Pastor’s Class Notes
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
“FOR AS MANY AS ARE LED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD, THEY ARE THE SONS OF GOD.”
We begin our exposition of this verse by emphasizing the word “THEY.” Those led by the Spirit of God, “THEY” are the sons of God. Not everyone is a child of God. All can trace their physical life to God, but there is no true kinship until the spiritual life of God is implanted within a person. Otherwise, a human is no more a child of God than is a creature of the field.
The concept “Sons of God” carries two main ideas in Scripture:
1. ADVANTAGE. Children receive an inheritance and other special benefits from their parents. Believers receive certain benefits from the Father which the lost do not have. Only Christians have God’s life, God’s Holy Spirit, and God’s Heaven.
2. SIMILARITY. Children tend to look and act like their parents. “Sons of Abraham” are those who act like Abraham. “Children of the devil” are those who act like the devil. Even so, sons of God are those who act like God.
Only those who are led by the Holy Spirit are God’s sons. This mark will characterize the members of God’s family. Hence, it is crucial that we know what it means to be led by the Spirit. Essentially it means having a
I. WRITTEN WORD TO FOLLOW
The Holy Spirit normally leads His people through the written Word, the Bible. The Scriptures are our manual of Sanctification. One can be assured that the Spirit never leads contrary to the Bible. “The Book” is an infallible rule, because the Spirit Himself inspired it.
The man who is saturated with the Word rarely needs “extrasensory” revelations. The Bible contains methods and principles that are essential to effective living.
The Holy Spirit leads us mainly by mingling with our consciousness and acting on our mind in such a way to help us understand what He has already written. He guides our eyes to the printed page, and guides our mind to the proper understanding.
II. WILLINGNESS TO FOLLOW
All who are willing to follow shall be led. The hardest part of discerning the will of God is being willing to do the will of God before it is known.
“I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go; I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee” (PS 32:8-9).
The problem in the Christian walk is never with God, but rather in our own unwillingness and lack of prayerfulness. Rather than spending all our prayer time asking, “What is your will for me?” we should spend more time saying, “Make me willing to do your will, whatever it might be.”
Our old nature wants us to lead ourselves, and do whatever we desire. However, one who is led does not try to lead. We must recognize our weakness and inability to find our own way. We should not think ourselves wise enough to make decisions on our own. A true son wants God to have His way.
The mature believer recognizes that the Spirit provides guidance because we need guidance. Every step of the Christian way is tenuous. Evil spirits try to misdirect us. The world tries to tempt us. Our flesh, the traitor within, tries to thwart us. Hence, we need a leader, a guide that will take us safely through the battle. An army in combat needs a general. Each soldier needs to be subject to his will and steered by him.
Willingness to follow is essential because the Holy Spirit refuses to compel. He never does violence to anyone. He persuades rather than browbeats. The Holy Spirit does not drive us, but rather leads us along. He is very sensitive, often compared to a dove. He is almost like a mother-image in the Godhead. He can easily be grieved, offended, and quenched. It is very unwise to hurt the Guide upon Whom we are depending for safety and leadership.
III. WHOLEHEARTEDNESS TO FOLLOW
Being led by the Spirit implies that one’s whole heart is pointed in the right direction. The overall tenor of a believer’s life should be guided by the Holy Spirit. This does not mean the believer is perfect, but it does mean that the main tendency of one’s life is toward the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit should determine the general outlook of one’s life. The Christian does not focus on physical matters, but rather on spiritual ones. The believer longs for holiness. He wants to be like God, to please God. He stumbles along the way, but at least he is headed in the right direction. With his whole life, he wants to be a pleasing follower of the Holy Spirit.
Beware the temptation of “piece-mealing” your life. This is something of which we are often guilty. We tend to break our lives into compartments of service. Some dedicate Sunday to God, and then ignore Him Monday through Saturday. Others give a little money to God, and then spend the rest of it without even considering Him.
We carelessly use such phrases as “God led me to do this” or “God spoke to me” or “God told me to say something.” I do not reject such possibilities entirely, but we must be careful or else we leave the impression that all other things we say and do are not of God. We should not have to use such phrases all the time. Our lives should in themselves bear witness to the truth of what we are saying.
A member of our church and I were discussing this very matter one evening after I had preached about it. He was a bit confused and wanted greater clarification. Fortunately, I knew his godly mother and could use her as an illustration. I asked him if he had ever in his life heard his mother use such phrases as “God led me” or “God told me.” He could not recall any instance of her using such a phrase.
I then pressed home the fact that the reason she did not speak in such a way is that her whole life was an offering to the Lord. She considered Him constantly. Her every deed and every word were consecrated. She would not do or say anything she felt would not be pleasing to God.
She had not yielded herself to God piecemeal, but as a whole. All of life to her was a means of worship.
We are even tempted often to piecemeal our lives with regard to sin. Often we seek forgiveness for one sin while harboring another one. This must not be allowed. We should be characterized by a longing to yield our whole selves unto godliness.
Desire total deliverance from all sin. Nothing less should satisfy.