Summary: This lesson explores what scripture teaches us regarding being led by the Holy Spirit and compares what the Bible says to some common beliefs as to how the Spirit leads God's people.
Not many people will disagree with the statement that the Spirit of God leads Christians today, but when you ask how He leads us, the debate begins. Pretty much every religious group that calls itself "Christian" believes they are being led by the Spirit to believe and practice the things they do on a congregational level and on an individual level, but in spite of the claims of being led by the Spirit, all of these religious groups are going in different directions, even to the point that their beliefs and practices are brought into conflict with the clear teaching of Scripture.
There are many views on how the Spirit leads us today. Here are three of the popular ones:
1. Through feelings
2. An inner voice or nudging
3. Through dreams, visions, or new revelation
There are religious groups that believe one, more than one, or even all of these are ways the Holy Spirit leads today. But what does scripture say? The phrase “led by the Spirit” is only found two times in the New Testament in referring to Christians.(Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18).
“For as many as are 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).
If you were to do sermons on some of the most abused Bible passages, the two “led by the Spirit” passages would be near the top of the list. What is interesting about this topic is that when a good number of people talk about being led by the Holy Spirit, they use these two verses as “proof texts” to show that the Holy Spirit leads the Christian today, but what they tend not to do is actually look at the context of these two verses to show what it means to be led by the Holy Spirit. These two verses are the conclusion of the arguments made in their surrounding context. Nowhere in the context does it mention that those who are led by the Spirit are led by an inner voice, inner nudging, or new revelation. These texts do not make these arguments, or anything near these arguments. The arguments of these groups or people just assume their beliefs about the leading of the Holy Spirit INTO the text. They just begin with the assumption that the Spirit leads in these ways and read both of these texts with this understanding. But they cannot provide a Bible passage which shows that the Spirit actually leads Christians in these ways today. Their whole position is assumed without Biblical evidence. They beg the question on this issue.
Let’s look in particular at the context of Romans 8:14 to see what Paul means whenever he says that we are led by the Spirit of God.
**Those Who ARE Led by the Spirit**
THOSE WHO RECEIVED THE SPIRIT
Having the Holy Spirit is a prerequisite of being properly led by the Spirit. This point is made in Romans 8:14-15:
"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." "
The sons of God are the ones that are led by the Spirit and receive the Spirit. The whole context of this verse contrasts those who are in the flesh and those who are in the Spirit. The person living in the flesh is at enmity with God. It is impossible for them to be pleasing to Him. They "cannot please Him" (v8). Verse 9 makes the point that because we have the Spirit of God we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, and because of this, we are able to be led by the Spirit and live according to the Spirit.
As we have already studied, this passage is teaching us about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within our bodies along with the benefits of His dwelling within us as Christians. We have seen in scripture that this indwelling begins when we in faith and with a repentant heart are baptized into Christ. At this point the Spirit comes within us, sanctifies us, gives us new life, strengthens us, and seals us. Our bodies become the temples of the Spirit.
I believe it is important to repeat this point because the majority of those who claim to get inner voices or nudges from the Holy Spirit are not even Biblical Christians. Even if the Spirit did lead Christians in the way they believe He does, they would not be recipients of this leading because they have not received the Spirit of God yet. This is a prerequisite of being led by the Holy Spirit.