Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Does This Mean That?

It's often stated by some Christians that we (as Christians) should not think about what we're going to say to other people about Jesus or the gospel. In other words, we aren't supposed to prepare, but simply rely on the Holy Spirit to give us the words.

Matthew 10:16-20 is the passage used as support. Jesus said, "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you."

"There you have it," they say. "No preparation or study is necessary. Just rely on God to give you the words." That sounds spiritual, but it isn't what Jesus is teaching at all.

First of all, the context of the words of the Lord Jesus are important. Jesus was sending out the twelve disciples to cast out unclean spirits and heal diseases (Matt. 10:1). In other words, these words (and the larger context in 10:5-42) are instructions given to a specific group of people in a specific place in a specific time. These are not instructions given to you and me (although we are also disciples of Jesus). However there are principles that are valuable for us in this passage.

Second, Jesus was clearly "instructing" his disciples (Matt. 10:5; 11:1) before He sent them out. He did not simply tell them to "just wait for the Spirit to put words in your mouth." Jesus spent three years teaching and training His followers, which obviously included a lot of study, learning, preparation, and time.

Should we rely on the Holy Spirit? Of course we should! Without the working and power of the Spirit, any preaching and any witness falls flat. But our reliance upon the Spirit of God must never supercede preparation and study. The Spirit works through that, too.


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