How can seminaries produce student-ministers who are dependent upon the Holy Spirit? Is the preaching of the Word of God really the Word of God? Is the Holy Spirit’s only agenda simply to carry out the ministry of Christ? We asked Art Azurdia…
Listen to Sermon (John 14:16-17):
Is the Holy Spirit’s only agenda to carry out the ministry of Christ?
Part of the reason I emphasize this as strongly as I do is that there are so many unhealthy perceptions with regard to what the Holy Spirit does. Theologically speaking, I would say no, the Holy Spirit’s ministry cannot be confined to pointing out Christ to us. There are many things that the Holy Spirit does: conviction of sin, regeneration, affecting the work of sanctification, and of course, involvement in the work of creation. So the Holy Spirit is responsible for many things in our life, spiritually speaking, but as we talk about His revelatory ministry – what will be the uniqueness of His ministry in the New Covenant and the way He will come upon the people of God – that revelatory ministry will be of Christ. This is what we see in John 14-17. Therefore, when we see a ministry or an emphasis in ministry in the name of the Holy Spirit that is altogether detached from Christ or distinct from Christ and who He is, at the very least it ought to give us pause, or even arouse some concern.
How can seminaries avoid producing students who are word and reason-centered, but know nothing of the Spirit-dependant application of the Bible?
I think that professors – and I am one of them – need to make our dependence on the Holy Spirit something displayed to the students, and in more ways than just asking for the Spirit’s help when we pray at the beginning of class. We have to show our students while we’re doing our work, while we’re doing our exegesis, while we’re doing theology, what it means to be altogether dependent upon the Holy Spirit, and that Bible study is not just a cerebral or intellectual exercise. Therefore, I think we’ve got to consistently talk about our dependence on the Spirit for illumination and His empowerment when we are in situations of communicating the Word of God, recognizing that the transforming power of our teaching will not rest on our own skills and abilities, but on His power. We have to display that, not only teaching it, but evidencing it in how we teach our students.
Is it too strong to say that the preaching of the Word of God is the word of God? That seems like a bold statement.
Yes, it is a bold statement, and of course it doesn’t originate with me. It’s from the second Helvetic confession. There are a couple passages in the Bible that make it very clear that God Himself is involved in the work of preaching, that God Himself is the preacher. We see it in Acts and again in Romans 10, where God is said to be the One actually doing the preaching, even through human lips. And what I mean when I say that is not that our preaching has the same immediacy that a prophet’s would have warranted in the Old Testament, where that prophet is getting unmediated revelation from God. Rather that the Bible is the very voice of God, the very Word of God, so when we rightly interpret, explain, and apply it, it’s as though God Himself is coming and re-talking His talk to us all over again. So in that sense, we are hearing from God, and we are hearing God’s Word to us, without it being something that should be added to the canon.