mandag 18. juli 2016

The guidance of the Holy Spirit in doctrinal questions

Throughout the history of the church, doctrine has been at the core of the debate – and it still is. The Salvation Army is constantly trying to formulate our belief in a contemporary language, and I was fortunate to be part of the translation of our Handbook of Doctrine from English to Norwegian a few years back. 

The teaching of the apostles was important in the early church. It was highlighted when the Gentiles became part of the followers of "the way", the group of believers who had started to call themselves Christians. 

Questions like e.g.: “Is it necessary for the Gentiles who have been saved to be circumcised to be part of God’s people?” had to be addressed.

In Acts 15 I read the minutes from the Church Counsel in Jerusalem. As far as we know, this was the first formal Synod that led to a concrete and lasting doctrinal decision. It is generally agreed that this event took place about AD 50.

Apostles and elders attended the meeting. Many of them had solid knowledge of Scripture. This in combination with all they had learned of Jesus, and the experience they had gained from 20 years of mission and ministry, formed the basis for the decision. Plus of course the fact that they were completely dependent on the Holy Spirit guidance. This is even reflected in the conclusion of the letter that was sent to the new congregations:

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things.
Acts 15: 28-29
Has this meeting anything to say to me almost 2000 years later? 
Yes - it tells me that the first Christian leaders:  
  1. depended totally on the Holy Spirit in doctrinal matters and
  2. had an enormous confidence that the Holy Spirit would give direction to Christians in relation to personal lifestyle.
Why should I have less confidence in our time?

The challenge is that there is too much “gut feeling”. Meaning that too many Christians no longer ask the Holy Spirit for guidance neither through the Bible nor by asking the important question: "WWJD" (1).

'Manna' for today:

I want the Holy Spirit to guide me in all matters - including those concerning faith.
(1) What Would Jesus Do?

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