We believe that the Holy Spirit teaches us about God, helps us to understand His Scriptures, leads us into an intimate relationship with the Father, fills us with the power to turn from sin and do things that please God, guides us in our everyday lives, helps us pray, empowers us to stand firm, and equips us with His gifts for the encouragement, edification and comfort of His church.
The Holy Spirit and Scripture are deeply intertwined and any attempt to diminish one at the expense of the other fails to properly utilize and appreciate what Jesus paid for us to have. If we are to be in relationship with the Holy Spirit and to know what the Holy Spirit is speaking and how He is moving, we must be students of the Holy Spirit's Scriptures. If we say we believe and obey the teachings of Scripture, then that must include the practices of the Holy Spirit as modeled in Scripture.
When seeking to partner with the Holy Spirit, we keep the following in mind:
- The Holy Spirit used man to write the Scriptures and is therefore the true author of the Bible. Without Him the Scriptures would not exist (II Peter 1:21). The Holy Spirit enables us to understand the Scriptures (I Corinthians 2:13). The Holy Spirit provides the power to apply the Scriptures to our lives (Philippians 2:13).
- As a permanent record of God's key interactions with humanity over thousands of years, the Scriptures keep us grounded and provide the measuring stick in which to measure anything we feel the Holy Spirit is speaking to us via other channels. The Holy Spirit would never speak contrary to what He has already communicated in Scripture. God doesn't change. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
- The word teaches us how to partner with the Holy Spirit and make use of His gifts in healthy, orderly and appropriate ways. The gifts function under the authority of Scripture.
- The Scriptures are the Sword of the Spirit. With the Holy Spirit's help, the Scriptures serve as a powerful weapon against Satan.
When we say we are Word & Spirit, we mean that we are "New" Reformed in our theology and charismatic regarding the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
- Word: We are committed to the absolute authority, sufficiency, and accuracy of Scripture. We approach the Scriptures with humility understanding that our pride and brokenness renders us inherently dull with respect to perceiving truth. We trust that the Holy Spirit can and will lead us into a healthy understanding of what He has intended to reveal through Scripture.
- Spirit: We are committed to experiencing (and not merely believing in) the presence and power of the Holy Spirit today, eagerly desiring spiritual gifts and especially prophecy, taking the book of Acts as a vision of what church life can be rather than a record of what it once was, and pursuing the regular in-filling of the Holy Spirit.
We believe God has given us the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to help us navigate relationship with Him. An integrated Word & Spirit approach helps us find a healthy balance between the knowledge of God and the power of relational encounter with God.
- A Word-heavy approach to relationship with God can lead us into shame-based religion (head knowledge and performance-based rule following as a means to cover our shame without the power to see change happen in a person's core).
- A Spirit/experience-heavy approach can lead us into spiritual malpractice (may provide power for some core change but without Scripture as a guide it can easily be misdirected or completely co-opted by the enemy, ultimately leading people away from God and causing great damage to people in the process).
God hasn't called us to do what is easy, comfortable and predictable. He's called us to be biblical. We seek to live, serve and minister from a commitment to both doctrine and experience, both head and heart, both theological accuracy and affections that are on fire for God, both freedom and order.
While we do not claim to have cornered the market on truth, we do believe that we can understand Scripture with a high level of certainty with the Holy Spirit's help. This is especially true with respect to the essentials of the Christian faith.
How then are we to approach Scripture interpretation and application?
Context - Context is very important to properly interpreting the Scriptures. Properly handling context protects us from isolating a passage in order to justify an agenda not otherwise supported by Scripture (proof-texting).
- We interpret passages in light of their immediate context.
- We look to what Scripture says on a specific topic across all pertaining passages in order to form interpretation that is consistent with the whole of Scripture.
- We interpret the Old Testament through the lens of Jesus Christ.
- We interpret the New Testament in the context of the Old Testament.
- We interpret the Scriptures with the help of the historic church.
Original Intent - We aim to first understand what the author was attempting to communicate to his original intended audience. Then we work to understand how that translates into our context. We take care not to read into the text what we want to see and try to identify our assumptions and presuppositions so that we may see the text clearly.
Literary Style - We keep the type of literature in mind as we interpret. For example, we should approach legal texts differently than poetry. Knowing what kind of passage we are dealing with often helps our interpretation of it. (i.e. Are we to take this passage figuratively or literally?)
Essentials vs Secondary Matters - we believe the essentials of faith are clearly articulated in the Scriptures. Some secondary matters, however, are open to debate. We approach the Scriptures and dialogue regarding secondary matters with humility. We do not entertain interpretations on secondary matters that cause issue for essential doctrines such as the Trinity, Christ, the resurrection, the atonement, or justification by faith.