Preparing to teach a short course on God the Holy Spirit, I came across and older excerpt from Ferguson on John Owen entitled, “The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen“. Ligonier posted the excerpt in 2015 and today I share it with you in summary.
As it is, many protestants are absent in knowledge of the Spirit and have no real access to understand His nature and working and thus ignore and misapply much. Likewise in different scale, some place the “acts” of the Spirit as foremost in evidence and both groups would do well to discern that the Spirit of Truth is opposed to the Spirit of Error. Owen suggests that the believer needs to discern the difference between the Serpent’s leading and the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Here are short summaries of Owen’s thoughts:
This is the RULE of SCRIPTURE and is the guiding canon of how one is to discern the Spirit. God the Spirit will never change the “rule of life” but rather He works to give understanding on the “rule of Scripture”. So any leading that is not consistent with the Word of God is not the leading of God the Spirit.
The Non Burden Commands
The rule of Scripture completes the believer and doesn’t employ undue or “grievous” pain when obeying Christ, but the believer who is “submitted to the Word will find pleasure in obeying that Word, even if the Lord’s way for us is marked with struggle, pain, and sorrow.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
2 Samuel 23:5 reveals that God’s covenant is orderly and certain, ergo, the working of the Spirit are also orderly. A spirit of love, order and a sound mind are hallmarks of God’s spirit which are opposite of disorder and “restlessness”. “We see some poor souls to be in such bondage as to be hurried up and down, in the matter of duties at the pleasure of Satan. They must run from one to another, and commonly neglect that which they should do. When they are at prayer, then they should be at the work of their calling; and when they are at their calling, they are tempted for not laying all aside and running to prayer. Believers know that this is not from the Spirit of God, which makes “every thing beautiful in its season.”
Glory of God
Dr. Ferguson states this properly, “The “motions,” or promptings of the Spirit, Owen says, always tend to glorify God according to His Word. He brings Jesus’ teaching into our memories; He glorifies the Savior; He pours into our hearts a profound sense of the love of God for us.”
How, then, does the Spirit act on the believer? The Spirit comes to us as an earnest, a pledge, a down payment on final redemption. He is here and now the foretaste of future glory. But His presence is also an indication of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience.
Owen here writes in sharp contrast to those who spoke of release from the influence of indwelling sin and struggle through the liberty of the Spirit. Precisely because He is the firstfruits and not yet the final harvest, there is a sense in which the indwelling of the Spirit is the cause of the believer’s groaning: “We ourselves who have the firstfruits of the Spirit groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Romans 8:23) The presence of the Spirit brings us already a foretaste of future glory, but also, simultaneously, creates within us a sense of the incompleteness of our present spiritual experience. This, for Owen, is how communion with the Spirit—understood biblically—brings joy into the life of the believer and yet a deep sense that the fullness of joy is not yet.”
In the end brethren, the Spirit is God and He does all things in accordance with the nature and character of God. Be blessed, encouraged and empowered by the glorious working of our God. You can get this resource by clicking the book below.