A fifth manifestation of the Holy Spirit's power in preaching is the quickening of the conscience. This work is evident in both the preacher and the hearer. The Holy Spirit is the voice behind the preacher saying : "This is the way, walk ye in it." Isa. 30 :21.
There is nothing worse in the cause of God than a minister with a seared conscience, who finds it possible to .harbor sins—hidden or open —without affecting his conscience one way or another. Ministers often quell a troubled conscience by the attitude: "I see no wrong in what I do, but I wouldn't recommend my course to others." Then there is the preacher who gives himself a dispensation from doing what is right. How can the Holy Spirit bring conviction of sin through one whose conscience does not feel the sting of sin?
"Ministers must be endued with power from on high. When the truth in its simplicity and strength, as it is in Jesus, is brought to bear against the spirit of the world, condemning its exciting pleasures and corrupting charms, it will then be plainly seen that there is no concord between Christ and Belial. The natural heart cannot discern the things of the Spirit of God. An unconsecrated minister, presenting the truth in an unimpassioned manner, his own soul unmoved by the truths he speaks to others, will do only harm. Every effort he makes only lowers the standard."—Testimonies, vol. 2. P. 344.
"Wherefore," said Paul, "we labour, that. whether present or absent, we may be accepted of Him." 2 'Con 5 :9. There is altogether too much "eyeservice" in the ministry. There are those who are not very conscientious about their work, who have to be driven to preach by executives, whose expense account has to be carefully scrutinized repeatedly to prevent misuse of the Lord's money. Sooner or later carelessness in the Lord's work will have to be accounted for. How much better it is to labor before the all-seeing eye of God in such a manner every day that our service may be acceptable. If the sense of right and wrong is cOnscientiously maintained, the Holy Spirit serves as the eye of God to direct one in the path of righteousness. "I will guide thee with Mine eye" is God's promise to every tempted soul. The quickening work of the Holy Spirit makes effectual this promise to govern the conscience.
6. The Holy Spirit regenerates the life. "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost." Titus 3 :5.
At this point the effect of the spoken word is perceptible in the lives of the hearers. The living Word preached by the living preacher is powerful, regenerating, and brings to life souls dead in sin and licentiousness.
"The Holy Spirit was the highest of all gifts that He [Christ] could solicit from His Father for the exaltation of His people. The Spirit was to be given as a regenerating agent, and without this the sacrifice of Christ would have been of no avail. ... It is the Spirit that makes effectual what has been wrought by the world's Redeemer. It is by the Spirit that the heart is made pure."—Desire of Ages, p. 671.
"Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." John 3:5, 6.
The relation between God and the believer is that of spiritual kinship. When the Spirit bears a new life in the soul, God the Father claims the newborn as a son or daughter. A fellowship in the Spirit results that becomes very real to the believer. Something happens to the will, something which the natural man has never been able to do .for himself by means of resolutions and other human efforts so often resorted to in an endeavor to live a better life. Now the will comes under the control of a higher power. The center of life's interests is shifted from self to God. Love is born in the life—a power far stronger than any psychological impulse. Devotion and allegiance to God replace self-gratification and willful disobedience. This is the work of divine grace wrought by the -Spirit—a work far beyond the capabilities of any human agency.
7. Following the regeneration- of life through the Spirit, the character of Christ is produced in the believer. The very life of Christ is reflected in the character of the newborn being. The characteristics of Christ are written upon the "fleshy tables of the heart" with "the Spirit of the living God." (2 Cor. 3:3.)
"Through the 'Spirit the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature. Christ has given His Spirit as a divine power to overcome all hereditary and cultivated tendencies to evil, and to impress His own character upon His church."—Ibid.
A Christian character cannot be produced by precept or moralization. It is not something that can be imposed upon the natural self. It is not a cloak to be thrown over a life that remains unchanged from within. Christian character is the result of an inward change. A new life, born of the Spirit of God, surges through the whole being like the life within a plant in the springtime, when natute awakens from her wintry sleep.
No human individual can call a Christian character to life in another individual. A Christian parent is not able to make a Christian out of his child. Parents can and should do all in their power to surround the child with good Christian influences, but they cannot create that new spiritual being which will motivate every desire of the heart. That is tile work of the Holy Spirit.
The minister must sustain a relationship to the Lord which clears the channel for the overflowing of the Holy Spirit into the lives of those he touches. Again, it is the Spirit that awakens the new life. When the sunshine of love, the warmth of Christian association, and the moisture of passion for lost souls have surrounded the .depraved life, awakening that inborn desire to reach toward God, the Holy Spirit implants the incorruptible seed of Christ's character into the heart and brings it to life by His creative power. Thus Christian characters are born.
8. Now follows the expected development of spiritual fruitage. The newborn life appears on the surface as the leaves of a tree in springtime.
Soon the fruit can be seen ripening to maturity. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) ripens' in the Christian. "Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance," become the harvest of the Spirit.
They cannot be tied to the individual as one would tie painted apples to wooden branches. The fruits of the Spirit are not the result of natural will power. They do not come by the development of the good that may be in us. Anyone can deport himself well enough to gain the approval of the world or the approbation of his family. But the evidence of genuine spiritual vintage must be inherent in every fruit that is borne. This evidence is supplied by the witness of the Holy Spirit in the life. "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God." Rom. 8:16.
9. We come now to the work of the Holy Spirit that reaches beyond the immediate person of the Christian. The manifestation of the Spirit's power does not stop with the conversion of the soul and the production of Christ's character in the life. Too often the minister considers his work finished when a person has accepted Christ and become a professing Christian. Perhaps that is why so many newcomers in the faith drop out by the wayside. The work begun in the life by the Holy Spirit is to continue throughout the entire lifetime of the Christian, and the minister must take appropriate notice of this continual ministry of the Holy Spirit.
After the believer has entered upon his new life in Christ Jesus, he becomes the center of two mighty opposing forces. A new law, hitherto dormant in his life, has become operative. His conscience has been quickened to the requirements of God's holy law. His flesh, now kept in subjection by the Spirit, wars against the will—objecting, accusing, doubting, wanting to follow its own passions- and impulses. In the struggle the new life falls far short of reaching the full standard of the law. The justice of God bears down upon the soul, and the new life needs moral support. Here is where the ministry of the Spirit becomes most necessary.
"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities : for 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. . . . Because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God." Rom. 8:26, 27.
The omitted part of this text says: "He that. searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit." God in His justice looks down upon the believer and expects perfection. But there is none. Not even the best prayers are fully acceptable. Then He looks to the Spirit, and there He sees the feeble prayers, imperfect deeds and characteristics, turned over as it were, with the label bearing the name of Jesus showing, interpreted, "according to the will of God." Then justice is satisfied and the life of the believer is accepted as the very life of His own dear Son. All this is the work of the Holy Spirit as He dwells in the life of the child of God. Here is a work that lies far beyond the reach of any saint or preacher. It is a work that the minister of the gospel must himself experience and make clear to the new babe in the faith. Here it is that the work of the gospel minister cannot be measured by human standards, and here the true undershepherd of the Lord must be vigilant and have an understanding heart.
10. Finally, the Holy Spirit supplies the ministers of the gospel with the necessary weapons for successful work under any circumstances that may exist.
"(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds,) casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ ; and having a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled." 2 Cor. 10:4-6.
Paul leaves no room in this statement for failure or lack of results. With such weapons, and obedience, as he names, the sinner either yields to Christ or is left trembling before coming judgment. In order to accomplish such results, the gospel of Christ must strike home in every need history presents. There is no time, place, or condition where the gospel cannot be applied with telling effect. That is true because the minister's weapons are not carnal but spiritual.
Satan's strongholds have been built high and mighty in our day. The minds of people are blinded, woven about and enslaved with "every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God." Today a skeptical and secular world must be persuaded of the truth and the power of the gospel. The tragic self-destruction of our present world, man's loss of control over his historical existence, and the growing active opposition against the Christian message call for the strongest spiritual weapons that Heaven can supply. The only way that the weaknesses of the Christian church can be overcome in meeting the challenge of the time is for the ministry, and laity as well, to claim the power of God and go forth applying the abiding truth of the gospel specifically to contemporary needs without fear or compromise.
This brief survey of the Holy Spirit's ministry as related to the preaching of the gospel shows that evangelistic success is impossible where the proclamation of the Word of life is attempted without the manifestation of the Spirit of power. It reveals also that through the gift of the Spirit, God has made ample provision for glorious results of preaching. Why, then, is the Christian message so apparently ineffective today?
The one answer, bearing perhaps most directly upon the theme under consideration, can be found in the fact that God's messengers—ministers and laity—have not put themselves, their plans, their organization, and their methods in the way of the Holy Spirit. Dependence upon the mechanics of the work has taken the place of submission to the directives of the Spirit. If half as much time were spent in prayerful searching of the Scriptures as is consumed in devising new methods and plans for the advancement of the gospel, greater results would be evident in soul winning. A preacher lacking an experimental knowledge of the truths he presents, depending upon every imaginable kind of gadget for success, cannot possibly measure up to the divine standard for a powerful vessel of truth.
There remains, therefore, only one thing to do. The Holy Spirit must be given His rightful place in the work of the ministry. This is done, first by the preacher's forgetting self and allowing the Holy Spirit to motivate every desire and activity; second, by his diligently studying God's Word, with prayer and heart searching, in order that the Spirit may reveal the mind of God to him; and finally by his going forth and proclaiming the living Word with a Spirit-born passion for lost souls. If that is done, the gospel of Jesus Christ will become the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes.