The Word of God or Spirit of God?
by J.D. Greear
When it comes to the Holy Spirit, Christians tend to gravitate toward one of two extremes. Some pursue experience in the Spirit apart from the inscripturated Word of God. They listen for voices in their hearts or seek “signs” from God in the heavens. Others, however, seek to know and obey the Word without any tangible interaction with the Spirit. These Christians believe in the Spirit, but they relate to Him the way I relate to my pituitary gland: I’m really grateful it’s in there; I know it’s essential for something; I would never want to lose it … but I don’t really interact with it. For these Christians, the Holy Spirit is not a moving, dynamic person. He’s more of a theory.
The problem with both sides is the assumption that we have to choose between the Word and the Spirit. But Scripture indicates that the two work inseparably. The vibrant Christian life is a union of clarity in the Word and openness to the Spirit. If we seek the Spirit of God apart from the Word of God, our faith will end in shipwreck. More havoc has been wreaked in the church following the words the Spirit of God just said to me … than any other phrase. God’s Spirit never operates independently of His Word. Since He inspired it, why would He work apart from it?
But, in the same way, if you seek to obey the Word apart from the power of the Spirit, not only will your spiritual life be lifeless and dull, you’ll also miss out on the help God wants to give you and the most exciting things He has planned for you. You’ll miss out on the dynamism of relationship. I know; I’ve been there.
If you want to be led by the Spirit of God, then devote yourself to the Word of God. The Spirit’s primary vehicle for moving and speaking in our lives is the Scriptures. The Spirit, through His Word, works in us to shape us into the kind of people God wants us to be, because when we become the kind of people God wants us to be, we will do the things God wants us to do.
Almost every time we see the phrase “the will of God” in the Bible, it refers to the shaping of our moral character in response to the gospel. The Spirit conforms us to Christ’s character: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (12:2). And the Spirit helps us walk the paths of wisdom that the righteous travel (Prov. 2:20–22; see 1 Cor. 2:6–16). As we do, we accomplish the will of God.
You won’t know the Spirit any more than you know the Word. But the Word won’t yield up its treasures until you allow God’s Spirit to apply it directly to you. So if you want to walk with the Spirit of God, get on your knees and open your Bible.