A couple of months ago, I shared a brief critique on church planting movements while advocating a “word-driven movemental Christianity“. Because of our church’s new church planting initiative, I have been living in the book of Acts quite a bit, which has been rather rewarding. The “word-driven” post speaks to the nature of the Word of God in church planting, but I want to go a different angle and consider the relationship of the Word of God and Spirit of God in the early church.
The emphasis on the relationship of Word and Spirit was really brought out during the Reformation, especially in the writings of John Calvin and later in the Puritans. The agency of the Spirit and the instrumentality of the Word are, in my mind, key to understanding how God worked among His people then and now. The paradigm of Word and Spirit together helps to prevent theological error and recognize the source (or foundation) of our work. I hope to elaborate this paradigm more in the future, but for the time being, allow me to list seven places in the book of Acts where the Word and Spirit paradigm can be seen.
Word and Spirit in the Early Church
In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
Jesus, through the Holy Spirit gave the commands to his apostles. The commands (word) were communicated in the power of the Holy Spirit (spirit). The Word and Spirit paradigm was first seen in Jesus and then emulated by the apostles.
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
Peter declared the gospel (word) to the rulers and elders having been “filled with the Holy Spirit” (spirit). Proclamation of the gospel, as seen in the post-Pentecost Peter, is done in the controlling influence of the Spirit of God.