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The Wordy Spirit

November 9, 2009

I was finishing up reading the Smallcald Articles in preparation for Winkel (pastor’s conference) tomorrow, and I finall found a Luther quote that I’ve always found intriguing, but couldn’t find the reference to. It is in Part 3, at the end of Article 8 (on Confession), where Luther writes:

“Therefore we must constantly maintain this point: God does not want to deal with us in any other way than through the spoken Word and the Sacraments. Whatever is praised as from the Spirit — without the Word and Sacraments — is the devil himself.”

Luther certainly has a way of cutting right to the heart of the matter. This believing that the Spirit comes without the Word is called “enthusiasm” in the Lutheran Confessions. I would suggest that a blatant modern-day example of this is Pentecostalism, with it’s somewhat tamer cousin, Evangelicalism.

And so you say, “Well, fine, there are still Enthusiasts today. So what? They are not anywhere near the LCMS!” I say nay, nay.

Enthusiasm has been brought into our churches through worship that focuses primarily on emotions, utilizing shallow lyrics and repeated mantras to create a worship “experience.” It is taught in these churches that the Holy Spirit comes when the people are in the right emotional state. There is no need for the Word of God.

This seems to fit perfectly what Luther was saying. This “Holy Spirit” is a Word-less spirit, and often points a person inside himself, not to Christ. Jesus said that the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, would testify of Him and lead the disciples in the way of all truth. We have that Truth in the Holy Scriptures. The true Holy Spirit sounds nothing like the spirits of Enthusiasm.

And so, it saddens and frightens me when church leaders promote this kind of Pentecostal, Enthusiastic “worship.”. This is not the worship of God that has been passed down for 2000 years, and it may not even be Christian. Luther said that any spirit that comes apart from the Word is the devil himself; it makes you think.

Now, I am not questioning the motives of our church’s leadership. I do believe that they want to spread the Gospel around the world. However, I do believe that they are misguided and their actions betray a lack of trust that the Spirit will act through the Word, and only through the Word. You cannot have the Spirit without the Word, and you cannot have the Word without the Spirit. May God grant us wisdom and grace to trust His mighty Word to build His Church. Indeed, the Church is the Bride of Christ, and He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Lord Jesus Christ, Thy power make known
For Thou art Lord of Lords alone
Defend Thy Holy Church that we
May evermore sing praise to Thee.

From → Theology

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