Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A.W. Pink: The Holy Spirit-The Spirit Teaching (19/32)

Chapter 19

The Spirit Teaching

Taught of the Spirit
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things" (John 14:26). Those words received their first fulfillment in the men to whom they were immediately addressed—the Apostles were so filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit that their proclamation of the Gospel was without flaw, and their writings without error. Those original ambassadors of Christ were so taught by the Third Person in the Trinity that what they delivered was the very mind of God. The second fulfillment of the Savior’s promise has been in those men whom He called to preach His Gospel throughout the Christian era. No new revelations have been made to them, but they were, and are, according to their varied measure, and the particular work assigned to them, so enlightened by the Spirit that the Truth of God has been faithfully preached by them. The third and widest application of our Lord’s words are unto the entire Household of Faith, and it is in this sense we shall now consider them.

It is written, "And all Thy children shall be taught of the LORD" (Isa. 54:13 and cf. John 6:45). This is one of the great distinguishing marks of the regenerate: all of them are "taught of the LORD." There are multitudes of unregenerate religionists who are taught, numbers of them well taught, in the letter of the Scriptures. They are thoroughly versed in the historical facts and doctrines of Christianity; but their instruction came only from human media—parents, Sunday School teachers, or through reading religious books. Their intellectual knowledge of spiritual things is considerable, sound, and clear; yet is it unaccompanied by any heavenly unction, saving power, or transforming effects. In like manner, there are thousands of preachers who abhor the errors of "Modernists" and who contend earnestly for the Faith. They were taught in Bible Institutes, and theological schools, yet it is to be feared that many of them are total strangers to a miracle of grace being wrought in the heart. How it behooves each of us to test ourselves rigidly at this point!

It is a common fact of observation—which anyone may test for himself—that a very large percentage of those who constitute the membership of evangelical denominations were first taken there in childhood by their parents. The great majority in the Presbyterian churches today had a father or mother who was a Presbyterian and who instructed the offspring in their beliefs. The same is true of Baptists, the Methodists, and those who are in fellowship at the Brethren assemblies. The present generation has been brought up to believe in the doctrines and religious customs of their ancestors. Now we are far from saying that because a man who is a Presbyterian today had parents and grandparents that were Presbyterians and who taught him the Westminster Catechism, that therefore all the knowledge he possesses of Divine things is but traditional and theoretical. No indeed. Yet we do say that such a training in the letter of the Truth makes it more difficult, and calls for a more careful self-examination, to ascertain whether or not he has been taught of the Lord.

Though we do not believe that Grace runs in the blood, yet we are convinced that, as a general rule, (having many individual exceptions), God does place His elect in families where at least one of the parents loves and seeks to serve Him, and where that elect soul will be nurtured in the fear and admonition of the Lord. At least three-fourths of those Christians whom the writer has met and had opportunity to question, had a praying and Scripture-reading father or mother. Yet, on the other hand, we are obliged to acknowledge that three-fourths of the empty professors we have encountered also had religious parents, who sent them to Sunday School and sought to have them trained in their beliefs: and these now rest upon their intellectual knowledge of the Truth, and mistake it for a saving experience of the same. And it is this class which it is the hardest to reach: it is much more difficult to persuade such to examine themselves as to whether or not they have been taught of God, than it is those who make no profession at all.

Let it not be concluded from what has been pointed out that, where the Holy Spirit teaches a soul, He dispenses with all human instrumentality. Not so. It is true the Spirit is sovereign and therefore works where He pleases and when He pleases. It is also a fact that He is Almighty, tied down to no means, and therefore works as He pleases and how He pleases. Nevertheless, He frequently condescends to employ means, and to use very feeble instruments. In fact, this seems to generally characterize His operations: that He works through men and women, and sometimes through little children. Yet, let it be said emphatically, that no preaching, catechizing or reading produces any vital and spiritual results unless God the Spirit is pleased to bless and apply the same unto the heart of the individual. Thus there are many who have passed from death unto life and been brought to love the Truth under the Spirit’s application of a pious parent’s or Sunday School teacher’s instruction—while there are some who never enjoyed such privileges yet have been truly and deeply taught by God.

Tests for the Spirit’s Teaching
From all that has been said above a very pertinent question arises, How may I know whether or not my teaching has been by the Holy Spirit? The simple but sufficient answer is, By the effects produced. First, that spiritual knowledge which the teaching of the Holy Spirit imparts is an operative knowledge. It is not merely a piece of information which adds to our mental store, but is a species of inspiration which stirs the soul into action. "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6). The light which the Spirit imparts reaches the heart. It warms the heart, and sets it on fire for God. It masters the heart, and brings it into allegiance to God. It molds the heart, and stamps upon it the image of God. Here, then, is a sure test: how far does the teaching you have received, the knowledge of Divine things you possess, affect your heart?

Second, that knowledge which the teaching of the Spirit imparts is a soul-humbling knowledge. "Knowledge puffeth up" (1 Cor. 8:1), that is a notional, theoretical, intellectual knowledge which is merely received from men or books in a natural way. But that spiritual knowledge which comes from God reveals to a man his empty conceits, his ignorance and worthlessness, and abases him. The teaching of the Spirit reveals our sinfulness and vileness, our lack of conformity to Christ, our unholiness; and makes a man little in his own eyes. Among those born of women was not a greater than John the Baptist: wondrous were the privileges granted him, abundant the light he was favored with. What effect had it on him? "He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose" (John 1:27). Who was granted such an insight into heavenly things as Paul! Did he herald himself as "The greatest Bible teacher of the age"? No. "Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints" (Eph. 3:8). Here, then, is a sure test: how far does the teaching you have received humble you?

Third, that knowledge which the teaching of the Holy Spirit imparts is a world-despising knowledge. It makes a man have poor, low, mean thoughts of those things which his unregenerate fellows (and which he himself, formerly) so highly esteem. It opens his eyes to see the transitoriness and comparative worthlessness of earthly honors, riches and fame. It makes him perceive that all under the sun is but vanity and vexation of spirit. It brings him to realize that the world is a flatterer, a deceiver, a liar, and a murderer which has fatally deceived the hearts of millions. Where the Spirit reveals eternal things, temporal things are scorned. Those things which once were gain to him, he now counts as loss; yea, as dross and dung (Phil. 3:4-9). The teaching of the Spirit raises the heart high above this poor perishing world. Here is a sure test: does your knowledge of spiritual things cause you to hold temporal things with a light hand, and despise those baubles which others hunt so eagerly?

Fourth, the knowledge which the teaching of the Spirit imparts is a transforming knowledge. The light of God shows how far, far short we come of the standard Holy Writ reveals, and stirs us unto holy endeavors to lay aside every hindering weight, and run with patience the race set before us. The teaching of the Spirit causes us to "deny ungodliness and worldly lusts," and to "live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world" (Titus 2:12). "We all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18). Here, then, is a sure test: how far does my knowledge of spiritual things influence my heart, govern my will, and regulate my life? Does increasing light lead to a more tender conscience, more Christlike character and conduct? If not, it is vain, worthless, and will only add to my condemnation.

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