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Doctrinal Discussions:

Spirit & Truth

August 10, 2001

These studies examine the traditional doctrines held by the Church of Christ to see if they are actually taught in the scriptures. This is not an "anti-Church of Christ" site. I was reared in the Church of Christ and have been preaching since 1968 in the Church of Christ. My desire is that we walk righteously before God, not according to traditions of men.  Bernie Parsons

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Spirit & Truth

By Bernie Parsons - August 10, 2001

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. John 4:24 KJV

Hello, Family & Friends,

John 4:21-24 "Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."

Therein lies the problem for the Church of Christ. We aspire to be the true church of Christ in the Bible, yet we reject this basic truth out-of-hand because that it does not fit our "Church of Christ" tradition. We boast of having "all the truth", yet won't acknowledge that much of this truth is derived from Alexander Campbell, and others following his footsteps, who attempt to apply logic as a science to determine the "truths" of the Bible.

Many of my brethren deny the true history of the Church of Christ, for fear that we will have to defend not only our doctrines, but our roots. First, we need to understand and acknowledge that the Church of Christ split from the Disciples of Christ in 1906. The Disciples of Christ came out of the Stone-Campbell restoration efforts. Stone and Campbell drew much of their background from the Presbyterian and Baptist doctrine. The Presbyterian doctrines came chiefly from the Scottish reformation, while the Baptists drew largely from the Calvinist teachings. The Reformation was an attempt to bring the Catholic church out of its apostasy and back to the Bible. So what we have is a restoration of Presbyterian, Baptist, and Methodist churches to a pattern closer to the Bible. They abandoned their separate church identities in an attempt to unify as "Christians only", following the "Bible pattern" for the church. The Disciples of Christ, the Christian Church, and the Church of Christ are the fruits of their attempts.

Unfortunately, many of us in the churches of Christ have lost that impetus to unite all in a common, undenominational body of Jesus Christ. Instead, many of us have become denominational in our attitudes and doctrines. We are now the "Church of Christ" church, with our own set of creeds and doctrines, which we claim to take from the scriptures. Yet, some of that to which we cling is based upon Catholic doctrine, while much of what we believe came out of one or more Protestant beliefs of the "Reformation". Still other practices are rooted in the "Restoration Movement", often referred to as the Stone-Campbell Movement, in honor of Barton W. Stone and Alexander Campbell.

I would have us move again toward restoration of the church that is in the Bible. I think that we have become so enamored of Campbell's Lockean and Baconian philosophy, that it prevents us from abandoning things that are not actually commanded in the Bible, clouds our ability to spiritually discern more of the will of God in the scriptures, and has led us into this destructive cycle of using hermeneutics to "prove" our own pet theories while outright rejecting the conclusions of other Christians. One of the first moves we must make is to remove our prejudice against the Spirit of God, letting go our fears of being mistaken for those who follow Calvinism and its offspring.

Because of Calvinism, and Alexander Campbell's struggles against it, many of my brethren won't preach on the Holy Spirit. If asked about the Spirit, they become flustered, quickly mumble something about "indwelling", then hurriedly change the subject. I recently preached on the Holy Spirit (read the sermon here), to have one excited brother inquire later as to what I meant, to which I replied, "Didn't you listen to the sermon?" Another brother hastened to point out that we need to be careful not to be mistaken for holding "Pentecostal" or "Apostolic" beliefs.  I also referred this second brother to the context of the sermon. We are so afraid of sending the wrong signal that we back-pedal from the truth of God's word--and brothers, that is plain wrong!

Years ago, a preaching brother that I admired held absolute power over several local congregations (it wasn't until later that I understood the danger and ungodliness of that arrangement!) I thought that he was well-learned in the scriptures, and sought his understanding of the Holy Spirit. He spent several minutes explaining to me that the Holy Spirit was sent to establish the church, then returned to heaven. Now we have the Bible, he explained, and it is now the Spirit of God. If we learn the scripture, we have the Holy Spirit within us, he said.

As I researched descriptions of Alexander Campbell's beliefs, I found that he had fostered this belief among the churches of his day. My brethren in the Church of Christ are clinging to this Campbellite doctrine, despite the fact that the scriptures contradict that doctrine!

My Bible says that the word is the sword of the Spirit, not the Spirit itself.

Ephesians 6:17 "And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:"

My Bible also tells me that the Spirit was sent to stay.

John 14:16-17 "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."

Morever, Jesus was the Word of God made flesh:

John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God."

John 1:14 "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth."

After Jesus returned to heaven, God sent the Holy Ghost in the name of Jesus to bear witness to the truth that Jesus had brought down from His heavenly Father.

John 14:26 "But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."

John 15:26 "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:"

John 16:13-15 "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you."

Romans 8:16 "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:"

1 John 5:6 "This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth."

The above passages point out that the Holy Ghost was sent to reinforce what Jesus had taught and to reveal such truths as God would reveal to Him through Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word made flesh, the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of truth. Nowhere in this is it said that the Bible is the Holy Spirit!

The Holy Spirit was sent, not just to the Apostles as some assert, but to all believers. He was sent to teach and guide us, and to abide with us forever. That's what Jesus said. I believe Jesus.

Acts 5:32 "And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."

Acts 2:38-39 "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call."

Romans 5:5 "And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."

The Holy Ghost is given to the obedient. When we obey the gospel of Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit, which lives within us. His purpose for living in Christians is to comfort, teach, and guide us. This scares my brothers, who fear that everyone will begin to formulate his or her own doctrine and claim that the Holy Spirit told them it is the truth. These same fearful brothers will apply hermeneutics to scriptures and come up with their own doctrines, and call it the truth! It doesn't matter if we claim our false doctrines come by way of the Holy Spirit or whether we claim that they come by way of hermeneutics. It's a simple matter of Calvinism versus Campbellism. I see a danger in both these approaches, finding the situation startlingly close to what the Apostle Paul condemned.

1 Corinthians 1:20-24 "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God."

We could almost substitute for Paul's words the following: "For the Calvinists require a sign, and the Campbellites seek after wisdom:".

We neither have to accept nor reject every claim of "Holy Spirit" intervention and instruction. The Holy Spirit does not teach contrary to what Jesus taught, and by testing people's claims against the Word, we can know the truth, and that truth will make us free.

1 John 5:7 "For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one."

1 John 3:24-4:1 "And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us. Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."

Jesus said we must be born again of water and of the spirit, in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. If we don't have the Holy Spirit abiding within us, we do not belong to Christ. So, where does that leave those who reject the Holy Spirit? They are not even in the body of Christ, which is His church.

John 3:5-7 "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."

Romans 8:9 "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."

As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit helps us understand the will of God. This is not to say that we should not study the Bible--we should. But a study disconnected from the Holy Spirit fails to comprehend the true spiritual meaning of the scriptures, leaving us with a dry, "scientific" assessment of what the words are talking about.

1 Corinthians 2:12-14 "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned."

Matthew 16:15-17 "He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."

1 Corinthians 2:9-12 "But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God."

We need to study to understand the will of God so that we may serve Him acceptably, but we should not study so that we can endlessly argue. All this fractious and factious arguing leads to more ungodliness, not more godliness.

2 Timothy 2:14-16 "Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness."

It is the Spirit of God that makes us alive in Christ Jesus!

Romans 8:9-11"But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

Titus 3:4-7 "But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;  That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life."

It is the Spirit of God who unites all who are in the body of Christ.

2 Corinthians 13:14 "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen."

We must not quench the Holy Spirit of God Almighty that comforts, teaches, and guides us.

1 Thessalonians 5:19 "Quench not the Spirit."

The Lord's church must embrace the Holy Spirit of God, as the scriptures tell us to do, rather than rejecting it (Him) for fear that we will be mistaken for those who abuse the doctrines regarding the Spirit. We must abandon the philosophical devices of men and truly return to the Bible for our instruction, allowing God's Holy Spirit to guide us. We must be born again of water and of the spirit, and we must worship God in spirit and in truth.

God bless all!

Love, in Christ,


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