Chapter 15 of Soul-Help Papers
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren,
I would not have you ignorant.
Ye know that ye were Gentiles,
carried away unto these dumb idols,
even as ye were led.”
— 1 Corinthians 12:1-2 —
back to God from Whom it had broken away…2
There is a difference between a “natural” gift and a “spiritual” gift.
- A “natural” gift is born with the individual, and thus is “natural” to him, or part of his nature. It is included in his ordainment and the constitution of his individual spirit, and causes him to differ from all other individualities. It is a gift from God in the same way that sight or speech or hearing is; but as such it is a gift of ordainment in his creation, and not an added endowment coming later in life. Natural gifts are cotemporaneous3 with the creation of each individual spirit. All natural gifts are essential to each personality, and are therefore involuntary, so far as man is concerned, and never subject to his choice as is the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
- The term “natural” as applied and as used in the New Testament may also mean all that comes by creation, including the perishable, and all material life; or, it can mean man’s material life, as distinct from his “immortal” life. It is that “natural man” of which Paul speaks, which does not know the things of the Spirit.4
- A “natural gift” may become a spiritual gift, or appear as such, when the natural gift is freely given up to God and becomes filled with the Holy Ghost. Natural eloquence seems thus changed under the ministration of the Spirit. David’s poetical and musical talents, under the higher inspiration of the Holy Ghost, became a spiritual blessing for all ages and times. Paul’s logical mind, and his sharp psychological and philosophical discriminations under the Spirit’s power, made him a blessing to the end of the world.
- A “spiritual gift” is that which pertains to things spiritual rather than that which is natural. It is something added or manifested later than any natural gift. It is a gracious enablement of the individual to do that which by way of his natural gifts he was unable to accomplish. It is a gift, not in a general sense, but as a real secondary bestowment coming “from above.” Before this enablement of the man, he could accomplish many natural things, he could understand moral things, he could become strong in the realm of reason; but he was unable either to understand or accomplish anything in the spiritual realm. That is the “spiritual” properly so called, or as Paul unfolds and uses the word in this epistle, where he associates the spiritual in man with the Spirit of God.
- Concerning “spiritual gifts,” the apostle says that we are liable to remain in a certain measure of “ignorance” concerning them. He implies that this ignorance is dangerous, and therefore to be avoided. The teaching about gifts, either natural or spiritual, is that there may be a measure of harmful ignorance which we must seek to avoid. It is in continual evidence that any gift or talent one has may be used so as to yield the Master increase, or be buried and lost.5 This pertains both to natural and spiritual gifts. It is certain that either a natural or spiritual gift must be accounted for.
- But let us look a little closer at this “ignorance.” It may be, in the first place, as to the origin of the gift. We must “try the spirits,” or the voices that come to us, or we may think them from God when they may be from some other source. This is a fruitful field for the devil’s most subtle work, and is the starting point of most of what may be called religious errors. If I do not know the voice, how can I safely follow? If I follow a voice which appears as an angel of light and think it to be good, when it is Satan, I am already on the path to ruin. In this very field spiritism and all its various forms of deception find their starting point. Bring certainty into the voice, let the soul know of a truth that God speaks, and the errors of spiritualism flee into darkness ashamed. When the Divine Spirit speaks, what does any man care for the muttering of some dead men? All real Christianity begins in getting the soul back to God from Whom it had broken away, getting the soul back into Eden relationship, so that God walks and talks with man,6 and he can certainly know His voice, and “need not walk in darkness.”7“Ignorance” may also arise from lack of consideration of the extent and proportionate place of a “manifestation.” The manifestation is not for the elevation and aggrandizement of the individual to whom it is given, but for “every man to profit withal,”8 that is, for the edification of all the church or for others.
- In the case of “leading” in Gentile or unsaved life, men were “carried away even as they were led.”9 As to Christians, they were definitely told, and fully and intelligently chose their way. The Christian heard the voice, and discriminated it as God’s voice, and freely and gladly followed; the unconverted were carried blindly as their captor led them. Error, like temptation, when yielded to, carries one, as if deaf and blind, by a voice other than its own. See Proverbs 7:23. It will not do to conclude that because you believe in religion and have the Holy Spirit, your human spirit is excused from discriminating between the voices that may come to you. Because the human spirit is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, it is not therefore impossible that Satan can talk to it. The safety lies not in the fact that Satan cannot speak to you, but in the fact that you are able to recognize him, and in the fact of your being able to reveal to him the indwelling Holy Ghost.
If Satan can get one to think that because he is baptized with the Holy Ghost, therefore he has no need to “discern” and “try” the spirits10 (voices that come to him), he is back into the place of the Gentile with this “dumb idol,” “carried”11—impelled, driven, will-less, and indiscriminating; without thinking, choosing, or personal decision in the matter, “even as he is led.” Many have fallen at this point. Many, while professing to be “led of the Spirit” have only followed Satan, or Satan enthroning himself in their own personal desires and passions, imaginations, and lusts. Cases are not wanting where men professing to be led of the Lord were in fact possessed of demoniacal power. In no one thing will “ignorance” put in more fatal work than in our inability to discriminate the voice and its leading. So Paul says, “I would not have you ignorant.”
True and False Leading
How, then, may we tell the true leading from the false? The following observations may be of help.
- False leading is an irrational influence and controls the will; it drives or impels blindly forward, setting aside the higher action of the understanding and the reason. As a rule it leads us where we want to go, rather than where we ought to go. False leading gravitates towards the division of the natural life of the world, rather than towards the higher calls of the best side of man’s nature.
- Satan is always in a hurry. He rushes the human spirit to a decision under the heat of the temptation before it takes time for reflection. He works through impulses rather than the judgment.
- Satan-leading is mostly through sight and sense. He avoids, if possible, the field of conscience, and sober thought, and examination of the Word, and prayer.
- False leading is nearly always along the pathway of one’s natural desires and tendencies. It works through natural passions, personal aggrandizement, selfish ambitions and having our own way, and is almost sure to crop out in a feeling of “I know better than you.” It refuses to be counseled or advised.
- False leading often sets up self-light as light for others. Because someone has a body which tea, or coffee, or pork, or meat of any kind injures, henceforth any other person using them are “sinners.” The falsity of such leading is manifest, and must always be false till such an one lives in the body of the one he judges.
- True leading is a recognized influence of the voice from God. It may, or may not, be through ordinary channels. It is always in harmony with the “I ought” in us, and congruous with our God-given nature. It always leads toward that which is good. It does not lead into uncertainty or darkness. It goes with God, and not away from Him or His Word.
- True leading is rational. When it is not in accord with reason, such leading may be questioned at once. The Holy Spirit is infinitely intelligent.
- True leading is always in harmony with the Word of God.
- True leading is ordinarily in accord with the world of providence in which we find ourselves.
- True leading is always in the direction of that which glorifies God.
- True leading will be in the direction of that which is refined and courteous, tender, kind, and loving; it is never in the way of coarseness, indecency, harshness, or in the direction of manifested passion, pride, violence, or trifling and questionable levity. All true leading takes hold on the “inner man” in his essential features, and from that inner source reaches outward toward the external world. It is more inward, or rather, first inward and then outward. It does not use the butcher knife or the tomahawk or the maul. It does use the searchlight of truth, but never puts it into the hand of an inquisitor or a dynamiter. The Holy Ghost has no methods of cruelty.
True leading, like Christ, recognizes no lawgiver but God. It distinguishes God alone as the Lawgiver. It recognizes Christ as a “schoolmaster,” but hears Him say, “As my Father has commanded Me, so do I.”12 Christ is not a lawgiver. You have heard some people say, “I obey the Holy Ghost.” But there is no place in the Bible giving you warrant for believing that the Holy Ghost is a lawgiver. Like Christ, the Holy Spirit has no laws of His own. God is the only lawgiver. If anyone obeys the Holy Ghost, he will have to obey God. The instant anyone professing to “obey the Holy Ghost” varies from the law of God, revealed in the Bible, he is a deceiver, or is himself deceived. There is no schism between the Holy Spirit and the Father. There is only one law, and it is the office of the Holy Ghost to apply that law, to explain and open it up to the human understanding. He has no need of any new laws or new regulations. When any man has “no need of the Bible,” he has no need of the Holy Spirit. All inner light that is apart from, or contrary to, the Bible is not of the Holy Spirit.
- All true leading fully recognizes the Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Spirit seeks to bring men to God. He has no way of doing it but by the atonement of Christ. Believing in the Spirit implies believing in Christ, and believing in either or in both requires faith in God. If the Son is denied as divine, the work of the Spirit is abrogated. If the Spirit is denied as divine, then the human spirit cannot know Jesus as divine. See 1 Corinthians 12:3.13 If both the Son and the Spirit are denied, then both Mediator and Intercessor are taken away from man, and he cannot know God in peace. “He is anti-Christ that denies the Father and the Son. Whosoever denies the Son has not the Father” (1 John 2:22,23). “Whosoever shall speak a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but unto him that blasphemes against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him” (Luke 12:10).
- The text itself is public domain. The original book, Soul-Help Papers, was transcribed by Jim Kerwin, biographer of Isaiah Reid, and co-edited and emended with Denise Kerwin. Annotations and emendations are copyright © 2008 by Jim Kerwin along with his other contributions to the online, print, and e-book versions of Isaiah Reid's Soul-Help Papers. ↩
- Title image created using a photo by Eberhard Grossgasteiger on https://unsplash.com/@eberhardgross. ↩
- cotemporanenous: an archaic form of contemporaneous. Both spellings were in use during the author's lifetime. Either way, the word means living or being at the same time. ↩
- See 1 Corinthians 2:14. ↩
- The allusion is to Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14-30. ↩
- The import of Genesis 3:8 is that Adam and Eve regularly “heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden (of Eden) in the cool of the day”; hence Isaiah’s stated goal of “getting the soul back into Eden relationship.” ↩
- The quote is from John 8:12. ↩
- The quote is from 1 Corinthians 12:7, but the meaning “to profit withal” gets obscured by the archaic English of the King James translation. It might be better rendered “to every man for the common good” or “for the good of all.” ↩
- 1 Corinthians 12:2 ↩
- As indicated previously, testing the spirits is the command of 1 John 4:1. ↩
- The author is referring back to one of the verses with which he started the chapter—1 Corinthians 12:2. ↩
- Reid quotes Jesus in John 14:31. ↩
- 1 Corinthians 12:3 says, “Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.” ↩