Theology Thursday: Spiritual Disciplines and the Authority of Scripture

By Mark Kreitzer, Faculty, College of Theology

woman with spiritual discipline embracing relationship to God

The goal of Paul’s instruction that he writes to Timothy about is “love that comes from a clean heart, a good conscience, and a non-hypocritical faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). Through Paul, the Lord challenges believers to learn from Scripture what steps the Spirit of God is calling them to take in order to grow into maturity in union with King Jesus. In other words, the many spiritual disciplines discussed in Scripture are powerful only because the Holy Spirit in Christ gives us the overcoming, resurrection life that overcomes the “law of sin and death” (Romans 8:2).

Foundations in the Spirit

The spiritual disciplines, then, are actually “disciplines of the Spirit” that are revealed in the Word. All the disciplines, such as reading, studying, and memorizing Scripture while meditatively and prayerfully acting upon what the Lord shows us, are only energized through the same Spirit that raised our Lord from the dead. He joins us to Christ and seals us into him so that we share his death to the power of sin, his resurrection into new fresh life, and his reign (along with persecutions!) over all demonic rulers and authorities (Romans 6:1-14; Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 3:1-4).

Through these “like and precious promises” the Lord speaks authoritatively in his kind yet firm shepherd voice, calling us to follow him in his very footsteps (2 Peter 1:3-4; John 10:3-5). Peter says through the Spirit that we are to walk in the steps of Jesus, rejoicing in our testing and troubles just as he did (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus practiced the Spirit’s disciplines by rejoicing in his Father’s plan. Because his Abba (Father) was his greatest treasure, he cried out, “Yet not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

Growing in the Spirit

In addition to his rejoicing in the Spirit (Luke 10:17-21), we read in Scripture that Jesus often went off alone to pray to the Father (Matthew 14:23; Luke 5:16, 9:18). Out of this treasured relationship, he chose the twelve disciples, proclaimed and taught with the Spirit’s authority and power, developed life-changing relationships with people wherever he went. Out of his Spirit-led and Scripture-informed prayer, he persevered in hope in view of the impending cross, gained strength to endure mocking and scoffing, and lovingly forgave murderously, hate-filled people.

Following the Lord’s example, Paul unequivocally calls upon believers to not only begin by the Spirit through prayerfully trusting the Word, but also to become mature through that very same Spirit-led means. He warns against trying to grow spiritually through fleshly disciplines that “lack any value in restraining sensual indulgences” (Colossians 2:21). He says our Father’s grace is released as we trust in the Word that we’ve heard and not through striving to become disciplined through the flesh (Galatians 2:1-4).

Formation Through the Spirit

We mature in the Spirit’s disciplines as we thank, worship and glorify the Father according to the boundaries of Scripture, in union with Christ, through the fullness of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18-20). The Spirit, only through the Scripture, reminds us that we have died, been raised up, and reign with Christ as mentioned above (Galatians 2:20; Colossians 3:1-4; Ephesians 2:6). Out of this intimate, vital union with Christ we are able to flourish and growth in grace: “But grow in the grace and intimate knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen,” (2 Peter 3:18).

Paul says in the Word that the Lord “Christ is your life” because, as Moses says, the Father “is your life” and the “law of the Spirit of [resurrection] life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the legal power of sin and death” (Colossians 3:4; Deuteronomy 30:20; Romans 8:2).

Practicing the Spiritual Disciplines

Growing in our practice of the Spirit’s disciplines, then, flows from our union with Christ and not from an independent effort to make ourselves holy. As we depend on the Spirit of the indwelling Christ, the Father “works in us both to desire and do in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13). The disciplines of praise, worship and thanksgiving are “through Jesus” so therefore “let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise — the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (Hebrews 3:15). “Sharing our faith” flows out of the empowering work of the Spirit (Acts 1:8).

Prayer, memorization of, and meditating upon the Word flows out of a heart filled with the grace and power of the indwelling Spirit of Christ (Ephesians 5:18-20). Living in community with the attitude of self-giving love flows out of being “united with Christ” and “common sharing in the Spirit” (Philippians 2:1-2). All activities that God provides to help us grow in grace come from the Spirit’s gracious but firm discipline as we are challenged by God’s sole authority found only in Scripture.

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.