The Work of the Spirit: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

David said, “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue.” -2 Samuel‬ ‭23:2‬

So, if David, teaching by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, helped someone to understand a divine truth that she didn’t understand before, who should be given the credit? David, the Holy Spirit or both?

Both, right? David is the instrument used by the Holy Spirit to explain divine truth so that she could understand and respond.

Now, here is the question I want you to consider. In addition to inspiring David to clearly communicate divine truth in her language does the Holy Spirit need to do some kind of supernatural inner working on her in order to cause her to understand that clearly communicated truth brought by inspiration?

If so, why? Are people naturally (from birth) unable to understand and accept all truth statements or just certain types of truth statements?

Since people can accept some basic historical truth statements (like who was the first President), is it just truths related to God’s nature and provision that people are naturally unable to understand and accept as true? Can people accept “secular truth” but not “inspired truth”? If so, why?

Further, people can accept false spiritual truths in the form of the doctrines of false religions. A person can read a religious text that is teaching them false truth statements and believe those falsehoods. Someone can believe a lie so much that they willingly die for it but people cannot believe true spiritual truth statements from a true religious text? Why?

We all agree the Holy Spirit must do something to help people understand and accept divine truth. I believe He helps by inspiring people like David to write clear truth for us to read/hear and respond. Some insist the Holy Spirit must do something more than this and I’d like to understand what specifically that is and why it’s necessary and why that is unnecessary in every other walk of life.

NOTICE: I am not meaning to imply that the Holy Spirit doesn’t ever move or work or communicate by other means, He certainly does. I’m simply exploring the sufficiency of all the means He does employ. I believe the means of inspiration is sufficient. Do you agree?

Dr. Leighton Flowers

28 thoughts on “The Work of the Spirit: Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

  1. Indeed.

    While we all want to “give God all the glory,” the Bible itself does attribute a lot of ability and praise to individuals.

    I cannot list them all here (jump in with suggestions everyone) but calling people “holy” or “blameless” (Noah, Zechariah and Elizabeth), “worshiper of God” (Lydia), “God -fearing” (Cornelius)…. and saying they had faith (Hebrews 11 list; and “Never have I seen such faith in all Israel.”), and on and on is all over the Bible.

    God is constantly reminding us of what He has enabled people to do (without a special enabling).

  2. Then the LORD said to Satan:
    Have you considered my servant Job?
    There is no one on earth like him
    He is blameless and upright
    A man who fears God and shuns evil.

  3. Dr. William Lane Craig – on Universal Divine Causal Determinism
    God would be like a child who sets up his toy soldiers and moves them about his play world, pretending that they are real persons whose every motion is not in fact of his own doing and pretending that they merit praise or blame.

    Peter Van Inwagen – on Universal Divine Causal Determinism
    -The consequence argument:

    If Universal Divine Causal Determinism is true then:
    1) Our every thought, choice, and action, are the consequences of divine decrees which occurred at the foundation of the world – having been determined at a point in which we do not yet exist.

    2) Those thoughts, choices, and actions additionally are framed within the boundaries of nature, which exist at the time in which those thoughts, choices, and actions are actualized.

    3) But it is not “UP TO US” what immutable decrees were established at the foundation of the world before we were born.

    4) And neither is it “UP TO US” what attributes of nature – including our own – exist at any time.

    5) Therefore, the consequences of these things – including our nature, thoughts, choices, and actions – are not “UP TO US”.

    Ravi Zacharias – on Universal Divine Causal Determinism
    Here me carefully.
    If you are totally determined, then you are pre-wired, to think the way you do.
    Your nature is that you are hard wired to come out to a single conclusion.
    What is input into the computer is what ultimately comes out.
    This is the bondage of total subjectivity.

  4. The very act of the Holy Spirit speaking is supernatural input, be it through the written word or those spoken by an individual, (like David) a prophet or a donkey. We simply add to scripture when we concoct theories of the Holy Spirit’s work apart from that which has been explicitly revealed.

    My own belief is that God is always willing to speak to individuals via the Spirit; the difference is in how individuals respond to this message. Do we embrace and test the insights we receive, and study to understand even more, or do we brush off as unwelcome any thought or message that challenges our cherished beliefs and suppositions? One response leads to learning and wisdom, the other shuts down the flow of insight God desires to give to us.

    It is a theory, and I believe a false one, that God, via the Holy Spirit, only speaks to a preselected few. Scripture suggests that those who desire and seek for truth and understanding will not seek in vain. God is good, and a rewarder of those who seek him.

  5. God wants to use man in a cooperative venture as a fundamental operative. As man is obedient, man gets an attaboy from God. And God is glorified because it is HIS plan.

    1. Amen Jonathan
      As God wanted Adam to name all of the animals
      As God wanted Moses to “speak” to the rock
      As God wanted his chosen people to be a kingdom of priests
      And as God wanted David to be a light unto his people.
      And as God wants his people to be the salt of the earth and a light to the world – a city set on a hill.

      So let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

      1. The question at hand is not over the fact that the Spirit convicts and converts sinners, but over the ‘way’ in which He does it. How does the Spirit work in the conviction and conversion of sinners – by direct means or through the agency of the Word?
        The Scriptures tell us that the Spirit convicts and converts through the medium of the Word. Having said that, it is equally true to say that conversion is accomplished by the Holy Spirit or by the Word, because He acts through the agency or instrumentality of the word of God (Eph. 6:17). The “sword of the Spirit” which is the word of God, represents the only instrument He uses. If He has to operate separately from the Word of God, then God’s word is not all sufficient ( 2 Tim. 3:17), the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16-17), and final (Jude 3). And God’s impartiality is proven to be a lie, since the Spirit directly operates on the hearts of some sinners but not others (Acts 10:34,35; Rom. 2:11; 2 Peter 3:9).

        If the Spirit works directly on the hearts of sinners separate from the Word, why is there not a single instance of such taking place in the New Testament?

      2. Aidan
        If the Spirit works directly on the hearts of sinners separate from the Word, why is there not a single instance of such taking place in the New Testament?

        Not to disagree with the premise here – but at some point someone is going to ask – what do we mean by “the word”?

      3. br.d
        Not to disagree with the premise here – but at some point someone is going to ask – what do we mean by “the word”?

        My answer would depend on who is asking and why! But in relation to Calvinism, I believe that this doctrine of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the hearts of men is based on the false teaching of total depravity. The premise that man is born totally depraved assumes that the sinner cannot act, but is totally incapable of doing anything about his condition.That he cannot respond to the gospel until he is given – new life – through the sovereign and mysterious regenerating work of the Holy Spirit. Thus regeneration precedes faith; but wait a minute, faith comes by hearing the word? So the Holy Spirit must first act directly on the sinner’s heart to cleanse him of his depraved nature, giving him new life – before he can even hear the word.

        Therefore I’d turn the question around and ask – what do YOU mean by “the word” – seeing that YOU are the one with the premise that the Holy Spirit regenerates, separate and apart from hearing “the word” – the gospel of salvation (Rom. 10:14-17)?

      4. The interesting thing about Calvinism’s doctrine of total depravity is how mind-numbing it is for them to even trifle over it.

        Since the underlying doctrine stipulates that Calvin’s god – at the foundation of the world – establishes the exact parameters of what each person’s condition will be at every nano-second of their life.

        Its like trifling over how many millimeters distance a person is from the sun at any given moment.
        Who cares…….since for them the whole business is totally out of human control anyway.

      5. When Calvinism’s doctrine of total depravity is shown to be false, their justification for a direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the heart of the sinner – falls with it. Both are shown to be false! Especially the fact that God never did determine such things – ever.

  6. Long time reader here, first time commenting. I was thinking about Romans 7 and what it says about how sin in us “comes alive” when we hear God’s truth and attacks us in the area of our desires. We can understand what’s being said, but the power of sin inside of us makes our minds its captive, so our desire to respond is a slave to it. I think that’s a reality we don’t face with truth that isn’t spiritual, like facts from history. If that’s true, then the enabling work of the Spirit would need to include not only inspiration, but also emancipation.

  7. In response to “”Do you agree?”””  I do agree His means are sufficient either by the  use of the Holy Spirit or His people as Br.d stated; We are the salt and a city on a hill.

    Matthew 5:13 NASB — “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
    Matthew 5:14 NASB — “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden;
    Colossians 4:6 NASB — Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.

    The Holy Spirit is convicting the world of sin “if” most of humanity can’t ever respond to His drawing why is He needed, but of course I don’t believe that…. Because He is in the world for a reason!!! 

    John 16:8 NASB — “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;

    also creation, 

    Romans 1:20 NASB — For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

    His Word (Scripture), and His people sent out with the great commission He doesn’t need us, but we get to be a part of His story. It’s not about us. The love that came down as our example was selfless not selfish.
    Colossians 1:15 NASB — He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

    Selected verses others passed over for NO reason other than they were born corpse like unable to respond is a very selfish sneaky love and I don’t see that in Jesus’ life death & resurrection. Which is the message that saves those who believe & trusts Him. It really is a beautiful simple message of unmerited love for His creation who all fall short!!

  8. I’m examining the context of 2 Samuel 23:2 and am having trouble identifying the “someone” that David helped to understand divine truth with these words. This appears to be a psalm of praise summarizing God’s blessings on David’s life that he declared under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. I don’t see anything about someone coming to understand divine truth that was not previously understood. Using this as a proof text that people are able to understand the inspired word of God in their natural condition seems to be eisegesis. If I am missing something, please explain it to me.

    1. Hello Mark and welcome
      Perhaps Brian – here – will be interested at looking at the text you mentioned.

      But I do have a question – if you don’t mind putting this into a different context.

      A certain father told his 5 year old daughter to do something
      And she didn’t understand what he meant
      And without understanding she couldn’t possibly do what he said

      Would the father be considered Godly if he punished her for that?

    2. Hi Mark… I’m not sure of your question… but the post is about the HS giving truth to David to communicate in writing. The assumption is that David and the readers of David’s words know that these things from the HS were written in words understood by using normal rules of grammar and context like one would use with any writing.

      You seem to confirm you think these words by David were indeed “previously understood” unless I am not reading you correctly. Can’t any reader, saved or unsaved, understand what is being said in this “psalm summarizing God’s blessings on David’s life”? Or can only saved readers understand the truths David wrote?

      1. Brian,

        My initial reading of the original article gave me the impression that the author was stating that in the context David was communicating truth to “someone” and “she” came to understand that truth. However, I now see that the author was making a theoretical argument that a generic “someone” should be able to believe divine truth without some additional work of the Holy Spirit. That is why I asked for clarification and now realize that my accusation of eisegesis was premature.

        My response to your question “can’t any reader, saved or unsaved, understand what is being said” in David’s words, my answer would be “yes” in regards to intellectual understanding. My question to you would be does intellectual understanding equal spiritual understanding? Do you believe that the HS’s work of “teach(ing) you all things” and “guid(ing) you into all truth” applies to followers of Jesus or all people? Is that work of the Spirit accomplished solely through His inspiration of the divine text or is there an additional work of illumination He does to bring spiritual understanding? If it is the former, then why did Paul say to Timothy in 2 Tim. 2:7, “Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things”? If Timothy could understand the truth Paul is presenting simply because it was inspired by the HS, then why would it be necessary for the Lord to give him understanding”?

        This is my main concern with the article – it seems to equivocate intellectual understanding of truth that leads to an intellectual assent to that truth with spiritual understanding that leads to a humble submission to and trust in that truth resulting in obedience to that truth. These are certainly not the same thing as James declares in 2:19 of his epistle: “You believe there is one God. You do well. The devils believe – and tremble!”

      2. Thank you for your thoughtful reply, Mark. The HS does give sufficient intellectual and spiritual motivation through His enlightenement to both believer and unbeliever. …to the unbeliever to sufficiently enable to freely seek God and His mercy. …to the believer to help conform them to the image of Christ.

        Maybe this will help – If God calls it “good news” to be proclaimed to every creature… how can it be designated as designed by God to be “bad news” to any. Their rejection of that good news is what invites the warning and proclaiming of the bad news of coming judgment for their rejection of His mercy offered to them freely, imo.

        Romans 11:32 NKJV — For God has committed them all to disobedience, that He might have mercy on all.
        Psalm 145:8-9 NKJV — The LORD is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The LORD is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works.
        Romans 10:21 NKJV — But to Israel he says: “All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people.”
        Matthew 5:7 NKJV — Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy.

        Prevenient Grace to every person is –
        God using dreams, sickness, and messengers with each man 2 or 3 times to draw him (Job 33:14-30)…

        God giving light to each man before regeneration (John 1:4-13)…

        God ordering the circumstances of nations so that each man should seek and possibly find Him (Acts 17:26-27)…

        God using creation and conscience to make plain in each one He exists and to feel conviction of sin to lead to repentance (Rom 1:29-30, 2:4, 14-16)…

        These are all evidence of sufficient enabling grace before regeneration and proof all do hear and receive mercy that they can freely and humbly accept or reject (Rom 10:18, 11:32).

  9. I hope that all reading and replying to this article, no matter there soteriological persuasion, would agree with the Apostle Paul and affirm that saving faith is only possible through the Holy Spirit-inspired Word of God. In fact, I don’t know of anyone arguing otherwise, unless they are a “hypercalvinist” or universalist. I also hope that all reading and replying to this article would agree that mere intellectual understanding of the inspired Word is not equivalent to saving faith. Some may read this article and reach the conclusion that this is Dr. Flowers’ position but I know from his other writings that he does not believe this.

    So if all can agree that the inspired Word of God is absolutely necessary for salvation and that mere intellectual understanding and agreement with divine truth does not save anyone, then where is the disagreement? I believe the disagreement is in how a person moves from intellectual understanding to genuine saving faith. The synergist/Provisionist/Arminian would have some version of the belief that a decision of the human will when presented with the truth of the Holy-Spirit inspired Gospel to exercise faith and trust in that Gospel is what moves a person from intellectual understanding to saving faith. The monergist/Calvinist would have some version of the belief that the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit through the presentation of Gospel grants faith and repentance to a person so they move from intellectual understanding to saving faith. I welcome any revision or correction to these positions but if these are proper representations we can move forward with a beneficial discussion/debate on which position has Biblical merit.

    1. Hello Mark,
      I would certainly agree with your two main points that “the inspired Word of God is absolutely necessary for salvation and that mere intellectual understanding and agreement with divine truth (faith alone) does not save anyone.” Perhaps we might disagree, as many would, on the assumption that men come into this world with a fallen nature. If that be the premise, I believe it to be a false premise that underpins these false arguments of – enabling power/grace/prevenient grace etc.. And If we are not born into this world either, depraved, dead, or with a fallen nature to any degree, then it completely changes the argument. And when the bible talks about being “dead” it is speaking in terms of – relationship – not in terms of a “state” in which we are unable to do anything. Perhaps these things might be food for thought?

      1. I think Dr. Kenneth Wilson – from his research on Augustine’s deviation from the early church fathers – will agree with you.

        Kenneth Wilson – The foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism
        Not even one early church father writing from 95—430 CE—despite abundant acknowledgement of inherited human depravity, considered Adam’s fall to have erased human free choice to independently respond to God’s gracious invitation.

        God did not give faith as a gift.
        Humans could do nothing to save themselves—only God’s grace could save.
        Total inability to do God’s good works without God’s grace did not mean inability to believe in Christ and prepare for baptism.

        Prior to Augustine no Christian author embraced a deterministic divine unilateral predetermination of individuals’ eternal destinies.

        Prior to Augustine all who considered these doctrines rejected them as either an erroneous pagan Stoic or NeoPlatonic philosophy, or a Gnostic or Manichaean heresy, unbefitting of Christianity’s gracious relational God.

        God’s gift was salvation by divine grace through human faith, not a unilateral faith gift, as the Gnostics and Manichaean heretics were claiming.

        Early Christian literature could be distinguished from Gnostic and Manichaean literature by this essential element.
        -end quote

      2. br.d,

        Thanks for weighing in. I must admit that early church history is not my area of expertise but I can see from just a cursory review of online resources that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of quotations from early church fathers and church historians that would disagree with the position of Kenneth Wilson. I also know that there are teachings of early church fathers that could be used to support the heretical views of Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. So while I agree that church history is constructive in helping us understand the truths of Scripture, it is still God’s Word that is our source of faith and practice and I have come to believe in the what I would call the “doctrines of grace” through careful study of the Biblical text as informed by church history. I’m sure you would make the same claim so I would ask that we focus on the Word of God in our future interaction because I do not believe providing quotations from church history or using philosophical arguments are ultimately fruitful. If you disagree with this perspective, that is your right but please know that I will just not respond to any extra-biblical illustrations or argumentation. I have done so with you and others in the past and it has not been productive for me.

        With that being said, I would very much like to know if you agree with my two statements in the original comment to which Aidan responded and if my representations of the two positions are generally accurate. If you do not agree, I would appreciate your perspective.

      3. Hi Mark,
        I like to post things that are pertinent. So I’ll go ahead and keep doing that.
        You’re welcome to disagree with any Christian historical scholar you like.
        And that would be understandable – as we humans tend to apply bias in favor of our emotional and/or psychological investments.
        And that would include me – of course – as well.

        But thanks anyway.

      4. Aidan,

        Thanks for the response. I did not mention anything in my comment about man’s depraved nature but I guess you assumed (accurately) that I believe in total depravity since I believe a work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration is necessary for a person to be granted faith and repentance. If man does not have a fallen nature, then what is the necessity of the new birth, being given a new heart, becoming a new creation/creature in Christ, and all the other things that happen to a believer in the work of redemption according to God’s Word? We may disagree on the extent of that depravity and whether it makes a person totally unable, but there is clearly something about our natural state that requires a change in our nature/condition, not just a mere relational change, in order to be reconciled to God.

      5. Mark,

        You asked, “If man does not have a fallen nature, then what is the necessity of the new birth, being given a new heart, becoming a new creation/creature in Christ, and all the other things that happen to a believer in the work of redemption according to God’s Word?”

        Because just like Adam and Eve, the scriptures tell us that, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Note that it doesn’t say, ‘All were born sinners, made short of the glory of God’. We become sinners by sinning (James 1:14-15). But of the children, Jesus said, ‘For of such is the kingdom of heaven’. Yet, in spite of the fact that we, like Adam and Eve, were all created in the image of God – and not in the image of the devil, which is totally depraved – we too have sinned. I have a question: even though we are dead in “our” trespasses and sins, do we still not have to die in order to be born anew?

      6. Aidan,

        I want to make sure I understand your position. Do you believe that people are born in the exact same moral and spiritual condition as Adam and Eve when they were created?

        In regards to the statement of Jesus regarding children, is it wise to reach a doctrinal conclusion from a singular statement made in a context that was not directly about man’s natural condition? Rather, shouldn’t we study didactic passages like Romans 3, Romans 5, and 1 Corinthians 2 that include detailed apostolic instruction directly about the state of natural man? While we can be informed by what Jesus said about children, it must be in harmony with these more detailed and direct teaching passages.

        In direct response to your reference to James 1:13-14, here James is explaining how the act of sin comes to fruition. He says that sin does not begin with a temptation from God but rather when one “is drawn away by his own desires”. What is the source of these desires? Is it Satan? James says it is the person’s own desires. Would these desires not arise from a sinful heart?

        It could be argued that Adam’s and Eve’s desire that resulted in sin arose out of a heart that was not yet sinful. We have only 2 chapters in all of God’s Word directly about Adam and Eve and very little detail about their moral or spiritual state before they sinned. We do know their sin was prompted directly by Satanic temptation and that Eve was deceived. We also know what Paul teaches about how the sin of Adam affected his descendants in Romans 5. In the conclusion of that great passage contrasting the federal headship of Adam with the federal headship of Jesus, Paul proclaims that “by one man’s (Adam) disobedience many were made sinners”. He doesn’t say they were made sinners by their own sin. This is a difficult truth to accept but if we dismiss the federal headship of Adam, how can we claim the great promise that follows: “so as by one man’s (Jesus) obedience many were made righteous”?

      7. Mark,

        You asked, “I want to make sure I understand your position. Do you believe that people are born in the exact same moral and spiritual condition as Adam and Eve when they were created?”

        I believe we are born without a corrupt nature just as Adam and Eve had when they were created. I, too, want to understand your position. What do you mean by the term “total depravity”? Do you mean that they are dead? If so, what do you mean by “dead”? Your answer to that question might answer what you mean when you talk about, man’s inherent – nature, or man’s “born condition/state”? You also used the term “man’s natural condition,” and the “state of natural man”, a “sinful heart”? All synonymous in their relation to total depravity I presume? I suppose what I’m asking is what exactly do you believe is man’s – condition or state – when he is born? Is it dead, and what, in your view, does that mean exactly? It may overcome a lot of confusion If I can understand where you are coming from, with no suppositions.

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