Gordon Smith begins his book talking about the unity between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The church, whose design is by God, has this interwovenness to all that it does. Each aspect of the church points to the Father and causes itself to operate in wholeness before Him. Jesus' very call to us is to abide in Him, but it is also a trinitarian call where we are present to the work of the Father and Spirit in our lives as well. We can be in dynamic fellowship and union with Christ, who is one with the Father and the Spirit through three answers, three roads that all lead together as one. That is the evangelical, the sacramental, and the pentecostal.
The evangelical would say that Christ abides in us through His Word, and it is through the Word that we abide in Christ. Jesus is the word. In the beginning, was the Word and the word was not only with God but the Word was God. When we speak Word, the Word, we speak life as Christ is our life and it is in and through Him that we are sustained. A disciple of Christ is one who hears His Word, leans into and believes that Word and then obeys and lives in that Word. The faith of the church comes through the Word, everything we do as the church must be centered on what we see in God’s Word. When we stray from the Word we stray from Jesus and become an apostate church.
To the sacramental Christian, physical and tangible things are another way we are drawn into God. Through the Spirit, water is a way we are drawn into the life of God and rebirthed. It is a means of God’s grace. Through baptism, the old life is buried and we are raised to new life in Christ. We abide in and are sustained in Christ by the bread and cup, the eucharist. The Spirit meets us as we partake and Jesus said that unless we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood we have no part in Him. The sacramental life brings us together in fellowship with one another, it brings the church together as one. We are one body as we receive people into the church through their baptism, and we are one body as we come together at the table and partake.
The pentecostal focuses on the coming of the Holy Spirit and for them the whole point of Jesus coming is the outpouring of the Spirit. True Christian worship is Christ centered not Spirit centered. There was far more to Jesus coming than the sending of the Holy Spirit, it was in His ascension that the Holy Spirit became a vital part in the life of the church. The Spirit came to guide us into all truth. I’ve seen some teaching come from those who say they are filled with the Spirit that is as far off from the truth as you can get. So what spirit are they following? God’s Spirit is Holy and leads to truth. The Holy Spirit came to empower us, to teach us, and to give us a witness. I think we are in serious need of discovering what that is really like because much of the church is still lacking in power, lacking in truth, and lacking in witness.
Jesus Christ is present to the church through the Word, through the sacraments, and through the Holy Spirit. All three are intertwined as a vine, as a chord. If in fact all of these are at work in the church it is a chord that brings us together as true church and that is not easily broken. To be a Christian is to live in the Word and see how very remarkably alive and current it is. It is to walk in our baptismal vows before the Lord, to ever remember, or reconstruct the events at calvary afresh in our minds and hearts as we receive of the bread and cup, being to us the body and blood of our Lord through the work of the Holy Spirit in us. It is to walk in lock step with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Not only this, but the Holy Spirit gives us gifts to operate in unity as the body of Christ. Through this concert of the life of the church, we can do more than experience grace in our lives. We can walk in that grace moment by moment. Word, Spirit, Sacrament, these all reinforce our witness in the earth as we live in them. The Word of God can not be neglected in our lives, the partaking of the sacraments centers our lives on the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit keeps us in step with Jesus. What a marvelous tapestry, keeping us in the presence of the Father.
As I read this book, at one point Gordon said that it was the preaching of the Word that sanctifies the sacrament. This caused me some frustration, he did go on to say that the Holy Spirit meets us and “overshadows” the elements as we partake. I had to stop myself in my line of thinking as I reminded myself that Jesus is the Word, and He did indeed institute this sacrament and sanctify it. I must agree with Gordon that we are not truly pentecostal unless we are sacramental and we are not people who live in the fullness of the Spirit unless we are walking in the Word. How dynamic we can be as the church when we realize how to constantly walk in all three of these expressions. They build on and support one another. As we disciple people into the life of the church we must be sure that they are taught the full gospel, that they walk in all the things that Jesus has taught us to. He taught us to be in the Word, to walk by the spirit, and to be sacramental.
I think that everyone should be reading this book so that they have an understanding of how vital all three of these parts of the church are. I would venture to say that these three make up the whole of the life of the church and the absence of any one of them would reveal an incomplete church.