Gordon Fee’s Admonition to Preachers – Don’t Become “Professional”

Another post from Listening to the Spirit in the Text by Gordon Fee. Fee’s admonition is on the danger of ministers getting out of touch with God and their task becoming routine and “professional” rather than seeing ministry as a spiritual and vibrant activity,

“I regularly tell students: Have the touch of God on your life. Live in fellowship with him; be among those who cry out with the Psalmist, ‘my soul and my flesh long for you’; ‘O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you. My soul thirsts for you; my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.’ If those who teach and preach God’s Word, which preaching must be based on solid exegesis of the text, do not themselves yearn for God, live constantly in God’s presence, hunger and thirst after God – then how can they possibly bring off the ultimate goal of exegesis, to help to fashion God’s people into genuine Spirituality?

A great danger lurks here, you understand, especially for those who have been called of God to serve the church in pastoral and teaching roles. The danger is to become a professional (in the pejorative sense of the word): to analyze texts and to talk about God, but slowly to let the fire of passion for God run low, so that one does not spend much time talking with God. I fear for students the day when exegesis becomes easy; or when exegesis is what one does primarily for the sake of others. Because all too often such exegesis is no longer accompanied with a burning heart, so that one no longer lets the texts speak to them. If the biblical text does not grip or possess on’e own soul, it will likely to very little for those who hear.

All of this to say, then, that the first place that exegesis and Spiritual interface is in the exegete’s own soul – that the aim of exegesis is Spirituality, which must be what the exegete brings to the exegetical task, as well as being the ultimate aim of the task itself.”

Few ministers are unaware of this point. It is just important to be reminded of it time and time again. Keeping our heart connected to God in ministry is essential to longevity, to growth and to effectiveness. The danger of routine ministry is great. One thing that helps keep ministers from getting in a rut is to continuously remember that God is working in us and through us to make an eternal difference in the lives of others…that is hardly ordinary or routine! Remembering that and living in light of that is the challenge.

Spirituality is More Than Just Non-Physical Reality

ListeningSpiritGodGordon Fee is one of the most gifted writers on how to read scripture in the last 30 years. He is probably best known for some of his New Testament commentaries and his book “How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth“. I have been reading his book Listening to the Spirit in the Text and have found it very helpful on many levels. Fee is Pentecostal so there may be a few things in there many will disagree with when it comes to spiritual gifts, speaking in tongues, etc. But there are still some nuggets of wisdom that I took away from this book.

The biggest thing that changed my perspective in this book was his discussion of the word “spiritual” in Paul’s letters. Fee wrote that in all his studies of Paul’s letters that he came to the conclusion that Paul’s use of the word “spiritual”/”pneumatikos” always refers back to the Holy Spirit. In other words, “spirituality” is not a blanket term for non-physical entities but is always related to the Holy Spirit. Here is what he wrote,

“The point that needs to be made is that the word pneumatikos, a distinctively Pauline word in the New Testament, has the Holy Spirit as its primary referent. Paul never uses it as an adjective referring to the human spirit; and whatever else, it is not an adjective that sets some unseen reality in contrast, for example to something material, secular, ritual or tangible.

In the New Testament, therefore, spirituality is defined altogether in terms of the Spirit of God (or Christ). One is spiritual to the degree that one lives in and walks by the Spirit; in Scripture the word has no other meaning, and no other measurement. Thus, when Paul says that ‘the Law is spiritual’ he means that the Law belongs to the sphere of the Spirit (inspired of the Spirit as it is), not to the sphere of the flesh…So also, when Paul says to the Corinthians (14:27), ‘if any of you thinks he is spiritual,’ he means, ‘if any of you think of yourselves as a Spirit person, a person living the life of the Spirit.’ And when he says to the Galatians (6:1) that ‘those who are spiritual should restore one who has been overtaken in a transgression,’ he is not referring to some special or elitist group in the church, but to the rest of the believing community, who both began their life in the Spirit and come to completion by the same Spirit who produces his own fruit in their lives…True spirituality, therefore, is nothing more nor less than life by the Spirit.” (Fee, 5-6)

This sheds light on what it means to engage in “spiritual disciplines”. It means more than just doing something that has a non-visible effect. It means we are engaging ourselves specifically in the work of the Spirit. When it comes to reading and interpreting scripture we realize that it is a “spiritual” event in that the Holy Spirit is at work when we engage ourselves in those activities. I don’t know how the Spirit does it and I can’t place my finger on how it works all the time but that doesn’t keep me from believing it is true. If I am limited to only accepting as true those things that I can fully understand, there is no room left for faith and I end up limiting the work of God within me. This should encourage us to be more and more immersed in the Word of God because it isn’t about getting it done. It is about partnering with God and God’s work in us and through us by His Spirit. That is exciting!

The TNIV Translators Speak

Hear what Gordon Fee, Douglas Moo, and Karen Jobes (some of the translators of the TNIV) have to say about the TNIV. These are some highly respected biblical scholars.

While the TNIV had its share of problems I really wish they would reconsider and at least do a thorough revision to give this translation a shot. I guess we will have to wait and see what becomes of the NIV revision and just write a “T” in front of it on the covers and title pages of our Bibles 😉