The Spirit and the Word are inseparable. They, together, are the means by which God created and sustains the world in Genesis. By His word God calls forth all of creation. By the Spirit He works chaos into cosmos. God has called the world into being with the breath of His mouth (ruach) and has made everything by his word (Ps. 33:6).
At times in the OT “spirit” and “word” are even interchangeable. Ancient Jews found it difficult to draw too sharp of a contrast between them. This is because they understood the creative and providential potential of both.
Ancient people believed they could create reality through the spoken word. The spoken word “is regarded as the medium of owners which effectively influence events.”
And even today, though we hardly believe it, human words have the ability to create worlds. By gossip or negativity a world of despair may be created around a person. By love and grace a world of godliness may flourish around someone else.
If we are to have a renewed understanding of the Spirit in the church today, we need to also regain a new understanding of the power of words. With our words, we need to create a world where the Spirit and spiritual things may thrive and prosper. Clearly we do not take the freedom from God to choose to act on His own, but we can still work to create an environment that is ready when God does choose to act. This is done through a connection of Spirit and word.
Notice how so many of our spiritual charisms (gifts) essentially involve words: Tongues is itself a verbal gift, teaching and prophesy are gifts most often employed through spoken word, discernment involves distinguishing whether a spoken word came from God or not, and what would encouragement be if it did not involve a word of hope? And the list could go on.
In a world where everything has already been said, and much of our rhetoric is merely adding to the noise, we need to recover a sense of connection between the Spirit and words. If we fail to do this, “our words may well make a good deal of sense, but they will be devoid of power; it may be that they will explain something, but they will move nobody. They will be ineffectual, idle, fruitless.”
We live in a world where words are considered either hurtful or meaningless. People do not trust the words of lying politicians, the words of cheating pastors, nor the words of even their own family members (“I love you.” doesn’t even mean anything anymore because it’s been so overused and commercialized!).
The church, to them, is just another political entity vying for power, a power to hurt other people. This is how the world sees the church – and we’ve given them no other model! But “if we really want the Spirit to place words on our lips, we need to live constantly in an attitude of death to our own glory, seeking only the glory of God.” We need to stop our self-seeking and squelch our power-hunger. We need to humbly live in the Spirit and employ the words of humility and love.
A fresh recovery of the Spirit goes hand in hand with a recovery of our ecclesial rhetoric. From the individual struggling with gossip, to the larger community struggling with our political rhetoric, from the Pentecostal emphasizing the Spirit to the Protestants emphasizing the Word, we cannot forget that these are inseparable. The Spirit and the word, together, create and sustain worlds. As long as we ignore the value of both in the contemporary church we will continue to reap the harvest of spiritless meaninglessness.