Vol. 23 New Series December, 1961 No. 6
GUIDANCE IN SCRIPTURE

When we examined the problem of Guidance in moral issues, we considered a system which teaches that we should seek it from God directly, praying for it, accepting it without question, and acting on it as soon as it comes into the mind. In the system in view, this means that, so far as the guidance itself is concerned, we are expected to be absolutely passive recipients of it, even though we may earnestly pray for it to be granted and actively follow it after we have received it. As regards the guidance, pure and simple, no activity or works of our own are supposed to be involved.

No scriptural grounds for such teaching can be adduced, for none exist. It is in reality no more than a system of ethics, a code of conduct, which is alleged to work out God's plans for us if followed sincerely and earnestly. We are exhorted to try it fairly; and then we will find (so we are told) that it will produce effectually the results claimed for it.

Parenthetically, it should be pointed out that the fact that a system seems to be effectual at first and to produce the desired results does not necessarily mean that it is sound and right. What really matters are the long term consequences of it. A tranquilliser drug may seem delightful for the first few times it is taken, but what will be the ultimate price to be paid for the early success?

Quietism in various forms is no new thing, though many people seem to regard it as a wonderful novelty. Actually, it is one of the oldest of heresies, being in fact no more than a perversion of the idea of faith apart from works of law. For faith is not a purely passive affair, as perverters of truth pretend, but an activity of the whole person, working out in active righteousness, even though it is wholly devoid of law works or any kind of human merit. So here what matters is whether Quietism in any kind of form is in accord with God's will; and that means, whether it is in accord with God's will as revealed in His Word, for nowhere else is His will plainly revealed. The process of waiting for some sort of interior guidance is entirely passive, for any activity ill connection with it is incompatible with the whole concept, though obviously it may be preceded, and must be followed, by activity. The point in this system is, there must be no element of "works" in the guidance itself.

Leaving evil works out of account as irrelevant to our present theme, study of a concordance will show that works are opposed to faith and to grace, both in connection with becoming, or being reckoned as, righteous, but not to anything else at all. Nowhere in Scripture is there to be found any hint of guidance or of divine leading, altogether apart from any works of ours, any activity on our own account.

The verb hodEgeO, guide occurs only five times. The first, Matt. 15:14, is very plain: "Now, if a blind man should be guiding a blind man, both into a pit will be falling." In this pronouncement there is little indeed to encourage passive acceptance of "guidance"! The second, Luke 6:39, is a parable given by the Lord Jesus somewhat earlier in His ministry: "Can a blind man be guiding a blind? Will not both into a pit be falling?" The third, John 16:12-14, turns from negative to positive, and is absolutely crucial: "Still many things have I to be saying to you, but you are not able to bear them at present; yet whenever that One may be coming—the Spirit of the Truth—He will be guiding you into' all the truth; for He will not be talking from Himself, but whatever He should be hearing will He be talking, and the coming things will He be informing you (of). That One will be glorifying Me, seeing that He will be getting of Mine and informing you."

The Spirit of the Truth "will be guiding you" into what? Into good deeds? Into an immediate answer to every problem, while you wait, without any effort on your part? No: "Into all the truth." Just that! And the Spirit of the Truth did so guide all God's people: in the Greek Scriptures that began to come into being with the coming of the Spirit of the Truth. In them we have all the direct guidance we need and all we are going to get. (N.B. The (of) in the translation is not in the Greek, but is necessitated by English idiom).

The fourth, Acts 8:31, is the reply of the Ethiopian eunuch to Philip, who asked (very literally): "Surely, then, you are knowing what you are reading?" The force of "you are knowing" is "you generally understand (what you are reading) as you go along"; but English idiom makes us use the forms "you know" or "you understand" which are misleading here. The Ethiopian replies, very reasonably in the circumstances: "How could I, should no one be guiding me?" Then Philip proceeded to instruct him from Scripture. The subject here is, simply, knowing and understanding God's Word. The Ethiopian did not require to be guided by some interior voice into how to behave, into how to do God's will. He needed first to have, and then to know and to understand, the Scriptures. With that knowledge the full Christian life could follow; without that knowledge it could not even start. Moreover, in these days we possess what the Ethiopian evidently did not yet have: the whole of the Scriptures. So we have no excuse whatever for requiring someone to guide us, still less some inner voice; for in the Scriptures themselves we have the knowledge we need of Jesus our Saviour.

The fifth, Rev. 17:7, has no bearing on our subject.

The word guide, hodEgos, also occurs five times. Four refer to guiders of the blind (Matt. 15:14; 23:16, 24; Rom. 2:19), the fifth (Acts 1:16) to Judas, blind and guide of the blind, though the account does not actually use the word.

To sum up: we cannot do God's will unless we know it. We can know it through our minds alone: that is the meaning of knowledge. To surrender ourselves to a so-called guidance which may come from any source but God (for His guidance has been given us in His Word) is to lay our minds open to every source of evil. "A lamp to my foot is Thy Word, and a light to my path." (Ps. 119:105—Young). So the Hebrew Scriptures and the Greek Scriptures take up the same general strain. The greatest of all missionary churches received "the Word in much affliction with joy of holy spirit." The result was that they became "models to all those who are believing, in Macedonia and in Achaia." And Paul adds: "For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth," not only to those places "but in every place" their "faith toward God has come out." (1. Thess. 1:6-8). In Eph. 1:13 Paul speaks of "the Word of the Truth, the Evangel of your salvation." There is the true guidance. Anyone who elects to seek it elsewhere stands self-condemned in the face of it; for he demonstrates that he prefers his little flickering candle of "inner light" to the lamp which God has provided.

R.B.W. Last updated 23.3.2006