The Leadership of the Holy Spirit

Romans 8:5-17 (NIV)

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 

6 The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. 

7 The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 

8 Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 

10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 

11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

12 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. 

13 For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 

15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 

16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 

17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Something Special

There is a difference between people who practice external religion and those who have a relationship with Jesus Christ: it is the Holy Spirit. Those who have been born again are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and their life is being transformed not just in an outward and external way, but they are being transformed at a spiritual level. Their life is being led by the Spirit.

Many people have different ideas about what it means to be led by the Spirit, and it is important as disciples of Jesus that we have a scripturally grounded understanding of how the Spirit leads our lives. In this lesson we will explore what it means to be led by the Spirit.

A great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

1 Kings 19:11-12 NKJV

When we talk about being led by the Spirit, it is easy for our minds to jump immediately to the most dramatic ways we see people be led by God in the Bible. God can lead us by his Spirit in some powerful supernatural ways. He can speak audibly, he can send dreams or visions, he can give us supernatural signs – these are just a few of the ways God can at times intervene in situations in a dramatic way and speak to individuals.

More often though, being led by the Spirit is something far more subtle. It can be easy to overlook those subtle ways that the Spirit leads, and some people can even become guilty of ignoring those ways because they do not find them exciting or powerful enough. It is important for us to learn those subtle ways, because as the mature Christian knows, the subtle leadership of the Spirit is the most common way he leads.

God demonstrated this to Elijah the prophet when he sought to hear from God. First came a great wind, then an earthquake, and then a fire, and finally a still small voice. God does not always speak to us in the most dramatic way, and we are wise to learn how to listen to the still small voice.

The Role of the Holy Spirit

And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.

John 16:8 KJV

When Jesus first told his disciples about the Holy Spirit, he explained to them different things that would be accomplished by the Spirit in their lives. One key thing was that the Holy Spirit would reprove sin, and direct in righteousness and judgement. (John 16:8)

This work of the Spirit in our life manifest itself by convicting us and making us aware of things in our lives that are displeasing to God. The Spirit does not merely tell us what is wrong, but also directs us in righteousness by showing us what is right. It also directs us in judgement, helping us to divide good and bad.

Jesus also explained the manner in which the Holy Spirit would provide us with this conviction and direction. He promised the Spirit would guide the disciples into all truth by speaking the things of Christ. (John 6:13) The Holy Spirit does this by bringing to our remembrance the things Jesus has already taught. (John 14:26)

Jesus explained to his disciples that the words he spoke were spirit and life.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

John 6:63 ESV

 The Holy Spirit speaks things that Jesus taught the disciples while he walked the earth, the things that were recorded in the scripture. (John 6:63)

My Words Are Spirit

One subtle way the Holy Spirit leads us is by bringing to our attention the words of God recorded in the Bible. If we want God to speak to us and lead us, all we need to do is open our Bible and start reading.

By taking time to study our Bibles, to go to church and hear the Word of God preached, we let that word start living in us. And when we have need of leadership or wisdom of the Holy Spirit, it will bring that word to memory, just like Jesus promised. When we are confronted with situations of life, the Comforter will comfort and direct us with the word of God.

The Holy Spirit Renews Our Minds

The Apostle Paul spoke to his readers about being renewed in the spirit of their minds. (Ephesians 4:23) This is another important work of the Holy Spirit in our life. As we study God’s word and put it into practice in our life, the Holy Spirit gradually changes the very way we think and operate. The Holy Spirit performs a life transforming work in the life of each believer, enabling us to be Christlike. (Romans 8:29)

…this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;  That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

Philippians 1:9-11 KJV

Jesus is our perfect example and pattern to follow. He personally demonstrated how to live a life led by the Spirit. He explained that man must live by the word of God, and he demonstrated what it meant to let the Lord direct his path. (Matthew 4:4, Proverbs 3:5-6) Jesus was led by the Spirit, obedient to the word of God, and careful to fulfill scripture; and he did it all as a demonstration of God’s love for mankind. (Matthew 4:1, Acts 1:2, Matthew 26:54, Philippians 2:8) If you desire to know what a Spirit led life looks like, you need look no further than Jesus Christ.

When we experience the changing power of the Holy Spirit, it produces changes to our character that are described in the Bible as the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, meekness, self-control. That is what truly being led of the spirit will do in the life of a believer. They will increasingly develop these holy and righteous attributes as they mature in their relationship with Christ. (Philippians 1:9-11)

But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Philippians 1:9-11 KJV

He Will Guide In All Truth

The Holy Spirit is our teacher. This is another very important role the Spirit plays in our lives. As we read scripture, as we hear preachers teach from the Bible, and as we learn, grow, and mature in our walk with Jesus, it is the Holy Spirit teaching us. It is the Holy Spirit which causes us to see and understand the things Jesus and his apostles taught and recorded in the Bible. (1 John 2:27, John 14:26, 1 Cor 2:8-16)

Every born-again believer is capable of reading the Bible and receiving understanding of holy scripture.  (1 John 2:27) Rev. Reuben Torrey well described the importance of relying on the Holy Spirit as our teacher.

We shall never truly know the truth until we are thus taught directly by the Holy Spirit. No amount of mere human teaching, no matter who our teachers may be, will ever give us a correct and exact and full apprehension of the truth. Not even a diligent study of the Word either in the English or in the original languages will give us a real understanding of the truth. We must be taught directly by the Holy Spirit and we may be thus taught, each one of us. The one who is thus taught will understand the truth of God better even if he does not know one word of Greek or Hebrew, than the one who knows Greek and Hebrew thoroughly and all the cognate languages as well, but who is not taught of the Spirit.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

Matthew 7:7-8 KJV

Seek and Ye Shall Find

In the sermon on the mount, Jesus encouraged his disciples to seek after the good things of God. The leadership of the Holy Spirit is one of the good things we should desire and seek after. We should seek guidance for the situations and challenges we face in our daily lives and seek for the Holy Spirit to bring forth good fruit in our lives. We should make time in our lives to study our Bible, listen to the teaching of the gospel, and ask God to teach us by his Holy Spirit.

If you want to hear from God, if you desire direction in your life, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you, open your Bible and start reading.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.

Matthew 5:6 KJV

Journeying On: A Prayer of the Puritans 

Lord of the Cloud and Fire

I am a stranger, with a strangers indifference;

My hands hold a pilgrim’s staff,

My march is Zionward,

My eyes are toward the coming of the Lord,

My heart is in thy hands without reserve.

Thou hast created it,

redeemed it,

renewed it,

captured it,

conquered it.

Keep from it every opposing foe,

crush in it every rebel lust,

mortify every treacherous passion,

annihilate every earthborn desire.

All faculties of my being vibrate to thy touch;

I love thee with soul, mind, body, strength, might, spirit, affection, will, desire, intellect, understanding.

Thou art very perfection of all perfections;

All intellect is derived from thee;

My scanty rivulets flor from thy unfathomable fountain.

Compared with thee, the sin is darkness,

all beauty deformity,

all wisdom folly,

the best goodness faulty.

Thou art worthy of an adoration greater than my dull heart can yield;

Invigorate my love that is may rise worthily to thee,

tightly entwine itself round thee,

be allured by thee.

Then shall my walk be endless praise.

In Jesus name, I ask it 


The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers Edited by Arthur Bennet, 1975 

Study Questions

  1. Can you name some of the ways the Holy Spirit leads, guides, and teaches?
  2. Have you ever experienced the leadership of the Holy Spirit in your life?
    1. Can you share any experiences?
  3. Can you describe how the leadership of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit are connected?
  4. Thinking of the fruit of the Spirit, what are some of the ways the Spirit transforms the way followers of Jesus interact and think about the people around them?