The Spirit-Word Connection

The Word of God and the Spirit of God are important concepts in the scriptures. The ardent Christian seeks to be faithful to both. We seek to obey the word of God and be led by the Spirit (whatever that means.) Now both these pursuits are very noble but there is a problem. Christians want to balance the regularity of following the Bible and the spontaneity of being Spirit led. However, this seems to assume there is some kind of tension or dichotomy between the two. Charismatics can’t be evangelical and evangelicals can’t be charismatic or so it seems. I think this is a false distinction. I believe in literally one breath we can speak of both the word and the spirit.

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. – John 6:63 ESV

Words are spirit because they are literally breathed out. In a former post I showed the connection between wind, spirit and breath in both biblical Hebrew and Greek. Words have a spiritual quality in the Bible. I believe Jesus was not inventing new truths concerning the word of God but he was drawing on already established concepts found in the scriptures.

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath (Hebrew ruach) of his mouth all their host – Psalm 33:6 ESV

This particular verse directly compares the word of the Lord to the spirit of the Lord. (The Hebrew word translated breath can also be rendered as spirit.) Here in fact the word and the spirit are not distinguished but are described as different aspects of one creative phenomenon. We do not need to conceptually separate the word from the spirit. Jesus made the observation when comparing the spirit to the wind that we do not see which way the wind blows but we hear its sound. By extension you could say the Word is the sound of the Spirit. Any time you speak you breathe out. The word is literally the sound of your breath, your ruach. It is the same with God. The word and the spirit describe one and the same God. The same Gospel that called the word God and a few chapters later called God spirit. There is no reason to think of them as separate entities. They are both complementary perspectives.

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word – Acts 10:44 ESV

It is impossible to receive the Word of God without receiving the Spirit of God. This truth is deeply embedded in the scriptures (Ephesians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:12.) The Word of God is found in the Spirit. To be led by the Spirit does not mean to act weirdly or be caught up in spiritual ecstasy. A person who does speak in tongues can be equally Spirit led as the one who doesn’t. Being led means to follow the voice of the Spirit, the Word of God.

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