Satan knows a believer in right relation to the Holy Spirit poses a threat to what he considers his turf. In response, he has orchestrated attacks against the person and work of the Holy Spirit and has influenced some individuals to even deny the specific leading of the Spirit. Is there any validity to such denials, or is it all just an overreaction to the excesses witnessed in others? Undeniably, some have engaged in foolish pursuits, using claims of God’s direct leadership to deflect any criticism. But have we allowed the reckless use of “the Lord led me” and similar assertions to dictate our beliefs or at least influence our understanding of what the Scripture teaches? We need to understand what the Bible teaches regarding divine guidance.

  • Does the Holy Spirit provide specific guidance to individual believers?
  • If so, how does the Holy Spirit lead?
  • And how can you discern counterfeit guidance?

In a three-part series, we will follow this progression to examine biblical guidelines for understanding the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Does the Holy Spirit guide individually?
Jesus taught the specific leading of the Spirit. Referring to times of persecution, Jesus said, “But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Matt. 10: 19-20). Luke’s Gospel adds, “And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say” (Luke 12:11-12). The words of our Savior tell us the Holy Spirit does specifically lead and empower.

The narrative of Acts also demonstrates the specific guidance of the Spirit. After Peter saw the vision in Joppa, “While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them” (Acts 10:19-20). This led to the conversion of Cornelius and his household and opened the door to the Gentile harvest. We see from the text that it began with the Spirit’s specific leading of Peter.

When Philip saw the eunuch from Ethiopia on the desert road, “Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot” (Acts 8:29). This led to the eunuch’s conversion. Clearly, the Holy Spirit specifically led Philip to witness to the eunuch whose heart had been prepared for the message of Jesus. In this instance, the Spirit guided and worked through a believer. Remember, Philip was not an apostle. The Spirit spoke specifically to him as a believer—and we have no reason to believe that God would speak to us any differently than he did to Philip.

During a time of prayer and fasting in the church at Antioch, “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). This led to the first missionary journey and the ingathering of multiple Gentile converts from which many churches were started. Again, we see the Spirit specifically leading.

When Paul and his team would have spent time in Asia, they “were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia” (Acts 16:6). This directive would help to get them to the Macedonian harvest, and, like the other examples in Acts, it illustrates the Spirit’s specific leading.

The Epistles explicitly articulate being “led by the Spirit” (Romans 8:14) and being “led of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18). As the “Spirit of wisdom” (Ephesians 1:17), obviously the Spirit gives wisdom.

Truly there is a specific leading of the Spirit based on biblical truth, and to deny the plain sense of these passages involves exegetical straining. There is no reason to believe the Spirit previously led individuals any differently than He leads individuals now. Just because some may follow either their own whims or a satanic counterfeit does not mean there is not a real leading of the Holy Spirit. How can you “try the spirits” according to 1 John 4:1 if there is no genuine leading of the Spirit? Ironically, if Satan could prompt Ananias (Acts 5:3), then certainly the Holy Spirit can prompt.

The objective Word of God teaches the subjective reality of the Holy Spirit’s leadership. This is an “objective subjectivism.” There is an objective biblical basis for the subjective leading of the Holy Spirit. The key is staying within the biblical boundaries.

John Van Gelderen

John Van Gelderen

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