How do I know if I am being led by the Holy Spirit? Counsel from Wilhelmus á Brakel

At the conclusion of volume 2 of The Christian’s Reasonable Service Wilhelmus á Brakel appends a lengthy treatment entitled “A Warning Against a Natural and Spiritless Religion.” á Brakel confronts the reader with the hard truth that men can live morally and rightly yet still be cut off from eternal life. In the midst of that discussion he offers six indications of the Spirit’s work in the life of a believer:

1)      Man has his own spirit; there are many seducing spirits, and the evil spirit can transform himself into an angel of light. He, with the intent to deceive, can give thoughts which are essentially good, but stir man up to use them in an erroneous manner. We must therefore give heed and know by which spirit we are being moved.[1]

2)      The Holy Spirit convinces man of sin and causes him to grieve, be perplexed, and in many ways be troubled about his sin.[2]

3)      The man who is conquered by the Holy Spirit will be regenerated and translated from darkness to light, from death to life, and from being earthly minded to being heavenly minded.[3]

4)      The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of faith who brings God’s children to Christ, causing them to receive Jesus by a true faith as their ransom and righteousness.[4]

5)      The Holy Spirit unites His children and keeps them united to the church, for by one Spirit we are all baptized into one body (1 Cor. 12:13).[5]

6)      The Holy Spirit leads believers in all things according to the Word of God; He leads them into all truth. The Word of God is truth, however, and the only rule by which we shall not err. By that Word he regenerates, sanctifies, leads, and comforts them.[6]

Know then with certainty that where these matters are not found, there God’s Spirit is not present. Be assured that whatever is deemed to be spiritual but which does not harmonize with the above, is nothing but illusory and are seductions of a man’s own spirit.

As you consider these words you will hopefully come to realize one thing a person being led by the Holy Spirit will not speak much about: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gets the credit for many a foolish and sinful act. Who is to argue against, “I just felt led by the Spirit….”? You are to argue against, for the very reasons listed above.

There are powerful and mysterious forces at work in all men, but this is not necessarily the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes your sin large in your eyes. If you do not have a growing awareness of your own sin, the Spirit is not at work. The Spirit reveals sin to you in order to show Christ as even greater. If your love for Christ and his work is not increasing, the Spirit is not at work. By making Christ great in your eyes you will be led to a greater desire for fellowship with Christ’s body: the church. If you are not seeking increasing fellowship and participation in a local church, the Spirit is not at work. The Spirit does all this work with, through, and toward the Word of God. He is the Spirit of truth, not the Spirit of hunch. If you are not growing in your study, knowledge, and application of Scripture, the Spirit is not at work.


[1] [Note: all footnoted Scripture references are added by me] Prov. 16:25; Ps. 36:1-2; Jer. 17:9; Luke 18:9-11; 1 John 4:1; 2 Cor. 11:14

[2] John 16:8-11; 2 Cor. 7:10

[3] 1 Cor. 6:11; Titus 3:4-7

[4] John 16:13-15; 2 Cor. 3:17-18; 1 John 5:6

[5] Eph. 2:18-22; 4:1-6

[6] John 14:26; 16:13; 17:17; 1 Cor. 2:9-12; Eph. 5:26; 1 John 2:22-27

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