On Sunday mornings at ACC, we are working through the epistle of 1 Corinthians, a book that speaks frequently about the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians, we are told that the Spirit demonstrates power when the message of the cross is proclaimed (2:4); that he “reveals the deep things of God” to believers (2:10); that he dwells in the midst of Christian communities (3:16); that he is involved in cleansing us from sin (6:11); that he inhabits a believer’s body as if in his own temple; that he gives gifts such as healing, tongues, and prophecy to individual Christians for the benefit of the church (12:7-11); and, that he convicts unbelievers of sin in a way that opens their minds to the reality of God (14:24-25). None of these passages is easy to understand, but they are impossible to understand if we do not allow for the existence of the supernatural. The Bible describes God as present and active in the affairs of this world. He is not aloof or disinterested. He is not distant and uninvolved. He is never bound by so-called “laws of nature.” God is free to work among us in unexpected and inexplicable ways and does so frequently through his Spirit.
The Corinthian Christians, it seems, misunderstood the Spirit’s desire for their lives and used his gifts to exalt themselves rather than to edify the church. This misunderstanding resulted in chaos and confusion, which 1 Corinthians was written to address.
In his book Joy Unspeakable, Martin Lloyd-Jones pointed out that most evangelical churches of his day did not really need the book of 1 Corinthians. They were so closed to the reality of the Spirit that the cautions against spiritual excess in that epistle were unnecessary for them to hear. In other words, Lloyd-Jones said, despite their orthodox theology, many evangelicals are functional deists. They live and pray as if God is not supernaturally at work in the world.
A study of 1 Corinthians can free us from this problem and open our hearts again to work of the Spirit. Rather than frightening us, the thought of the Spirit working should thrill us. Presbyterian theologian B.B. Warfield wrote, “The religion of the Bible is a frankly supernatural religion.” The Bible assumes that God is at work in ways we cannot see, doing things we cannot explain. And, since he is a God who loved us enough to save us through his Son, the work of God’s Spirit is something we should anticipate with joy.