God is committed to conforming His children into holy sons and daughters. In order to do this, He gives us His Spirit to lead us to mortify sin. The leading of the Spirit then is not a special mystical experience reserved for the few, but a present reality for all true believers in Jesus Christ.
Deep down, we’re all intrigued by the mystical. Many find it to be more “spiritual” if they experience something working powerfully and inexplicably upon them. This, no doubt, is partially the reason why charismatic views of the Holy Spirit prevailed throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. There is everything right about wanting to experience more of the power and working of the Holy Spirit, provided we rightly understand the biblical teaching about the power and work of the Spirit. Two of the most frequently misunderstood and wrongly interpreted passages of Scripture with regard to the work of the Spirit are Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:18: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God,” and “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Many have intimated that these verses speak of a personal, supernatural guidance by which God directs those who are living in a close and intimate relationship with Him. Without in any way wanting to diminish the privilege believers have of living in a close and intimate relationship with the triune God, I do wish to correct misunderstandings about the “leading” of the Spirit in these passages. So, what is the “leading” of the Spirit about which the Apostle speaks?
B.B. Warfield once explained that many misunderstand the concept of being “led by the Spirit” by suggesting that it is referring to “something sporadic, given only on occasion of some special need of supernatural direction.”1 Rather, Warfield insisted, it is “something continuous, affecting all the operations of a Christian man’s activities throughout every moment of his life.” How did Warfield arrive at this conclusion?
When we consider the contexts in which these verses occur, and specifically the context of Romans 8, we will have to conclude that the “leading” of the Spirit is related to our sanctification. Romans 6:1–8:14 forms a pericope about the place of holiness in the lives of believers. Giving consideration to the immediate context, Warfield wrote,