I recently read something by Lesslie Newbigin (that great missionary statesman of the twentieth century) that struck a chord with me. He wrote the following concerning the Jerusalem congregation’s recognition of the validity of the Gentile mission that Peter had just returned from (Acts 10-11):
“They were silenced because they had to recognize something new. Jesus had never spoken or acted to call in question the law of circumcision (as he had called in question the law of the Sabbath). The Church was entering a new way which it had not trodden before. Nor did the Church formulate a new policy in this matter by reflection upon and development of the remembered words of Jesus. It was a fresh action of the living Spirit which confronted the Church with the necessity for a new decision. ‘The word of Jesus is not a collection of doctrines that is in need of supplementation, nor is it a developing principle that will only be unfolded in the history of ideas; as the Spirit’s proclamation it always remains the word spoken into the world from beyond’ (Bultmann). But this word is the word of Jesus; it is not another word. The work of the Spirit does not lead past, or beyond, or away from Jesus.” (The Light Has Come: An Exposition of the Fourth Gospel Grand Rapids, MI: Wm.B.Eerdmans, 1982, pp.216-7)
We, as well, cannot simply treat the Scriptures as a comprehensive list (or we may end up being no different than some of the Pharisees of Jesus’ own day–unless we take the New Pauline Perspective on the Pharisees as genuine) of do’s and don’t’s. In every age we are called to listen to the voice of the Spirit which is the voice of the Lord Jesus speaking to His Church the very words of his Father. None of this is to suggest that there will be any discord between what God has spoken, is speaking and will speak. The Scriptures are our measure, but the Scriptures are not simply words that can be adopted apart from the working of the Holy Spirit within us. This means that in all of our hearing, we must press in to hear exactly what the Spirit is saying and once we have heard…to obey.