King Solomon wisely told us to avoid all extremes (Ecc. 7:18). This is good commonsense theology. Ah, but how inclined are we to heed such rational advice? Like pendulums we swing from one extreme to the other, all the while believing that our life and faith are relatively in good balance. However, does such reasoning hold up to reality and the Scriptures?
Our out of balance lives can be most acutely seen in our life theology. What do I mean by life theology? I am talking about what we live from day to day which is the true expression of what we actually believe. It’s easy for professing Christians to believe a set of doctrines that they do not authentically live out. What we really believe is what we live on a regular basis, not necessarily what we doctrinally assert.
We could develop this idea of believing one thing and living another in a tremendous amount of ways, but I want to concentrate on one area in this article—the great problem we have of finding balance between the Word and the Spirit.
People of the Word
It is reasonable to claim that genuine Christians believe that both the Old and New Testaments are God’s inspired and infallible Word of God. Why is it then that at one moment we can testify to the inerrancy of the Scriptures and the next live the total opposite? Some people maintain that they stand on the Word even while they strive to explain away those verses that rebuke the way they live or refute their pet doctrines.
If we claim to believe the Word then its time we live what it says, not what is doctrinally comfortable, socially acceptable or convenient. Paul taught Timothy to “Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Tim. 4:16). He admonished Titus to, “teach what is in accord with sound doctrine” and to “encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 2:1. 1:9). Both Jesus and Paul warned that in the last days people would not hold to sound doctrine but follow lies that feed their sinful nature. Since Christ is the Author of Truth we ought to love the truth as He does and hate all untruths in an equal manner. It does not take a rocket scientist to comprehend that both believing and living sound doctrine is of paramount importance to the Lord God.
There is something terribly wrong with our concept of being a people of the Word if we are spiritually dead. We cannot be truly full of the Living Word and be empty of the Holy Spirit. To be full of the Word and empty of the Spirit is both unscriptural and illogical. If we really became a people of the Word then we should be full of faith and of the Holy Spirit as was Stephen (Acts 6 &7). Yet many professing believers that claim to believe the Word do not live like those New Testament saints that were truly full of the Holy Ghost.
If we believe that Jesus is who He said He is then we should literally believe everything He taught; and if we believe everything He taught then we should be willing to live out those truths at all cost. How can we be people of the Word and yet ignore Christ’s teaching on the Spirit and the tremendous importance He placed upon the subject? Are we wiser then God? Do we think that the infilling of the Spirit is a meaningless teaching that should be relegated to ages past when the Lord Christ said otherwise? Many people downplay the work of the Spirit or outright reject Him because such teaching goes against their lifestyles or church doctrine. This is a tragedy!
Everything Jesus did when His ministry began was done through the power of the Spirit (Lk. 4:1, 14-19, 31-37). John told us that, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 Jn. 2:6). Using Christ’s example, the entirety of our life and ministry should be lived out through the power of the Spirit. To be faithful to our Lord we must return in faith and practice to His plain teaching on the Spirit and those of the remaining New Testament.
Jesus commanded the first disciples to “tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49, KJV). Paul commanded the Ephesians to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18b). The example of Christ’s life and the principles of these commands are as relevant today as they were 2000 years ago. Jesus knew that the early church could not survive, much less triumph, without the infilling of the Spirit. How arrogant we are to think that as modern believers we do not need the Spirit baptism even though those early saints could not live without it. The book of Acts gives us a snapshot of the life of the early church which made being filled with the Spirit the norm for every believer.
People of the Spirit
One of the primary ministries of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus (Jn. 16:13-15). So the Spirit will never do anything that will not bring glory to Christ. Not just that, the Spirit will never act in a way that conflicts with the Word of God. Because the Spirit of Truth is part of the triune God, He will never do anything that is contrary to the character of Godhead. Those who are truly baptized in the Spirit will live lives that glorify God because they walk in harmony with the Word and the character of God.
Just as those who call themselves people of the Word can live contrary to the Word so those who call themselves people of the Spirit can act in ways contrary to the Spirit. Being filled with the Spirit will never make us act stupid. This happens when people do not rightly know the Word, the character of God or the workings of the Spirit. If they were truly operating in the Spirit they would not act in ways that are contrary to the Word or disgraces Jesus.
It’s just as dangerous to twist the Word for our own selfish ends as it is to twist what some call the outpouring of the Spirit for selfish reasons. Either way, we are being unfaithful to the Word and the Spirit. Reject the Word and we end up in error whether or not we claim to be filled with the Spirit. We can have all kinds of programs, activities or manifestations in the church without the Spirit having any part of it; and if the Spirit is not part of it then neither is Jesus.
There is a terrifying error creeping into many of the camps of those who consider themselves people of the Spirit. It is the exaltation of experience over the Word. If we claim to be led by the Spirit but do that which is contrary to the Word then we have unequivocal evidence that we are not being led by the Spirit, but by self or Satan. The more we are led by the Spirit the more we will live the Word and see the Spirit’s fruit authentically revealed. It cannot be otherwise!
Some people have become spiritual experience junkies that go from conference to conference or from “revival” to “revival” seeking the latest experience or impartation. But they never change, nor do they become agents of godly change in their home, church or world. I have known many people that claimed to be in the “river” while their marriages were in the sewers and their characters more resembled Satan’s then Christ’s. This is the fruit of deception.
There can be terrible peer pressure among many who claim to be Spirit filled. Whenever something is labeled a work of the Spirit there is an unwritten taboo that forbids them from questioning its authenticity. Those who question what is going on are often considered people that do not know the workings of the Spirit or have not been in the “river.” This is a blatant lie. The Spirit will never work against the Word of God. If those in leadership are afraid to be scrutinized by the Word then they should leave the ministry or they may lead multitudes astray.
I have seen gross errors spread because people would not question whether or not their experience lined up with the Scriptures. Since they refused to allow anyone to question their experience, “outpouring” or teacher/preacher they became stubbornly unteachable. I have also seen crowds follow a teacher, give them enormous amounts of money and act in ridiculous ways, all because they refused to examine whether or not what was being taught and experienced was of the Word and the Spirit. This is the exaltation of experience over the Word and is nothing other than a Christianized version of existentialism and hedonism.
What takes place in many churches and meetings are culturally learned reactions to religious cultural influences. We can respond in particular ways because we have learned how to act under certain cultural conditions. Understand that I am not speaking against authentic moves of the Spirit which I have experienced and strive to correctly seek (abuses never nullify that which is authentic and Biblical). The issue at hand is whether or not we are governed by subjective experience or the infallible Word of God. Unfortunately, many believers who consider themselves people of the Spirit have become exceedingly gullible.
Much more could be said about the various errors of those who call themselves people of the Word and people of the Spirit, but let me conclude with the core issue of both: neither are being people of the Word or people of the Spirit.
If we love the Word then we will strive to be true to it in every dimension of its teaching. To love the Word means that we love what the Lord loves and hate what the Lord hates. We would then love the infilling and work of the Holy Spirit as the Scriptures clearly teach and seek to have all that the Spirit has for us. We would ache for the Spirit’s power and life to be pulsating through our very bones and in our churches. We would also hunger to have the gifts of the Spirit operating in our lives. On top of this, we would passionately seek to have all the fruit of the Spirit gracing our character so that we would look as Christlike as is humanly possible.
If we are really a people of the Spirit then we will want the Word of God to be the absolute authority over our lives. Then we will only embrace those things that the Scriptures tell us is truly from Him and reject everything that deviates from the Word because it is absolutely objectionable to the Spirit. To be Spirit lead we must be Word based in our thinking, acting and experiencing. It is only by the Word that we can know what pleases and displeases the Lord, what is holy and unholy, how to live in this present evil world, and what it means to be human. Remove the all-encompassing influence of the Word and we are left with a religious form of humanism where man and his desires are what define life and experience.
To avoid all extremes means that we must be a people of the Word and the Spirit. We cannot be a people of the Word and reject any dimension of the Holy Spirit. Nor can we be truly a people of the Spirit and not define the entirety our lives by the Word. To reject one or the other, in part or in all, we then become neither.
Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.