The Word and Spirit.

H. H. Snell.

Christian Friend, vol. 13, 1886, p. 159.

One of the greatest errors of the day is the practical separation of the written word of God from the teaching of the Spirit of God. Let the Christian reader ponder it well; for it is a mistake so common and so serious as to be fatal to true spiritual-mindedness, and demands our constant care and watchfulness. The insubjection of the mind of man to God, and confidence in his own competency to deal with the truth, have so largely set aside the habit of dependence on the divinely-given power of the Holy Spirit that "the last days," according to Scripture, are now clearly marked by "having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." No doubt man has natural ability for understanding the things of earth, and for adapting them to his own advantage; but we are told that "the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God;" that "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God … neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." "But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (1 Cor. 2) Nothing can more clearly show our entire dependence on the Spirit of God, either to know, to receive, to discern, or, we may add also, to communicate, "the things of God."

It is easy to understand that Satan would always seek to set aside, if possible, whatever may be the present work of God on the earth. When it was a question of owning the only true God as Jehovah, then he brought in idolatry, for which God had to send His people into captivity. Now the Holy Ghost has come to bear witness to Christ and His finished work during His absence in glory, the competency of man is vainly asserted as able to discern, receive, and minister the things of God. The coming down from heaven of the Holy Spirit to abide with us for ever, consequent upon Jesus being glorified, which is the great characteristic of Christianity, is therefore, in His present activities, not owned, but practically set aside. Not that the doctrine of the Holy Spirit is not held in some measure, but His present offices are so little regarded that He is both grieved and quenched. It is this practical acquaintance with Him, as the Teacher and Guide into all the truth, the Glorifier and Testifier of the Son through the written Word, to which we now refer. Nor have we a doubt that the chief reason why His power is not more known publicly and corporately is because He is not better known by us personally and privately.

Some, however, have gone into the other extreme, of professing to have the guidance of the Spirit apart from the Word, and have therefore fallen into ways of the most extravagant folly and error. But to have an ear to hear what God says in His word, in conscious dependence on the teaching and guidance of His Spirit, is clearly what Scripture enjoins. To separate therefore the Word and the Spirit must be fatal to a true and happy apprehension of the mind and will of God. All through Scripture, not only in type, but in the plainest possible instruction, we find the two so joined together that we "hear what the Spirit saith" when we hearken to "the word of God."

In the very opening of the sacred writings we have the Word and the Spirit. God spake, and the Spirit of God moved. Then for many generations the word of the Lord, by Moses and the prophets, was both written and spoken by the Spirit; for "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit." The tabernacle and its furniture, vessels, coverings, and priestly vestments, with their precious stones, so typical of Christ, were made by Bezaleel when "filled with the Spirit of God," according to the word of 'loses, which he had received from Jehovah, who showed him the pattern in the mount. In the wilderness journey the manna in the morning fed them, while the springing water from the rock which had been smitten satisfied their thirst. All through God dwelt among them, and ministered His word to them, and neglect to hearken to His word was soon followed by forgetting God. In the land, if God's glory filled the house, the ministry of His word by prophets every now and then was given. Like the widow's cruse of oil and barrel of meal, both continued, and could literally sustain the prophet in his ministration of God's word by the Spirit. Nor can we fail to notice that when the gracious revival of faithfulness to Jehovah occurred in those who came back from the captivity, what a careful return there was to act on the word "as it is written;" while the prophet assured them that God would be faithful to His word, and that His Spirit was with them, as when they came out of Egypt. (Haggai 2:5.)

It is interesting, too, to observe, that the faithful remnant, in Jerusalem and around, before our Lord came, who looked for redemption, were clearly occupied with the word of God, and under a great power of the Holy Spirit. Their fervent utterances, according to Scripture, show this; and here, as all through, we find those who were occupied with the Word and in the path of the Spirit were taken up with Him of whom the Word and Spirit so abundantly testify. In Simeon's case he not only looked for the Redeemer, according to the testimony of the prophets, but it was revealed to him by the Spirit, that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. We therefore see him "led by the Spirit into the temple" where the Saviour was, whom he at once recognized, took Him up in his arms, and bowed in worship to Jehovah. The utterance of the heart therefore of this Spirit-led servant of Jehovah was, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant, depart in peace, according to thy word," (Luke 2) We cannot contemplate such a scene, and ponder also the statements recorded of Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna, without noticing how frequently that which is written was on their lips; while we are told again and again that it was the power of the Holy Spirit which was upon them which produced such fervent utterances. We cannot fail to mark how constantly Scripture presents the word and Spirit in this near connection. When the Holy Spirit came down, as recorded in the second chapter of the Acts, we read that those who were filled with the Spirit not only declared with intense earnestness to those around the wonderful works of God, but so much were they occupied with the word of God that it is added "they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine." Again, in the fourth chapter we are told "they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spake the word of God with boldness;" and often after this it is said they were led of the Spirit, and the word of the Lord was published by them.

We need scarcely remind the Christian reader that in our Lord Himself we have the perfect Exemplar of One being always led by the Spirit, and on every occasion walking in the truth, and contending for the divine authority of the written Word. He whom God the Father sealed, on whom the Spirit came down and in whom He took up His abode, was wont to say, "It is written," and put His adversaries to silence by a sentence of Holy Scripture. When speaking too of the new birth, He so connected the Word and Spirit, that He said, "Except a man be born of water [the Word, see 1 Peter 1:23] and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

As we have seen, the testimony of the apostles, both in their oral ministry as recorded in the Acts, and their written ministry in the epistles, was always to the divine certainty of the Word. They often referred to the personal actings, indwelling, anointing, and operations of the Holy Spirit, while they themselves were taught and led and filled with the Spirit, and were constantly quoting from the written Word.

In the Apocalypse John is said to be "in the Spirit," in order to enter into the divinely-given lines of truth which were communicated to him. And in the last page of the inspired volume we have the Spirit and the Bride saying, "Come" to the Lord Jesus; while the most solemn warnings are added against adding to or taking from "the words of the book of this prophecy."

Nor should we overlook the precious and soul-stirring fact that there is almost always a third truth given us with these testimonies to the actings together of the Word and the Spirit; namely, their ministrations of Christ. Who does not see in the first man a figure of Him that was to come - His death, resurrection, and the presentation of His Bride which followed? And why was the third day's creation twice pronounced "good," when living things sprang up where previously there had been barrenness, but to tell us of the goodness of God in creation, and also of resurrection on the third day in reference to redemption? In the vast variety of types and shadows which God has given us by Moses, most are familiar with the precious instruction as to the person, sacrifice, and offices of our Lord Jesus Christ. Nor were prophets and the writers of the Psalms failing in testifying of Christ, as our Lord informed us; for after His resurrection from among the dead He said, "All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me." (Luke 24:44.)

In the Acts also. it is said of those who were filled with the Holy Spirit, not only that "they spake the word of God with boldness," but, it is added, "with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus." Stephen, too, full of the Holy Spirit, went largely through Scripture in addressing his angry hearers, and died under their wicked hands testifying to his being so occupied with Christ in glory that, like Him when suffering on the cross, he could pray for his murderers; while in all the writings of the apostles we find them unable to write many verses, whatever the subject, without recurring to the personal, moral, or official glories of Christ, or the glory of His path of humiliation, or His perfections either toward God or for us - in some way or other Christ is presented to us in the Word by the Spirit. This surely is a threefold cord, which cannot easily be broken. May we mark it well, and hold it fast.

Now, what are we to gather from what Scripture teaches as to the Word and the Spirit? Among other lessons, that, the written Word having been indited by the Spirit, we need His power to bring it home to our hearts, and reveal and minister to us the deep things of God. Can we fail also to notice that when the Spirit acts by the Word in us, it will be connected with the ministry of Christ, and produce in us conduct according to Him? If then we in self-sufficiency allow the intellect without the Spirit to work on the word of God, we may be puffed up with knowledge, and manifest a low walk while professing to hold the highest doctrines. But when we are occupied with the Word, as subject to its divine authority, in dependence on the teaching of the Holy Spirit, then shall we care not only for one or two particular lines of truth, but for all it teaches. There will be consistency in every path we are called to walk in. We shall heed the Lord's mind as to our relation to Him in the assembly, as to our personal conduct and private walk, and shall have a conscience, too, as to honouring God in our family relationships and duties. When a believer is not consistent as to general conduct, it may, we believe, be often traced to the practical separation of the word of God and the Spirit of God. If our habit be to pray over the Scriptures, to ponder them in dependence on the Holy Spirit, and thus they become food to our souls, how is it possible that our conversation and written communications could be without the ministry of Christ? May the Scriptures we have looked at as to the word of God and the Spirit of God, connected, as we have seen, with the ministry of Christ, so exercise our hearts and consciences as to give us fresh delight in turning prayerfully and humbly to the written Word, and in looking for the teaching of the Holy Spirit. H. H. S.