Spirit and Scripture

When the Spirit leads, it follows the written Word

Apr 25, 2016 by

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More than halfway through the Easter season, we look forward to the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, observed May 15 this year.

Seeking the Holy Spirit’s guidance is a theme repeated often during times of church conflict, and rightly so. It is the Spirit of God that gives us love, peace, patience, kindness and gentleness in our relationships with each other.

The work of the Holy Spirit was the emphasis at the Illinois Mennonite Conference annual assembly April 8-9 in Morton, Ill. Conference leaders shared their understandings of how the Holy Spirit works in conjunction with Scripture, prayer and community.

Mennonite Church USA executive director Ervin Stutzman, the guest speaker, told a story from his family’s Amish-Mennonite background. Preachers did not look at the Bible when they preached, because they wanted to rely on the Holy Spirit to give them the words to say. Instead of minimizing Scripture, the tradition had the opposite effect: Preachers would spend the week studying the Bible so that the Holy Spirit would bring the words of Scripture to mind on Sunday morning.

The takeaway from Stutzman’s message was that when we immerse ourselves in Scripture, the Holy Spirit brings to mind things we already know. Therefore, we should spend time studying Scripture so the Spirit can help us understand it better.

“Studying” may sound too academic for some, but it can simply mean reading through a book of the Bible a few paragraphs at a time and listening for the Spirit of God to show us something more clearly.

Inviting one or two others to read with you and discussing your insights together can be helpful for seeing familiar words in a new light — and for being open to how others understand the text.

Do we start with the written Word God has preserved for us when we seek the Spirit’s guidance in making decisions — conflict-related or otherwise?

In our efforts to esteem the centrality of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit, do we de-emphasize the authority of Scripture?

Stutzman presented the idea of the Holy Spirit as an advocate of the way of Jesus to us. Yet God’s written Word is our starting point for knowing what the way of Jesus is. The Anabaptist tradition of imitating Jesus has its roots in careful attention to the Bible.

As we seek to remain faithful followers of Jesus through today’s challenges, we pray for the rain of the Holy Spirit’s guidance while we prepare our field with truth from God’s written Word.

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