A gracEmail reader writes: “I ordered tapes from a religious event, in which someone said that the Holy Spirit works only through the Bible and does not actually live in the Christian. Would you discuss that sometime?”
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This eccentric notion was once common in Churches of Christ but has largely disappeared today, as the result of an ongoing biblical renewal and gospel revival currently underway in that nondenomination. The argument served several purposes, none of them biblically valid. It attempted to deflect testimonies of other Christians who claimed contemporary spiritual gifts. It furnished a defense against Reformation teaching concerning the necessity of spiritual regeneration. And it supported a rationalistic system of doctrine which denied whatever it could not predict, explain or control.
Jesus himself promised that the Holy Spirit would live in believers (John 7:38-39; see Gal. 3:2). Peter promised that those who repented and were baptized would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), which is the very Holy Spirit himself (Acts 5:32). Paul expected all Christians to possess the Spirit, and denied that anyone was a genuine child of God who did not have God’s Spirit (Rom. 8:9-11).
God’s Spirit and God’s word in Scripture never contradict each other, for God is pure light and truth. However, the theory which limits God’s Spirit to the pages of the Bible is actually idolatrous, for it seeks to put God’s power under human control. Its most radical advocates, who often preach a doctrinal “pattern” instead of Jesus Christ, would seem to fall under Paul’s description of some who “hold to a form of godliness although they have denied its power” (2 Tim. 3:5).
The hymn-writer Thomas O. Chisholm was correct when he wrote, “Be with me, Lord; I cannot live without Thee.” That prayer is not answered by a verse from a book, but by a Comforter from the Risen Christ. For much more on this topic, see my autobiographical book, The Sound of His Voice: Discovering the Secrets of God’s Guidance here.