Scripture and the Spirit

05 Mar

After some reflection on my previous post “Theology and ‘the Supernatural’ in the Life of the Church,” I feel compelled to attempt to restate my point in a much more simple way. Last Wednesday, I took my small group through a scaled down version of some of the weighty themes of theology and supernatural experience. It was a disaster. I tried to cover too much material with not enough time and I ended up confusing the issues more than clarifying them. I could kick myself. I will forever remember the blank looks and squinted-eyes when I made comments like “the activity of the Spirit is not irrational, but it is non-rational.” I think I ended up sounding non-rational. Aghhh….

I got a head full of ideas
That are drivin’ me insane.

A much more simple way to make my point would have been to say that we are going to be a church that is devoted to both the Scripture and the Spirit.

It seems like I have rubbed elbows over the last 18 years with Christians who tend to go to one extreme or the other. Either they embrace the Scripture to the exclusion of the Spirit or they embrace the Spirit to the exclusion of the Scripture. My point is that we need an integration of both the Scripture and the Spirit.

Furthermore our Christian life needs to be defined in terms of Scripture over the Spirit. Our understanding of the Scripture ought to guide and shape our spiritual experience and not the other way around. Christians who define their faith by mystical, spiritual experiences never end up in a good place. God has given us the Scripture as the vocabulary to define our spiritual experience.

I am not suggesting that Scripture can be understood and lived out in purely rational terms.
I am not suggesting that having all the right information from the Scripture about God is sufficient for the Christian life.
I am not suggesting that the work of theology is only done by the power of reason.
I am suggesting (and firmly stating) that Scripture, and not the Spirit, is our final authority. This position is the standard for Evangelicals and for most Pentecostal/charismatics who I include within the Evangelical stream. Traditionally, Pentecostals and charismatics have been “people of the book.” Charismatics movements that desire experience over the teaching of Scripture typically burn out or dry up.

I know there are some who would say, “Are you saying that the Scripture is more reliable than God?” Of course not.

Here is the issue— I do not doubt the reliability of the Spirit’s guidance, but I do doubt my ability to hear and understand him perfectly. Remember that the Scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit. Only the biblical writers were so inspired by the Spirit that their writings are unquestionably reliable. I can trust Paul when he says, “The Lord told me,” because God the Holy Spirit was using him to write Scripture. I cannot always trust some guy who says, “The Lord told me,” even if he has big hair, tacky clothes, a big TV ministry, and the title “Prophet” in front of his name. The Holy Spirit does speak, guide, direct, counsel, convict, and prompt people today. He does, on occasion, grant Christians experiences which are mystical, other-worldly, and transcendent. I have cherished the spiritual experiences—the divine encounters—that I have had with the Holy Spirit over the years, but I cannot build my faith on these. Experiences with (in?) the Holy Spirit are signposts on my spiritual journey, but they are not the soil in which my faith is rooted. Scripture as watered by the Spirit is the only fertile ground in which I can grow.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV All Scripture is Godbreathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

…I’m beginning to believe what the scriptures tell…


Posted by on March 5, 2008 in Theology


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2 responses to “Scripture and the Spirit

  1. Shane Ogle

    March 5, 2008 at 11:26 am

    Hey Derek,

    We all stretch for the things that are just out of our reach – we love it when God touches it and makes it fly – we hate it when we crash and burn. I sometimes struggle over a truth for months (and occasionally years) before I ever present it from the pulpit – and at other times I take the church along for the ride – we struggle through it together (just did about nine months of that – in Hebrews – last year). I’ve even been known to ditch a series I started – saying, “apparently I’m just not ready for this one yet.”

    Funny, one time I did that – apologizing for what had to be absolutely the worst sermon I’ve ever delivered – only to find out that a grown man (in his fifties) had to get up and leave the service – only to go to the men’s restroom and weep like a baby! “Ya’ just never know!”

    I am currently reading Bill Johnson’s “When Heaven Invades Earth” — (hadn’t ready a book from the charismatic persuasion in some time) – he had some interesting things to say on this exact subject. I would say he is weaving in and out of what you say here in your blog – and, though somewhat veiled – even in my last post on my own site (at least in intentionality).

    Here it is – dissect/ digest it as you wish (it’s not mine – it’s Bill’s) – maybe it has something to say to all of us (no matter where we fall in our passionate pursuit of the Holy)…

    Bill Johnson on “Teaching into an Encounter”…

    Personal charisma is often valued more by the church than either anointing or truth. People of little character can have positions of leadership in the church if they have personality. Paul found this particularly troubling. He had worked hard to bring the Corinthians into faith. He had chosen not to wow them with what he knew. In fact, he led them to an encounter with the God of all power who would become the anchor of their faith. But now the sermonizers had come on the scene. Paul’s answer was to send them someone just like himself – Timothy. They needed a reminder of what their spiritual father looked like. This would help them to recalibrate their value system to imitate people of substance, who are also people of power!

    Paul makes a stunning statement clarifying the right choice. He said, “The Kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” The original language puts it like this – “The Kingdom of God is not in logos but in dunamis.” Apparently they had a lot of teachers who were good at speaking many words, but displayed little power. They did not follow the pattern that Jesus set for them. Dunamis is “the power of God displayed and imparted in a Holy Spirit outpouring,” That is the kingdom!

    Two chapters earlier Paul lays out his ministry priority as bringing the people of Corinth to a place of faith in God’s power (dunamis). Here he addresses how they were set up to fail if things didn’t change. Any time the people of God became preoccupied with concepts and ideologies instead of a Christ-like expression of life and power, they are set up to fail, no matter how good those ideas are. Christianity is not a philosophy; it is a relationship. It’s the God encounter that makes the concepts powerful. We must require this of ourselves. How? We must seek until we find.

    Scripture references sited for this portion of chapter 8 (pg. 91):

    I Cor. 4:20
    I Cor. 2:5
    Lk. 11:10

    Bill goes onto say that “Under grace I don’t get a road map… I get a tour guide – the Holy Spirit.”

    God Bless,


  2. Shane Ogle

    March 5, 2008 at 11:32 am


    I ran across this on in the intro of Colossioans in my Bible…

    “Pure Christianity lives between two dangers ever present: the danger that it will evaporate into a philosophy – philosophies of the atonement… and the danger that it will feeze into a form.” (Dr. Scofield).


    “Thou, O Christ, art all I want; more than all in Thee I find.” (Charles Wesley).


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