23 Nov 2020
We have looked at how the Word and the Spirit are both needful and complementary in the development of godliness in the christian life. We saw how the lack of one or both in outworking can pose real spiritual problems for God’s people, especially when this lack is manipulated by the evil one to cause confusion and damage to the church of God.
At this juncture, it may be helpful to review the ‘essentials’ of the Word and the role and ministry of the Spirit in the church and to realise how they ‘fit in’ with each other in God’s purpose for His people.
The God-given Scriptures are the self-interpreting, self-contained rule of Christian faith and life in every age. Although the canonical books were composed over a period of more than a thousand years, they do present a consistent view of how God deals with men. Both the church and the individual Christian must live by the BIble, by proper application of biblical principles. The revealed Word is necessary for the knowledge of God because God has given and appointed it for this purpose. Sin has so darkened human minds that they cannot know God apart from the light (information and illumination) that Scripture brings. The Scriptures are the only ‘source’ from which knowledge of salvation can be derived. The reason why God speaks these biblical writings to us now is because He spoke through them once for all, when He gave them. They are therefore the means of God’s instruction to us now, the most sure source of spiritual knowledge that we have.
The Bible is a set of particular writings from the ancient world just as Jesus Christ is a particular Jew of the first century A.D. But just as Jesus Christ is God’s Son and Saviour for the world, so Holy Scripture is God’s word and wisdom for the world – it is God’s pure word of address to all mankind which stands for all eternity. We must be grateful that God has given us light for our journey through this dark world. The light is the Holy Scriptures, the inspired Word of canonical instruction on God and godliness which shines as a light in this very dark place. We must thank God for the Word and to commend what we believe about it, by the way in which we treasure it, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest it – the Word is for us to treasure up in our hearts and respond to in faith.
The Holy Spirit plays a leading role in almost every aspect of the writings of Apostle Paul in terms of his theology on Christian life and experience. However, the Spirit is not the center for Paul – Christ is, but the Spirit stands close to the center, making Christ known and empowering all genuinely Christian life and experience. The Spirit comes into the life of the individual and the church in a dynamic experiential way. The Spirit marks off God’s people individually and corporately as God’s temple, the place of His personal dwelling on earth. The coming of the Spirit is the sure evidence that the future had already been set in motion; the final consummation of God’s kingdom however had not yet taken place. The Spirit serves as the sure guarantee of the final glory and as a ‘down-payment’ and ‘seal’ of what is to come.
Paul’s understanding of the ministry of the Spirit has its foundation in the Trinity. God is one and personal; the Spirit is the Spirit of God and therefore personal.The Spirit and Christ are fully divine; however the Spirit is as distinct from Christ and the Father as they are from each other. Salvation is God’s activity from beginning to end and it involves all three persons of the Godhead.
The goal of God’s eschatological salvation is to create a people for His name. The people are formed by the Spirit; they are an eschatological people, who live the life of the future in the present as they await the consummation. They are God’s family, evidenced by the Spirit’s crying Abba from within their hearts; they are God’s temple, the place of His habitation on earth by His Spirit, and they form Christ’s body, made so by their common experience of the one Spirit. The Spirit thus empowers ethical life in all its dimensions – individually, within the community, and to the world. The Spirit is the key to Christian Worship and to all truly Christian Spirituality. The Spirit’s presence, including His gifts, helps to build up the believing community as its members gather together to worship God. The Spirit, who forms the body and creates the temple, is present with unity and diversity, so that all may participate and all may be built up in Christ.
Paul’s understanding is that the church is to be vitally trinitarian in its life and spirituality. This will mean not the exaltation of the Spirit but the exaltation of God; and it will mean focus not on the Spirit as such but on the Son, crucified and risen, Saviour and Lord of all. The Spirit always ‘put the spotlight on the Son of God’, not on Himself. The three persons of the Godhead are in loving fellowship eternally; they are perfectly ‘contented’ and ‘joyous’ in fulfilling their roles in the Trinity.