After Paul has explained what the gospel is and part of how we should live our lives in light of the gospel he says...
Ephesians 6: 10 – 18.
13 – 14... what we need to do to prevent being wobbly Christians “stand” / “stand firm”
Amongst all the pieces of the armour God there is one piece that is both a defensive and attacking piece and that is the sword. Which Paul immediately identifies as the word of God... the Scripture.
John Stott: “Scripture, God’s written word, whose origin is repeatedly attributed to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Still today it is his sword, for he still uses it to cut through people’s defences, to prick their consciences and to stab them spiritually awake. Yet he also puts his sword into our hands, so that we may use it both in resisting temptation (as Jesus did, quoting Scripture to counter the devil in the Judean wilderness) and in evangelism”
So as we complete this series on the Holy Spirit and we have noticed that He is a different Spirit than that which is being peddled in much of the modern church…
We have seen that He is the shy person of the Trinity wanting glory to go to Jesus not Himself.
We have seen that He baptizes all Christians at their conversion and gives them everything they need right there and then… not at a second experience after salvation.
And then today I want to you to get this…
When you think of the Holy Spirit and His focus on Jesus think of the Holy Spirit using the Holy Bible to achieve this!
I read this, this week:
“Trevor’s voice was trembling with indignation. This was the final showdown – it was him or me. ‘The trouble is,’ said Trevor, ‘you guys who spend all your time reading commentaries and analysing the Bible and planning what you’re going to say on a Sunday, you just don’t leave any room for the Spirit to speak. And I’ve had a gutful. You and your unspiritual church can go and jump in the river.’
And with that, he turned and walked away. He didn’t come back.
The question is, was he right? Is it ‘unspiritual’ to step into the pulpit well prepared? Is it somehow more spiritual to just ‘let go and let God?’ ”
Well, let’s look at how closely the Spirit is linked with the Word.
The Hebrew word for “spirit” is ruach. The Greek word for ‘spirit’ is pneuma. In both languages, the word is a bit ambiguous... ruach and pneuma can mean “spirit” or “wind” or “breath”. It seems they have a sort of built-in ambiguity. See John 3: 8 where ambiguity is played upon by Jesus.
This ambiguity seems to be used by the Biblical writers fairly often as we will see.
Genesis 1: 2 and then verse 3 and then look at Psalm 33: 6. The Hebrew parallelism points clearly to “word” and “breath” as being the same. Remember that in Hebrew, “breath” is ruach which is also the word for “spirit” and we see it is strongly linked to the word of God.
The OT view of the prophets and their ministry is full of this word/spirit association. The prophets spoke the word of God because the Spirit of the Lord was upon them. Only the man possessed by the Spirit of God could say, “Thus saith the Lord”. There are no fewer than 18 passages in the OT which associate the ruach adonai with the prophetic word.
Of Balaam it is said in Numbers 24: 2 – 3, “... the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered his oracle…”.
Clearly the Hebrews viewed prophetic words as a work of the Spirit... eg 1 Kings 22: 24: “Then Zedekiah son of Kenaanah went up and slapped Micaiah in the face. ‘Which way did the Spirit of the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you?’ he asked.”
Then also Joel 2: 28: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy…”
Looking back, Peter had this to say about the ministry of the prophets in 2 Peter 1: 21: “For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
In the ministry of the prophets, word and spirit are strongly linked.
There are many examples of this link between “word” and “spirit”.
Jesus made the link in Luke 4: 16 – 21. In the synagogue at Nazareth Jesus was handed the scroll of Isaiah. He went straight to Isaiah 61: 1 – 2... “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom to the prisoners… to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” There is a strong link with between Jesus and the OT prophets. Even the Messiah on earth needed the Spirit to speak out the word of God.
In Luke 20 in the parable of the tenants, we see that Jesus stands in the prophetic tradition; and even though he transcends this prophetic tradition as the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets... Jesus as the final prophet’s words were Spirit-driven.
What about Paul? Of course we saw in Ephesians 6 and the armour of God – the Sword of the Spirit being the Word of God.
And what about 2 Timothy 3: 16 “... all Scripture is God-breathed”. And maybe the word/spirit association isn’t that obvious until you see again the spirit/breath ambiguity; “God-breathed” is theopneustos, a compound between theos and pneuma.
Ephesians 5: 18 – 6: 9 and Col. 3: 16 – 4: 1 are two parallel passages, which may be a sort of early Christian catechism or summary of doctrine used to train children and new converts that Paul adds in to both of these letters.
But notice of how these two passages begin. Eph. 5:18 says “be filled with the Spirit”, while Col. 3:16 says “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly”. It seems that Paul was consciously drawing a parallel here – to be filled with the Spirit has a lot to do with hanging on to what Jesus said.
The Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 1: 23, “For you have been born again… through the living and enduring word of God”. We usually only associate the new birth or regeneration with the work of the Holy Spirit (eg. John 3: 3 – 8 and Titus 3: 5), but here Peter says we’ve been regenerated by “the word of God”...
And he goes on to specify what he means by “the word of God” by quoting from Isaiah 40: 6 – 8 and saying, “And this is the word that was preached to you.”
When God wants to create the heavens and the earth, he speaks a creative word; when he wants to create new life in people, he speaks the gospel word. The Spirit is intimately involved in both these “word” acts of God.
So how do “word” and “spirit” relate? The picture presented to us in the OT (and carried through into the NT) is this…
When God speaks, breath comes out of his mouth. This picture provides us with a conceptual key that helps us to understand the nature of the link between the Word of God and the Spirit of God. It illustrates for us the closeness and the inseparability of word and spirit… they’re as close and inseparable as speaking and breath.
Note also progression in thinking from prophecy in general to Word written...
- If Bible teachers are going to facilitate their people hearing from God in the power of the Holy Spirit, about Jesus, they must teach the Bible as the Holy Spirit has inspired it (unpack layout)
- They must work hard at understanding the Holy Spirit inspired meaning of the section of the Bible they are looking at… The Holy Spirit requires hard work for that. As Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 15, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”
- If they don’t do the above how can they expect the Spirit to do his work in people’s hearts? If we’re going to mess around allegorising and twisting what a text says, we’d better not expect God’s Spirit to do much with it. But where the Bible is faithfully preached, we can expect the Spirit to be at work.
- Exegesis… (“to lead out” the truth of the Bible through careful interpretation and explanation) is needed with the Holy Spirit’s help… not just a quick thumb suck… is needed
- This is needed by all Christians not just Bible teachers… NB of attending the preaching regularly, getting good literature to help you… also devotional
- All this is NB to bring objectivity to our thinking about the Spirit. Do you want to be filled with the Spirit? Then let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (remember Eph.5:18 and Col. 3:16)
- In other words we must get stuck into our Bibles. A lot of theology on the Spirit-filled life today is almost hopelessly bogged down in subjectivity.
“It’s interesting, isn’t it, that those churches who reckon they’ve got the Spirit more than the rest of us, at the same time treat their Bibles pretty sparingly. It makes you wonder how ‘spiritual’ they really are.” Mike Fischer
The spiritual church is the one that centres its thought and practice around the Bible.
The idea that you can promote the Bible and hard work at the Bible at the expense of the Spirit’s presence is a theological impossibility.
If we build our lives, ministries and churches around the word of God, the Spirit will always be at work. We could not wish for more.