The Spirit as Witness and Guide

Ellet J. Waggoner

The Present Truth : January 23, 1896

On all sides the Bible is being discredited. Of the attacks of professed infidels, and of the so-called Higher Critics, we need not speak, because they are so open and undisguised that people may be on their guard. But the most dangerous assault upon the Bible is that which makes it secondary to Christ or the Holy Spirit, so that people unconsciously set the Word of God aside while imagining that they are doing superior homage to Him who gave the Word.
An instance of this, which is becoming deplorably common among Christian people, is found in the reply of the New York Independent to the taunt of a Catholic paper in regard to its acceptance of the Bible as the only rule of faith. It said: —
“When did the Independent ever say that the Bible is the sole and only rule of faith? We believe that our Lord said that He would give His Spirit “which shall lead you into all truth.” We regard the teaching of the Holy Spirit as a rule of faith.”
Such is the looseness with which the Bible is now held, that most people would doubtless see in this only a tribute to the Holy Spirit instead of the disparagement of the Word of God. Let us see what the Bible says about the matter.
In the first place, it is positively stated that the Bible came only by the Spirit. “The prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21).
Not only so, but the Holy Spirit was in all cases the speaker, so that the Bible is the language of the Holy Spirit, and of none other. Thus the sweet Psalmist of Israel said, “The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me, and His word was in my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2).
With this agrees the words of the Apostle Peter, when he spoke of the Scripture “which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spoke before concerning Judas” (Acts 1:16). Also the words “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1).
When Christ promised the disciples the Spirit in His absence, He said: “When He is come He will convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8, R.V). The first work of the Spirit is to convict of sin. But by what means? —By “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (Eph. 6:17), “For the word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). “By the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20), because “the law is spiritual” (Rom. 7:14).
Again, the promise of Christ is, “When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). But the Saviour also said in praying to the Father for His disciples: “Sanctify them through Thy truth; Thy Word is truth” (John 17:17). The Holy Spirit sanctifies because the Spirit uses the word of truth. So we read that “God has from the beginning chosen us unto salvation: through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:13).
Read onward in the Saviour’s promise that the Spirit shall guide us into all truth: “For He shall not speak from Himself; but what things soever He shall hear, these shall He speak.” “He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine and shall declare it unto you. All things whatsoever the Father hath are Mine; therefore said I, that He takes of Mine and shall declare it unto you” (John 16:13-15; R.V). The Spirit is sent to us by the Father, even as Christ was sent by the Father; so just as Christ spoke not His own words, but those, which the Father gave Him, the Spirit does likewise. Here we have evidence not simply that the Word of God is the witness of the Spirit, but that the Spirit does not speak anything but what we find in the Word of God—the Bible. He is not independent of the Father, but speaks only the word of the Father.
We read, in harmony with Christ’s promise that the Spirit makes us know “the things that are freely given to us of God,” and this is because “the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10, 12). The “deep things of God,” which the Spirit shows us, are the great things of God’s law (Hos. 8:12); and so we are taught to pray, “Open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law” (Ps. 119:18). This opening of the eyes is the work of the Spirit—“the Spirit of wisdom and revelation.”
“Well,” someone may say, “I believe in the direct witness of the Spirit; I know that the Spirit witnesses to me that I am a child of God.” The Holy Spirit does certainly witness with the spirits of some men, but not all. With whom does He witness? With those who believe, for none others are of God, and so none others can possibly have the witness.
This witness is direct too; but how is it? A witness testifies, and must testify in words. Now in what words does the Spirit testify? Why, manifestly in the words which are given Him to speak, —even the words of God. So we read: “He that believeth on the Son hath the witness in himself; he that believeth not God, hath made Him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of His Son” (1 John 5:10).
“To Him give all the prophets witness” (Acts 10:43). But we have already read that the prophets spoke only as the Spirit spoke through them. So we read in Hebrews of the offering of Christ, “whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness unto us” (Heb. 10:15), and then follow the words which He testified.
It is evident, therefore, that any disparagement of the Bible, even to the slightest degree, is a disparagement of the Holy Spirit. To ignore the Bible as a guide, and at the same time to profess to honor the Holy Spirit, is the same as professed great respect for a man, and at the same time to ignore or deny what he says.
It may be said that the Bible is not ignored, but that the Spirit is taken as an additional guide. But what then is the use of the Bible? If the Spirit testifies part of the time aside from the Bible, why not all the time? That this is an actual ignoring of the Bible, is proved by the results; for those who profess to believe that the Holy Spirit leads apart from the Word of God, inevitably come to trust wholly in that supposed guidance, even though it is contrary to the Word.
If it were true that the Spirit did testify to us, apart from the Bible, then we should have nothing but our own minds by which to determine whether or not any impression is really from the Spirit. And so it is, that they who think that the Spirit leads them, independently of God’s Word, are simply following their own desires and imaginations. A complete demonstration of this is seen in the fact that those who follow such supposedly independent leading of the Spirit, invariably run into a direct violation of God’s law.
Let no one think that he can exalt the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit at the expense of the Bible. Just as the Bible is honored, they will be honored. The Spirit of God is sufficient to guide us into all truth, and to make us perfect in it, because He guides humble, trusting ones into the full understanding of the Scripture, which is able to make a man “perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:17).