We must be a people who embrace the Word and function in the Spirit. To diminish one or the other is very costly and detrimental to the progress of the gospel. In Matthew 22:29, Jesus said that the Sadducees were mistaken; literally they were being led astray. This word actually means to be in a state of confusion or to cause to stagger and wander about because they are so badly misled. The reason for this condition, Jesus said, was twofold; the religious leaders did not know the Scriptures (the Word) or the power of God (the Spirit). Let’s take a moment to examine the Word and the Spirit.
In the book of Timothy, Paul wrote with special instructions admonishing him to remain loyal to the Word against false teachers that tried to infiltrate the church. He said, “I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:1-4).
The threat of heresy was provoked in Ephesus because sound doctrine was being replaced with compromising truths that catered to people’s flesh. The only sure defense against such a threat, according to Paul, was by boldly preaching of the Word regardless of audience or circumstance. Be sober, Paul said, endure hardships, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. How? The answer was loud and clear: preach the Word. We would do well to keep that admonition in mind these days, too. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). How do we correct unholy lifestyles? How do we reshape ideologies that embrace immorality? How do we reprove believers who are conceited and arrogant? We do so by embracing and using the Word of God. The Scriptures, rightly applied, have the ability to train us in righteousness, so we must not water down its truths.
This first rebuke from Jesus toward the Sadducees was coupled with the declaration that they failed to understand the “power of God.” Power (dunamis) is defined as a miraculous strength or the capacity to perform extraordinary, supernatural works. This power is not orchestrated by human talents, abilities, or efforts; rather, it is a power generated by the Holy Spirit. In the context of Matthew 22:29, the Sadducees were ignorant to the power of God because they failed to believe that God would raise the dead. They also did not believe in the power of God manifested in Jesus’ ministry and this disbelief caused many needless debates with Jesus. The ministry of Jesus was marked by supernatural power and those who rejected Jesus in turn rejected the Holy Spirit who generated this power through Him.
Some scholars refer to this power as being “charismatic” in the sense that the Holy Spirit operated through Jesus; it was not conjured up, but was a power given to Him because the Spirit of God rested upon Him. Using the term “charismatic” does not mean a movement, a church, or a denomination. The word is derived from the Greek word charis which means grace. To function charismatically simply means that you are living in the power of God’s grace. As holiness people, we anticipate the fruit of the Spirit to be lived or demonstrated in a heart that has been entirely sanctified. Likewise, the natural outflow of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our life would be functioning or demonstrating the charismata or spiritual gifts. Charismata is simply the plural form of charis and refers to spiritual gifts, God’s graces, favors, or bestowments. Jesus’ entire ministry was marked by the work of the Holy Spirit manifesting through Him. He embraced the Scripture, but He also functioned in supernatural power. It should be no different for the Church today if we’re filled with the Holy Spirit and obedient to His sovereign leadings.
Too many churches, however, have suppressed the function of the Holy Spirit in favor of “business as usual.” A.W. Tozer explained that most churches could continue their ministries in the absence of the Spirit for months and yet, many within the local church would not even notice the difference. He wrote,
“The essence of true Christianity is spontaneity—the sovereign movings of the Holy Spirit upon and in the free spirit of redeemed people. This has through the years of human history been the hallmark of spiritual excellency, the evidence of reality in a world of unreality. When Christianity loses its sovereign character and becomes mere form, this spontaneity is lost also, and in its place come precedent, propriety, system…the belief that spirituality can be organized. Then is introduced into it those ideas which never belong there—numbers, statistics, the law of averages and other such natural and human things. And creeping death always follows.”
That last sentence shakes me to my core, “creeping death always follows.” Any church that adheres to programs, formats, and agendas more than they do to the Holy Spirit will eventually stagnate and die. Paul said, “Do not quench the Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 5:19). To quench the Spirit means to snuff out or suffocate a fire. Deprive a fire of oxygen for very long and see what happens, it will eventually die. Jim Cymbala once wrote, “Our attempt at ministry will be an absolute exercise in futility if we are not expecting and experiencing divine help through the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Jesus’ rebuke in Matthew 22:29, represents a warning to all present-day believers. We must adhere to the Word of God and operate in the power of God’s Spirit. Both are absolutely essential, otherwise we will be easily led astray like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.
Jesus, thank you for the Word; I accept its relevancy and I will bend my life under its truths. Thank you for your Spirit who enables me to function in extraordinary power. I choose to embrace both: your Word and your Spirit.