Balancing Word and Spirit

I am a reformed cessationist. I believe that God can do whatever He wants to do and often does surprise us in His works today. But I also believe that all apostolic activity has ceased and we now rely solely on the Word of God. Believe it or not I have many friends who do not hold this position. They would be considered reformed as well but would call themselves charismatic continuationists. They believe there is much activity of God today similar to that of the apostolic era. After spending time around people like me and people not like me I’ve come to believe that a few cautions are necessary in both of our lives. These cautions are more like road barriers that function to keep us from going on the road. We all tend toward one side of the road but we should all ai at a certain balance. What do I mean? Keep reading…

The Word without the Spirit

Often in the reformed circles I run in you see congregations very into intellectual and theological conversations. This is not bad, but to engage in such theological activity without relying on the Holy Spirit to illumine our minds and hearts is very unhealthy. In reality, we’re seeking to find the truth of God in the Word of God without the help of the Spirit of God. If we’re not banking of the Spirit of God to open our eyes to see the wonders of the Word, we must think we can see these wonders on our own. The Word without the Spirit is insufficient to teach us the will of God for our salvation – because it is only by the Spirit that we are able to truly comprehend and receive the truth within it. 1 Cor. 2:14 makes this clear, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

The Spirit without the Word

The opposite is just as true. Just as it is the temptation of reformed congregations to fall into the former error, the error of the charismatic congregation is the opposite. To seek the Spirit of God without or apart from the Word of God is also insufficient to teach us the will of God for our salvation. God could reveal His truth to us in this way but He has never told us in His Word that He’ll do it this way.

So if we’re to know the will of God for our salvation we must have both the gift of His Word accompanied by the illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Beware Additional Revelation

That God used to speak to His people through the prophets, and now does so in these last days by His Son, teaches us that God’s work of prophetic revelation is complete in Christ, and in His inspired Word. This is why the warning at the end of Revelation to ‘not add to this Scripture’ is meaningful for the book of Revelation and the whole of Scripture as well. Therefore, if we want to know God, we don’t need to look any further than the Scripture, because only there do we find the Spirit inspired truth about Jesus Christ.

Yet don’t we seem to struggle with this in our day? Even within the soundest of churches, how often do we feel the pressure or the weight of the popular notion that the Bible is not enough for us? Our experience and church activities reveal that we yearn for ‘more’ whatever that may be. This is why people go to things like the devotional book ‘Jesus Calling’ and the prayer book ‘The Circle Maker.’ Both of these things communicate that the Scripture is not enough, but when you add this ‘new method’ of prayer or ‘new knowledge from God’ to the Bible, you’ll reach a spiritual level you never thought possible. We should not seek after such things and seek extra or additional revelation from God. God’s prophetic work through His Son and His Spirit is sufficient, this is why 2 Peter 1:3 says, “We have all we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of Him.”

Since these things are sufficient, we dare not seek more. But in seeking them, may we ever rely on the Spirit of God.

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