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[Mark DeHoog] Authority of Scripture?

Posted by Lex Fear on October 6, 2006

We seem to reach a catch-22, to interpret the Holy Spirit, we must rely on Word to confirm it, at the same time, we need the Holy Spirit to interpret the Word!

I’ve been joining in the comments debate over on Mark DeHoogs‘ blog.

The question, or statement, is: Do our limited, cultural or arrogant interpretations of the word shame Christ and skew the message?

I proposed that if we are all believers and have the Holy Spirit, we should all be able to read scripture and gain a consensus. To expand on my proposition, I believe that the Holy Spirit does interpret scripture for us, however we allow our limited, cultural interpretation to override the Spirit.

Markimus then replied to this:

“I think that is a good foundation… My question would be how do distinguish between our own ideologies and HS?”

It’s a challenging question, and I thought I would blog my answer in this case as it requires some detailed exegesis.

Of course what I am about to go into, is going to be limited by my own understanding. So I’m issuing a disclaimer: I am not a bible student, and I am not trained in theology, Greek or Hebrew languages. So I’m going to be relying on the Holy Spirit and Acts 4:13 to back me up.

First off, I think it’s important to lay down foundations for the authority of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not merely a force, or a symbol, he (for the sake of argument I will refer as a male) is a dimension of the person of God (just as a husband can also be a father) with all the characteristics and actions of a person: Grieves, Physically Moves Us, Reveals, Joy, Teaches , Gives Birth, Hidden, Counselor, Speaks, A Witness, Speaks, Reasons, Warning, Intercedes, Friendship, Takes Offended, Prohecies

The Holy Spirit is the spiritual manifestation of God, who resides exclusively within believers (however it is possible to be a believer and not have experience the fullness of the Holy Spirit): Spirit of God, Spirit of the Holy Gods, Speaking by the Holy Spirit, Speaking Though Us, Mouthpiece, Obedient, Given, received, Temple, Seal of Ownership, Lives in Us, Living in Him and He in Us

Finally the Holy Spirit has authority from God to speak, teach, instruct and lead believers. He comes in power and truth. His authority and presence should not be taken for granted or treated lightly, and all should be respected at all times. He takes authority over the decisions of believers and of their interpretation of the word. He is also active in managing and building the church: Skill, Ability and Knowledge, Power, Plans, Presence, Wisdom and Understanding, Justice, Unforgiven, Timing, Reminds, Unseen, Instructor, Sends, Urgency, Blocks, Anoints, Belonging to Christ, Conscience, Signs and Miracles, Hope, Jesus is Lord, Giver, Revealer, Deep Conviction, Deposit, Signs and Wonders, Heaven Sent, Prophecy, Testifies

Based on these assertions, we can determine that there is one Holy Spirit (no duplicity or double-standards), he comes from God and has Gods authority over believers, he is present amongst, and is the one common denominator of, all believers. With that in mind, we can trust that those who have the Holy Spirit, will be thinking along the same lines.

But what about when it comes to interpreting scripture? The Bible clearly states that scripture was written under the influence of the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21, John 6:63), so it would stand to reason that being the author of the scriptures He would be able to give clarity.

However, we also know that it is possible to reject the Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:8), to be stubborn. We know also that it is possible to be a believer and not yet have be filled with, manifest gifts of, or have received the revelation of, the Spirit (Acts 19:2). Therefore it is also reasonable to assume that people Christians can read and misinterpret scripture without the Holy Spirit for guidance. Therefore who is to say that I am not incorrectly interpreting the verses that I have so generously applied to this topic? (EDITS MADE: 07/10/06 – SEE COMMENTS)

We seem to reach a catch-22, to interpret the Holy Spirit, we must rely on scripture to confirm it, at the same time, we need the Holy Spirit to interpret the Word!

This is where I think we should stop looking at the Word and the Spirit as 2 mutually exclusive authorities. I believe that the Holy Spirit and the Word are reciprocative, or mutually inclusive. Imagine I decided to sail across the channel- the traditional way. I would need a boat with sails, and I would need the wind. If all I had was a sails but no wind, I would simply drift in the water, but if I relied solely on the wind taking me there and no sails, I would be spun around and tossed by the waves but not be able to control my direction.

Therefore in this metaphor- the sails are the scriptures, and the wind is the Spirit. If we concentrate solely on the Spirit, we will be blown in many directions and led by many things that may not be of the Spirit (the crashing waves), however relying solely on scripture means that we will really miss out on the meaning, the journey and the purpose of the scripture. The bible puts this simply in it’s own analogy:

“…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” – Ephesians 6:17

This now only leaves us to establish when we might be rejecting interpretation by the Holy Spirit (imposing our own cultural interpretation) and reading the scriptures out of context.

Admittedly this is harder to establish, since it relies on how honest you are with yourself, how open you are to learn and the strength of your relationship with the Holy Spirit. But there are examples in the bible which show it is possible to have a consensus amongst believers. There are many points in Acts (Acts 1:14, Acts 2:1, Acts 5:12, Philippians 2:2) where it describes the early believers as being in ‘accord’ with each other.

Were the early church always in ‘accord’? If that was the case, half the New Testament wouldn’t have been written! It seems that although the Holy Spirit was among the believers, their culture and limited understanding was always getting in the way- leaving the early church open to sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin!

In conclusion, it seems that misinterpretation of the Word will always be a problem due to cultural ignorance or lack of education. God has given us his Holy Spirit and where we choose to ignore the Holy Spirit we risk believing and spreading a fallacy.

However, I believe it is essential that we seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit. With all cultural misinterpretations aside, the answer to the interpretation problem lies in Pauls’ letter to the Corinthians.

In short, through the Holy Spirit, it is possible to understand the deeper meanings in the scriptures:

“We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this a
ge, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
“No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him” but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:
“For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 2:6-16

On an additional note: There are also a basic set of common beliefs that all believers adhere to. The Apostles Creed is an excellent example of this, I always feel stirred by the Holy Spirit as I read the words:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
Amen.
Source: Wikipedia

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9 Responses to “[Mark DeHoog] Authority of Scripture?”

  1. You mention that it is possible to be a Christian w/o the Holy Spirit??!! What the heck? How is that even possible? And if it was possible…how could you go on and later say this: “Based on these assertions, we can determine that there is one Holy Spirit (no duplicity or double-standards), he comes from God and has Gods authority over believers, he is present amongst, and is the one common denominator of, all believers. With that in mind, we can trust that those who have the Holy Spirit, will be thinking along the same lines.”

    That aside – great post…looks like you really spent some good time working that out. I believe that is one of Mark’s big objectives….to engage people to think.

  2. Alex Fear said

    JP, Thanks for stopping by,

    I know I’m going out on a limb here but Acts 19:2 says,

    “…and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” They answered, “No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.”

    I may be missing some symbology but it seems quit clear they had made the decision to believe (in Jesus/the gospel) making them believers?

    Therefore, to me, it is possible not to have received the Holy Spirit. However on reflection this could refer to a filling of the Holy Spirit (tongues etc…), rather than the ‘being with’ upon accepting the gospel. So perhaps I should have revised that line somewhat. My Zondervan only refers to the fact they had had John’s baptism- call to repentance(?)- that requires more study than I have time.

    I believe the other stuff makes sense- 1 Holy Spirit that doesn’t tell one person one thing and another something else.

    Interesting question is, does that mean that these men were not believers? Does accepting the gospel story and all that mean nothing until you have had the baptism of the spirit? What about those who grow up in the Church and gradually build a relationship with God (no specific point of transfer)?

    I think I should have made clearer the difference between the Holy Spirit being with us and the Holy Spirit filling us… Any consensus?

  3. Alex – Glad to have stopped by.

    I’ll ask only one question in response to your questions; Does one have to know who/what the HS is in order to have received the Spirit?

  4. Alex Fear said

    I think the obvious answer to that is no.

    But then I also believe there is a difference between being with the Holy Spirit- Him dwelling in us, and being filled with the Holy Spirit- when His gifts and power become manifest.

    So then the question becomes -Do you need to be filled with the Holy Spirit to correctly interpret scripture.. and in a round-about way I’ve already given my answer- it’s a yes.

    Unless you can bring a scriptural context I have missed?

  5. josh said

    Great post Alex.

    Unfortunately I’m short on time right now, but I would love to further discuss some of these points and thoughts about the Holy Spirit. It is always a topic of interest for me having come from a “charismatic”, “pentecostal” upbringing myself, but now being in somewhat different surroundings.

    Hopefully I’ll have some time to come back soon and elaborate. I’m curious about your church background as well. I greatly enjoyed reading. Cheers.

  6. Markimus said

    Alex

    This is a very exhaustive topic and I am glad you have taken the time to articulate… I think your advocating the authority of Scripture and HS as one and the same is refreshing … we have polarized them for too long. How do we begin to do this? I think the starter for this is discovering how community comes into the transmission and keeping of the accuracy of the truth.

  7. Alex Fear said

    Josh- look forward to your views!

    JP- I have made some edits on the post to reflect our discussion!

    Markimus- Honoured to have you comment here, I think you are onto something. We have to appreciate that the scriptures are one of the few 100s of documents of the ancient world that are still kept in their original form and integrity. That in itself is a feat of the Holy Spirit working amongst people!

  8. Alex – I did see that! 🙂

    I’m feeling the consensus….

    Mark – great point about the polarity of authority when it is, indeed, one in the same. Great clarity of thought there.

  9. Daniel said

    I have to say, that I could not agree with you in 100% regarding Too Long To Comment// Authority of Scripture?, but it’s just my opinion, which could be wrong 🙂

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