With strong emphasis (Müller) dwelt upon the presiding presence of the Blessed Spirit in all assemblies of saints, and upon the duty and privilege of leaving the whole conduct of such assemblies to His divine ordering; and in perfect accord with such teaching he showed that the Holy Spirit, if left free to administer all things, would lead such brethren to speak at such times and on such themes as He might please.
These views of the Spirit's administration in the assemblies of believers, and of his manifestation in all believers for common profit, fully accord with Scripture teaching (I Cor. 12; Rom. 12; Eph. 4; etc.). Were such views practically held in the church today, a radical revolution would be wrought and a revival of apostolic faith and primitive church life would inevitably follow. No one subject is perhaps more misunderstood, or less understood, even among professed believers, than the person, offices, and functions of the Spirit of God. John Owen, long since, suggested that the practical test of soundness in the faith, during the present gospel age, is the attitude of the church toward the Holy Spirit. If so, the great apostasy cannot be far off, if indeed it is not already upon us, for there is a shameful ignorance and indifference prevalent as to the whole matter of his claim to holy reverence and obedience.
Either the Holy Spirit ministers freely through the saints, unimpeded by liturgies and "orders of service," or He is grieved by liturgies and "orders of service."
This is no justification for hyper-spirituality, or overt spirituality, which is no such thing, but rather an argument for real and true spirituality in the assemblies. Do we truly believe that the fact that entire denominations are devoted to disorderly or unedifying "demonstrations of the Spirit" means that we must apologize for the ministry of the Spirit?
The Spirit is the member of the Trinity that is down here, right now.
Against ministry there is no law. Disorderly ministry, by contrast, is contrary to New Testament teaching. Thus, Paul's admonition to the church at Corinth, I Cor. 14.
Ministry is of the Spirit. Unsound ministry and false teaching is not of the Spirit. Disorderly ministry is not of the Spirit. The difference between the two it is given to the saints to discern, subject to the oversight of the elders. This is why Christ prescribed elders for his churches. But make no mistake, the church as a whole is "pillar and ground of the truth." It is the people, collectively, like the Bereans, who are to discern the truth or untruth of what is spoken in the churches. The "amen" signals the people's assent to the teaching. If the people are silent, assent is assumed. If they disagree they must speak. But the "amen" is a punctuation mark to the people's agreement that, yes, this is what the Word teaches. (However I have long heard that the clergy, and not the people, presume to protect sound doctrine in the churches. But what did Paul say? He exhorted Timothy to watch his life and his doctrine. Of course teachers are to do this, but so must all those who speak in or out of the churches. Upholding sound doctrine is not the exclusive province of the clergy, it is the responsibility of the entire church. Of course the mature saints will have a stronger voice in this.)
Clericalism does away with, not only disorder, but any occasion for disorder. But it is dead formalism. (I admit that is redundant in that formalism is intrinsically dead.)
The only churches I know which even make provision for the Spirit's ministry are the Friends churches, in that their meetings (so far as I know) begin in silence. I do not see that it is wrong for someone such as an elder to convene the meeting. I do not say the Friends churches are sound in the faith. I truly have no idea. I expect to find believers there as in all the denominations. But I do say that the only way to enable the ministry of the Spirit is to give Him His rightful place in the assembly, and this is accomplished by allowing for the actual manifestations of the Spirit. Enabling manifestations of the Spirit also allows for the possibility of disorder, but it has the advantage of being the practice actually prescribed in the New Testament. "Progress," "expediency," or "convenience" are not defensible reasons for substituting the traditions of men for the traditions of God.