22. The Spirit and the Kingdom

R.J. Rushdoony • Mar, 19 2024

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  • Series: Aspects of Systematic Theology
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Our Scripture is 1 Corinthians 14:1-5, and our subject: ‘The Spirit and the Kingdom.’

“Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy. For he that speaketh in an unknown tongue speaketh not unto men, but unto God: for no man understandeth him; howbeit in the spirit he speaketh mysteries. But he that prophesieth speaketh unto men to edification, and exhortation, and comfort. He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church. I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.” 1

We began last time with a consideration of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, and we saw that this has been the point with respect to the doctrine of God least understood, and least considered by the church. One of the problems that we face as we come to the doctrine of God and especially the doctrine of the Spirit, is the attempt of men to reduce all things to a determination, either by God or by man - to speak of either predestination or free will. Well, free will in any absolute sense can only belong to God. But God as the first cause has a primary freedom, man as a secondary cause has a secondary freedom. This was a point that the Westminster Confession of Faith in chapter three section one very clearly set forth a few centuries ago. The Confession declares:

“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: (Eph. 1:11, Rom. 11:33, Heb. 6:17, Rom. 9:15,18) yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, (James 1:13,17, 1 John 1:5) nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.” 2

Very clearly therefore the attitude of insisting that it is an either-or situation is wrong; neither primary determination nor primary freedom belong to man, but to God alone; man has a secondary determination, and a secondary freedom.

As a result, the extent of the Spirit’s influence upon us must be seen in these terms; we are neither puppets, nor do we control the entrance of the Spirit into our lives.

Another problem has been the influence of Greek philosophy. This influence has been transmitted to us through Thomism, through Arminianism, and through some Reformed thought which has been Hellenic in portions of its thinking. As a result, so much of Christian thought is in effect unknowingly a fusion not only of biblical thought, but of Greek philosophy. Thus, in scholasticism the Trinity was defined in Thomistic terms, although this was not new in scholasticism, so that in effect the Father, the Son, and The Holy Spirit became substance, structure, and act, the Holy Spirit being act and the Son being structure; the Father therefore being substance was being. Mind or reason belonged therefore to structure, and pure act or pure spirit was somehow irrational and mindless.

Hence, men came to think of the Spirit as pure act, meaning mindless activity, since reason belongs to the Son. There were, thus, very early differences between those who held to the primacy of doctrines of the Spirit, and those who held to the Son. The Reformation did not end this kind of polarization, this kind of false viewing of the Trinity. As a matter of fact, among the Puritans this problem very definitely persisted. Many of the University-trained Puritans of the seventeenth century were very heavily influenced by this view, and they tended to see the Son as reason, and therefore to be Christ-centered was to be highly rationalistic.

We find, for example, that Puritan writings which are being reprinted today by various groups, are very tiresome reading in most cases. Why? Because the writer is writing to overawe us. He will spend pages listing the reasoning behind a conclusion, instead of saying: “Thus saith the Lord.” He will reason scholastically, and he will reason in a way to impress the reader, to make him feel that he is very learned, the writer is, and you the reader are not very bright because you can’t follow him.

Now, I am not overstating this matter, because we find in Richard Baxter whose dates are 1650-1691, who was an antinomian leader of the day, declaring in his book The Reformed Pastor which is still very popular, and quite often reprinted:

“It is most desirable that the Minister should be of parts above the people so far as to be able to teach them and awe them and manifest their weaknesses to themselves … See that you preach … some higher points that stall their understandings … Take up some profound questions (such as the Schools voluminously agitate) and … make it as plain as you can, that they may see that it is not your obscure manner of handling, but the matter itself that is too hard for them, and so may see that they are yet but children that have need of milk.” 3

In other words, make them feel cheap, make them feel stupid, so they won’t question you as the pastor. Let me add that this kind of preaching we still have, sometimes, among some of the learned clergy. Such men very obviously stress reason and reasoning, to a ridiculous extreme. In their view of the church the clergy replaced the Holy Spirit as the governing power. John Milton with justice could charge:

New Presbyter is but old Priest writ large. 4

We still find among some of the current Christ-only preachers a very strongly authoritarian and antinomian tendency. On the other hand, you had among those who disagreed with these university preachers, the sectaries as they were known, a strong emphasis on the Holy Spirit. But just as these university preachers in their emphasis on the Son as structure, as reason, were not scriptural; so too the sectaries on their part were equally not scriptural. The sectaries claim that a pastor needed no book learning, in fact they were very hostile to it. Thomas Collier said that God uses the intellectually weak to prevent any glorying in knowledge, so that he used Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians at the onset of his letter to say that God wants weak-minded pastors, because He will glorify Himself in their low IQ’s, in their meager intelligence. He then went on to say that there were: “None but asses in the things of God who study arts and sciences to help them preach and prophesy.” 5 In other words, any pastor who did any real studying was an ass. That was what Collier was implying. “He should have waited for the Holy Spirit to give him all knowledge and wisdom and understanding.”

George Fox was one of these, he held that there was no need for education by the clergy. Another man, a very fine one, John Bunyan, was a very well-read man. He had not been to the university, but Bunyan had read as much and perhaps more than many of the university men, something that is still very much a part of life, because we find many men without a university education today who are better read and more intelligent than university scholars. Bunyan, thus, was a very well read man, but he spoke very disparagingly of learning, and acted as though he had read nothing except the Bible. He did this because in the circles where he moved, to have let it be known that he was a very well-read man would have meant that he was weak in the Spirit. This kind of thinking was very commonplace. Another pastor, a Welsh Independent, Morgan Lloyd, held that reason is a:

"...thief within... which locks the door of every mind against the waft of the Holy Spirit." 6

In other words, the more you suppress reason in your being the more you will unlock the Spirit.

These men actually dreamed of a society in which men would not be dependent on learning and study, or on a professional class for knowledge of any subject, but every man would be a walking source of knowledge about everything, through the Holy Spirit. We will, on another occasion, deal with texts that they could have used, but wrongfully. So, we see that very early there was a false doctrine of the Son and a false doctrine of the Spirit which lead to a false emphasis in the ministry and in preaching.

Again, there was another problem - a faulty doctrine of man. The Greeks had two views, one dualistic, another tripartite. The one held that man is made of body and mind, or the other, body mind and spirit or soul. And the soul or mind, depending on which tradition you followed, was somehow immortal. Some of the church fathers bought this doctrine, they had been brought up in it. Many like Gregory of Nyssa held to a divine mixture in man's being - he was part divine and part mortal. For such people salvation became deification, you tried to be spiritual and the more spiritual you became the more divine you became, and the more you were clearly saved.

A very fine theologian of the day, one of the church fathers, Gregory Naziansen also held to this view of salvation as deification; the saying was:

“God became man that we might become gods.” 7

All the same, Gregory Naziansen had some very, very biblical things to say about the doctrine of the Spirit. He struck out in particular against the Greek idea that was current in the church, that the Spirit could be reduced in effect to act or activity, in which case, he said, He would not be truly God. And in his fifth theological oration on the Holy Spirit he sharply criticized the Greek view, and he said:

“Now if He were an Accident, He would be an Activity of God, for what else, or of whom else, could He be, for surely this is what most avoids composition? And if He is an Activity, He will be effected, but will not effect and will cease to exist as soon as He has been effected, for this is the nature of an Activity. How is it then that He acts and says such and such things, and defines, and is grieved, and is angered, and has all the qualities which belong clearly to one that moves, and not to movement? But if He is a Substance and not an attribute of Substance, He will be conceived of either as a Creature of God, or as God. For anything between these two, whether having nothing in common with either, or a compound of both, not even they who invented the goat-stag could imagine. Now, if He is a creature, how do we believe in Him, how are we made perfect in Him? For it is not the same thing to believe IN a thing and to believe ABOUT it. The one belongs to Deity, the other to—any thing. But if He is God, then He is neither a creature, nor a thing made, nor a fellow servant, nor any of these lowly appellations.” 8

In other words, what Gregory was saying is that an act ceases the minute it is done; it is not a being, it has no existence. But the Spirit is clearly spoken of as God. It is the third person of the godhead with whom we have to do, and therefore Gregory says that we must be concerned with Him, not with His activity, but first of all with Him.

But the question was asked of Gregory: “Well, who ever worshiped the Spirit?” and his answer to this is clear cut:

“it will suffice to say that it is the Spirit in Whom we worship, and in Whom we pray. For Scripture says, God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in truth. And again,—We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit Itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered;4 and I will pray with the Spirit and I will pray with the understanding also;—that is, in the mind and in the Spirit. Therefore to adore or to pray to the Spirit seems to me to be simply Himself offering prayer or adoration to Himself. And what godly or learned man would disapprove of this, because in fact the adoration of One is the adoration of the Three, because of the equality of honour and Deity, between the Three?” 9

So as Gregory made clear, we cannot view the Spirit as activity or as an influence, but as truly God. And therefore it is with Him as God that we need to be concerned. This is not to say that the Spirit is not active, or that the Son and the Father are not active; the Spirit is indeed active in our lives and in the world. H.B. Swete in writing on the five aspects of the work of the Spirit spoke of them as: first, creation and conservation; second, bestowal of intellectual gifts; third, prophetic inspiration; fourth, anointing the Messiah and His forerunners; and fifth, the moral and religious life of man. 10

Now the prophetic aspect of course is very, very important. The Spirit is basic to the prophetic function of the prophets in the Old Testament, in that it is He who works in the prophets; and the Spirit is basic to our prophetic life. And as Swete noted:

“The prophetic gift belonged to the nation as the elect people.” 11

And the prophetic gift belongs to us as Christ’s people, and as Christ’s church.

In 1 Corinthians 14:1-5 Paul speaks of this gift, and of its importance. Man tends to put the emphasis on the dramatic aspects of God’s gifts, and He is here contrasting the speaking in tongues and the prophetic gift. Now, as we consider this, let us remember Paul is here speaking about actual prophetic gifts, and actual gifts of speaking in tongues. This was the early church, and what he very clearly says is that the superior gift is to prophesy:

“I would that ye all spake with tongues, but rather that ye prophesied: for greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.” 12

So, very clearly, prophesying is given superiority. Now what is ‘prophesying?’ Well, prophesying has two aspects; it is to declare the Word of God, to speak for God in other words, which means to set forth His word, and to predict. And both of these are continuing gifts of the church; we are all called to speak for God, not all of us from the pulpit, but all of us wherever we are. We are to set forth the Word of God in its implications for our work, for our daily lives, for our families, for all our associations and all our being. And to ‘predict;’ what does that mean? Well, again we predict in terms of the Word of God. We don’t have new additions, new portions of Scripture, but we apply that by predicting that: ‘Thus saith the Lord, this is what happens.’ To give you one prediction that all of us can make, Romans 6:33 “The wages of sin is death.” To declare that is to prophesy, to declare that God’s judgment is upon unrighteousness, injustice, upon sin, upon apostasy, is to prophesy.

The Holy Spirit works to further the Kingdom of God and His reign. Our Lord declares:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” 13

The primacy is therefore upon seeking the kingdom, and prophesying, speaking, applying, predicting in terms of that. And we are all called to that function, and the Holy Spirit is basic to it, and has been throughout history.

The Holy Spirit moves us to witness to God’s truth, His salvation, care, judgment, and more; and His work is closely associated with the royal work of the Son in redeeming and in judging. In 1 Peter 3:18-20 we read:

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.” 14

Now a great deal of nonsense has been said about this verse, that supposedly Christ preached to the people before the flood or after the flood in Hell, whereas the reference by which also He went and preached is Christ, quickened by the Spirit, by the Spirit also went and preached. So that the spirits in bondage to sin before the flood had a witness. And that witness was Christ through the Holy Spirit, and Noah, preaching to his age.

Thus, these verses tell us first of Christ’s redemptive work, His atonement, that He might bring us to God; and that although put to death He was made alive by the Spirit, and that second this same Spirit preached through Noah to the spirits in prison, those in bondage to sin. And this was done while the Ark was a-preparing. Thus Noah’s preaching of God’s coming of judgment and the offer of salvation through Him was the work of the Spirit. Here again we are face-to-face with the amazing mystery of the Spirit and of God’s eternal decree. The forces of the Spirit’s work and its focus is directed to God’s kingdom. Just as the Holy Spirit in creation hovered over the first creation to bring it into being, so the Holy Spirit now hovers over creation and works in and through it to recreate all things.

The Holy Spirit, therefore, works in us and around us and in the world, in and through all things, to bring forth the new creation, the new heavens and a new earth. So that the work of the Holy Spirit has the focus that all the work of the Trinity does - the work of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; creation and recreation, and that all things might be God’s kingdom. The focus is on God and His rule, His kingdom. And so it is, it is important for us in our study of the Spirit to bring our focus upon the Spirit Himself.

Let us pray.

* * *

O Lord our God, who in thy grace and mercy has made us thy people, made us temples of thy Holy Spirit, called upon us to be thy prophets, priests and kings to a world in need of creation. We thank thee that thou hast given us so great a calling, that even as the Spirit hovers again over this fallen world, to make of it a new creation, so He works within us and through us to fulfill thy glorious purpose. Great and marvelous are thy ways O Lord, and we praise thee. In Jesus' name, amen.

* * *

Are there any questions now, first of all on our lesson? Yes?

[Audience Member] Would you discuss where the Bible says the truth is written in the hearts of men, and that relationship to the Holy Spirit?

[Rushdoony] Yes. The question is a good one, the truth of God is written in our hearts at creation, so that as Paul says in Romans 1:17 following, all men know the truth because it is written in all their being and all of creation, but they suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

Now, when we are redeemed, the new creation we experience means not only the unveiling of the truth, the progressive wiping away of the blight of sin so that the truth speaks out, but it is again now written on the tables of our hearts because we have a new heart, and it is now our governing nature whereas before we were governed by sin.

Now, this truth is in all of us; our growth, our sanctification is through our obedience of faith to the Word of God, to the total law-Word. Now that obedience of faith will produce growth in the person whether he is learned or not. Learning will enhance if the learning is sound, if it is godly learning, our ability to grow; but it does mean very definitely that the naïve believer can be sound in the truth if they are well-versed in Scripture. However as we grow in learning we bring to bear the training of our mind to a more disciplined study of the Word. It is not that we learn more out here that will enable us to bring something, to import it to Scripture; but for example, as we learn what the influence of Greek philosophy has been, we are able to realize where that has influenced us, and when we learn what humanism is it enables us to root out humanism in our being. For example, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago when I was talking about the evils of humanism people would look at me blankly, and ministers and laymen would say: “What is wrong with humanism?” The point came when they saw the issue. They saw it for two reasons; first because the Holy Spirit brought them under conviction, and second because they began to see through the Holy Spirit what humanism was doing to them and to their children and to the world around them.

Now, this illustrates the function of learning, it enables us to clarify, to purify our knowledge of the Word. To understand, for example, and this was the point of confusion in the early church, that the word ‘God’ can mean different things to different people, and the Bible says that God means something very different from what the Mohammedan means, or what the Baha’i believer, or the Hindu. The Hindu uses it in a very non-theistic sense. So our learning is to enable us to see more clearly the Word of God. Just as our growth in sanctification in our daily lives, in our faithfulness, purges away the obscuring of sin as far as the Word in our lives as it is written in our being is concerned, so the sanctification of our minds, which means the training and the discipline of them under God, helps us to remove the blight of sin from our minds.

Does that help answer your question?

[Audience Member] When you study the heresies taught in the Church, how do you view these people? Are you condemning them in other words when you say that heresies were preached, I mean they are men of the cloth?

[Rushdoony] Yes, how then do we view these heresies. Well, what we have to say is that the heresies are of two kinds. Some were by out and out unbelievers, masquerading as believers. Others were by men who were zealous for the truth, and often did stress and properly emphasize the truth at one point, but to the point of obscuring other aspects of the truth, and going astray on other things. So that heresies very often were a matter of a one-sided, an unbalanced faith.

Let me cite one kind of heresy that is very, very common in Reformed circles, where people feel that they sometimes have a corner on the truth. They believe very strongly, Reformed men do, as we all must, in the sovereignty of God and in Predestination. But they often act as though this is the most important thing about our faith and about God. But God’s being is not unbalanced like our being. In some of us our ability to work with our hands is far superior to our ability to work with our minds. Some of us may have an aptitude with music, and others of us are unable to carry a tune. We have unbalanced aptitudes, we are not even in all our being. But God being absolute and perfect, every aspect of His being is equally ultimate, equally perfect; so God isn’t good at law and bad at music, God is perfect in all His being. Which means that you cannot take any aspect of God’s being and stress it to the exclusion of others, because then you create an idol. So it is not just the sovereignty of God or His predestination you stress, but you have to say: “Equal in God are His sovereignty, His law, His grace, His mercy, His wrath, His righteousness, His knowledge; all these things are on an equality.”

But the heretic tends (the heretic who is within the fold of the faith, and you have to say is a Christian) to stress one thing to the exclusion of others. And the result is he produces a distorted Christianity.


[Audience Member] The mistaken idea that the Holy Spirit will guide is into all truth without any learning on our part would tend to take away our freedom, just as the humanists would seek to do?

[Rushdoony] Well, of course the humanist wants to see all determination, all freedom, everything, on the human level. So the humanist says: “Here is absolute free will, and here is absolute predestination, it is by man. This is what the extreme humanists have said at times. Whereas we must say: All these things in their primary sense are with God, and ours is a secondary freedom and a secondary determination, and so on.

But with us there can be variations, whereas with God there are none. Yes?

[Audience Member] In your position paper on individual liberty, you seem to be saying that if our liberty is taken away from us, that if the government does not practice the privilege of religious liberty, that the faith would not be preserved, the faith would not grow, that would be an obstacle to the growth of the faith. Now, we had religious freedom in this country for centuries, but this did not make us a Christian nation?

[Rushdoony] Yes. The point is that if religious liberty is taken away, all you can have then is a very limited kind of Christianity. Christianity is a catholic faith, a universal faith; it requires that every area of life and thought be brought under the dominion of Christ. Thus, the Christian in the Soviet Union can be truly a believer, but his Christianity is a very limited thing because he is not permitted to apply it to his family life except in the most secret and limited sense, nor to his civil or political life, nor to any public realm. It is limited to a very secret and limited realm. So, that is a very limited and false view of Christianity. It does not mean that such people are not Christians. Alright. Given freedom you then have a choice of either being full-orbed Christian, or being a person who departs from the faith.

Now we have had a long period of freedom to an extent in this country, but the failure is that of Christians, they have been humanists to a considerable degree because of the public schools, and their influence. So that as public education came in, Christianity disappeared; Christians surrendered in other words a basic freedom, a basic privilege of education, they curtailed their freedom when they sent children to the public schools. Men have been, voluntarily, ready to prefer slavery, because they don’t like the responsibilities of freedom.

Let us bow our heads now for the benediction.

* * *

And now go in peace, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, bless you and keep you, guide and protect you, this day and always, amen.

1 1 Co 14.

2 The Westminster Confession of Faith. (1996). Logos Research Systems, Inc.

3 Cited in Richard L. Greaves: The Puritan Revolution and Educational Thought. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1969). p. 8.

4 “On The New Forcers of Conscience Under The Long Parliament,” John Milton.

5 Cited in Richard L. Greaves: The Puritan Revolution and Educational Thought. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1969). p. 8.

6 Cited in Richard L. Greaves: The Puritan Revolution and Educational Thought. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1969). p. 115-120.

7 Watkins, H. W. (1877–1887). Gregorius (14) Nazianzenus. In W. Smith & H. Wace (Eds.), A Dictionary of Christian Biography, Literature, Sects and Doctrines (Vol. 2, p. 760). John Murray.

8 Gregory Nazianzen. (1894). Select Orations of Saint Gregory Nazianzen. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), & C.G. Browne & J. E. Swallow (Trans.), S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen (Vol. 7, p. 319). Christian Literature Company.

9 Gregory Nazianzen. (1894). Select Orations of Saint Gregory Nazianzen. In P. Schaff & H. Wace (Eds.), & C.G. Browne & J. E. Swallow (Trans.), S. Cyril of Jerusalem, S. Gregory Nazianzen (Vol. 7, p. 321). Christian Literature Company.

10 H.B. Swete, “Holy Spirit,” in James Hastings, editor: A Dictionary of the Bible, II. (New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1919). p. 403.

11 H.B. Swete, “Holy Spirit,” in James Hastings, editor: A Dictionary of the Bible, II. (New York, N.Y.: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1919). p. 403.

12 1 Co 14:5.

13 Matthew 6:33.

14 1 Pe 3:18–20.

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