I was once visiting a church and the pastor announced, “We’re not going to have a sermon today because we want to just hand the whole meeting over to the Holy Spirit and see his power”. This immediately felt wrong to me, and I started trying to think through why.
For one thing, if the preaching is from the Scriptures, then it is “Holy Spirit” truth. So it is not a choice between “Word” and “Spirit” but “Spirit” and “Spirit”.
But then I read Act 14:3, “So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands.” The miracles came, not instead of the preaching, but because of the preaching! So if you want to see signs and wonders, then preach a message that God will want to bear witness to, with a supernatural “Amen!”
So it looks like we have two operations of the Spirit: the Spirit of truth andthe Spirit of power. I wondered whether it would be possible to go through the Bible and divide the references to the Spirit into to those two categories. As I started on the project I found plenty of truth verses, such as:
- “However, when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth;” (John 16:13)
And power verses, such as
- “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;” (Acts 1:8)
But then a third category emerged. He is the Spirit of love
- “the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom 5:5)
I began to get excited when I found several verses that combined two of the three and some that combined all three, such as “For God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim 1:7) It seems I was onto something. (The complete list of references can be found at loveintruth.com)
I see an unfortunate tendency for churches to zero in on one, or maybe two, of these three aspects of the Spirit. Charismatic churches want to see the Spirit move in power. Reformed churches love the way the Spirit leads us into truth. New churches are emerging whose main focus is strong relationship.
But what does the Spirit think of this? Does he want us to take one aspect of his ministry to the exclusion of the others? How would a girl react if a man said to her, “I like your beauty, but I’m really not interested in your mind!”
So what does it mean for churches that want to see more of God’s power? Instead of cancelling the sermon, I suggest we need to ask the Spirit to lead us into such an excellent understanding of truth that the Lord will bear witness to it in power, as in Act 14. And then we need to be radical in our love: “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22)
But I don’t want to be part of a church that merely balances these three. I want us to be extreme in our love, excelling in truth and walking daily in the mighty power of God.
Dr. Andrew Fountain lives Toronto, Canada. He is presently serving a new church-plant located in Newlife Church, Toronto. He has said that he derives much joy is in his kingdom work, teaching, preaching and pastoring. Some of the things he has written can be found on loveintruth.com, his theology and teaching website.