy Spirit, so it should be unquestioned. Do you see a problem here? This kind of language from a pastor places a type of authority on his decision making that is authoritative on the level of God. Its the type of authority that Christ spoke of, that reflects unsaved Gentiles and not true minsters of God (Mk 10:42-45). This is a form of “exercis[ing] Lordship over [the people]” (v. 42). Should we expect this kind of authority from the leaders of our churches? No. These should be confronted and then reproved if they repent not of the ungodly behaviour (Ti 3:10-11) and then rebuked before all, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.” (1 Tim 5:22). A pastor is to be submitted to and obeyed only as far as he follows the Word of God.
How do we know what we ought to do in the areas that the Bible is silent upon, like who I’m going to marry (besides what 2 Cor 6:14 says), where I’m supposed to work, or whether the reuben on rye or the 10 oz. NY strip steak? It seems that, “the Lord led,” is all we’ve got in those types of decisions? Or is it? How does the Holy Spirit actually work in these situations?
To detect true spirituality, first we proposed that all true born again believers are spiritual. Every true born again Christian is spiritual. There are no degrees of spirituality. Each genuine believer is indwelt by the one and only Holy Spirit, a Person. You can’t get more or less of Him once you have Him. However, He can have more of you. It’s not quantitatively more spirituality. No one is more spiritual in that sense. However, someone can, rather than yield to the Spirit, submit to the lusts of his flesh. At that time, he is not behaving spiritual, in a practical way, he is not obedient to Scripture, though that still doesn’t make him a “carnal Christian” or a “lukewarm Christian” or a backslidden Christian,” all of which labels are Keswick currency describing false professing “believers,” unsaved people, When someone is controlled by the Holy Spirit, then there are manifestations of that yieldedness, as noted last point. These are how we detect genuine spirituality.
The Holy Spirit leads (Rom 8:14, Gal 5:18). We know this. But how does He lead?
He leads in accordance with Scripture. “The sword of the Spirit . . . is the Word of God” (Eph 6:17). Parallel to the filling of the Spirit (Eph 5:18) is the Word of Christ dwelling in us richly (Col 3:16). Being controlled by the Spirit is being controlled by the Word of God. All of this fits within the sufficiency of Scripture (Matt 4:4, 2 Tim 3:16-17). God’s Word equips a person for every good work. If a decision attributed to the Holy Spirit contradicts the Word of God, disobeys Scripture, it wasn’t or isn’t the Holy Spirit leading. The Bible is how we test to see if something is of God (1 Jn 4:1; Ac 17:11). Sanctification of the Spirit is also the sanctification of the Word of God (Jn 17:17-19). We are set apart by the truth, not by our feelings or opinions, which might be attributed to the Holy Spirit.
A corollary perhaps to the Spirit’s leading in accordance with Scripture could be “no private interpretation” (2 Pet 1:19-21). The Bible has one meaning and many applications; however, we ought to also look to history to see how the Spirit worked in believer’s lives to apply Scripture. The Holy Spirit isn’t going to suddenly accept a practice that has been forbidden by God’s people in the past.
Pr 16:9; 19:21, are passages that are helpful in discerning God’s will for an individual,
“A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. . . . There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand."
It is God’s will for man to make plans. A man is to devise his way. The Lord may step in to change something, directing his steps, but he should go about making plans and devising his way. God allows people to make their own decisions within the bounds of the guidelines and principles He has set up in the Bible. The best way to ensure you do right is to obey God’s Word, practice it or apply it in every area of your life. If you do that, those unknown, individual things will work themselves out, very much like we see in Pr 3:5-6:
"Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
In short, if you will trust God and acknowledge everything He said, those individual, personal decisions will work out fine.
What is the Guidance of the Holy Spirit in Jn 16:13?
“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.”
Jesus is speaking to His disciples in His upper room discourse, actually journeying to the Garden of Gethsemane, having left to go there at the end of chapter 14. He's speaking just to them and John 16 records it. The "you" of "guide you" and "show you" is the eleven that are left there after Judas had left.
A doctrine of the guidance of the Holy Spirit would need to depend on Jn 16:13 a lot, because it is the only place in the NT that teaches the Holy Spirit guiding. We do get, "led by the Spirit," but even with that concept, it is in only two places, Rom 8:14 and Gal 5:18. In both of those, it is a title of believers, people who are led by the Spirit. It doesn't say how. We would need to look at parallel passages to get the how. Many preachers today preach on Holy Spirit guidance. For the most part, what they say is ambiguous, not using the means of Spirit guidance to determine the how of Spirit guidance.
One might think that the NT is packed full with Holy Spirit guidance and "led by the Spirit." It's not. The word translated "guide" is found in any form only 5 times in the whole NT. Twice it is used of the blind being leaders of the blind (Matt 15:14, Lk 6:39). In Ac 8:31 it is used of "some man guiding" the Ethiopean eunuch. Then in Rev 7:17, it is Jesus in the midst of the throne, guiding the heavenly inhabitants to the living fountains of water. So, again, you can see that we just have Jn 16:13 for Holy Spirit guidance, and what is that?
Jn 16:13 is speaking of revelation. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit Whom He would send, would complete the NT. Besides that, at the most, believers would know that something is scripture. "Truth" or literally "the truth" (tes aletheia) is scripture. This passage 16:13 is not the Holy Spirit guiding believers through an impression, a voice in their head, or a great new idea. The Holy Spirit is not doing this. Believers will be led by the Spirit of God, but the two places that teach that don't say how. Again, one should not believe that this leading occurs through new revelation. God leads by means of scripture, which is sufficient (2 Tim 3:16-17) and is "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph 6:17).
People who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God (Rom 8:14). These are people who are obedient to scripture (Jn 14:15-24; 1 Jn 2:3-6). Those filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18) are those with the word of Christ dwelling in them richly (Col 3:16). The Holy Spirit will lead a believer, because the Holy Spirit indwells every believer. He leads through scripture. He doesn't lead again through impressions, a voice in the head, and a novel new method.
The new method is more in line with man's wisdom of 1 Cor 1 and Jam 3, that the Greeks seek after. You're clever. You thought of something that works. You then say the Holy Spirit gave it to you, which gives it authority. You call it guidance or leading of the Spirit. That is not true. That is not what the Holy Spirit does. After someone is "guided" or "led" by the Spirit to something novel and clever, and then he gets "good results," that is the authentication of the Spirit to the one who heard from Him in this "guiding" and "leading" experience. This is going way out on a limb on the matter of guiding and leading. It's not what it is or how it is.
I do know that the Holy Spirit is leading at least in everything that He said in His Word. If people are not doing that, they are not being led by the Spirit. It is not more spiritual if someone is getting regular ideas, while he disobeys scripture. The Holy Spirit is going to look like scripture, not as your new cleverness and better way than what's already written.
Some will piece together all sorts of experiences and circumstances and say, look the Holy Spirit was doing this and He was doing that. They don't know that. God either caused it or allowed it, but that doesn't pass as something unique in leading. God can close a door that way. You can't do something because it isn't possible to do it. Is that God? Yes, because God either allows or causes everything. At best and as the normal way of explanation, someone should say that various beneficial events came together out of God's providence. This is God providing through His sovereign power. Those circumstances can't necessarily be called the leading of the Holy Spirit or His guidance. God does that kind of providential work with everyone, including unbelievers. That is not what scripture is talking about as it relates to the Holy Spirit guiding and leading.
The two texts on being led by the Spirit are statements of fact. Believers are led by the Spirit. What is it though? It is being led by the Spirit and not by something or someone else, such as yourself, your flesh, the world, popular norms, the devil. How does He lead? He leads by scripture. You do what He says in the Bible, not what you want. That means application, and I believe He helps you apply. That is the leadership of the Spirit, not something mystical, unverifiable, and subjective. The apostles got direct messages from the Holy Spirit. They were moved by the Holy Ghost to write Holy Scripture. They were transported other places in a truly miraculous way. The apostolic age is over and now we sort out what the Bible says and do it within the context of what has been revealed, the completed canonization of Scripture. That is a person guided by and led by the Spirit of God.