Have you ever gone without food for a period of time (other than fasting)? Maybe you were busy all day and had little time to eat. You kept yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water, but you didn’t eat. What began to happen to your body over that time? You became empty, weak, and irritated (i.e. “hangry”), even though you were well hydrated.
Have you ever gone without drinking water for a while? Maybe you ate a big meal or snacked throughout the day, but didn’t drink much. What happened? The longer you went without water/hydration, you became thirstier and more dehydrated – even though your stomach was full. Clearly, we were created by God to sustain life by both eating healthy foods and drinking plenty of water. They go hand in hand, and you cannot survive long with one and without the other.
It is my contention that we who are in the Church have been trying to live off of just bread or just water for too long. The Bible likens the Word of God to food/bread and sustenance (Psalm 119:50; Matthew 4:4), and the Holy Spirit to refreshing, flowing, life giving water (Isaiah 44:3; John 7:37-39). And yet, so often do we seek after one at the expense of the other. Because of this, the church is weak – and it is dying of either dehydration or hunger (or both!).
I was raised in a Pentecostal church, and it was a great one. Week after week, I received the faithful preaching of the Word of God, and I grew spiritually. However, we also sought after the Holy Spirit in our gatherings so that we might come to know God experientially and receive boldness to bear witness to the Gospel. The Spirit refreshed, filled, and energized us. We desired after both Word and Spirit – and the church grew and the people were spiritually healthy.
Sadly, this is not the norm in some parts of the Pentecostal/charismatic church today. There is much seeking after the Holy Spirit (or the experience of the Spirit, anyway), and very little faithful exposition of the Word of God. As a result, there are many who “feel” hydrated, but are actually empty inside, weak, and even irritated. They thrive on feeling but know little about God Himself. This is because there is little emphasis on the teaching of sound, biblical doctrine and a clear, systematic theology in their churches; and thus, the people have nothing to hold fast to when they are hit with the storms of life.
On the other hand, since coming into a greater love for the Gospel and the doctrines of grace, I am increasingly meeting those who place a huge emphasis on the Scriptures – teaching truth and defending it at all costs. This is a good thing! But unfortunately, many of those who tote “biblical truth” the loudest are practically devoid of the Holy Spirit and His power. They are often cold and unloving. As a result, their minds are “full,” but they are spiritually dry – insatiably thirsty for spiritual life.
Guys, we cannot have the Word at the expense of the Spirit, nor can we have the Spirit at the expense of the Word. They go together. I’ve said it before, but theology that is devoid of Spirit-power will always yield dead religion. However, Spirit-power that is devoid of theology yields chaos! What we need is a sound theology that works in conjunction with the Spirit’s power. We need faithful exposition of the Word of God along with a strong desire for the presence of the Spirit in our lives. Do you know what that will yield? It will yield revival.
In Acts 3 when Peter and John healed the lame man by the Beautiful Gate of the Temple, it was an act of great, Holy Spirit power. Because of this great miracle, the people “were filled with wonder and amazement” (v 10). Clearly the Spirit was at work!
But then, Peter responds by saying something like, “Why are you looking at us? This is the work of God” (v 12, 16)! He then proceeded to preach the Gospel, expounding from the Scriptures who Jesus is. As a result, over 5,000 people were saved that day. 5,000! And the book of Acts lists example after example of the Spirit’s power giving witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The Holy Spirit, His gifts and miracles serve as a sign that pointed to the Word. Again, Word and Spirit are inseparable.
I have been praying for a revival of both Word and Spirit in the people of my local church and community. I am praying for those who want Word but no Spirit, or who want Spirit but no Word. These cannot be separated! Just as we would never try to live only on food or only on water, so too should we stop trying to divide the Spirit from the Son. They work in perfect concert with each other, and when both are lifted up, history proves that the church will grow exponentially. However if we continue to separate the two, the church will continue to be weak, thirsty, and hungry.
Let me conclude by quoting the beloved Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (you can listen to over 1,600 of his sermons here). Lloyd-Jones perfectly understands our great need today, though he is long dead. Here’s what he said concerning the necessity of both the Word and the Spirit (you can read the full quote here):
“When they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost” [Acts 4:31]. What did that lead to? “They spake the word of God with boldness.” We must never separate these two: “the Holy Spirit,” “the word of God.” If we ever do, we shall go astray.
Some people put their emphasis only on the “word.” These are the intellectuals. “Ah,” they say, “nothing matters but the word.” They spend their time reading and studying, and they become authorities on theology. As a result, they may become proud of their own great knowledge, and they may get the admiration of others who join in with them, but this is nothing but a little mutual admiration society. Nobody is converted; nobody is convicted. Heads packed with knowledge and understanding only—useless! “Word only,” you see.
And there are people who put the whole of their emphasis on the Holy Spirit. They are not interested in the Word. They say, “It doesn’t matter what a person believes.” I heard of a man recently who shouted out in a great meeting, “Let yourselves go! Let yourselves go!” And they did let themselves go, I am told. But the New Testament has never told anybody to let himself go. Never! The Holy Spirit does not merely produce an experience; the Holy Spirit uses the Word. He is the Spirit of truth, the Spirit of enlightenment. He is the Spirit who leads to understanding…
The Spirit and the Word! “They spake the word of God.” I repeat, the Word and the Spirit must never be separated.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Courageous Christianity, 1st U.S. edition, Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 2001, p. 193.