The Spiritual Gifts: The Spirit & the Word (Part 2)

The Spirit of God and the Word of God belong together. Our temptation to pit one against the other does a disservice to both, and to the church at large. We must see the relationship between the Spirit and the Word rightly if we are to live in right relationship to God. For, after all, we are called both to obey God’s Word and follow His Spirit. This must mean, then, that they support one another. The Spirit and the Word work in conjunction.

First of all, then, we need to see the Bible as the product of the Spirit’s work. The Spirit, throughout history, has played a vital role in making God known. Whether through the prophets in the Old Testament, or through the recording of the Word of God, or through the illumination of truth in the mind of the believer. The Spirit reveals God to us (1 Cor. 2:6-13). The prophets were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), He put God’s words in their mouths (2 Sam. 23:2; Isa. 59:21; Jer. 1:9), and He revealed the mystery of the Christ specifically (1 Peter 1:11-12). In addition, it is the Spirit who oversees, empowers, guides, and finalizes the recorded testimony of the Scriptures. The Bible is “breathed out” by the Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Spirit reveals God, and one particular way that He has done this is through the divinely inspired written Word of God. The Bible is His handiwork.

Secondly, we ought to see the Spirit as the one who gives life to the Word. Paul contrasts the dead letter of the law and the living Spirit who, himself, imparts life (2 Cor. 3:6). The Word alone does not accomplish anything, it is the Word empowered by the Spirit which changes lives. There is a temptation to view the Bible as a sort of magical book. If we simply read its words then we will be empowered. “A little bit of Scripture in the morning keeps the devil at bay,” some say. But the Word, apart from the Spirit, does nothing. So Paul can speak of studying the law apart from the Spirit ¬†as leading to death. I recall well the Old Testament professor I had in college who had made a career out of studying the Bible, but who didn’t believe a word of it. Reading the Bible every day did nothing for his soul, because he read it apart from the active work of the Spirit. The Spirit gives life to the Word and makes it a “living and active” word (Heb. 4:12).

Thirdly, the Spirit illumines the Word that we might see and understand it. Apart from the Spirit we cannot comprehend the things of God, for they are “spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). This is why Paul prays that the Spirit would enlighten the minds of his readers (Eph. 1:17-18). We need the Spirit to help us discern the truth and rightly understand it. We may read but apart from His illuminating work we will not rightly understand.

Fourthly, the Spirit substantiates the Word. Here we will see the connection to our major topic of the Spiritual Gifts. God’s Spirit works in conjunction with the Word of God by substantiating what it says. God is not a God of confusion, so that nothing the Spirit does will ever contradict or undermine the Word (1 Cor. 14:33). The Spirit’s activity works to support and further prove the validity of the Scriptural testimony. Hebrews 2:3-4 states plainly that the gifts of the Spirit served to testify to the truth of the gospel. We see the impact of these miraculous attestations in Acts (Acts 3:6-10; 4:4; 5:12-16; 8:5-13). The Spirit’s work through His people confirms the testimony of the Word. He works in conjunction with the Word preached, not against it.

The Spirit and the Word work together. The Spirit is the ultimate author of the Word of God and he works to illumine and substantiate this Word. Anyone who claims to follow the Spirit and yet walks in disobedience or contradiction to the Word is not following the Spirit of God. Yet, this raises an important question that we must still wrestle with: how should we think about extra-biblical revelation. We will address that in a post yet to come.

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