Jerry C. Brewer
Phil Sanders, who is the speaker on the television program, In Search of The Lord’s Way, takes the same position on the Holy Spirit as Mac Deaver whose false teaching on that subject is well known. Both men believe, and teach, that the Holy Spirit directly operates on men’s hearts today in addition to the word of God—a Pentecostal doctrine. Deaver says,
The word is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the word; the word is the Spirit’s sword (Eph. 6:17). If the Spirit dwells in anyone, He indwells personally in conjunction with (Emph. JB) His word separate and apart from the word” (“Acts 2:41 and The Holy Spirit Issue,” Biblical Notes, Vol. XXV, No. 5, Sept./Oct., 1996, p. 1).
Sanders says, “The Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit personally indwells conjointly and consistently with the Word (Emph. JB) (“The Holy Spirit,” Nashville School of Preaching and Biblical Studies, Winter, 2005, p. 50). Deaver and Sanders both echo the argument of the Baptist Ben M. Bogard who also argued for a direct influence of the Holy Spirit on men’s hearts when he debated N. B. Hardeman at Little Rock, Ark. in 1938. Bogard said,
The Spirit works as if there were no word and the word is used as if there were no Spirit. Not separate and apart from each other but together, side by side on the same thing. The gospel is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) and as the sword is distinct from the soldier and the soldier distinct from the sword, yet both soldier and sword work together in the conviction and conversion of the sinner. My friend was very, very correct. He said that if you put that hand on the book, it is immediate. That is exactly what I am coming to now, the Holy Spirit actually touches the human heart! Nothing between at all. My friend knows English as well as Greek, and he knows that ‘with’ is one thing and ‘through’ is another thing. God does not work through the word but with it (“The Work of The Holy Spirit,” Affirmative, Second Speech, Hardeman-Bogard Debate, Gospel Advocate Co., Nashville, 1938, p. 31).
Deaver’s “in conjunction with,” Sanders’ “conjointly with” and Bogard’s “with it” all refer to an influence exerted upon the human heart that is separate and apart from the word of God. The strengthening by the Spirit in the Ephesians’ “inner man” (Eph. 3:16) is the passage used by both Deaver and Sanders to buttress their argument that the Holy Spirit does something to the human heart that is not accomplished by the word of God.
In the previously cited writing by Sanders, he included a short article by Hugo McCord which argues for the direct, personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. However, McCord never taught that the Holy Spirit influences the human heart directly today. Here is what he wrote,
Spiritual strength comes from the Spirit (Eph. 3:16), but not by his indwelling. Though all the Ephesians Christians had received the seal and the earnest of the Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14), six chapters were written to them that they might be “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might” (6:10) (“The Holy Spirit,” Nashville School of Preaching and Biblical Studies, Winter, 2005, p. 60).
But Sanders took issue with McCord and wrote,
While I hesitate to disagree with my beloved teacher, Hugo McCord, whom I deeply respect, I feel I must point out some things on Eph. 3:16. The context of this verse shows that Paul was praying (Emph. his) that ‘He [God] would grant [give] you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.’ The fact that Paul was praying for strength rather than pointing the brethren to the ‘word’ is significant. While there can be no doubt that the Word strengthens (Rom. 16:25-27), Paul did not here point the Ephesians to the Word for strength but prayed for it. God, in answer to prayer, was to strengthen them ‘with power’ through (by means of) the Spirit. The Spirit was the medium through which God was to strengthen them with power. This strengthening took place in the inner man (Ibid, p. 60).
While Bogard argued for a direct influence of the Holy Spirit in converting men, Sanders makes the same argument for the Spirit’s work in the heart of Christians. Bogard said, “…as the sword is distinct from the soldier and the soldier distinct from the sword, yet both soldier and sword work together in the conviction and conversion of the sinner…God does not work through the word but with it” (op cit).
The Holy Spirit is Not the ‘Word’ While the Word came by the Holy Spirit, the Word should not be confused with the Spirit. The Spirit is the producer, and the Word is the product. While we admit freely that the Spirit makes His presence and will known to us by means of the Word, we also realize that the Spirit acts through other means and not through the Word alone. For instance, the Spirit intercedes for us with prayers (Rom. 8:26-27). The Spirit raised Jesus from the dead and will one day give life to our mortal bodies (Rom. 8:11). Ephesians 3:16 notes that the Spirit strengthens our inner man in answer to prayer. Each of these actions of the Spirit on the Christian is by means other than the Word. We know this, because the Word says so. While the Spirit will never act inconsistently to the teaching of His Word, the Word itself testifies that He does things His Word cannot do (op cit).
The above is only one of the reasons we do not advertise or recommend the television program, In Search of The Lord’s Way, originating at Edmond, Okla. Another is Sanders’ statement a few years ago that members of the Conservative Christian Church (a denomination) are our brethren.
It is difficult to get brethren to understand that we cannot have fellowship with false teachers. Because of so many “sacred cows” among us (including Phil Sanders), brethren ignore what Paul wrote to the Ephesians about fellowship with error. “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them,” (Eph. 5:11). And, to promote the work of false teachers makes one a partaker with them, according to John. “…for he that biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 11).