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Led by the Spirit



For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Romans 8: 14

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.  Galatians 5: 18


What does “led by the Spirit” mean?

“Led” is the past tense and participle of “lead”.  “Lead” means to guide or conduct.  Guide has the idea of directing the course of or to show the way of those following.  Guide implies an intimate knowledge of the way and all the attendant difficulties and problems.  In addition conduct carries the concept of escorting us along the way.


How does the Spirit lead us?

The Spirit leads in many ways.   He leads in ways we know and for which we seek and pray, but He leads us in ways, which we do not think and cannot even imagine.  He leads us primarily through the word but He also leads us by the example of our Lord and other good people.  He leads us by the worship He was ordained, by concepts such as love, righteousness and salvation. He prays for us and groans for us and bears witness with our Spirit; He is our seal that we are children of God and God’s pledge that He will fulfill His promise.  He leads us providentially     Ephesians 3: 16- 20

There are some in the Restoration Movement, of which I am a part, who subscribe to the view that the Holy Spirit only leads us through the written word.  This view was adopted, I believe, to counter the teaching of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit espoused by John Calvin and others.  I do not hold that view but neither do I believe that God unconditionally gives the Spirit to the elect to effect their salvation.  I believe the Scriptures teach that God gives the Spirit to His children, those who have believed and obeyed.  This article will attempt to give a wider view, more consistent with the Scriptures and common experience. Galatians 4: 6; John 7: 38, 39; Acts 5: 32


The Spirit leads through the Word.

The written word is the revelation of God’s will in respect to salvation and the conduct of His children in this present life.  All things pertaining to life and godliness are revealed therein. The word was inspired and brought forth by the Holy Spirit; it is the sword of the Spirit.  The Spirit, however, has many ways of influencing and guiding people in accordance with His revealed will.  This speaks not to any insufficiency of the Scripture but to the fact that our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with principalities and powers of darkness.  We need to put on the whole armor in addition to the sword of the Spirit.  These include truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, prayers and petitions.  We need the influence and guidance the Holy Spirit provided by all avenues at the Spirit’s disposal.


The Spirit leads through the example and influence of others.

Surely we are led by the example of Christ in His humility, love, compassion, fervor for the lost and zeal to do the will of God.


The Spirit leads by various items of worship, the creation and even the vicissitudes of life.


The Spirit leads us conceptually.

To be led by the Spirit is to be directed by those qualities, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control that are characteristic of the nature of God the Holy Spirit.  To walk in the Spirit is to live in step and in harmony with these same qualities.  Galatians 5L 22, 23

We love because God is love and He first loved us. (1 John 4: 8, 19)  The love of God has been poured out in our heart through the Holy Spirit who was given to us and dwells in us. 1 John 4: 8, 19; Romans 5: 5; Ephesians 3: 19

We have joy in our heart because we rejoice in the Lord always that by the work of God we are in Christ and we know that all things work to the good of those that love the Lord even trials and tribulations.  1 Corinthians 1: 30; Philippians 4: 4-7; James 1: 2-4; Romans 14: 17

It is through the Holy Spirit that we abound in Hope.  Romans 15: 13

We have peace in our souls because God is a God of peace and being justified by faith we have peace with God through the Lord Jesus Christ.  That happy circumstance encourages us to live in peace with all men.  2 Corinthians 13: 11; Romans 5: 1; 15: 13; 1 Corinthians 7: 15; Philippians 4: 7;

We are exhorted to be kind one toward another because of God’s kindness toward us.  The kindness of God appeared in the person of His Son.  Love is kind.  The kindness of God leads us to repent. 1 Corinthians 13: 4;Titus 3: 4; Romans 2: 4; 11: 22

God alone is good.  He is the one who fulfills every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power.  The fruit of light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth.   Matthew 19: 17; 2 Thessalonians 1: 11; Ephesians 5: 9

God is faithful and as such is the source of all faithfulness.  We are the stewards of God and faithfulness is the prime requirement of a steward.  We are admonished to be faithful unto death so that we might receive the crown of life.   1 Corinthians 1: 9; 4: 2; Revelation 2: 10

We sing the song, Jesus meek and gentle, and so He is.  Son of God most high.  And we as children God imitate that quality.  We are to be gentle to all men, easy to be entreated. 2 Corinthians 10: 1; James 3: 17

God is holy and altogether righteous.  Our sins are an affront to our God.  Knowing this and realizing the great love with which He has loved us, we are constrained to be temperate in all things, to exercise self-control.  1 Peter 1: 16; 2 Peter 1: 6

We have patience because God is a God of patience. The patience and steadfastness of Christ motivates us to exercise patience with those about us.  Romans 15: 52 Thessalonians 5: 5; Revelation 1: 9

We forgive others because God has forgiven us. Matthew 18: 21- 35-


The Spirit leads us providentially.


The Spirit leads us in ways we do not ask or even imagine.

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.  I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.  These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might, which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at the right hand in the heavenly places.  Ephesians 1: 17- 20

We pray for wisdom and enlightenment in regard to his word.   We pray that His word will dwell in and permeate our hearts and minds and that we may be filled with the Spirit.  James 1: 5; Colossian 3: 16; Ephesians 5: 19

That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man.

Ephesians 3: 16


We pray for a heart of concern for those that do not know the Lord and we pray for boldness and love that we may have some part in conveying the good news to them.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.  Ephesians 3: 20


We pray that God will give us a spirit of power and love and discipline.

2 Timothy 1: 7

The Spirit leads by spiritual relationships.

           1 Corinthians 6: 19


Does the Spirit lead directly today as He did in the Scriptures?

God acted directly in the lives of those who were making known God will in the first century:

Some hold the view that being led by the Spirit means God speaks to them directly.  This is not limited to those who believe in extraordinary gifts of the Spirit.  Edward Fudge, a child of the Restoration Movement, has written a book, “Beyond the Sacred Page”, a testimony to the guidance of God in the life of one man.  I don’t know if the Spirit speaks directly to him or if he simply feels an urge to do certain things.  I personally know of one sister who was convinced that she was led to leave her husband and their young children to marry her husband’s co-worker so that she could lead this person to Christ.  And she did remarry.   Dr James D Bales in his book, “The Holy Spirit and the Christian”, records that an 18 year old Canadian girl lost her life by walking into a river until her head was covered with water while singing “Faith is the Victory.”  At the trial her sister testified that she attempted to help her sister but was pushed back by the Spirit.  Surely the Spirit did not speak to these women, as it would be contrary to the revealed will of the Spirit. 

Oral Roberts believed he was told to raise a certain amount of money for his medical school or God would call him home.  I won’t be dogmatic, but I for one am doubtful.  We will have to wait and see what the Judge says about these things

Others believe that the Spirit leads them to find such things as a parking space for their car or a good place to eat.  I doubt if that is the work of the Spirit.  I feel sure that the Spirit has not led me in that way.

Unfortunately, the extravagant claims of some have distracted us from the testimony of the word of God.  Paul tells us that the Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.  Notice, that this witness is direct and not through a medium, the word.  The Spirit also helps are weakness for the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groaning to deep for words.    Romans 8

Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians was that the Father would strengthened them with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; and that you being grounded in love, may be able to comprehend the vastness and the depth of the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge and be filled up to all the fullness of God.  God does exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or can even imagine.  God is working through the Spirit in ways we can not comprehend therefore the claim of some, that God works only through the word is hollow. 


What does “led by the Spirit” not mean?

First let’s consider the negatives.  Being led by the Spirit is the antithesis of being led by the flesh.  When we are led by the Spirit, we do not follow the inclinations and desires of the flesh.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  For the flesh sets its desire against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things you please (Galatians 5: 16, 17).

Being led by the Spirit, means the Law does not lead you.

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law (Galatians 5: 18).

Being led by the Spirit means that the sons of God are relying upon and trusting the promises revealed in the word of God.  We are children of promise like Isaac was a child according to the promises of God.

That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants (Romans 9: 8).

And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise (Galatians 4: 28).

The emphasis in being led by the Spirit is not the letter of the word but the Spirit of the living God.  The new covenant is not of the letter of the Law of Moses or any other codified law.  The new covenant is not a covenant of law but of grace.  God deals with His people not on the basis of law but promise.  We are children of promise.  2 Corinthians 3; Romans 6: 14; 9: 8; Galatians 4: 28; Acts 2: 39

This is what the writer of the Hebrew Letter had in mind when he wrote:

I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon the hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  Hebrews 8: 10

This is, I believe, the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, which makes us free from the law of sin and death.  This is not a spirit of slavery leading to fear again; this is a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!

The Spirit, Himself, intercedes for us.

We find that the Spirit helps are weaknesses because we don’t know how to pray, as we should.  The Spirit, Himself, intercedes to the Father with groanings to deep for words.  What a blessing!  What comfort to know that we do not have to rely upon our poor abilities alone to pray to the Father.  Romans 8: 26

The Spirit, Himself, bears witness with our spirits that we are children of God.

The gift of the Spirit, Himself, is proof that we are children of God.  And if we are children then we are heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.  This means that as we suffer with Him we know that we will be glorified with Him.  Nothing in this present world is comparable with the glory to be revealed.  Romans 8: 16- 18


The Spirit renews God’s children

Day by day the Spirit works to transform God’s children into the image of the Son by the renewing of our minds.  We put on the new self who in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.  We are to have a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving each other.  And beyond all things put on love, the perfect bond of unity, Romans 12: 3; Ephesians 4: 23; Colossians 3: 10- 14; Titus 2: 5, 6.

God and Christ dwell in the children of God through the Spirit who He gives.

The Spirit, being deity, enables the Father and the Son to dwell in us.   Ephesians 2: 22

Some verses that demonstrate the Spirit is not one-dimensional.

Acts 8: 14- 16- The Samaritans received the word but not the Spirit.  This shows that receiving the word is not synonymous with receiving the Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 1: 5- this passage shows that the gospel is not completely defined by the word.  There are other parameters

Acts 2: 38- 41- these folks received the word and were baptized then God gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit.  This shows again, that the reception of one is not the reception of the other.

Acts 5: 32- The Spirit is received after the word is believed and obeyed.

God bless.


Arland  Pafford  


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Last Update   09/26/12