Coop's Column - Eager desire to trust and obey the Bible, Gods Spirit-inspired Word
In this series of meditations on the work of the Holy Spirit in believers lives, we are considering seven features about Christians which English Puritan Christians said are Spirit-prompted and Spirit-endowed and which ought to mark the lives of those who aim to follow Jesus faithfully.
In this series of meditations on the work of the Holy Spirit in believers’ lives, we are considering seven features about Christians which English Puritan Christians said are Spirit-prompted and Spirit-endowed and which ought to mark the lives of those who aim to follow Jesus faithfully.
Christians who display these qualities are LUI— Living Under the Influence of the Spirit. This week we consider the second of these marks: Eager desire to trust and obey the Bible, God’s Spirit-inspired Word.
When his disciples hear Jesus say: “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for so I am,” (John 13.13), they know themselves to be under instruction and authority—his instruction and his authority. As pupils of Jesus their ‘Teacher’, they are duty-bound to surrender their thinking to his; as servants of Jesus their ‘Lord’, they are called to give up what they want to do to and willingly do what he wants them to do.
Given that he allows them no independent thinking and no independent acting, when Jesus’s disciples hear his words, “The Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10.35), they know he is summoning them to believe what he is telling them about Scripture’s status and authority. Jesus himself was willing to submit to Scripture’s commands and to trust its promises without compromise. They too must be willing to do the same—nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else.
Toward the close of his earthly ministry Jesus promised his disciples “the Spirit of truth who will guide you into all truth.” (John 16.13) The Spirit, he said, “will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.” The Spirit’s continuing task down through the ages, claimed Jesus, is to make clear the aim and goal of Jesus’ entire ministry and mission: the meaning of his death and resurrection, of his ascension, of his sending forth his Spirit, of his return to judge, and of his eternal reign in glory.
Putting matters simply, “The Holy Spirit’s ministry as the teacher of converts [to Jesus] today,” said John Stott, “consists essentially in leading them to understand and apply the normative truths of Scripture.” For this reason, Jesus was eager to give full deference and honor to the Holy Spirit, and glad to acknowledge the Spirit’s vast and mighty work in his followers’ lives. For this reason, Jesus took pains to explain carefully how it is the Holy Spirit who both inspired Bible’s authors to write God’s Word, and who also makes clear its meaning to those who read it. No question about it: Jesus would have agreed completely with what St. Paul a few years later claimed: “All Scripture is God-breathed.” (II Timothy 3.16)
The task of obeying scripture
Why the need for Jesus’ followers, diligently and with the Spirit’s prompting and guidance, to study and meditate upon Scripture daily? For this singular and all-important reason: “…so that the [woman or man] of God may become ‘complete, equipped for every good work.” (II Timothy 3.16)
Nor is the task of obeying Scripture an act of mere intellectual assent to the Bible’s maxims and truths, a respectful nod of one’s mind toward what it says. To respond obediently requires more—so much more—than correct thinking. Mature believers stake their whole lives on Scripture’s claims. They cling to what it says for all they’re worth. For the Holy Spirit has convinces them that it is the Word of God alone which can keep them tethered to Jesus and safe amid (their) life’s shifting, often threatening circumstances.
I cite here but one saint, among a numberless multitude of others througout Christian history, who held God’s Word to his chest and refused to let go. Ponder the stirring testimony by German pastor Martin Niemoeller about what God’s Word meant to him during his trying days as a captive in a Nazi concentration camp: “The Bible: What did this book mean to me during the long and weary years of solitary confinement and then for the last four years at Dachau cell-building? The Word of God was simply everything to me—comfort and strength, guidance and hope, master of my days and companion of my nights, the bread which kept me from starvation, and the water of life which refreshed my soul….[Because God’s Word was with me] my solitary confinement ceased to be solitary.”
Knowing that God’s Word can bind them to him, faithful followers of Jesus, prompted by his Spirit, keep praying continually: “May the Word of God dwell richly in our hearts from hour to hour, so that all may see we triumph only through his power.”
Three Voices with Wise Counsel
“If you believe in the Scriptures what you like, and reject what you dislike, it is not the Scriptures you believe, but yourself.”
(St. Augustine, 354-430)
“Usually [humans] are swayed in different directions, or inclined at least to waver, just as they observe things changing in the world; but [God’s Spirit] brings under their notice a surer principle for the regulation of their conduct, when he recommends a deferential regard to God’s Word. It is of great consequence that we be established in the belief of God’s Word, and we are here directed to the unerring certainty which belongs to it. God acts consistently with himself, and can never swerve from what he has said. Every word which may have issued forth from God is to be received with implicit authority.”
(John Calvin, Commentary on Psalm 62.11-12)
“The Gospel is a non-negotiable revelation from God. We may certainly discuss its means and interpretation, so long as our purpose is to grasp it more firmly ourselves and commend it more acceptably to others. But we have no liberty to sit in judgment on it, or to tamper with its substance. For it is God’s gospel, not ours, and its truth is to be received, not criticized, declared, not discussed.”