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The Holy Spirit And The Word

A vital part of the Holy Spirit's work is the provision for mankind of God's written revelation of Himself in the Scriptures. That it was the Spirit's work cannot be doubted, "for no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21). Yet precisely how this came about is not revealed to us. Many theories, some of them patently erroneous, have been proposed to explain the phenomenon. One such idea is that the sacred writings were in their entirety produced by direct dictation, God using His servants to write mechanically the words He gave them. Whilst this may be true of certain passages in the Old Testament, these comprise a minor proportion of the whole. Another suggestion is that the writers merely received spiritual ideas from God and, unaided by divine power, conveyed them to the reader in their own words.

This magazine has consistently opposed such views, for the truth of the matter lies between these extremes. We do maintain that the supreme importance of God's message to His creature man demands that it be conveyed in precise language. Like the contents of a legal document or government statute, each word has to be carefully weighed. Furthermore, Scripture stresses the importance of God's words again and again; they are eternal and immutable (Psa. 119:89; Matt. 24:35; 1 Pet. 1:23-25). The Bible is called the Word of God, and so it is, not that there is any intrinsic value in words printed on paper, but their existence in language which can be understood, ensures that the very oracles of God, unadulterated by any human ideas, are readily available to the reader, precise in meaning and unchangeable in content. But "precise in meaning" does not necessarily imply that the meaning is always immediately clear. The understanding of the Scriptures involves another aspect of the Spirit's work which will be dealt with later in this article.

Again, the Scriptures are indeed given by the Holy Spirit, they are God-breathed (theopneustos, translated "inspired of God", 2Tim. 3:16), the writers were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). There was no overriding of their personalities, but there was also no departure, even by a hair's breadth, from the divine Mind. These two statements may seem incompatible, but so do some other statements of Scripture, for the human mind cannot comprehend what is divine. However, some understanding of the subject may be obtained by observing how those chosen by the Holy Spirit to make their contributions to Holy Scripture actually did their work.

David is perhaps the most prominent of the Messianic writers and it is instructive to study his experience of the work of the Holy Spirit with him. Much of his prophetic writings stemmed from deep personal experience; suffering, rejection, persecution, and afterwards, kingly glory. For instance, in Psalm 69, he cries to God for deliverance from the dire trouble into which he had been brought by persecution. But principally, the psalm depicts the sufferings of the Messiah. Note, however, that verse S cannot apply to the Lord Jesus, and verse 21 does not seem to relate to David's own experience but the sufferings of the Saviour on the cross. This psalm, although written by David, is attributed to the Holy Spirit in Acts 1:15-20. Peter said to the early disciples, "Brethren, it was needful that the scripture should be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spake before by the mouth of David concerning Judas.... Let his habitation be made desolate, and let no man dwell therein". It would seem that the writer, moved by the Holy Spirit, took up his pen to record the Lord's dealings with him and in so doing was carried away by the same Spirit to write things which were beyond his understanding. Another Old Testament prophecy attributed in the New Testament to the Holy Spirit as well as David is Psalm 2, the first two verses of which are quoted in Acts 4:25,26. Divine inspiration can also be clearly seen in Psalm 22. David begins to pour out his soul to the Lord as poetically he records his personal trials, but the expressions he is led of the Holy Spirit to use are exactly fitted to describe the sufferings of the Christ, and readily spring to mind when, at the Remembrance of our blessed Lord week by week, we search for words adequate to describe what He passed through on the cross in accomplishing our salvation.

Among the sublime Messianic prophecies are the words of David, "The LORD saith unto my Lord, Sit Thou at My right-hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool" (Psa. 110:1). Sadly enough, when the Messiah Himself was here in the flesh, His contemporaries had no appreciation of such things. They were in no doubt that the Christ is the son of David, but how David could speak of Him as Lord was beyond their comprehension (Matt. 22:41-46). Whatever may have been David's understanding of the One who was to come, he was conscious, at least in

later life, that he was instrumental in the writing of Holy Scripture, for among his last words he wrote, "The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and His word was upon my tongue" (2 Sam. 23:2). Peter, in his first epistle, tells us that David and the other Old Testament prophets "testified beforehand the sufferings of the Christ, and the glories that should follow them". This they did by the Spirit of Christ which was in them and they desired intensely to know when these things should be. Although such knowledge was withheld from them, it was revealed that they wrote for the blessing of future generations (1 Pet. 1:10-12). The Holy Spirit's gracious work has ensured that we are able to enjoy the fruits of the labours of God's faithful servants of past ages.

Much of the Old Testament is historical and some of it was written by men whose names are unknown to us. They sat down with pen in hand to record the events of their time, but the result was different from secular history, for the Holy Spirit was overseeing what they wrote. It was His function to ensure absolute accuracy and the selection of the material that was needed for God's sovereign purpose in the conveyance of His will to men. Perhaps a loyal Israelite would have preferred to omit from his scroll some of the shameful happenings of his time, but he would find himself constrained by a Power greater than himself to commit such things faithfully to writing so that they might remain as a divine warning to future generations.

In the New Testament we read of some who spoke under the control of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:67, 2:25-32; Acts 4:8). But for the most part He took up apostles who write this part of the Bible. They were specially endowed for the task. The Lord told the "eleven" that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, would teach them, bring to their remembrance the Lord's words, guide them into all the truth and declare to them the things which were to come (John 14:26, 16:13). The Comforter is also called, significantly, the Spirit of Truth, and it is in this capacity that He bears witness to the Lord Jesus (John 15:26). Peter must have felt greatly honoured to be able to say to the Jewish Council, "And we are witnesses of these things; and so is the Holy Spirit" (Acts 5:32). Peter and the other apostles were charged with speaking in the name of Jesus of Nazareth, but their words were the same as those of the Holy Spirit, words which were "the Truth" and could not be gainsaid. The experience of the apostle Paul differed from that of the "eleven". He certainly received a revelation direct from the Lord Himself, but of necessity it was at a later time, not disclosed in Scripture. Paul says, "The gospel which was preached by me... is not after man. For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:12). It was these men, in this Spirit, who wrote the New Testament. No wonder it has changed the course of history!

There is another aspect of the Holy Spirit's work which was vitally important in the giving of God's word to men, and it began before a word was written. Each writer was divinely chosen, long before his birth, to fulfil the role which was required of him in producing just that facet of truth which was his lot. For instance, of Jeremiah the Lord said, "Before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee; I have appointed thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jer. 1:5). Similar words were spoken about Isaiah (49:1) and the apostle Paul (Gal. 1:15,16). The individual contributions of the writers reflect a variety of ages and cultural backgrounds, yet they all voice, without any trace of discord, the character of God and His dealings with the human race. The ruler, the priest, the farm worker, the fisherman, the doctor, the tentmaker, all combine their obviously distinctive styles to give us the Word of God, divinely inspired in all its parts (2 Tim. 3:16 AV and RSV). Thus there is seen a divine plan from eternal ages past, which was executed by the Holy Spirit, through men, to give to the human race the Creator's revelation of Himself so that "the wayfaring man ... shall not err therein".

As well as being the Author of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit is its Interpreter. He caused the oracles of God to be committed to human language and is perfectly fitted to help men to understand them. The Word of God is foolishness to the natural man (1 Cor. 2:6-16) but there is a God-given wisdom, a light which illuminates the sacred page for those who, being born again, are indwelt by the Holy Spirit. There is a sympathetic relationship between the inspired Word and the indwelling Spirit. We do not suggest that the Christian will have instantly revealed to him all the truths of Scripture, but as he reads and ponders and prays he will be taught of the Spirit. "He shall guide you into all the truth" (John l6:13).