23 Nov 2020
We would be treading on some ‘controversial’ ground as we look at the current ‘discrepancies’ facing the church today.
Nevertheless, they need to be addressed as they have been ‘sown’ by the evil one into the church, causing much ‘disunity’, ‘confusion’ and ‘damage’ to the Church of God. Various ones may not agree with all that will be shared here; also, the one sharing is definitely inadequate in many ways to do so – however the ‘burden’ and ‘responsibility’ placed upon the sharer become in some ways ‘unbearable’ unless they are ‘released’ by God’s mercy and enabling in the communication.
“Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thess 5:19-22).
The first ‘discrepancy’ is best expressed by the late J.I. Packer in ‘Celebrating the Saving Work of God’:
“Just as the Word is insufficient without the Spirit, so the Spirit is insufficient without the Word. Well may Charismatics and others censure those who seem in practice to embrace the idea that biblical orthodoxy is all that matters and biblical teaching alone produces a healthy church. The critics are right to point out that idolising orthodoxy is not the same as worshipping God and that complacent “orthodoxism”, by inflating pride, actually quenches the Spirit.
But pneumatic preoccupation can slow down maturity too. Many Charismatics appear anti-intellectual in basic attitude, impatient with biblical and theological study, insistent that their movement is about experience rather than truth, content with a tiny handful of biblical teachings, and positively zany in their unwillingness to reason out guidance for life from the Scriptures. Endless possibilities of self-deception and satanic befoolment open up the moment we lay aside the Word to follow supposedly direct instruction from the Spirit in vision, dream, prophecy, or inward impression.
The history of fanaticism is gruesome: I do not want to see it return among my Charismatic friends. But this is always the danger when the formation of the mind by the Word is in any way neglected. What is needed across the board is constant instruction in biblical truth with constant prayer that the Spirit will make it take fire in human hearts, regenerating, redirecting, and transforming into Christ’s likeness at character level. Whatever agenda others have, the fulfilling of Christ’s prayer that His people would be sanctified by the Spirit through God’s Word of truth should be the inerrantist’s first concern”.
Packer expressed this ‘discrepancy’ in the church clearly and precisely. We cannot ignore theology and the study of the Word; at the same time, we cannot ignore the role and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Theology, in the best sense is a pointer to, and a benchmark of, the way the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to change people, making them more like Christ. In this process, the Holy Spirit operates by granting understanding of Christ and of all the Scriptures as witness to Him, and by imparting trust in Christ and a desire and purpose to cleave to revealed truth and to live it out in the behaviour of God’s people after the pattern of the life of Christ Himself. Unfortunately, a great deal of what is called theology today is specialist speculation and does not bear at all on the Christian’s personal life. Wholesome theology, at its best, aims at a life that honours and glorifies God.
The Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture and He illuminates the revelation of God in Scripture. A lack of accurate and wholesome understanding of Scripture, with the missing of proper ‘functioning’ of exposition, hermeneutics and homiletics give ‘much ground’ for the evil one to ‘sow deception’ and to promote teachings which give him much room to manipulate and to cause havoc to the understanding of God’s people. The illumination of Scripture by the Spirit does not mean that reasoning, study and meditation of Scripture are ‘thrown to the wind’.