The Bible nowhere teaches that God operates by a direct impact of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of any man to convert and save him. Such an idea is wholly unwarranted by the Scriptures; it is plain superstition. Paul says, I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Rom. 1:16). God, Christ and the Holy Spirit operate on the heart of man to convert him through the gospel. God has placed within the gospel all the power to convert and save man. It is the only means therefore which can be used for the accomplishment of this end.
The gospel is the perfect revelation of the mind and will of the rational God and his Son, Jesus Christ, made known by the Holy Spirit through the apostles. It is addressed to man, God’s rational creation, and is perfectly suitable to change, turn and convert man into exactly what God desires him to be.
Man is an intellectual, emotional, and volitional being; he thinks, reasons, loves, hates, purposes and determines. Through the gospel God attacks the citadel of man’s understanding, and through it reaches down to take possession of his whole being. Through the preaching of the gospel the mind of man is changed from unbelief to faith, For faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Through the gospel he is informed of the love and goodness of God and Christ, and is caused to love them in return. He learns also of the evil of sin and of the dreadfulness of its consequences, and in repentance changes his will with regard to sin and purposes to reform his life and live in righteousness. He then obeys the gospel as he is baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Rom. 6:3, 4; Gal. 3:26, 27; etc.).
When this has been done the whole man has been completely changed in every faculty of his being; he has been converted, turned to the Lord. He was, to begin with, an unbeliever, living in sin, out of Christ and under condemnation. He is now a believer, in love with the Lord, having ceased from sin and purposed to live right, he is in Christ a new creature, and happy in the hope of eternal life. And all of this was accomplished in the most rational manner through the gospel, the power of God to save.
It is not necessary for God to operate directly upon the heart of man through some miraculous manifestation of the Holy Spirit. In fact, never has such a thing been God’s power to save man. There is not one example in Scripture of God directly operating upon the heart of a man to save his soul, for in every example of conversion found in the New Testament the gospel had to be preached for man to be saved.
There are several examples of conversion where miracles occurred such as the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and the conversion of Saul (Acts 9) and Cornelius (Acts 10). But God did not tell these individuals directly what to do to be saved for on each of those occasions God used men to teach those converted to the Lord. The Apostles taught the 3,000 on Pentecost, Ananias taught Saul of Tarsus and Peter taught Cornelius. Today God operates upon the hearts of men in exactly the same way through the preaching of the gospel.