One of the puzzling aspects of spiritual life is how the Holy Spirit and the word of God work together to transform us. As a person who regularly reads, studies, and meditates on Scripture – as well as one who seeks the leading, guiding, and filling of the Holy Spirit – the dynamic interplay between Spirit and word is important to me. It matters personally, not just theologically or theoretically. I want the word of God and the Holy Spirit to be transformative forces in my life.
A recent book has really helped me understand these issues more clearly. Dr. Timothy Wiarda retired from Gateway Seminary a few years ago but then joined the faculty at Seminarie Baptiste de Formation Pastorale et Missionnaire in Cote d’Ivoire. He has continued to teach and write, both from the depth of his insight as a New Testament scholar and from his perspective as a person regularly involved in hands-on ministry.
Dr. Wiarda’s new book is How the Spirit and Word Work Together. It is a relatively short book which distills insights from a previously published (and much longer) academic tome into a pastoral guide on the subject described in the title. He begins each chapter by describing a pastoral conversation which could be heard in almost any church anywhere in the world and then writes about how a proper understanding of Spirit and word speaks to the matters he raises. He specifically addresses Spirit and word in areas like worship, apologetics, and assurance of salvation (among many others).
The depth and precision of the biblical insights in this book are riveting. The balanced perspective is refreshing. And, the practical application of the materials to real-life questions and situations in pastoral ministry are genuine. There is too much emphasis in the American church on tricks and techniques, selling points, and celebrities. We are enthralled with the latest leadership insight and preoccupied with chasing the latest trend. We need the dose of spiritual reality – and vitality – this book provides.
We need to reimagine how the Holy Spirit and the word of God work mysteriously to produce spiritual transformation. We need to simplify our strategies to magnify these two great resources – while acknowledging the complicated inexplicability of exactly how they work together to produce spiritual results. We need a holy expectation, coupled with spiritual discipline, to make word and Spirit watchwords of ministry preparation and execution.
Pick up this little book and let it renew your mind and refresh your spirit as the word of God and Holy Spirit do transformative work within you.