…and it was behind the sofa all along. No, not really. The thing is, if you are a Christian, you are already part of the Church, which is a Body (1 Corinthians 12:27), and is described as the Bride (Revelation 21:9-10) of Christ and in a million other ways. If you trust in Jesus as Saviour and Lord, you are therefore a part of the One True Church. However, this is not a call to relax, as the Spirit will keep prompting you onward to “keep in step” (Galatians 5:25), even though the Sacrifice has paid in full, “once for all” (Hebrews 7:27).
And this is (at the moment, concerning a lot of the apparent church around me, and generally in Europe) where things have started to go really very wrong. Without the Spirit to lead, we are doomed to argue amongst ourselves in the manner Paul warns us about (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). We must keep in step with the Spirit. And for that we must hear what He has to say to us today. Otherwise, at the very least we are behaving in a way described as “worldly” as stated by Paul in the passage (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). This is not a complement! Is there any chance at all in this state that we can fulfil God’s purpose for us?
My wife once made an excellent statement about what the ultimate, inclusive, non-heretical church would have as its modus operandi, if not an actual slogan: “read the Bible and do it”. I firmly believe that she is right. Ah, but what about all this Spirit stuff then? Surely that undermines the word in the Scripture? No, just like vegetables on a plate do not undermine meat. It is the Scriptures themselves that tell us to keep in step with the Spirit. By doing this we are in obedience to the scripture and in-line with the Spirit. We seem to be presented with a series of false choices which bear an uncanny resemblance to “Would you like food or drink this year?” The Spirit of God will not contradict what God has previously caused to be written through the Spirit in the Bible, and in fact (still just about on topic) the Bible tells us to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” with a remarkably straightforward test (1 John 4:1-3). Nor does the Bible forbid using the Spirit’s gifts to contact Him (in fact it says to “Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy” (1 Corinthians 14:1). Now already at this point, having mentioned just one of any number of issues of practise and belief in the church, I will have offended many Christians, who do not believe the gifts are relevant, or that they died out, or that such things are dangerous*…
So, rather than going on to offend everyone (though I think I will at some point: if Jesus was not offensive, then how come he got crucified?), discussing doctrine after doctrine, verse after verse, upsetting denomination after denomination, can I suggest a time-out at this stage? When we read of an issue that sparks a reaction within ourselves, something which jolts us away from reading the scripture in its simplest sense, anything that in any way moves us to ignore a section or assume that it does not apply, anything in our lives, in our experience that drives us away from it, can we stop? Can we then examine the scripture and try to run through in our heads what has been taught to us by man, and what actually came from Scripture? Are there truly passages that speak of the death of the Spiritual gifts (yes there is one in 1 Corinthians 13:8-12– think about when it implies it happens, and if it has happened yet, being careful to read to the end of verse 12)? And can we pray for the Spirit of Jesus to guide us, so that we can have “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16)? Because it is He who we should be following (not exactly a ground-breaking statement in Christian circles I hope).
Reading the writer’s intent in a book should not be very hard. After all, if someone writes “Bob has a red door”, the response would normally be to assume that there is some character Bob, who has ownership of a house with a red door, yet with the Bible we seem to sometimes come out thinking he might have either a green door (he repainted it since then), no door at all (he was speaking figuratively), or that the writer was simply in error and perhaps there was no door, no house and maybe no Bob at all (do see my earlier posting on why I think it utterly reasonable to trust the scriptures). I think this is hard for several reasons. 1) the devil does not like us to trust God and hurls all sorts of lies and half-truths into the mix (by the way, I’m including myself as having experience with all of these errors, and therefore of falling for the devil’s lies) 2) we have been strategically divided into denominations which each have particular strengths and weaknesses and we are therefore not likely to meet a challenger to the point of view we grew up with, even if it is not a Biblical one, and in fact, if it is a particular weakness, we will be encouraged in our non-Biblical point of view. God’s view of putting trust in a denomination over and above trust in Him can be summarised from the the (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) passage referenced above. 3) Our own, old “sinful nature” against which we must war, likes to satisfy itself rather than God, which means we are sometimes tempted to “skip” a healthy challenge from Scripture.
Perhaps the above is yet another reason we need the Spirit as well as a written word, and fortunately we have God’s promise that He will be with us to the “very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). Until then, we must “keep in step with the Spirit” as God has said, and “read the Bible and do it” seems like
a reasonablean obvious idea for a follower of Christ.
*true. God is not “safe”. CS Lewis wrote this of the Aslan of his Narnia, “but he is good.”