All conversions are begun, directed, and completed by the power of the Holy Spirit, this cannot be denied. However, the question of how the Spirit affects conversion, whether directly or through an agency, has been, and is still, a controversial matter.
A "direct operation" of the Spirit is declared by many. This idea has descended to our age from the old doctrine that man is totally depraved in heart and soul and must have a miraculous spiritual operation to turn him from sin to his Heavenly Father. But the scriptures plainly teach that the Holy Spirit works through the agency of the revealed Word of God! Still, while proclaiming that the manner of the Spirit's working in the Christian age is through the power of the Word, we must not be guilty of thinking the Spirit is not involved in our conversion.
Conversion is the process by which man turns from sin to God. It is the "change" from the old life in sin to the new life in Christ. Conversion takes place in our mind, while forgiveness takes place in the mind of God. In the process of conversion, there are no new faculties or powers imparted that are felt in any physical way. Any theory which takes away the Word of God in conversion, or takes away man's responsibility or accountability, cannot be true.
Jesus declared that the Holy Spirit would convict the world of sin (John 16:8-11). He said the Holy Spirit would testify (John 15:26-27). He said the Holy Spirit would speak, revealing the truth, and certain things to come (John 16:13).
The Word of God is living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:14). The gospel is the power of God to save (Romans 1:1.6). We know we know him if we keep his commandments (I John 2:3-5). Hence, the truth stands out vividly, it's undeniable: The Holy Spirit converts men through the revealed and written Word of God in the New Testament. If the Holy Spirit operates in a direct way, apart from the Word, why are there no Christians in some countries? If the Holy Spirit operates directly on some, and not on others, God becomes a respecter of persons. The Bible, however, says that he is not (Acts 10:34-35). No one in the New Testament ever prayed for a direct, miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit. If men are converted without the Word of God today, how are we to distinguish between the claims of so many contradictory groups who claim to have the Spirit? (I John 2:3-4).
If the Holy Spirit operates and converts separate from the Word of God, how can we be judged by the Word in the last day? (John 12:48). A direct operation takes away personal responsibility and accountability. A direct operation of the Spirit would contradict the plain passages of the Bible which tell us the gospel is the power to save (I Corinthians 1:21; Romans 1:16; John 6:44-45). The Holy Spirit is promised only to sons of God, those who obey him, never to alien sinners (Galatians 4:6; Acts 5:32; Acts 2:38). A direct operation of the Holy Spirit would violate the nature of man as given by God. God never violates man's freedom of choice. How strange that men should rely on fickle feelings rather than the bed-rock assurance of the written testimony of God. Some say they feel happy because they are saved; others say they are saved because they feel happy! But the only evidence of pardon promised to the sons of God is the testimony of the Spirit in the New Testament.
"The Spirit bears witness with our Spirit that we are the sons of God" (Romans 8:16). He reveals the terms of pardon in the New Testament. We obey. Thus we have the testimony of both our spirit and the Holy Spirit. When the state lays out the requirements-for a qualified voter, and we meet those requirements, both our spirit and the testimony of the state bear witness that we are qualified to vote. The Spirit does not bear witness to our spirit, but with our spirit. The only course to follow is to obey all the commands of the Spirit in the New Testament.