Let me recommend for your reading and study Franklin Camp’s book on the Holy Spirit, The Work of the Holy Spirit in Redemption. As with all books on the subject of the Holy Spirit, you will not agree with everything that brother Camp writes. You will, however, gain a perspective of the Spirit’s work that will serve you well as you strive to grasp what the Bible teaches on this vital but neglected topic.
In his book, brother Camp has addressed the basic principle that has plagued students over the centuries. His approach is fundamental. He strives to get his readers to understand what the Bible said to the original audience. The Bible was written to them; however, it is for us. When students understand words as the first audience understood them and when students place the words in their original setting, many verses become clearer.
Brother Camp’s outline is basic. At the beginning, he shows the need for deeper thinking on the issue because of the various errors that permeate the religious world and the church. Objections to his basic view are considered. Then he addresses the source of our problem—Calvinism. He gives analyses of what various writers had to say on the Holy Spirit. With some passages and chapters he expends greater energy and space.
One of the best, and most needed, chapters in the book is the chapter on the moral influence of the Holy Spirit. Time and again, he sets forth the principle that,
Any teaching concerning the Spirit’s work that would override man’s free moral agency, or teach that the Spirit directly works on the sinner or Christian to enlighten, motivate, or to empower his will to obey the commands, violates the free moral agency of man, and is without any support in the Scriptures (40).
Herein, our writer has set before us the very same concept that Alexander Campbell taught more than 150 years ago: Miracles do not change a man morally. Only words, ideas and mental concepts can work a moral rebirth. With this in mind, listen anew to Paul:
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds), casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5 ASV).
A direct operation that makes one love others more, still has an unloving heart deep within the man. A direct operation that injects faith into the heart of the faithless, still has an unfaithful steward within. A direct operation that implants courage, still has a coward within. The heart must be changed, and the only way to change the heart is through words, concepts and thoughts.
If the miraculous does not change a man morally, what does? As brother Camp said, “…the Spirit’s working to reach the sinner, or instructing and edifying the saint, has been the same in every age” (40).
What is the difference in the method used by the Spirit of edifying the Ephesians, and the method used by the Spirit of instructing the Israelites? The Spirit, through the prophet, taught the Jew. The Spirit, through the apostle Paul, taught the Ephesians. Is this not evidence that the moral influence of the Spirit has been common to all ages? None, except denominational preachers, have any difficulty in understanding how the Spirit worked in the Old Testament. Why is it so simple in the Old Testament, but confusing in the New Testament? The method used was the same in each instance (40).
Yes, I read past page 40. Brother Camp deals with Joel’s prophecy, saying that it is, “the key to understanding what the New Testament teaches about the Holy Spirit” (44). Only by reading his sage remarks will the reader fully understand his assertion.
After studying the many facets of the fall of Jerusalem, our author shows how the Bible is its own best interpreter. Among other things, he presents a word study of New Testament words, using the Bible to understand the Bible. As he does this, he addresses what each writer had to say concerning the Spirit and His work.
Brother Camp uses several pages to address the thoughts in Romans because, as he states it, “Romans 8 is a difficult chapter.” Whether you agree with him or not, you must acknowledge that his underlying thought and teaching are correct.
Here are various pertinent, vital, needed statements from the pen of this diligent Bible student.
It has been no problem for most in the church to see that it is Christ and not the Holy Spirit that makes possible the salvation of the sinner. It is not necessary today for the Holy Spirit to do anything directly in order for the sinner to be saved. What the Spirit does for the sinner today, He does through the Word and it is the blood of Christ that saves (259).
Spiritual gifts in a church established two things 1) the credibility of the apostles that imparted the spiritual gift, and 2) the genuineness of the church as being one approved by God (260).
The Holy Spirit never directly, apart from the revelation and the assurance with the genuineness of the revelation, gave strength to live the Christian life. If the Holy Spirit gives strength directly and apart from revelation to live the Christian life today, then it seems to me one of two things must follow: First, the doctrine of the impossibility of apostasy is correct, for if the Holy Spirit takes over, apart from the truth, and empowers the Christian to overcome sin, how can the Christian fall? Second, if the Holy Spirit directly and apart from the Word empowers the Christian to overcome sin, and the Christian is overcome by sin, then the Holy Spirit has failed the Christian (261).
Becoming a Christian is a voluntary action motivated by the truth of the gospel. Living the Christian life is also voluntary and still motivated by the truth of the gospel” (261).
These thoughts need repeating far and wide.
Let me finish with Franklin Camp’s thoughts on what the personal indwelling (or the direct operation) of the Spirit cannot do today, from pages 261-262:
It cannot give faith for faith comes by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17).
It cannot give love to God for the gospel is the motive for love to God (1 John 4:8).
It cannot make us love one another for gratitude in response to the love of God and the gospel is the basis of love among brethren (John 13:34-35). Even the miraculous indwelling did not produce love in the church at Corinth (1 Cor. 13).
It cannot produce the spirit of sonship, as the contents of the gospel produces the spirit of sonship, rather than the spirit of bondage that characterized the law (Rom. 8: 15).
It cannot give knowledge for knowledge comes from the Word itself.
It cannot give strength for it is faith based on the Word of God that gives strength for living. (Read the entire 11th chapter of Hebrews).
It cannot empower to overcome sin for we overcome through the blood and the Word (Rev. 12: 11).
It cannot produce spirituality for the gospel makes one spiritual. Even the miraculous indwelling in the Corinthians did not make them spiritual (1 Cor. 3:1- 3).
It cannot give growth for we grow by the Word of God (1 Pet. 2:2).
It would not make one unselfish. The church at Corinth had miraculous gifts, but these gifts did not make the Corinthians liberal (2 Cor. 8-9).
It would not keep one from sinning. Even the baptism of the Holy Spirit did not keep Peter from sin (Gal. 2:11). Surely, non-miraculous indwelling would not accomplish more than the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit does not work miracles today, as the miracles are now written (John 20:30-31).
The Holy Spirit does not give revelation today as revelation is completed (Jude 3).
The Holy Spirit does not work miracles of confirmation, as confirmation ended when revelation ended (Mark. 16:16-20).
We have come so far; yet, so many have forgotten so much. Too many have now drifted far from the shore into the sea of speculation and into the tempest of wishful thinking. Return to the mooring of His Word.