Nana Yaw Aidoo
There is but little difference among religious people that there is a Holy Spirit Who begins, continues and consummates the conversion of men. However, there is a wide and irreconcilable difference among some religious people as to how the Holy Spirit does this work of converting. When the subject is considered, we are led to the conclusion that there are only two alternatives to choose from. Either the Holy Spirit converts men directly, or He converts men indirectly. (i.e. through a medium). Most (if not all) denominational groups hold the idea that in His work of converting men, the Holy Spirit operates directly on the hearts and minds of men today. Consider this statement from The Standard Manual for Baptist Churches:
We believe the Scriptures teach that in order to be saved, men must be regenerated, or born again; that regeneration consists in giving a holy disposition to the mind; that it is effected in a manner above our comprehension by the Holy Spirit, in connection with divine truth, so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel… (page 63).
According to Baptists, men cannot be saved unless the Holy Spirit does something “in connection with”—not through or by—the Word. To their minds, not only does He work alongside the Word in order to save men but He does it in an incomprehensible manner “so as to secure our voluntary obedience to the gospel.” This really is a fruit of the Calvinistic doctrine of Hereditary Total Depravity, which is the teaching that men inherit from Adam, a nature that is “utterly indisposed, disabled and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil.” As the teaching goes, since man is of such a nature, then without the direct operation of the Holy Spirit on his heart or mind, he cannot be saved. We posit that this idea contradicts the Bible in every regard as we shall prove in this article.
Contrary to Baptist teaching, the Scriptures teach that when the Holy Spirit operates directly on men, there is no opportunity for “voluntary obedience.” As a matter of fact, no one who was influenced directly by the Holy Spirit, could resist Him. When Balaam wanted to curse the Israelites for Balak due to the money offered him, the Bible says, “…the Spirit of God came upon him.” (Num. 24:2). When that happened, Balaam under the Spirit’s direct influence blessed Israel four times. Balaam in that very moment could not resist blessing God’s people, even if he wanted to.
We also see that when Saul, due to envy, sent three groups of men to murder David, they, under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, did something contrary to their commission. (1 Sam. 19:20-21). When Saul attempted to go finish the job himself, he was met with the same fate as his messengers. (1 Sam. 19:22-24). They had gone to Naioth in Ramah to commit murder. Yet, the Holy Spirit directly influenced them to do something contrary, and these men could not resist Him. The Holy Spirit did not respect the choices of these men, when He operated directly on them.
Therefore, if it is true what the Baptist Manual teaches, then there would not be a single sinner or lost soul in hell because the Holy Spirit desires the salvation of all men. (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9). However, we are told that the majority of men will spend eternity in hell. (Matt. 7:13-23). Thus, if it be the case that the Holy Spirit converts men directly, then with the majority of men on the highway to hell, we must necessarily conclude that the Holy Spirit has either chosen some men to be saved and condemned the rest to hell, which would contradict His impartial nature (Gal. 2:6), or He is really incompetent in the business of saving men, which would contradict His Omnipotence. Baptists can’t eat their cake and have it.
How Does the Holy Spirit Convert Men?
It needs be noted that when the Holy Spirit directly influenced the men above, He did not convert them from their wickedness. Evidently, if He had, they would have been unable to resist Him. It is an axiom that men are created free-moral agents and God Almighty, even though He can, does not violate this freedom, either spiritually or morally. We see therefore that Balaam still went ahead to counsel the Israelites to sin against God, leading to the demise of about 24,000 of them. (Num. 25:1-9; 31:16; 2 Pet. 2:15; Rev. 2:14). Saul, also continued his persecution of David unabated. The direct operation of the Holy Spirit on these men, neither converted them, nor changed their character or their spiritual states.
That being the case, we are left with the only other alternative, which is that the Holy Spirit converts men indirectly (i.e. through a medium). We know this is especially true because even though the Holy Spirit desired the salvation of the Ethiopian (Acts 8:29) and Cornelius (Acts 11:12), He did not operate directly on their hearts but sent preachers to them. Why? Because the Spirit’s medium of conversion, has always been through or by (not in connection with) His Word. Every page of Scripture teaches this absolute truth. Let us note a few:
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul… (Psa. 19:7).
…Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved… (Mark 16:15-16).
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth… (Rom. 1:16).
Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth… (Jam. 1:18).
From the foregoing, we must conclude that the Holy Spirit has put His converting power in words and when these words are preached to the hearts or understanding of men and men, by their own freewill, respond favorably to the words of the Spirit in obedience to it, they will be saved or converted. However, if like Baptists teach, there is some sort of operation, separate and apart from the Word of God, or “in connection with” the Word, then we are interested in knowing at which point the Holy Spirit stops His operation for the Word to take over and vice versa. We also are interested in knowing who is responsible for a lack of obedience. The Holy Spirit or the sinner?
Let us study diligently the entirety of God’s word on this issue and quit the theorizing that only leads to doctrines that are fatal to gospel obedience. The Scriptures carefully studied lead to but one conclusion; that we are born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever. (1 Pet. 1:23).