The first major one: Seeking and claiming full comprehension of all doctrines without openness to humility and realising our finiteness.

All doctrines terminate in mystery; for they deal with the works of God which we in this world cannot fully comprehend and God has chosen not to explain fully, in His wisdom and sovereignty. That does not mean we do not, in dependence of God, seek to understand as best as we can what God has chosen to reveal that is needful for our christian lives. As one godly man exclaimed – we never know everything about anything.

God does not tell us everything about His actions and purposes – we are fully and wholly dependent on Him for our knowledge of His ways. God is transcendent – He is outside of time and space; His understanding is beyond us. Mystery does not mean that the subject matter is beyond logic and understanding; it is in reality beyond our reasoning and understanding because we are finite and God is infinite.

God constantly warns us to stay within the bounds of revelation, not to stray outside the circle of His given light into the darkness that is beyond; He warns us not to try to penetrate by guesswork into places where Scripture offers no thoughts for us to think. The humility of wisdom counsels us to remain within the bounds of what Scripture says. We shall consider further why this is so significant and also look at the dangers of ignoring this warning.


Take the case of Christians’ understanding of Biblical ‘true freedom’. Scripture portrays true freedom not as absolute but as freedom from sin. On the one hand, some believers are so ‘caught up’ with authoritarianism that they do not feel safe and orthodox unless some leader is telling them exactly what to say, do, and think. This gives rise to situations where some lovers of power put themselves in religious leadership, teaching a theology that ascribes some special charismatic enduement that makes them self-appointed ‘apostles’ or ‘prophets’ with some special ‘anointing’. The authority of Scriptures may be generally affirmed by them, but these self-promoted leaders elevate their opinions over the Scripture, often in the name of Scripture, that the Word of God becomes muted; they themselves however do not stand under the authority of Scripture.

On the other hand, we have many respected religious leaders among believers who project an image of total command, endless competence, glorious success, formulaic cleverness, putting themselves forward as experts in church growth and missions, but the cost is high. There is a lack of the characteristics of brokenness and contrition; gradually the sense of indebtedness to grace is lost, and we no longer cherish our complete dependence on the God of all grace. We begin to reject teachings like self-sacrifice, discipleship, and opt in favour of courses on successful living and leadership in the church. Courses on evangelism for instance seem no different from ‘how to sell life insurance’.

Being conservative must not be confused with godliness; mere discipline must not be mistaken for discipleship; assent to orthodox doctrine is not the same as wholehearted delight in the truth of God.

Even worse is the appearance of some leaders who get the Scriptures to say just about whatever they want – and this they proclaim as if it were a prophetic word, when it is little more than the message of this age bounced off Holy Scripture. To our shame, we have hungered to be masters of the Word much more than we have hungered to be mastered by it. We need to repent and pledge ourselves to faith in learning and obeying God’s most holy Word, rightly dividing the Word of truth.


We have considered previously the centrality of the cross in God’s redemptive purposes. The cross actually stands as the test, standard, and measure of all authentic Christian ministry; in this regard, the cross marks the boundaries in our service and ministry – it establishes what we are to preach, how we are to preach; it prescribes what Christian leaders ought to be, and how believers are to view Christian leaders; it shows us how to serve and how to pursue discipleship in Christian living.

What divides those who are perishing and those who are being saved is the message of the cross; by the cross God ‘destroys’ all human pretensions to wisdom, strength and arrogance (1 Corin.1:18-25). The world’s efforts to know God are made utterly ‘bankrupt’ – God chose to save those who believe “through the foolishness of what was preached” (the content of the preaching and not the form). These people are saved not because they possess superior traits or consider themselves to be wise – rather they are saved because they believe – by grace, they trust Him, they rely on Him and abandon themselves to Him. God has made foolish the wisdom of the world (1Cor. 1:20) – it is God’s wisdom that ensures that the world, through its wisdom would not know Him (vs21) – those who believe are called by God Himself (vs24).

This is a sober reminder that the preaching of the gospel should not be compromised by oratorical eloquence and high-sounding insight with precious little content; the gospel and preaching are jeopardised by any kind of eloquence or rhetoric that do not reinforce the message of a crucified Messiah. Clever, witty amusing communication may be heartily applauded but it does not easily square with the ‘foolish’ message of the cross. Has the smoothness of the ‘performance’ become more important than the fear of the Lord; has manipulation of people with persuasive words, emotional display, and oratory replaced faithfulness to God in presenting accurately the truth and power of the gospel? This is not to say that there is no room for effective preparation and communication in preaching God’s message, but is the focus the proclamation of Christ crucified and God’s disclosure of Himself and His revelation through the cross?

The cross also sets the boundaries for the important truths about Christian leaders. Leaders are only servants of Christ and are not to be accorded loyalty reserved for God alone. God cares about HIs church, and He holds the leaders accountable for how they build the church (1Cor. 3:5-17). The leaders are the stewards of God, and their calling is to be faithful to God and not to build their own ‘kingdoms’ and establish their own following. The question needs to be asked: “Is the church being built with large portions of charm, personality, oratory, positive thinking, managerial skills, powerful and emotional experiences but without the repeated, passionate, Spirit-anointed proclamation of “Jesus Christ and Him crucified”? God’s revelation of His Son is of paramount importance – if we recognise the need for the Spirit of God to illumine the minds of men and women who otherwise will not grasp God’s message and revelation, we will emphasize prayer – we will live and serve God in the light of the final judgement, for we all (leaders and christians alike) must give an account of our lives and ministries.


As we consider the above subject, we need to look at the cross and the Holy Spirit in Christian life and ministry.
Those “without the Spirit” are so dead that it is foolish to think that arguments can bring them to faith; the things of the Spirit are just foolishness to such ones (1 Cor. 2:14). God is not just much greater than we are, but that we were, and are so rebellious that we distort what He has graciously provided and revealed. Our self-centredness, our love of power and prestige, simply would not have allowed us to understand the cross and our need of it; we need the work of the Spirit of God to understand what God has freely given to us in Christ.

The spirit of the world cannot make sense of the message of the cross; the Spirit of God enables those who have this Spirit to understand it. The same Holy Spirit prompts the spiritually-minded to preach it and to teach it in appropriate ways. They will avoid all ostentatious display; they will abandon all cheap manipulation and they will gladly embrace the scandal of the cross. These servants of God will be wary of preaching the gospel that talks much about God meeting our needs and enabling us to feel fulfilled – instead, they will anchor their message squarely in the message of the cross.They know clearly that the insight into the message of the cross cannot be gained apart from the work of the Spirit of God.

From the moment Christ died upon the cross and ascended into heaven and sent the Holy Spirit, the gospel was preached everywhere and men and women were drawn and claimed, and set free from the power of the devil. The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation and this power is applied and effected by the Holy Spirit . The power of God comes into us and we are born again, receiving new natures, and becoming new people. The Holy Spirit is put within us, and Christ’s presence is ever at hand to help us.
The spiritual person (i.e. the person with the Spirit) receives understanding that would otherwise remain opaque to many. The person without the Spirit cannot properly assess what goes on in the spiritual realm. Unless the Holy Spirit enlightens us, God’s thoughts will remain deeply alien to us. We see how the message of the gospel, the cross and God’s plan of salvation need the enabling and ministry of the Spirit to be communicated with life and effectiveness. Apart from God’s Spirit in the ministry, believers cannot ever hope to communicate the life of God and His revelation to the hearers.