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  • Writer's pictureW. Austin Gardner

God Leads by His Spirit by R. A. Torrey

God also leads us by His Spirit, i.e., by the direct leading of the Spirit in the individual heart. Beyond a question there is such a thing as an “inner light.” We read in Acts 8:29, “And the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near and join thyself to this chariot.” In a similar way we read in Acts 16:6, 7, of the Apostle Paul and his companions: “And they went through the region of Phrygia and the region of Galatia, having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; and when they were come over against Mysia they assayed to go into Bithynia; and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not.”

In one of these passages we see the Spirit of God by His Holy Spirit giving direct personal guidance to Philip as to what he should do, and in the other passage we see the Spirit restraining Paul and his companions from doing something they would otherwise have done. There is no reason why God should not lead us as directly as he led Philip and Paul in their day, and those who walk near God can testify that He does so lead.

But though it is oftentimes our privilege to be thus led by the Spirit of God, there is no warrant whatever in the Word of God for our refusing to act until we are thus led. Remember this is not God’s only method of guidance. Oftentimes we do not need this particular kind of guidance. Take the cases of Philip and of Paul to which we have referred. God did not guide Philip and Paul in this way in every step they took. Philip had done many things in coming down through Samaria to the desert where he met the treasurer of Queen Candace, and it was not until the chariot of the treasurer appeared that God led Philip directly by His Spirit. And so with Paul, Paul in the missionary work to which God had called him had followed his own best judgment as God enlightened it until the moment came when he needed the special direct prohibition of the Holy Spirit of his going into a place where God would not have him go at that time. There is no need for our having the Spirit’s direction to do that which the Spirit has already told us to do in the Word.

Paul would have gone into these places to preach the gospel if the Holy Spirit had not forbidden him. He would not have waited for some direct command of the Spirit to preach, and when we have an opportunity to speak to lost souls we should speak unless restrained. What we need is not some direct impulse of the Holy Spirit to make us speak, the Word already commands us to do that; what we need, if we are not to speak, is that the Spirit should directly forbid us to speak.

Furthermore, let me repeat again that we should bear in mind about the Spirit’s guidance, that He will not lead us to do anything that is contrary to the Word of God. The Word of God is the Holy Spirit’s book, and He never contradicts His own teaching. Many people do things that are strictly forbidden in the Word of God, and justify themselves in so doing by saying the Spirit of God guides them to do it, but any spirit that guides us to do something that is contrary to the Holy Spirit’s own book cannot by any possibility be the Holy Spirit.

Further still, we should always bear in mind that there is absolutely no warrant in the Word of God for supposing that the Holy Spirit leads up in strange and absurd ways, or to do strange and absurd things.

We are told distinctly and emphatically in 2 Tim. 1:7 that the Holy Spirit is a spirit “of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” The word translated “sound mind” really means “sound sense,” and, therefore, any spirit that leads us to do ridiculous things, cannot be the Holy Spirit. There are some who defend the most outrageous improprieties and even indecencies in public assemblies, saying that the Holy Spirit prompts them to these things. By this claim they fly directly in the face of God’s own Word, which teaches us specifically in 1 Cor. 14:32, 33, that “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets; for God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.” And in the 40th verse we are told that “all things” in a Spirit-governed assembly should be “done decently and in order.”

The word translated “decently” in this passage means in a becoming (or respectable) way,” and this certainly does not permit the disorders and immodesties, and confusions and indecencies and absurdities that occur in many assemblies that claim to be Spirit led, but which, tested by the Word of God, certainly are not led by the Holy Spirit.

R. A. Torrey, The Voice of God in the Present Hour (New York; Chicago; Toronto; London; Edinburgh: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1917), 158–164.

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