Jesus never once said, “And when I go away, I will make sure they write a book with four gospels and some epistles so I can teach you more truth.”
BIBLES ARE FOR BABIES
As an evangelical Christian, I was constantly being told to ‘get into the Word.’ By this, my teachers meant that the written Bible was the primary source of getting to know God and His wisdom. But it was clear to me that the Bible itself seemed to say that spiritual babies needed a book while the mature had direct access to God. As I studied the Bible, I began to notice that there were various levels of spiritual maturity. I John 2 speaks of this:
I write to you, dear children,
because you have known the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
because you have known him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one.
John addresses a group of young men, or spiritual adolescents, identifying them as those who are learning that the Word of God dwells ‘in them.’ I suppose one could argue that John was suggesting that these disciples were memorizing scripture, but the fact that the Word of God ‘lives’ in them implies it is a dynamic, active internal spiritual presence, much like the Holy Spirit of Truth Jesus promised to send in John 14-16.
The apostle Paul also referred to levels of spiritual maturity and differing relationships to God’s Word. There are those who lived on spiritual milk, and those who ate meat, referring to the fact that some were infants and some were adults.
I think the infants were those who could come to God only through written or spoken words and a limited discursive mind. When Paul was visiting Jewish synagogues filled with skeptical literalists, he often admonished such people to search the Scriptures, or ‘get into the Word.’ But when he was with those not bound by the letter of the revealed Word, like the non-Jewish gentiles in Galatia, he told them to abandon the Law and be led by the Spirit. Most evangelicals place these two concepts together, teaching that we must read the Bible and allow the Spirit to guide our interpretation. John Calvin called this the witness or testimony of the Spirit. Evangelicals always tell you that the Spirit will never contradict the Word (Bible).
But it seemed to me that Paul was saying that the Word was for beginners and the Spirit was for those more spiritually advanced. The Law or Bible is for literalists while the Spirit is for those who have ears and eyes to see directly into the realm of Spirit. When Paul told people to study their Bibles, it was always for one reason: to show Jews or Jewish sympathizers that Jesus was the Messiah from their sacred Hebrew Bibles. Paul would use a literal passage to prove, for example, that the Jewish Bible allowed Gentiles into the kingdom unconditionally. These logical debates might remove some logical obstacles, opening the way for deeper spiritual understanding.
However, neither Paul nor Jesus ever told their non-Jewish followers to build up a body of doctrines and ethical rules from the scriptures. Galatians makes it clear that these mature Christians were free from the Law (sacred Torah or Bible) and that they were children of the Spirit. They didn’t need a book.
Paul makes this most clear in I Corinthians 3 where he addresses these two groups.
Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?
Paul makes it clear that infants who were still caught up in the world of sensory perception and rational, literal understanding needed milk. There would be times when the Christian churches began to fight, live selfishly and behave like babies, that Paul and others would use scripture for 'doctrine, reproof and correction.' (II Timothy 3:16) But keep in mind, this was for the infants spoken of in I Corinthians - for those who had to have Paul's pre-digested pabulum or 'letters' (laws) from God. Paul would initially introduce these Jews or Gentile Jewish sympathizers to the gospel by studying the Bible with them, but the goal was to let them see that there was deeper revelation beyond the printed page.
For them to get the deeper wisdom, they had to let go of human words, human books, human preaching, human theology and all human means. They had to see themselves as organically related to God, baptized into Spirit, immersed in the Eternal One. Jesus used the vine and branch analogy, teaching his disciples that they would be nourished directly, not intravenously. In I Corinthians, Paul uses the analogy of soil and seed rather than vine and branch.
What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.
Paul makes it clear here that God is the soil in which a believer is planted. The soil contains what must have seemed like magic in those days, some strange power to cause plants to grow. No outside source could make the seed grow. Humans planted and watered, but some unseen Power caused the roots to descend and stalk to ascend. Jesus taught the same thing with a parable in Mark 4:
He also said, "This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.
The phrase from Mark 4, ‘all by itself,’ is the Greek word automate, from which we get out word automatic. The soil has the power to give us what we need from the inside out. God is the soil and we are in it. Most Christians I knew never saw themselves in the soil of Spirit, organically encompassed by God, fed directly, rooted into, wriggling in the garden of Spirit. Most of them saw themselves as somehow mysteriously connected to Jesus, but ultimately needing to get the Word (Bible) ‘into them’ in order to grow and know God. The fact is that we are already in the Word and the Word is in us. The Word is the soil in which we grow. It nourishes us, fills us with nutrients, saturates us with water, magically cracks open the seed pod of ego, pushes us up into the light, grows a stalk, causes buds and blossoms, and finally produces what Paul calls the ‘fruit of the Spirit.’ Fruit does not come by human effort or biblical knowledge, but by being in the Soil of God.
Paul also uses the analogy of a building or Temple, saying that men may participate in the construction, but the materials and final structure is God and His Spirit dwells in us.
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?
There is no need to get the Word (Spirit) in us. One might as well try to put warmth in fire or moisture in water. The essence is intrinsic to the thing itself. To be in Christ is to be filled with Spirit. To be filled with Spirit is to be directly connected to God who can speak directly to us.
Paul then goes on to say to the adults that a spiritual man receives truth from the Spirit, which is the internal trans-rational meat as opposed to the external biblical rational milk.
"The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.
I Corinthians 2
The spiritual man receives truth internally, just as a man knows his own thoughts from within. A man’s thoughts do not come to him from outside, but from within his own spirit or mind. Paul could have used the analogy of a dream. Dreams arise from within the spirit of a man, not from the outside. So too, God’s thoughts arise in God. It seems almost ludicrous to have ot even point this out, but so many people seem to think that God’s thoughts arise from the Bible, the Koran, the Pope or some other external source. Inner thoughts speak to the inner mind. But this is the tricky part, because the natural response is, “Well, how do we know it is God speaking internally and not just my selfish, deceptive, self serving mind?!” Great question, and Paul anticipated that question, though I doubt we’ll care much for his solution. He writes:
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit..."
Paul teaches that there is a qualitative difference between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man. When we are inconsiderate, self seeking, scheming, resentful and fearful, we are using the human mind. But when we are considerate of others, kind, forgiving, trusting and serene, we are accessing the mind of God. In another epistle, Paul calls these the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ as contrasted with the self seeking fruit of the religious legal or doctrinal code.
Paul is clear that a mature man does not ‘get into the Word,’ but rather the Word gets into him. This is a huge distinction, especially in an age where so many Christians speak of ‘getting into the Word.’ Mature people tap into a deep wisdom that comes from within:
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.
The 20th century Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, put it this way, “It is only through the psyche (internal spirit or soul) that we can establish that God acts upon us.” Jung wrote to a Swiss Pastor in 1932 that the human psyche is “boundlessly underestimated,” by Christians. Jung was puzzled that most ministers taught their parishioners that God spoke to human beings exclusively through sermons or books. Jung asserted that God has never REALLY spoken except in and through the internal human psyche. Jung wrote, “the psyche understands it and we experience it as something psychic (internal).”
No human, no matter how educated, rational and logical will ever know God rationally. This kind of knowing does not come from reading a book, not even the Bible. It does not come from learning and obeying laws, principles or mastering ‘how to’ manuals. This sort of wisdom comes from the internal Mind of Christ, the internal Spirit – it is the bookless meat as opposed to the biblical milk. It will not come through your eyes, ears or teacher:
However, as it is written:
"No eye has seen, (no books contain)
no ear has heard, (no sermons can tell)
no mind has conceived (no teachers can teach)
what God has prepared for those who love him"— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
If no eye has seen it, it can’t be words on a page. If no ear has heard it, it can’t be a sermon. If no mind has conceived it, then it can’t be rational ideas set forth by a theologian theology or philosopher. This troubles the materialist mightily. I recall those times when I mocked this spiritual voodoo as quackery and unsubstantiated hearsay. But until one experiences this kind of knowing, it is like trying to tell a ten year old boy that one day he is going to love kissing girls.
Paul goes on to speak of the “deep things of God,” which are the meaty things. By implication, there are the ‘shallow things of God,’ which refers to the milky things. The deep meaty things are beyond human logic, beyond ink and paper – and they won’t be gotten by reading the Bible or by ‘getting into the Word.’
On the other hand, the shallow milky things can be found in print, do have something of a rational basis and may present evidence, signs and proofs for the curious minded. Theologians and apologists can provide help just as pabulum can nourish the infant toward maturity. But this is kid-stuff, liquid pabulum for toothless infants. Paul is not saying this to make them feel inadequate or inferior – children are not inferior, they are just not adults yet. If one has not formed teeth, so be it. However, Paul does seem to imply that these folks either ought to be growing up, or they once talked and acted like they were mature and have retrogressed.
Paul further addresses those who go deeper:
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.
Paul speaks of two kinds of words here, human words and Spirit words. Human words are what you are seeing on this page, comprised of an alphabet, vocabulary, syntax, parts of speech, etc. Human words may be used to a point, but until the Spirit translates them internally, they are just religious ideas and not Spiritual wisdom.
The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment:
"For who has known the mind of the Lord
that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
Paul says those who eat meat and get the deeper things of God do so because they have been given an extra mind, the Mind of Christ. This is a metaphor for having a new way of seeing and hearing; a way that takes us out of our self centered, inconsiderate, resentful, self obsessing mind. One can read a Bible all night and day and not be touched if he does not have the Mind of Christ – the mind that understands apart from the letter of the Word. Paul may have been recalling his own conversion experience on the road to Damascus when he heard the voice of Christ speak, “Saul, Saul, why are you resisting me?” Those of us who have had a spiritual awakening know something of this. Quite often, though not always, we were in state of distress prior to the ‘hearing’ of the voice of Spirit. There was an openness, a willingness and almost frantic desire to know something more than self centered human wisdom could know. For such a revelation, one does not need a Bible. There are many self centered, self important, self obsessed Bible scholars. One may hear such wisdom while reading a Bible, but not always. The writer of Proverbs says ‘wisdom calls aloud in the streets.’ In other words, wisdom is wherever a man or woman may be, if he or she has the Mind of Christ to hear it. No external props are necessary. No Bibles need be present. One does not even need to be literate. It is those moments when you are ready to rage at your partner, and a little voice whispers, “Calm down. You are mistaken and self obsessed again. This human being needs your kindness, not your rage.” That is the Mind of Christ.
So Paul makes it clear that mature spiritual adults need no Bible or alphabet, and that only spiritual babies needed milk, which was the 'letter' or the Jewish Bible. These Bible studies were nursery procedures to get them to grow some teeth so they could eat meat. The Buddhists have an odd saying, “When you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” The idea is that once the Buddha has opened your spiritual eyes and ears to hear Truth, you no longer need the Buddha. He has done his job. Now that doesn’t mean you can’t learn more from the Buddha, but he has passed from being your primary teacher to your secondary teacher. Similarly, with the Bible, once you learn to listen to God directly, the Bible becomes a secondary teacher. It is more like a telescope than a trophy case. It is used to see into infinity rather than containing infinity.
So then, those who use the Bible today as the exclusive or primary source for hearing from God, according to Paul, are still little spiritual babies. No matter how many degrees they may have, they are infants. Like Nicodemus, they may be esteemed as prestigious religious teachers, pastors of mega churches and hold doctorates in Bible and theology, but as long as they use the Bible as a trophy case rather than a telescope, they are mere infants.
But mature Christians possess the Mind of Christ. Paul never says, 'the Mind of Christ is to be found in your New Testament or your Bishop,’ but in you. Jesus said the same thing in John’s gospel when he promised that the Spirit of Truth would reveal all things and dwell in his disciples. Jesus never once said, “And when I go away, I will make sure they write a book with four gospels and some epistles so I can teach you more truth.” Jesus sent the Spirit, not a book.