The Holy Spirit: This Is That
It is written,
“For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:”
I wish to talk to you about what I term “experiential Christianity” and why direct knowledge God is the best foundation for interpreting the scriptures. In today’s church many believe that doctrine can and should be derived exclusively from intense study of scripture. These same people argue that experience is a not a reliable basis for doctrine and even sometimes look down upon those who say God is thus and thus because of their experience. The analytics amongst us tend to dominate the discussion of theology through what would appear to be the reasonable wisdom of Greek lexicons, church fathers, and the consensus of fellow doctors of the law. However, it is my firm belief that doctrine, or what we believe about God, should come first from direct experience of our Lord and only then should we record and analyze what we have both seen and heard in light of the scriptures. We have all heard the saying, “experience is the best teacher” and I believe that actually experiencing God is the best and most direct way to know Him.
A ship has no need of a rudder if there is no wind in its sails. Likewise, there is no need of teaching without something to explain and teach about. In the scriptures quoted above we see the apostle Peter explaining the phenomenon that was currently taking place in light of the scriptures. Note; the order of events is first the experience and then the teaching. If we examine scripture we see that the majority of the time doctrine proceeds out of experience and not vice versa. The biblical pattern is: people experience God and then simply write down these experiences and that forms the basis of doctrine.
The other way that we arrive at doctrinal understanding is through direct revelation. In the epistle of 1 Peter we learn,
“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
2 Peter 1:21
Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible mostly through direct revelation with only a small portion personally experienced. Moreover, until the time of Moses and the Pentateuch direct revelation and personal experience was the only mode by which men knew about God. In fact, if you can receive it, the scriptures were only given because man had drifted so far away from God that they could no longer hear Him directly.
Only recently, with the rise of the belief that the Bible is complete, have people left off receiving direct revelation from God and become disdainful of personal experience as a lower means of knowing Him. With the belief that a complete revelation of God is now contained within the Bible there are those who assume that we only need to fit the pieces we have together to know God. In fact, some go so far as to say that personal experience with God is not even necessary or preferred because it allows emotion to get in the way of pure analytical reasoning.
The central problem with study of the scripture as the sole means of arriving at truth is that it necessarily employs the use of our natural minds to do so. In the book of Proverbs God states a fundamental truth,
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”
It matters how you approach the study of the word of God more than your personal ability to do it. If you study God’s word as you are led by the Holy Spirit then it brings life but if you study the word of God through your natural talents without His input it tends to promote legalism and death.
God’s commandment in the book of Genesis is,
“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
This is precisely why Jesus said we need to receive the Spirit of Truth,
“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:”
And later in the gospel of John Jesus elaborates even further,
“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.”
It is through the Spirit of God that we are led into all truth and not through our earthly analytical reasoning. Note Jesus says “all truth” and not just “some truth”. Therefore, we must have His Spirit to lead us into any truth.
It is through experience and direct revelation that we begin to know and understand God for what and who He truly is. Though our minds, when submitted to His spirit, are valid tools to pursue the knowledge of God we cannot rely solely upon intellect to arrive the correct interpretation of scripture.
In conclusion, let us return to the higher way of knowing God by opening our hearts and minds to direct revelation from Him. Let us also seek to experience Him directly instead of solely relying upon the revelations of others written many centuries ago. While we should honor and respect the revelation of yesterday we should earnestly desire to listen, hear, and obey our Fathers current word for today.