The natural man cannot understand that what is of God. Notwithstanding how much he scrutinizes, analyzes and examines the scriptures he will be at loss when it comes to the mysteries in God. External knowledge of God is of no benefit to any man. Only the inner witness, that is, the Spirit can enlighten the hearts and minds of common men in the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
In John 20:22 we read that he (Jesus) breathed on them, and saith unto them (the disciples), receive ye the Holy Ghost. When Jesus did this it was merely a shadow of what was to come, because He commanded His disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they received the Holy Spirit as testified in Acts 2. In this most glorious event on the day of Pentecost the disciples received the Spirit in their innermost parts of their being. The Spirit is the divine endowment from above which transfers a natural man from ignorance to the heavenly places. Without the Spirit the disciples wouldn’t have had the inner witness which taught them everything. It was the indwelling of the Spirit which empowered these rather common men to become powerful and convincing witnesses about the Lord and His salvation.
Jesus spent 40 days with the disciples after His resurrection where He spoke to them about the kingdom of God. In other words He verbalized to His trusted friends the secrets of God. Despite all these teachings He commanded them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Spirit. Jesus through this demonstrated most lucidly that external knowledge doesn’t suffice if any man is to be a witness about the cross. All this external knowledge had to be fused with the glorious work of the inner witness before it could be of avail to those who had received the teachings. Moreover, the disciples needed the indwelling of the Spirit before they could effectively bring others into the Kingdom by their testimony.
The Spirit is the one who transforms external knowledge into inner awareness. More than that, without the Spirit’s persuasion words and letters and knowledge conveys nothing which can edify man in his inner being and purify his soul so that he is made capable of dismissing his false self and receive his new self in God which has every divine quality as found in God. Jesus told His disciples: “There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Matt 19:17). Goodness and acts of love are not found in the natural man. Those capacities can only be displayed in the man who has surrendered his self-life to God and come to terms with his nothingness. Through such a man the divine qualities of God flows unimpeded to a hungry world.
What outwardly seems as acts of goodness in the natural man is however inspired by the spirit of error and is a display of the self for self which is light turned inwards and hence darkness – the darkness which opened up in every man after the fall. Only the goodness which has its origin in God can accomplish acts of love which expects nothing in return and which flows unrestricted to every created being. God lets it rain over both righteous and unrighteous. The nothingness of the natural man is most vividly demonstrated when Peter responded to Jesus imminent crucifixion: “Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.” (Matt 16:22) To what ostensibly seemed liked an act of love and compassion Jesus responded: “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (v. 23) Only what has its origin in God and is inspired by His Spirit can be judged as good. Every man who has received the Spirit through his faith in Christ operates in this reality. In this realm we do not judge according to appearances – we make spiritual judgments is accordance with who is our indweller, that is, the Spirit of God.
It is impossible for man to love God without the Spirit. In this dispensation of the Spirit we love God with the love He has poured out into our hearts. Paul states; we love, “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:5 ESV) We love God with His own love. God expects nothing in us but Himself. Hence John says: “We love Him, because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) It plainly denotes that without His love shed in our hearts it is a sheer impossibility to love Him back. This goes far beyond feelings, sensations and emotions. We cannot gauge our devotion to God by those measure sticks. By faith and by the help of the inner witness we somehow know we love God despite any outer circumstance. Hence the Spirit comes to our assistance in our helplessness and convinces us about this tremendous fact, and as a consequence we have peace with God and ourselves.
The scriptures most solemnly warn against quenching the Spirit. This is to return to the elementary teachings of the world, that is, to somehow imagine that we without the Spirit can please God by our works. This return to the law smothers the Spirit’s spontaneous outworking of the God-life in us. By God’s mercy condemnation and the effects of the curse will see to that we regain our senses if we do not harden our hearts like the Israelites. To quench the Spirit does not mean that we somehow lose His indwelling presence. If He somehow had moved out of the believer it would be nonsense to speak about a quenching of His activities in the redeemed man. Our works is simply to trust Him in us and hence trust ourselves. Our work is to believe in His work. His work has no resemblance whatsoever with the sweat of our face – we are set in motion by an eternal joy.
Through the divine indwelling of the Spirit we have received everything that is in God, and what we give out is solely what we have received. This is the divine order of things; first we receive then we bestow upon others what we have received. This indwelling further means that we trust no teaching, receive no word, attempt to understand any scripture without the inner confirmation or revelation by the Spirit. In Christ and as an effect of the union we have a continual immediate guidance, unction and teaching of the Holy Spirit within us. We rely solely on the inner witness in any circumstance and we can with childish devotion wholly trust Him in us by the promptings and thoughts which surface in us through His divine work.
“No man therefore can reach God with his own love or have union with Him by it, but he who is inspired with that One, same Spirit of love with which God loved Himself from all eternity and before there was any creature. Infinite hosts of new created heavenly beings can begin no new kind of love of God, nor have the least power of beginning to love Him at all, but so far as His own Holy Spirit of love is brought to life in them. This love that was then in God alone, can be the only love in creatures that can draw them to God; they can have no power of cleaving to Him, of willing that which He wills or adoring the divine nature, but by partaking of that eternal Spirit of love. Therefore the continual, immediate inspiration or operation of the Holy Spirit is the one, only possible ground of our continually loving God. And of this inspired love (and no other), it is that St. John says, “He that dwells in love dwells in God.” Suppose it to be any other love brought forth by any other thing, but the Spirit of God breathing His own love in us and then it cannot be true that he who dwells in such love dwells in God.” (William Law)