Sunday, 1 February 2009

Word and Spirit

As someone strongly committed to helping build a Word AND Spirit church I found this quote from R. Kent Hughes in 'Worship By The Book' instructive and encouraging...

Word and Spirit cannot be separated. In a 1995 article in honour of the British preacher R.C. Lucas, Australian Old Testament scholar and pastor John Woodhouse makes a compelling argument for biblical exposition based on the inseparableness of the word of God and the Spirit of God. He notes that the Hebrew ruah and the Greek pneuma can mean “wind” and “breath” as well as “spirit” and that in many biblical texts “the Spirit of God” can be well translated as “the breath of God.” Thus, “in biblical thought the Spirit of God is as closely connected to the word of God as breath is connected to speech.”

Woodhouse shows the connection of Word and Spirit begins in the opening of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit (ruah; read breath) of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Gen 1:1-3, italics added). Furthermore the dynamic connection between ruah (Spirit) and speech (“God said”) is often missed. But the psalmist made the connection:

By the word of the Lord were the heavens made,
Their starry host by the breath [ruah] of his mouth
(Ps 33:6, italics added)

Again, Spirit and Word are as closely connected as breath and speech.

This inseparable connection between Word and Spirit flows right on into the New Testament. Jesus says: “For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit” (John 3:34, italics added). And again Jesus says, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life”(John 6:63, italics added). Indeed, there are many statements in the New Testament in which “Spirit” and “Word” are virtually interchangeable (e.g., James 1:18; cf. 1 Pet 1:23).

Thus, it follows that we have any desire for the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our corporate worship services, those services must be radically Word-centred.

This means that our corporate worship must be Word-centred from beginning to end. We do not meet for “worship and the Word.” It is all a ministry of the Word. This means that the preaching must be wholly biblical - in a word, expositional.

But installing exposition as the main event is not enough. God’s Word must infuse everything. The careful reading of the word must be central. Hymns and songs must be Word-saturated. Prayers must be biblically informed, redolent with biblical reality—often reflecting the very language and structure of scripture.

R. Kent Hughes: Worship By The Book (p.157-159) (ed. D.A. Carson)

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