Word, Gospel and Spirit

The following is part of a reply to an email I received about the criticism of that church in Newcastle. It focuses upon the inter-relationship of the Word of God, the Gospel of God, and the Spirit of God:

From my thinking, it comes down to how the Spirit works in people's lives. Once we have a Biblical understanding of the work and place of the Holy Spirit, we can then work out what we should be doing in Church.

As you probably know, I'm a big follower of "Monergism". The idea is simple - The Holy Spirit regenerates a person FIRST, and then, once they have been born again, they respond to God by repenting of their sins and placing their faith in the death and resurrection of Christ.

But in order for this to happen, the Gospel needs to be proclaimed. It is in the proclamation of the Gospel that the Spirit works to regenerate the elect. Without the proclamation of the Gospel, the Spirit cannot regenerate people. That is why it is necessary for the Gospel to be proclaimed and for evangelism to occur. Although it is an entirely Spiritual activity, God, in his sovereignty, uses our speaking of the Gospel to unbelievers so that he can use that to regenerate them.

But there's more. God's power to bring a person to new spiritual life is the same power to bring all things to life. It is therefore through the Word of God that people's lives are changed. The word is the Bible. the word is Jesus. The word is the Gospel. The word is used by the Spirit.

In practical terms it goes like this: When Christians meet, the Bible is opened and read. A person then gets up and explains what the passage is all about. Any explanation of the word of God must include an examination of the natural link between the passage being examined and the person and work of Christ. So while the preacher explains the text, he also proclaims the Gospel.

By reading the Bible, explaining the word and preaching the Gospel, the Holy Spirit will naturally be working in the listeners. It is not a question of "Is the Holy Spirit working?", but a resolute understanding that "The Holy Spirit IS working" when the Word and the Gospel are preached. Thus the work of the Spirit is seen in an objective and measureable way. This does not ignore the role of the subjective, but we must understand that our own experiences can be misunderstood. Just because a person "feels" God is at work doesn't mean that he is. Moreover, just because a person DOESN'T feel God is at work doesn't mean that he isn't. It's simply a matter of asking the questions: "Were there people present?", "Was the Bible read to them?", "Was the Bible explained properly to them?" and "Was the Gospel proclaimed to them?". If there is a "Yes" to all of these questions, then it is a surefire 100% certainty that the Holy Spirit is working in the people present.

But if the Bible is ignored, or if the message is not true, or if the Gospel is not proclaimed - then the Spirit is not working. It doesn't matter what people say or feel, the Spirit will not work outside the Word or the Gospel.

But in many churches there will be a muddle of truth and error. The Bible is read, but the preacher may be way off in his message, and the message of the Gospel is there, but is confused a bit. In these cases the Spirit still works - but it is as if there is a "kink in the hose". The Spirit still works, but his work is constrained. Even in the Newcastle church I have spoken about, I am certain that small groups meeting during the week read and study the Bible. Individuals from the church have Quiet times and do ponder the gospel that saves them. It is this gracious action of God that keeps his Spirit working in the people of this church, despite the fact that the actual congregational meeting is essentially quenching the Spirit. Long-term, however, Word-less and Gospel-less church services will eventually lead to a Word-less and Gospel-less life. That's why I think that the fruit of Pentecostalism and modern Charismatic Christianity will eventually be Atheism or salvation by works.

From the Theosalient Department.

© 2005 Neil McKenzie Cameron, http://one-salient-oversight.blogspot.com/
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