Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Aug 21 2013 - 1 Corinthians 14:1-19 – Incarnate Spirit

There were those at Corinth who opposed mind and spirit; to be spiritual was to speak without the engagement of the mind. Paul opposes such a crude antithesis; he writes, “I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

The extraordinary message of the gospel is that in Jesus, God has appeared in the flesh. And in Jesus’ resurrection, the living God still – and forever – inhabits our flesh! The outpoured Spirit has also come to dwell in us. He does not take us over or simply use us – like some form of spirit-possession – but comes to reshape mind and heart, understanding and will, affection and purpose. He comes to transform us into the likeness of Christ; yet we remain fully ourselves. To set mind and spirit against one another is paganism and spiritualism.

I was once taken to task by one of the congregation of a church where I used regularly to preach. He took me aside after one service and chided me for using notes in my preaching and for reading commentaries and other helps in my preparation. “You need to get your message from the Lord,” he told me. I was later told of a pastor of this denomination of churches who, one Sunday morning, failed to turn up to take the service. When a member of the congregation went to his house to find him he said that he was still waiting on the Lord to give him his message for the congregation. This was viewed as a mark of deep spirituality!

I replied by assuring my critic that I did seek to get my message from the Lord through careful study as well as through prayer. I believed that the Spirit of God was as actively present with me in the study as he is present with me in the pulpit. For the same reason I valued the commentaries and other works produced by godly people down the ages. The Spirit of God had been at work in them and that same Spirit now ministered to me through them. Spirit and mind must not be opposed.

But there is another danger that needs equally to be guarded against, and that is the danger of pride in one’s own learning. The church in London of which I was the pastor had a long and noble history. At one stage, during the nineteenth century, the minister was a man of great learning who preached to a congregation in the East End of London. They revered him and thought his sermons were wonderful to listen to, but it was said that few understood him. This equally is condemned by Paul. We are to speak not to impress people with our spirituality or our learning but to be understood. We are to speak to strengthen, encourage and comfort those who hear (14:3).

Let’s be careful not to oppose spirit and mind – or Spirit and mind. In Jesus, God has appeared in the flesh – the Spirit of God perfectly united to human mind and body. I want the Spirit to mould my mind and to shape my life; I want to bring every thought captive to Christ. I want to speak in the power of the Spirit to the mind and heart of those around me so that they will understand what God has done for them in Christ and be drawn to follow him.

Living God, we praise you that in the Lord Jesus Christ you have come to dwell among us, and in the person of your Spirit you have come to dwell within us. Teach us more of what you would have us be. May mind, heart, affections, will and behaviour be transformed by your living presence as the Lord Jesus Christ becomes incarnate in us, his body.

Peter Misselbrook