In last week’s article I wrote about how God works through speech. He created the world through the Second Persons of the Trinity, the Word! Then he brought forth the fruit of His creation by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit brings forth the fruit of what the Word of God accomplishes.
This is how God works in salvation as well. The Word of God took on flesh and dwelt among us in order to accomplish salvation on our behalf. The Holy Spirit now brings forth the fruit of the work accomplished by the Lord Jesus. This is the same kind of operation we saw in creation, but now it is happening in the life of the Christian. The Word of God accomplishes it, and the Spirit brings about the Father’s desired effects.
St. John of Damascus said that the only legitimate analogy we can use of the Trinity is an act of speech, since this is one analogy the Bible itself uses to describe the relationship between the Father, Son and Spirit. The Father is the originator of speech, and the Son is the Word himself carried out by the Spiration, or the Spirit of God. Now, what is different about God’s speech from ours is that he speaks, and it “does not come back void.” This means that when God speaks universes leap into existence. When God’s Word acts, redemption is accomplished.
This is the way Scripture reveals how He operates. This is important to understand because what it means for Christian growth is that God alone can bring about the effect of our growth. This is because it was accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ, and is being applied to us by the Holy Spirit . Also, this is important because God still works through speech to move and change his people.
The way he still works in speaking to us is in the Holy Scripture. In Scripture we have a sacred deposit of truth, God’s acts, and especially the Gospel message itself. This is the foundational theology for everything that will come from the following articles. God speaks, and we respond in prayer for faith and repentance. This is God’s way of growing us.
So, from here on out we will turn our eye to the means (i.e. ways God has appointed) for us to grow. What I am advocating is called an ordinary means view of Christian growth. This is the old reformation way of describing a view of the worship and discipleship of the church based on God’s activity really happening through the Scriptures read, preached, and prayed. The word ordinary should not be confused with boring or uninteresting. Instead the opposite of ordinary would be unnatural, or abnormal. Who wants to seek God by some unnatural means? For example, If God never said, “get really crazy and worked up in worship and dance around like a maniac” why would we do that? It is abnormal, unnatural, and does not fit the verbal medium God uses to work in us.
This view can be summarized by the attitude of centering on the things God has appointed in His Word and leaving the consequences with Him. God made promises to create faith and repentance (and in general to work through) these means. If God has said, “I work in this way” why would we go anywhere else?
My hope for our church is that we would have such an attitude that says, “God works in this way, the Bible teaches it, and that is good enough for us.” The result of this ordinary means view of Christian discipleship is the incredibly freeing sense of not needing some crazy religious experience in order to be “spiritual.” Because, first off, how can you be more Spiritual than by the means the Holy Spirit works through? Second, the feeling of faith in the Lord Jesus, and a broken and contrite heart, are both overshadowed by other emotional experiences. I am not downgrading other emotions than faith and repentance, but simply saying that these more important ones may fade to the background if we are not careful to pay attention to God’s word.
In short, we have a talkative God. He acts through speech. But, most clearly, our faith is written down in the words of Scripture. The very fact that we have a verbal document as the deposit of the saving truth should spur us on to seek the Word of God for our Christian growth.
In order to do this, I am going to write three series of articles. The first one will be on the ordinary means of grace themselves. The second will be on confessing the faith and the need for right doctrine for the strengthening of your faith. The third will be on family worship and Bible studies as the main outlet for discipleship outside the worship service.