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Particulars of Christianity:
312 The Church Ethic


The Role of the Holy Spirit (Part 2)

The Role of the Holy Spirit (Part 1)
The Role of the Holy Spirit (Part 2)
The Role of the Holy Spirit (Part 3)
The Role of the Holy Spirit (Part 4)



The Peace of God in our Hearts

Construct No. 4: Let the Peace of God reign in our hearts.

As we will see, this popular phrase is taken from Colossians 3:15 and it is often associated with other passages such as Philippians 4:7.

Colossians 3: 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

Philippians 4: 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

As far as it relates to our current study, these two verses, especially when taken together, are used to support the doctrine that the Holy Spirit guides us in our decisions about morality, doctrine, and practical daily issues by giving us an inner peace about the choice he wants us to make. By contrast, we might also receive a hesitation or lack of peace about choices that the Holy Spirit doesn't want us to make.

The basis of this concept comes from the Greek word for "rule" in Colossians 3:15. The word is "brabeuo" (Strong's No. 1018), which means, "to be an umpire, to decide, to direct, control, or rule." And when coupled with Philippians 4:7, the suggestion becomes that the guidance provided by this inner peace is not confined to what we can understand or analyze with reason.

But there are two problems, which prevent us from interpreting these passages as the basis for such doctrine. Both problems are issues of context.

Here is the surrounding context for Colossians 3:15.

Colossians 3: 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 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.

As we can see quite clearly from the surrounding verses, the subject of this passage is about Christians "getting along" with one another. This is more than sufficiently demonstrated by such phrases as "forbearing one another" and "if any man have a quarrel" in verse 13. So, when Paul writes, "let the peace of God rule in your hearts," in verse 15, Paul is not talking about inner peace that guides our decision-making. Instead, Paul is quite clearly talking about outward peace between one another in the Body of Christ, so that there are no quarrels, bitterness, or animosity.

The idea of preserving peaceful unity among Christians is to rule in our hearts so that the standard of peace motivates us to decide to forgive and forbear one another, even when we do not wish to do so. So, what is depicted here is "outward peace between one man and another" that is acting as an umpire whose ruling is for us to forgive and forbear one another. To assert, by contrast, that Colossians 3:15 is about inward peace to guide our decisions about right and wrong moral behavior, right and wrong doctrine, or healthy and harmful situations in daily life is completely incompatible with the passage. No such concept or doctrine is even remotely in view in this passage.

And, since Colossians 3:15 does not support this doctrine, Philippians 4:7 is left to establish this doctrine on its own. This leads us to our second problem.

Philippians 4: 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

In Colossians 3:15, we saw that "the peace of God" was contrasted with quarrelling and un-forgiveness. So, the peace in Colossians 3 is a peace between one person and another, living in harmony, not an internal feeling of peace to guide in decision-making. A very similar case occurs here in Philippians 4. Here in Philippians 4, "the peace of God" is contrasted with worrying about the material things that we need. Consequently, the peace in this passage is not an inward feeling of peace to guide our decisions either. Instead, it is a peaceful reassurance that keeps us from getting anxious or worried about having our material needs met, even when we don't understand how those needs will be met.

The Greek word for "careful" in verse 6 is "merimnao" (Strong's No. 3309), which means "to be anxious, to be troubled with cares." In this sense, Paul's teaching is identical to Jesus' own teaching. In fact, Paul's teaching here is basically a short summary of Jesus' words in Matthew 6.

Matthew 6: 24 No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

There are several things worth commenting on here in Matthew 6, particularly because of the similarity to Paul's words in Philippians 4:6-7. Notice, first of all, from verses 25 and 32 that Jesus' comments here are about his followers becoming anxious for material needs such as food, drink, or clothing. Second, notice that in verse 32, Jesus states plainly that the Gentiles seek after such material things. This is interesting because Paul's epistle to the Philippians is written to what is at least a predominantly Gentile congregation.

Third, notice Jesus' conclusion in verse 33. Verse 33 makes it clear that Jesus' goal is to keep his followers from getting distracted by material needs from pursuing the kingdom of God. And why? Because according to Jesus in verse 24, "No man can serve two masters." So, if his followers get focused on their material needs, then they will have difficulty pursuing the kingdom of God. That is the point of this instruction from Jesus.

But here's the part that's extremely significant to Philippians 4:6-7. In the phase "take no thought" in verse 25 (as well as the phrase "by taking thought" in verse 27), the Greek word for "take no thought" is "merimnao" (Strong's No. 3309), the very same word used by Paul in Philippians 4:6. Here are the two passages side by side for comparison.

Matthew 6: 25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought (merimnao - 3309) for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on.

Philippians 4: 6 Be careful (merimnao - 3309) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Clearly, in both passages, Jesus and Paul have in mind Christians being anxious for their material needs such as food, drink, and clothing. The understanding is that anxiety for these things would distract Christians from pursuing the kingdom of God. And so, by contrast to being anxious about these things, in Philippians 4:6-7, Paul tells his audience to be at peace about such needs and to trust God to meet these needs.

In fact, this is another similarity between Jesus' teaching in Matthew 6 and Paul's teaching in Philippians 4:6-7. In these passages, both Jesus and Paul are clearly teaching Christians to rely on God to meet their needs through prayer instead of becoming anxious. Paul is simply adding that this reliance upon God for our material needs will bring peace in our minds and hearts about such material needs and this peace will surpass our understanding of where those needs will come from. In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul is merely passing on Jesus' teachings from Matthew 6 that we should not get anxious about where our material needs will come from.

Consequently, since Paul is talking about having peace that God will meet our material needs in this passage, nothing in Philippians 4:6-7 indicates that the Holy Spirit will show us what decisions to make about moral behavior, doctrine, or even daily situations by giving us peace. Instead, what Paul has in view here is that rather than being anxious, we should let our minds be at peace about our material needs, even if we don't understand how those needs will be met.

And before we close this section, we should also take an expanded look at Philippians 4:6-7 in the context of the immediately verses afterward in which Paul also discusses peace.

Philippians 4: 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

In verse 8, Paul tell the Philippians that they should think on things that are true rather than spending their minds anxious on their material needs. And because this statement is made in the immediate context of verses 6-7, there is strong indication that the peace of God in our hearts and minds in verse 7 is strongly connected to how well we think on the things that Paul mentions in verse 8 instead of thinking about our material needs, which Paul mentions in verse 6. And verse 9 further demonstrates that this is Paul's intent. However, verse 9 is even more explicit.

In verse 9, Paul tells the Philippians that the things which they have learned and received and heard from Paul, they are to keep and do those things. In fact, the way that verse 9 is phrased by Paul, whether or not the Philippians will have the God of peace with them depends on whether or not they keep the things they have learned and received and heard from Paul. In this way, Paul makes obtaining peace dependent upon whether or not we remain in apostolic doctrine. For those who do not remain in apostolic doctrine, they cannot expect to have the peace of God, let alone to be led by God's peace as some have suggested verses 6-7 were meant to teach.

This then provides yet another proof that nothing in Philippians 4:6-7 even remotely supports the idea of being led in our decisions by an inner feeling of peace from God. What we do however see in Philippians 4:6-9 is Paul's instructions to the Philippians that they can obtain peace of mind even about their material needs by focusing on such things as truth and by remaining in the sound doctrine passed on to them by the apostles. The result is that this passage is an exhortation to study and remain in sound doctrine.

In conclusion, we can see that nothing in Colossians 3:15 or Philippians 4:6-7 supports the idea that the Holy Spirit will tell us which moral behaviors, which doctrines, which relationship, which opportunities, or which situations are good or bad by giving us inner peace about the choices He wants us to make. So, we will move on to the next construct: The sons of God are led by the Spirit of God.



Led by the Spirit of God

Construct No. 5: The sons of God are led by the Spirit of God.

In this fifth construct, we find only a very general, rather un-descriptive assertion that God's children are "led by his Spirit." But as to how or through what means the Spirit leads us, well, that crucial part of the doctrine is left to be implied or assumed. And this problem is true not only for the construct itself, but also in the scripture passages from which this phrase "led by the Spirit" are derived.

Matthew 4: 1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.

Luke 4: 1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

Romans 8: 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

Galatians 5: 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

In these isolated verses, it is true that we find the Holy Spirit leading God's children, even the Son of God, Jesus Christ. But what we do not find is any assertion that this leading takes place through inner feelings or impressions. For that matter, these isolated verses don't make any claims or comments regarding the nature or manifestation of these leadings. Theoretically it could be inward feelings or impressions. But it could also be an audible voice such as we see in passages like Acts 8:29 and Acts 13:2.

And the problem is this. When scripture does not state how the Holy Spirit leads someone, we are not free to simply assume how that leading manifested, whether it was through words or inner feelings, etc. In short scriptures, which do not tell us how the Holy Spirit led someone, provide no substantiation for the doctrine that the Holy Spirit leads us through inner feelings of one kind or another. So, since these isolated verses don't tell us how the Holy Spirit is leading, we need to look into the surrounding passages to see if the context provides further information about how the Holy Spirit was leading in these verses.

Matthew 4: 1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred. 3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. 4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. 5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; 9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. 10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

Luke 4: 1 And Jesus being full of the Holy Ghost returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, 2 Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. 3 And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread. 4 And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. 5 And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, shewed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6 And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. 7 If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine. 8 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Get thee behind me, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. 9 And he brought him to Jerusalem, and set him on a pinnacle of the temple, and said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down from hence: 10 For it is written, He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee 11 And in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 12 And Jesus answering said unto him, It is said, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God. 13 And when the devil had ended all the temptation, he departed from him for a season.

As we can see, the two passages above from Matthew 4 and Luke 4 are parallel accounts of the same events. And while both passage do state that Jesus was led by the Spirit of God, neither passage expounds further about the way in which the Holy Spirit led Jesus. Was it through an audible word? Was it through an internal feeling? The text does not say.

Now, we can make assumptions that Jesus was led by audible words or by strong inner feelings of some kind, but these are just assumptions. The text is entirely silent on the matter and provides no basis for assumptions one way or the other. And groundless assumptions like these are no basis for doctrine. Fundamentally, you cannot take 2 passages, which do not say how the Holy Spirit led Jesus, and use them as a proof-text for asserting that the Holy Spirit leads us through inner feelings or impressions of some kind.

Furthermore, it is also extremely possible that whatever form these leadings took, that they were manifestations of a charismatic gift including perhaps a word of knowledge or word of wisdom or prophecy. (It could be suggested that the supernatural phenomena in Jesus' earthly ministry were manifestations of what we call charismatic gifts.) So, if the leading from the Holy Spirit in Matthew 4 and Luke 4 involved one form of such supernatural gifts, then these passages would not provide any support for how the Holy Spirit leads us today due to the notable, widespread, and documented absence of these gifts in the historical record since the second and third centuries. If these leading are manifestations of supernatural gifts, then these passages would not substantiate that our own inner feelings or impressions are leadings of the Holy Spirit since these gifts have disappeared long ago and are no longer currently available to us. (For more information demonstrating that the charismatic gifts have passed away, please visit our article series on the Charismatic Movement.)

But there is one last problem with using these 2 passages to support doctrine that the Holy Spirit leads our decisions about morality, doctrine, and practical daily concerns through inward feelings. While these passages do not specify or indicate how the Holy Spirit was leading, these passages do specify exactly what the Holy Spirit was leading Jesus to. As both passages record, the Holy Spirit was leading Jesus to be tempted by the devil. So, from these passages, we might very well conclude that one role of the Holy Spirit is to lead Christians into times of testing so that they might be proved and learn obedience. (Although, just as James 1:13 says, it is not the Holy Spirit who is testing us, for God tempts no one.) And the role of the Holy Spirit to lead us into temptation is also hinted at in the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6 and Luke 11.

Matthew 6: 13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.

Luke 11: 4 And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.

So, what is certain from Matthew 4 and Luke 4 is that the Holy Spirit was leading Jesus to be tempted. As such, these passages can serve as a basis for speculating that one role of the Holy Spirit is to lead God's children into times of testing so that they can be proved and learn obedience. However, since these passages deal with the Holy Spirit leading into temptation, they therefore do not offer any basis for the belief that the Holy Spirit tells us what choice to make regarding particular moral behaviors, particular doctrines, or particular relationships and situations in daily life.

Furthermore, Matthew 4 and Luke 4 provide absolutely no details regarding how the Holy Spirit led Jesus in these instances. Did Jesus hear an audible voice? Was Jesus physically pulled by the Holy Spirit out into the desert? Did Jesus have a strong inner feeling or impression? These passages don't give us any information about such questions and consequently, these passages cannot serve as a basis for doctrine about being lead through inner feelings from the Holy Spirit.

This brings us to our remaining two passages concerning being "led by the Holy Spirit." Here again we run into one of two problems. Either the context is silent about how the Holy Spirit is leading, just as we saw in Matthew 4 and Luke 4, or the context does explain how this leading works, but it has nothing to do inner feelings.

Romans 8: 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. 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. 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. 12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

First of all, because of verse 1, Romans 8 is often used as a basis for asserting that Christians cannot be condemned or criticized in their behavior. However, that is not what Romans 8 is saying at all. Instead, what Romans 8 is clearly saying is that Christians are not condemned to death, IF they walk according to the Law of Christ Jesus. By contrast, if any person who calls himself a Christian does not walk according to the Law of Christ, they are still condemned to death by God under the Law of Moses, which all have transgressed and are therefore, deserving of the prescribed punishment of death. Nothing in this passage elevates a Christian to a position above criticism of their behavior or doctrine. The key question, however, is what is the "Law of Christ?"

Our article series on Christian Liberty as well as portions of our article series on the Redemption establish the answer to that question in explicit detail from the scriptures themselves. For the sake of time and efficiency, we will not restate those arguments here. Instead, we will only state the conclusions along with the recommendation that readers first visit those articles if they have questions about these conclusions.

In summary, by comparing the relevant New Testament passages we can see that the Law of Christ was known by various synonyms in the New Testament. It is called "the law of liberty" by James in James 1:25 and James 2:12. It is also called "the royal law" by James in James 2:8. It is called "the Law of Christ" by Paul in Galatians 6:2. In 2 Corinthians 3:17, Paul states that where the Spirit of God is there is liberty. And so, here in Romans 8:2, it is called the "Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which has see us FREE." Furthermore, we know from the words of both Jesus and Paul (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31, Romans 13:8-10) that the Law of Christ involved 2 commandments and that these 2 commandments contained within themselves all of the 10 commandments except for the command to keep the seventh day of the week (the Sabbath.)

The bottom line is that only, while there is now grace for forgiveness when we fail or sin (Hebrews 4:15-16, 1 John 2:1), Christians only escape condemnation if we walk in the Law of Christ, which includes by its very nature our pursuit of obedience to those 9 out of the 10 commandments. This is why in verse 4, Paul writes, "That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Because, when we walk after or follow after the Spirit, we walk in obedience to these remaining 9 out of 10 commandments from the Law of Moses. And, this is also why, in such passages as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and Galatians 5:19-21, Paul states that those who disobey these 9 out of 10 commandments will not inherit the kingdom of God.

And this brings us back to the relevant point of our discussion. What does "being led by the Spirit" mean in Romans 8?

On this question, the answer couldn't be clearer. In verse 1, Paul refers right away to those "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Then in verse 2, Paul declares that "the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." In saying this, Paul is clearly contrasting one law to another law. Specifically, Paul is contrasting the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus to the Law of Moses, which is the Law of sin and death. So, verse 2 indicates that what Paul has in mind here is our obedience to the Law of Christ. And then again in verse 4, Paul refers to those who "who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

And finally in verse 5, Paul says, "they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit." Therefore, if our minds are set on the desires of the flesh, then we do what they flesh desires. But if our minds are focused on pursuing the things of the Spirit, then we do those things that the Spirit wants us to do. And what does the Spirit want us to do in this passage? To walk in obedience to the Law of Christ.

Rather than indicating that the Holy Spirit leads us through some inner feeling or impression, this passage is plainly stating that when we follow after obedience to the Law of life in Christ Jesus (the Law of Christ, Law of Liberty), that we are following after the Spirit rather than after the flesh. Conversely, if we follow after the Spirit by obeying the Law of Christ, then those who are obeying the Law of Christ are being led by the Spirit since it is the Spirit they follow after by obeying Christ. This is what Paul means in verse 14, when he writes, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." Paul is simply saying that we are God's children if we pursue obedience to the Law and teaching of Christ Jesus. So, rather than being led by inner impressions, the idea conveyed here is that we are led by our knowledge of the Law and teaching of Christ and therefore our desire to walk in the teachings of Christ Jesus is what leads us, because in pursuing such things we are following after the will of the Holy Spirit.

Or, to put it more simply, in this passage "being led by" is synonymous with "walking after" or pursuing. Whatever thing or person or ideal that you walk after or pursue, that same thing or person or ideal is effectively leading you. So, the definition of being led by God's Spirit in Romans 8 is that you are led by God's Spirit when you walk after or pursue the things of the Spirit, which means walking after and pursuing obedience to the Law of Christ. Therefore, since the context of Romans 8 defines "being led by the Spirit" in terms of our pursuing obedience to the Law of Christ, this passage does not provide any support or basis for doctrine that the Holy Spirit guides our decision-making through inner feelings or impressions.

But as we move on to Galatians 5, please take note once again of the contrast that Paul asserts in Romans 8:2-4 between the "Law of Christ" and the Law of Moses, which he calls the "law of sin and death."

Romans 8: 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

It is quite clear that in Romans 8, Paul is using the generic term "law" to refer to the Law of Moses, just as any Jewish man of his day would have. Therefore, in this passage, Paul is also teaching that only by obeying the Law of Christ are we free from the Law of Moses. Now, as we have said, the Law of Christ included 9 out of the 10 commandments from the Law of Moses. So, in what way are then free from the Law of Moses? Well, that is simple. We are no longer bound by every other aspect of the Law of Moses beyond these 9 remaining commandments. And we are also free from the legally prescribed punishment of death required by the Law of Moses. Paul's reference to the Law of Moses as the "law of sin and death" clearly demonstrates that Paul has in view our freedom from the death penalty given under Moses.

But the significant point as we move on to Galatians 5 is that here in Romans 8, Paul is teaching that being led by the Spirit involves pursuing obedience to the Law of Christ and by doing so we are no longer subject to the Law of Moses. Now, let's compare those statements to Galatians 5:18, in its surrounding context. Is Paul talking about the same concepts as Romans 8 when he mentions being "led by the Spirit" in Galatians 5, or do Paul's comments in Galatians 5 instruct us about being guided by inner feelings or impressions from the Holy Spirit?

Galatians 5: 1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. 2 Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. 3 For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. 4 Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.

Well, right away, Paul states that he is talking about liberty that we have in Christ. This is identical with Romans 8 where Paul spoke of the Law of Christ setting us free from the Law of Moses along with its penalty of death. And how does Paul define losing our liberty in Galatians 5? In verses 2 and 3, Paul clearly states that losing our liberty in Christ is defined by being circumcised and committing to keep the whole of the Law of Moses. So, by entering into covenant to keep the Law of Moses, we are giving up the liberty that we have in the Law of Christ. So far it sounds like Paul has the exact same concept in mind here that he did in Romans 8. Let's continue a little bit later on in this same chapter from Galatians.

Galatians 5: 14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Here we have the exact same idea present in Romans 8. In our examination of Romans 8 above, we stated that Paul was instructing his audience that by obeying the Law of Christ they escaped from the Law of Moses, including its condemnation to death. We went on to state that the Law of Christ involved 2 commandments, which could be found in Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31, and Romans 13:8-10. The second of those commandments is to "love your neighbor as yourself." And here in Galatians 5:14 we find Paul telling his audience not to go back to bondage to the Law of Moses but to instead obey the Law of Christ, to love their neighbor as themselves.

Again, so far, it sounds like Paul has in mind the same thing here that he did in Romans 8. Or to be more specific, it seems like Paul's mention of being "led by the Spirit" later in Galatians 5:18 is going to be a reference to pursuing obedience to the Law of Christ, just as it was in Romans 8. And consequently, Galatians 5 offers no support for the idea of being lead by inner feelings from the Holy Spirit. But let's continue to establish that conclusion.

Galatians 5: 16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

As we can see, immediately after instructing his audience in verse 14 to obey the Law of Christ, which requires us to love our neighbor, Paul tells his audience that in obeying the Law of Christ they are walking in the Spirit. In Romans 8 we saw that being led by the Spirit was defined as pursuing obedience to the Law of Christ, which in turn also set us free from the Law of Moses. And right after telling his audience to obey the Law of Christ in verse 14, here in verse 18 Paul similarly states that those who are led by the Spirit are free from the Law of Moses. So, we can clearly conclude that Paul is talking about the same thing in both passages.

Consequently, since both Romans 8 and Galatians 5 define being "led by the Spirit" as our pursuit of obedience to the teachings of Christ, neither of these passages offers any trace of the doctrine that the Holy Spirit shows Christians what which behaviors, which doctrines, which relationships, or which situations are good or bad by means of inner feelings or impressions of some kind. In the Bible, the phrase, "the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God" does not mean that God's children are led by inner feelings or impressions from the Holy Spirit. Instead, this phrase means that the sons of God are those who "walk after" or pursue the Spirit of God by following the commands and teachings of Jesus Christ. So, "being led by the Spirit" in the Bible is about what we choose to pursue. Do we pursue the desires of the flesh or do we pursue obedience to God? Since "Being led by the Spirit" is about what we choose to pursue, "being led by the Spirit" is NOT about inner guidance through feelings. We will now move on to the next construct: The Holy Spirit testifies to us inwardly.



Inward Testimony from the Holy Spirit

Construct No. 6: The Holy Spirit testifies to us inwardly.

The basic concept of this construct is visible in the scripture passage from which it is derived. And, these key verses come right out of the same chapter of Romans, which was the focus of our previous section.

Romans 8: 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

Romans 8: 26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

We will examine these passages in the order.

With regard to Romans 8:15-16, we do, in fact, see the Holy Spirit bearing witness with our spirit. But this does not provide support for the notion that the Holy Spirit guides our decisions about morals, doctrine, and daily living through inner feelings or impressions. The problem is threefold.

First, the testimony of the Holy Spirit in this passage is very limited. This passage only states that the Holy Spirit testifies about our being children of God. There is nothing in this passage that even suggests that the Holy Spirit bears witness to us about other things beyond our being children of God.

Second, in this passage, the Holy Spirit is said to bear witness "with" our Spirit, not "to" our Spirit. The idea conveyed here is that our spirit and the Holy Spirit are offering the same testimony rather than one of them testifying to the other. This is clearly visible in verse 15. Verse 15 plainly states that it is by the Holy Spirit that we ourselves cry "Abba, Father." In saying this, verse 15 indicates that both we and the Holy Spirit testify that we are God's children. The two are depicted as testifying side by side, rather than one to another. So, this passage seems to provide very little clear-cut support for the notion that the Holy Spirit testifies to our spirits inwardly about things.

Third, the phrase "received the Spirit of adoption" indicates that the events described here refer to the rebirth, since "receiving the Holy Spirit" is synonymous in the New Testament and particularly the book of Acts with the rebirth. (For more information about this, please visit our article series on Baptisms.) This is very similar to Galatians 4:6.

Galatians 4: 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Using similar language to Romans 8, Paul states in Galatians 4 that we cry "Abba, Father" when God sends forth his Spirit into our hearts making us no longer servants but sons and heirs of God. This further indicates that Paul's mention of our crying "Abba, Father" in Romans 8:15 is a reference to our rebirth as sons of God when the Spirit first entered into our hearts. And because Romans 8:15 is talking about what occurred at the time when we were reborn, these verses provide absolutely no basis for making assertions about how the Holy Spirit relates to us throughout the rest of our lifetime on a regular basis about other matters beyond the rebirth.

In short, the type of testifying done by the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:15-16 is far too limited to support the broader speculation that the Holy Spirit testifies to us about things beyond our becoming children of God through the rebirth. Or to be more specific, the type of testifying done by the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:15-16 is far too limited to support the broader speculation that the Holy Spirit testifies to us about things such as moral behavior, doctrine, or daily situations. So, now we turn our attention to Romans 8:26.

Romans 8: 26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Now, with regard to the idea that the Holy Spirit leads us through inner feelings and impressions, some might seize on the phrase "with groanings which cannot be uttered" as though this phrase were a reference somehow to such inner feelings and impressions used to guide our decision-making. However, that is not at all what is being depicted here.

First, the Greek word for "groan" is "stenagmos" (Strong's No. 4726), which simply means, "groaning, a sigh." What is clear is that this word denotes some sort of audible sound, even if that sound "cannot be expressed in words," (which is the Greek meaning of the phrase "cannot be uttered.") And because this verse depicts "groans or sighs," it provides absolutely no support for the idea of inner feelings or impressions. To say that the Holy Spirit expresses groans is not the same thing as saying that the Holy Spirit expresses feelings within us.

Second, in this passage, who is the recipient of the Holy Spirit's communication? Is the Holy Spirit communicating to us in this passage? No. The Holy Spirit is making intercession for us, which means that the Holy Spirit is communicating with God the Father on our behalf. And since this verse is depicting the Holy Spirit communicating with God the Father, it cannot in any way provide support for doctrine about the Holy Spirit communicating to us through inner feelings and impressions.

As we can see, neither Romans 8:15-16 nor Romans 8:26 provide any support whatsoever for the doctrine that the Holy Spirit communicates to us through inner feelings or impressions of some kind or another. As such, we will now move on to our two remaining constructs: The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth.