In church circles I move in, we talk all the time about Word and Spirit. And I often wonder whether we really know what we are talking about. Has it become just a phrase without a lot of meaning?
The first problem is this. Why are Word and Spirit presented as two separate entities? Think about it for a minute.
We talk about having Word and Spirit churches as if we’ve achieved a wonderful situation where we have the best of all possible worlds.
But why then, I ask, is the preaching in many churches so unsatisfying?
It’s probably because we’ve separated the Word and the Spirit.
Let me explain.
In his commentary on 2 Corinthians 3, John Calvin made the point that nobody can understand the Word of God without a revelation of the Spirit of God.
Do preachers cry out to God for a revelation of the Holy Spirit every time they prepare a Biblical exposition? Does the Holy Spirit fill their hearts and minds with divine illumination as they study the text? Does he give them ways to make the Biblical text powerfully applicable to the people to whom they are speaking? Do they preach with fire in their belly? Do they so pour themselves out they feel drained at the end?
Or are they just giving nice talks and with minimal effort and preparation?
And think about this one thought. How many preachers believe for a divine and supernatural moving of the Holy Spirit as they are preaching?
Charismatics are great at believing God to move during a great time of worship, or as people come forward for ministry or prayer afterwards.
But they are lousy at believing God to move as they preach.
Part of the reason is because they fail to put the high value on the preaching of the Word that God says we should. They fail to prepare adequately. They think 15 or 20 minutes of seeker-sensitive superficiality is enough for God to say what he wants.
And then they say they believe in Word and Spirit churches.
Not good enough.
Listen to what Paul says: We are stewards of the mysteries of God.
And listen again: the job of the preacher is to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God.
And how is this mystery made known? By the Spirit.
Read 2 Corinthians 4 and Ephesians 3 right though and ask God for understanding.
So what do I get out of all this?
Very simply this: that the Word of God is a mystery which can only be made clear by a revelation of the Spirit which comes to the preacher and then comes to the people through his preaching of the Word.
We need churches where the Holy Spirit invades the heart of the preachers and teachers, pours revelatory understanding of the Word into them, and makes the Word a sword so powerful it does the job it was designed to do and cuts to the very heart of those listening, convicting and encouraging and changing them as they listen.
Preaching is not meant to be an academic lecture. Nor is it meant to be a collection of nice thoughts. And it is certainly not meant to be a brief afterthought to worship.
Preaching grasps a weapon so powerful that it may hurt you if you misuse it. Preaching is taking hold of divine fire. But first that fire must consume the heart of the preacher.
When that begins to happen, we will have the kind of reformation Calvin saw, where the Word, set on fire by the Spirit, changed the course of history.
Let’s believe God for churches where the Spirit of God, through imperfect earthen vessels, uses the Word of God to accomplish the purposes of God.
And that is where the fire will fall.