The controversy preceded my birth. Wendell Winkler was the first man I remember talking about the Open Forum, spirited debate between Gus Nichols and Guy N. Woods over how the Holy Spirit indwells the Christian. In those days, despite the vigor with which each man presented his view, the matter was not seen as divisive or worthy of a breach in fellowship. So long as the Spirit’s Deity was not denied or so long as one did not believe that the Spirit miraculously or directly operated upon the heart of an individual to convert or exert His will upon that one, the “how” was not seen as crucial. I remember that many of my role models, Wendell Winkler, Hugo McCord, William Woodson and Roy H. Lanier, Jr., on one side and Franklin Camp, V.E. Howard, and Winfred Clark on the other, loved each other and worked together despite their divergent view on how the Spirit dwells in us.
Society as a whole has become more rancorous and divisive. Turn on talk radio or cable news shows and you will see partisan bickering that approaches “media rage” levels. At times, God’s people have adopted such tactics and attitudes. While I was taught the representative view growing up, I have adopted the view that the Spirit non-miraculously, but personally, indwells God’s children. Some of my dearest preaching friends maintain the representative view, but we love and work alongside each other. Yet, there are some who seem to be utterly consumed with one extreme or another on this matter. Right here, I am not referencing those who claim direct Spirit guidance apart from the Word, who seek the Spirit as proof or defense of their making decisions or moves that conflict with written revelation. I mean those who are arguing for how the Spirit indwells. These men have spent an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy and have troubled and even divided congregations of God’s people.
Every preacher’s personal life and work as a preacher will be audited by the perfect, Divine Auditor some day. Will it be the case that some have been so issue-oriented that they left undone the weightier matters of the law–to include not just justice and mercy and faithfulness but also evangelism, edification, and enlistment? That very thought should humble all of us to the core and give us pause as we reflect on what kind of stewards we are of our charge as gospel preachers. The same principle applies to whatever hobby horses we chase and what kind of attitude we display while riding them. We used to be warned in school that “you can be right and be wrong.” Let us be careful that, in trying to show the world or our brethren that our view is right, we do not find ourselves in the wrong!