"The Spirit is Not Involved in Freelance Missions"*

My last couple of posts have centered on how God talks to us today. You can click here for my article affirming the authoritative Word of God in Scripture. But we wonder, what about that urging we feel during prayer, that inner voice that some equate to be God speaking personally to them? How does the Holy Spirit communicate with us? I think two terms will be helpful: inspiration and illumination. We learn in 2 Tim. 3:16 that all Scripture is inspired by God, God breathed. The words of God are very different from our own. They aren’t just words. God’s Word creates its intended purpose. It is holy and powerful; sovereign and authoritative. Michael Horton’s words in his book, The Christian Faith, are more polished than my own, so I am happy to share them with you:
Jesus regarded the words of Scripture as his Father’s own Word (Mt 4:4, 7, 10; 5:17-20; 19:4-6; 26:31, 52-54; Lk 4:16-21; 16:17; 18:31-33; 22:37; 24:25-27, 45-47; Jn 10:35-38). Peter insisted that the prophets did not speak from themselves, but as they “were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2Pe 1:21), and in 3:15-16 refers to Paul’s letters as “Scriptures” (graphas). Similarly, Paul refers to Luke’s gospel as “Scripture” in 1Timothy 5:18 (cf. Lk 10:7). Paul calls Scripture “the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus,” and adds, “All Scripture is breathed out by God [theopneustos] and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2Ti 3:15-17). A doctrine of inspiration must take into account the “many times” and “many ways” that God has spoken in the past (Heb 1:1), which cannot be restricted to the prophetic model (“Thus says the Lord: `…’”). Nevertheless, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” As such, the Scriptures are not only a record of redemption but are themselves the primary means of grace, through which the Spirit applies redemption to sinners in the present (156).
God’s word does more than suggest. Horton describes it as “both the rod that parts the waters of death so that we may pass through safely and the scepter or staff by which he keeps us under his care until we reach the other side” (155). All persons of the holy Trinity are engaged in this speech act. Horton again:
Yet our Trinitarian coordinates are not set until we have included in our focus the perfecting agency of the Spirit. As the Spirit hovered over the waters in creation to prepare a place for the covenant partner, and “overshadow[ed]” Mary so that she would conceive the incarnate Son, the same Spirit breathed out these texts—and illumines hearers now to receive them as the Word of God. Largely because of our Greek heritage, we tend to identify the Spirit’s sphere of activity with that which is invisible, spiritual, and eternal. However, in the Bible, the Spirit is actively engaged in shaping matter and history according to the design of the Father in the Son…The locutionary act of speaking is the Father’s; the Son is the content or illocutionary act that is performed by speaking, and the Spirit works within creation to bring about the intended effect. For example, the Father gives the gospel, the Son is the gospel, and the Spirit creates faith in our hearts to receive it (157).
Anything that you or I say is not inspired, by its theological definition. “Revelation” is not the small voice inside of me. “Neither salvation nor revelation comes from within; they come to us from above” (166).  God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit interrupts our inward-centered thinking with his powerful Word through the ordinary means of preaching and the sacraments. “So inspiration is a characteristic of the biblical text, while illumination is the Spirit’s subsequent work of bringing us to an understanding and acceptance of its meaning. This is the doctrine usually referred to as ‘the inner testimony of the Spirit.’ The Spirit’s illumination is of two kinds, internal and external. The Spirit witnesses to the truth of Scripture and within us to win our consent…illumination affects us, not the Scriptures themselves” (167). James explains to us that if we are to be doers of the Word, we are to ask in faith for wisdom, not a new Word from God. His Word revealed in Scripture is all we need for godly living to please the Lord. Walking in the Spirit is synonymous with submitting to God’s Word. It is a full reliance on the sufficiency of Christ. The Spirit leads by revealing His gospel (illumination), thereby transforming (sanctifying) us to do the walking. In this walking, we are empowered by the Spirit on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work. So yes, we gain wisdom. I may feel prompted to encourage someone in a certain way, or ask for help, or recognize a new path that may be taken in my life. These are all spiritual results of wisdom discerned from God’s Word, led by His Spirit, based on the work of His Son. It is very humbling. A stranger reveals himself to us. We respond in awe of his grace. We submit to the authority of his Word revealed in Scripture. This Word has the power to change us into the image of his Son. My trust is not in something new I need to hear from him, but in what he has already given me.   *This title is quoted from Horton’s, The Christian Faith, p. 168.