By Reuben Archer Torrey
The work of the Holy Spirit in apostles and prophets is an entirely distinctive work. He imparts to apostles and prophets an especial gift for an especial purpose.
We read in 1 Cor. xii. 4, 8-11, 28, 29, R. V., "Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.... For to one is given through the Spirit wisdom; and to another the word of knowledge, according to the same Spirit; to another faith, in the same Spirit; and to another gifts of healings, in the one Spirit; and to another workings of miracles; and to another prophecy; and to another discerning of spirits: to another divers kinds of tongues; and to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh the one and the same Spirit, dividing to each severally even as He will.... And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondly prophets, thirdly teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, divers kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Have all gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?" It is evident from these verses that the work of the Holy Spirit in apostles and prophets is of a distinctive character.
The doctrine is becoming very common and very popular in our day that the work of the Holy Spirit in preachers and teachers and in ordinary believers, illuminating them and guiding them into the truth and opening their minds to understand the Word of God is the same in kind and differs only in degree from the work of the Holy Spirit in prophets and apostles. It is evident from the passage just cited that this doctrine is thoroughly unscriptural and untrue. It overlooks the fact so clearly stated and carefully elucidated that while there is "the same Spirit" there are "diversities of gifts" "diversities of administrations" "diversities of workings" (1 Cor. xii. 4-6) and that "not all are prophets" and "not all are apostles" (1 Cor. xii. 29). A very scholarly and brilliant preacher seeking to minimize the difference between the work of the Holy Spirit in apostles and prophets and His work in other men calls attention to the fact that the Bible says that Bezaleel was to be "filled with the Spirit of God" to devise the work of the tabernacle (Ex. xxxi. 1-11). He gives this as a proof that the inspiration of the prophet does not differ from the inspiration of the artist or architect, but in doing this, he loses sight of the fact that the tabernacle was to be built after the "pattern shown to Moses in the Mount" (Ex. xxv. 9, 40) and that therefore it was itself a prophecy and an exposition of the truth of God. It was not mere architecture. It was the Word of God done into wood, gold, silver, brass, cloth, skin, etc. And Bezaleel needed as much special inspiration to reveal the truth in wood, gold, silver, brass, etc., as the apostle or prophet needs it to reveal the Word of God with pen and ink on parchment. There is much reasoning in these days about inspiration that appears at first sight very learned, but that will not bear much rigid scrutiny or candid comparison with the exact statements of the Word of God. There is nothing in the Bible more inspired than the tabernacle, and if the Destructive Critics would study it more, they would give up their ingenious but untenable theories as to the composite structure of the Pentateuch.
2. Truth hidden from man for ages and which they had not discovered and could not discover by the unaided processes of human reasoning has been revealed to apostles and prophets in the Spirit.
We read in Eph. iii. 3-5, R. V., "By revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ; which in other generations was not made known unto the sons of men, as it hath now been revealed unto His holy Apostles and prophets in the Spirit." The Bible contains truth that men had never discovered before the Bible stated it. It contains truth that men never could have discovered if left to themselves. Our heavenly Father, in great grace, has revealed this truth to us His children through His servants, the apostles and the prophets. The Holy Spirit is the agent of this revelation. There are many who tell us to-day that we should test the statements of Scripture by the conclusions of human reasoning or by the "Christian consciousness." The folly of all this is evident when we bear in mind that the revelation of God transcends human reasoning, and that any consciousness that is not the product of the study and absorption of Bible truth is not really a Christian consciousness. The fact that the Bible does contain truth that man never had discovered we know not merely because it is so stated in the Scriptures, but we know it also as a matter of fact. There is not one of the most distinctive and precious doctrines taught in the Bible that men have ever discovered apart from the Bible. If our consciousness differs from the statements of this Book, which is so plainly God's Book, it is not yet fully Christian and the thing to do is not to try to pull God's revelation down to the level of our consciousness but to tone our consciousness up to the level of God's Word.
3. The revelation made to the prophets was independent of their own thinking. It was made to them by the Spirit of Christ which was in them. And was a subject of inquiry to their own mind as to its meaning. It was not their own thought, but His.
We read in 1 Peter i. 10, 11, 12, R. V., "Concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it (He) testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glories that should follow them. To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things, which now have been announced unto you through them that preached the Gospel unto you by the Holy Ghost sent forth from heaven; which things angels desire to look into." These words make it plain that a Person in the prophets, and independent of the prophets, and that Person the Holy Spirit, revealed truth which was independent of their own thinking, which they did not altogether understand themselves, and regarding which it was necessary that they make diligent search and study. Another Person than themselves was thinking and speaking and they were seeking to comprehend what He said.
4. No prophet's utterance was of the prophet's own will, but he spoke from God, and the prophet was carried along in his utterance by the Holy Spirit.
We read in 2 Peter i. 21, R. V., "For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost." Clearly then, the prophet was simply an instrument in the hands of another, as the Spirit of God carried him along, so he spoke.
5. It was the Holy Spirit who spoke in the prophetic utterances. It was His word that was upon the prophet's tongue.
We read in Heb. iii. 7, "Wherefore as the Holy Ghost saith, To-day if ye will hear His voice." Again we read in Heb. x. 15, 16, "Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord. I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them."
We read again in Acts xxviii. 25, R. V., "And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken the word, 'Well spake the Holy Ghost by Isaiah the prophet unto your fathers saying, etc.' " Still again we read in 2 Sam. xxiii. 2, R. V., "The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was upon my tongue." Over and over again in these passages we are told that it was the Holy Spirit who was the speaker in the prophetic utterances and that it was His word, not theirs, that was upon the prophet's tongue. The prophet was simply the mouth by which the Holy Spirit spoke. As a man, that is except as the Spirit taught him and used him, the prophet might be as fallible as other men are but when the Spirit was upon him and he was taken up and borne along by the Holy Spirit, he was infallible in his teachings; for his teachings in that case were not his own, but the teachings of the Holy Spirit. When thus borne along by the Holy Spirit it was God who was speaking and not the prophet. For example, there can be little doubt that Paul had many mistaken notions about many things but when he taught as an Apostle in the Spirit's power, he was infallible--or rather the Spirit, who taught through him was infallible and the consequent teaching was infallible--as infallible as God Himself. We do well therefore to carefully distinguish what Paul may have thought as a man and what he actually did teach as an Apostle. In the Bible we have the record of what he taught as an Apostle. There are those who think that in 1 Cor. vii. 6, 25, "But I speak this by permission, not of commandment ... yet I give my judgment as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord," Paul admits that he was not sure in this case that he had the word of the Lord. If this be the true interpretation of the passage (which is more than doubtful) we see how careful Paul was when he was not sure to note the fact and this gives us additional certainty in all other passages. It is sometimes said that Paul taught in his early ministry that the Lord would return during his lifetime, and that in this he was, of course, mistaken. But Paul never taught anywhere that the Lord would return in his lifetime. It is true he says in 1 Thess. iv. 17, "Then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them to meet the Lord in the air, and so shall we ever be with the Lord." As he was still living when he wrote the words, he naturally and properly did not include himself with those who had already fallen asleep in speaking of the Lord's return. But this is not to assert that he would remain alive until the Lord came. Quite probably at this period of his ministry he entertained the hope that he might remain alive and consequently lived in an attitude of expectancy, but the attitude of expectancy is the true attitude in all ages for each believer. It is quite probable that Paul expected that he would be alive to the coming of the Lord, but if he did so expect, he did not so teach. The Holy Spirit kept him from this as from all other errors in his teachings.
6. The Holy Spirit in the Apostle taught not only the thought (or "concept") but the words in which the thought was to he expressed. We read in 1 Cor. ii. 13, A. R. V., "Which things also we speak not in words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth combining spiritual things with spiritual words." This passage clearly teaches that the words, as well as the thought, were chosen and taught by the Holy Spirit. This is also a necessary inference from the fact that thought is conveyed from mind to mind by words and it is the words which express the thought, and if the words were imperfect, the thought expressed in these words would necessarily be imperfect and to that extent be untrue. Nothing could be plainer than Paul's statement "in words which the Spirit teacheth." The Holy Spirit has Himself anticipated all the modern ingenious and wholly unbiblical and false theories regarding His own work in the Apostles. The more carefully and minutely we study the wording of the statements of this wonderful Book, the more we will become convinced of the marvellous accuracy of the words used to express the thought. Very often the solution of an apparent difficulty is found in studying the exact words used. The accuracy, precision and inerrancy of the exact words used is amazing. To the superficial student, the doctrine of verbal inspiration may appear questionable or even absurd; any regenerated and Spirit-taught man, who ponders the words of the Scripture day after day and year after year, will become convinced that the wisdom of God is in the very words, as well as in the thought which the words endeavour to convey. A change of a word, or letter, or a tense, or case, or number, in many instances would land us into contradiction or untruth, but taking the words exactly as written, difficulties disappear and truth shines forth. The Divine origin of nature shines forth more clearly in the use of a microscope as we see the perfection of form and adaptation of means to end of the minutest particles of matter. In a similar manner, the Divine origin of the Bible shines forth more clearly under the microscope as we notice the perfection with which the turn of a word reveals the absolute thought of God.
But some one may ask, "If the Holy Spirit is the author of the words of Scripture, how do we account for variations in style and diction? How do we explain for instance that Paul always used Pauline language and John Johannean language, etc.?" The answer to this is very simple. If we could not account at all for this fact, it would have but little weight against the explicit statement of God's Word with any one who is humble enough and wise enough to recognize that there are a great many things which he cannot account for at all which could be easily accounted for if he knew more. But these variations are easily accounted for. The Holy Spirit is quite wise enough and has quite facility enough in the use of language in revealing truth to and through any given individual, to use words, phrases and forms of expression and idioms in that person's vocabulary and forms of thought, and to make use of that person's peculiar individuality. Indeed, it is a mark of the Divine wisdom of this Book that the same truth is expressed with absolute accuracy in such widely variant forms of expression.
7. The utterances of the Apostles and the prophets were the Word of God. When we read these words, we are listening not to the voice of man, but to the voice of God.
We read in Mark vii. 13, "Making the word of God of none effect, through your tradition, which ye have delivered; and many such like things do ye." Jesus had been setting the law given through Moses over against the Pharisaic traditions, and in doing this, He expressly says in this passage that the law given through Moses was "the word of God." In 2 Sam. xxiii. 2, we read, "The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue." Here again we are told that the utterance of God's prophet was the word of God. In a similar way God says in 1 Thess. ii. 13, "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe." Here Paul declares that the word which he spoke, taught by the Spirit of God, was the very word of God.