Christian Life 

The Word is not enough

Much dissension and strife in the church of Jesus Christ emanates from the tendency to put an exclusive responsibilty on the Word of God to provide authoritative guidance on every issue of life.

by Watchman

of all the attacks upon it, the Bible is the utterly unique, inspired, eternal, comprehensive, complete and unchanging Word of God. It is God’s written revelation to mankind; and in purpose and in fact it stands from age to age in defining his character, will and purposes.

However, by the Bible’s own admission, it is incapable of controlling the affairs of the human heart (Romans chs. 7&8). And for all the standards that it sets from the lives of individuals, societies and nation it is incapable on its own of bringing correction and salvation. So Jesus needed to come.

Neither does the Bible legislate for every aspect of life. At the risk of appearing trivial, nowhere in the Bible does it tell us which side of the bed to sleep on or what colour of socks to wear. And on major decisions such as marriage, career and employment the Bible does not, nor did it ever set out to, set out this type of detail for our individual lives.

Reformation mistakes

Yet, in their commendable zeal to correct the deviant church of the day, this is the great mistake that the early 16/17th-century reformers made. And in those circumstances where, in their opinion, the Bible failed to adequately define everything to their satisfaction, they made up rules of their own. They did all this with the best of intentions but sometimes with disastrous consequences (see Footnote - Ed.).

And if any recent example of such difficulties is needed, we need look no further than the tangled knot which currently has the Free Church in a double bind on the subject of ‘worship’.

Philosophical debate

In terms of interpreting the Bible with regard to our behaviour, there are two opposing schools of thought. The Regulative Principle teaches that we should do nothing that is not specifically commanded while the Normative Principle allows us to do anything that is not expressly forbidden.
Having said that, forget this philosophical sophistry: the debate(s) will go on until Kingdom come.

What is abundantly clear and irrefutable is that the Bible does not set out to be, nor could ever be, the determinant of every single decision and action.

Broad brush and daily living

To use the analogy of a large organisation, the company board sets out the aims, policies, ethos, ethics and general practices to be employed within the organisation. However employees will rely upon, and be directed in their daily tasks by their immediate supervisors. (Of course these supervisors should never be found to be giving directions which are contrary to the general wishes of the Board. Neither will the Holy Spirit give any instruction which is contrary to the will of the Father or out of line with His Word.)

Where to for directions?

Jesus gave an answer to this question when prior to his departure said: “ But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7) and “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13).

We need to accept -
  • the finite understanding of the human mind (1 Cor. 13:12) and
  • the need to be led not just by the Word but by the Spirit (each with their different but complementary functions and dynamics)

The law (and legalism) brings death, but the Spirit brings freedom and life (Rom 8:2). This contrast is – sadly and often – all too painfully obvious.

“All Word and no Spirit we dry up.

"All Spirit and no Word we blow up.

"With the Spirit and the Word we grow up.”

Ed footnote:
It is hoped in the near future to look at some of the issues – perennial and contemporary – that stem directly from historical reformation creeds and practices.

Watchman, 10/01/2011

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Peter Carr 11/01/2011 15:23
Watchman said, "And on major decisions such as marriage...the Bible does not, nor did it ever set out to, set out this type of detail for our individual lives."

Really? How about 2 Cor 6:14?

"Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"

I am sure that this does not only cover marriage, but also other tied relationships like business partners etc!

Martin Lisemore 11/01/2011 16:26
Peter, you're right, it covers most anything where we are looking at joining in some way with someone else, or something else. But it is a general statement.

I was once married out, now married in. The difference is indescribable.

I think Watchman was referring to specific and detailed choices, and the passage is in general. Stay with our own kind.
Watchman (Guest) 11/01/2011 16:35
Responding to Vic:
The metaphor of the workplace said "(Of course these supervisors should never be found to be giving directions which are contrary to the general wishes of the Board.)"
I meant this to mean that the Holy Spirit will never give direction which is contrary to God the Father and His Word.
I will maybe ask Ed. if I can add that to the text.

Responding to Peter:
The verse you quote gives 'general' universal instruction. There is no way that it gives particular instruction regarding who (exactly) should be a business partner or wife.
Indeed in the final analysis it is not for us (we are not able) to judge with absolute certaintly whether someone is born again or not. So in these circumstances we must rely on the voice of Spirit in making partnership decisions.
Peter Carr 11/01/2011 17:33
"There is no way that it gives particular instruction regarding who (exactly) should be a business partner or wife."

It does give specific instruction with regards to not marrying a non Christian, which is a danger for far too many of God's people nowadays!

Watchman (Guest) 11/01/2011 17:49
Peter, I don't know if you are married or not, but if you are I doubt if you can quote the verse that showed you the particular wife that you are married to.

The instruction (the Word) is specific in general terms; it doesn't dictate who (the exact person) that one should marry; or where to build a house or church, or whether to build a house or church or what car to buy etc. etc. etc.

But I'm sure that you get the point I am trying to make... (smile).
Peter Carr 11/01/2011 18:01
Watchman said "...but if you are I doubt if you can quote the verse that showed you the particular wife that you are married to."

It so happens that I can, because not only did the Lord lead me to the wife of His choosing, but also the children that He wanted me to be the father of;

Ps 68: 6 "God sets the lonely in families"

He also led us to the house of His choosing through His word;

Ps 37: 5 - 6 "Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun."

Sorry, but the life of faith is not as black and white as is sometimes portrayed!
S Suddick (Guest) 11/01/2011 18:11
The very first paragraph of the article is surely in error. The 'word' frequently changes as new and updated versions come and go. Indeed the King James Bible is a much praised and much amended example of what I am getting at.
Watchman (Guest) 11/01/2011 19:57
The Word (capitalised) refers to the revelation of God in Scripture; the word(s) (lower case) are the vocabulary used in various translations. The words might change; the Word doesn't change.
Watchman (Guest) 12/01/2011 10:26
Peter, Sorry I replied to the last message. Regarding your posting, you are making precisely the same point as I am making. The verses you quote make no mention of your wife's name nor the street in which you live.

These are 'general' verses. Of course the Holy Spirit can often take a verse and apply it in whatever way He chooses, but ultimately it is the work of the Spirit and not the Word to give this sort of detail.

As you say the life of faith is not black and white in terms of guidance, which is why we need BOTH the Word and the Spirit working in unison and balance.
Martin Lisemore 25/01/2011 10:13
I received this from a Christian mailing list this morning. It more adequately explains the inner witness than I have.

15 And let the peace (soul harmony which comes) from Christ
rule (act as umpire continually) in your hearts [deciding and
settling with finality all questions that arise in your minds,
in that peaceful state] to which as [members of Christ's] one
body you were also called [to live]. And be thankful
(appreciative), [giving praise to God always].

God has revealed His will to us in many areas through His
written Word, the Bible. But there are many things the Bible
does not specifically tell us, such as what person to marry,
what job to do, or where to live. (While the Bible gives us
some principles, it does not tell us individually and
specifically what to do in these types of things.) But God has
made provision to guide us in these areas of life also.

The peace of God is the umpire to determine our direction.

Understanding the "peace of God" (which I also identify as the
"inner witness") can sometimes seem difficult. Inexperienced
believers can mistake feeling good or comfortable in their
flesh for the inner witness. But, just like everything in life,
we learn, even when we make a mistake.

While this may be open to misunderstanding and abuse, it's what
Scripture teaches. God desires a growing relationship with us,
and obviously is not too concerned about us never making a
mistake while we grow spiritually and learn by experience how
to better discern the "inner witness."

We are not talking about having "peace" in your flesh, but an
"inner" peace deep within your spirit. It is not fleeting, but
grows stronger the more we draw near to God by spending time
focused on Him and His Word.

Normally, with the inner witness, thoughts will just come to
you. But thoughts can come from sources other than God. We need
a way to judge which thoughts are from God and which ones are

There are two criteria by which we can determine whether a
thought is from God. The first is a knowledge of the written
Word of God, the Bible. God will never lead us contrary to His
written Word.

The second criteria is the inner witness.

15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their
conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their
thoughts accusing or else excusing them)

How can you determine the inner witness?

First, it is important to realize that it is not usually a
voice, but a witness. Some words to define it are intuition,
impression, idea, hunch, knowing, or peace.

The inner witness is something we learn to recognize better as
we grow in our relationship with the Lord. It is best to learn
on things that are not life-and-death issues. God is interested
in every detail of our lives and will help us in everything. He
will even lead us in things we would consider small things,
such as locating misplaced objects.

The inner witness (along with Scripture) is also how God
confirms the most important thing in this life: knowing we are
a child of God.

16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are
children of God,

To be sensitive to the Lord's leading, we must look to the Lord
and spend time focused on Him. Prayer, praise, giving thanks,
and acknowledging God in all our ways are part of it. The
better we know the Lord, both through His Word, and through
walking with Him, the easier it will be for us to discern the
inner witness of the Spirit, and know God's will for us.

We must walk in the light we have, and make our decisions
prayerfully and humbly, always being ready to change and admit
we were wrong.

God promises that if any of us lack wisdom, we can ask Him and
He will give it to us (James 1:5).

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