The Guidance of the Spirit
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We all hear a lot about the Church and the Bible and which came first and which has authority over the other.
An interesting question, however, might be this....
If the Holy Spirit inspired the Bible, which both Catholics and Protestants believe, and the Holy Spirit is all-knowing God, then the Holy Spirit certainly knew best how to write the Bible so that it would help the faithful. Therefore, if all that is needed for Christian faith, justification and salvation is to be found only in the pages of the New Testament, why didn't the Holy Spirit simply inspire four of the Apostles the evening of Pentecost to grab their scrolls and start writing? Why did he not inspire other writers to write letters (to be later added to the New Testament) explaining the faith and the role of Jesus in our lives?
I have a friend who belongs to a 'house church'. The goal of the house church movement is to mimic how the Bible describes the gatherings of the very first generation of Christ followers. But when those very first churches were formed, the Holy Spirit did not deem it necessary to have a written instruction book already available to guide them as they formulated their communities. Instead, the Holy Spirit at that time directly guided the Apostles to build and lead their communities based upon what they had learned while living with the Lord.
It seems obvious that while the Holy Spirit did guide the writers of the New Testament, the Holy Spirit also waited until those writers had the experiences of living with the meaning of the Resurrection of Jesus and the realities of community faith for years, even decades. Only then could Paul's letters address not hypothetical circumstances the Church might someday face, but real-life issues already challenging the Churches. Only then could he reflect upon real-life questions of theology (the meaning of all Christ did and taught) which came from people in real-life churches trying to figure the ramification of God becoming incarnate and providing a path for salvation.
I think most of all about the Gospel of John. Why did John decide to write it not years but perhaps decades after he and the other Christians already possessed three biographies of the Lord? Does his Gospel contain universal truths? Of course. But was not his Gospel written based upon his specific life experiences and leadership within an existing real-life church?
We can point out the Church existed before the New Testament canon was finally approved. That is historic fact. But, just perhaps, we can learn as much from the fact that the Holy Spirit waited to inspire the written Word until the Church had had time to grow and mature. The Church had authority to accept and pass on various writings because the Bible was written for the Church by those already leading that Church.
Perhaps the Bible was not written to guide the formation of a generic 'church' but was given by God to maintain, build and guide a specific Church already in the midst of growth.