J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu PhD: Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Accra, Ghana.
The one thing that is most needed for the renewal of the church is the restoration of Scripture to its rightful place in her teaching and preaching ministry. Major renewals experienced by the church in its history have all been inspired by the Holy Spirit and they have been based on fresh understandings of the word of God. When God speaks and the church listens, things happen. New understandings of the word of God is usually made possible by the Holy Spirit opening the eyes of those who hunger and thirst after truth. They receive new insights and are willing to pay the price to see the outworking of those truths in the lives of God’s people. Two the major renewal movements in Christian history have been the Reformation and the Wesleyan revival and both called for mainstreaming Scripture in our ecclesiology. Indeed, in my judgment, part of the reason for the decline of Christianity in the West is the gradual ‘demystification’ of the Bible as the word of God in the life of the community of faith, the church.
The historical-critical approach to Biblical studies has been helpful in enabling us to understand the historical contexts and contents of Scripture in many ways. However, in many seminaries biblical studies, using that approach treated Scripture as an ‘ordinary textbook’ rather than as the word of God that must be revered. Unlike in Islamic theology in which the Qur’an is seen as the very words of Allah, Christians believe that men and women inspired by God the Holy Spirit wrote the Bible. One of the most important Scriptural texts used to explain this Christian understanding of Scripture is II Timothy 3:16, ‘All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.’ The King James Version from which a lot of evangelical Christians like to quote this Scripture renders the expression ‘inspired by God’ as ‘God breathed’. The breath of God is the source of life and this we see at creation when he hovered over the face of the waters, made man into a ‘living being’, and when he entered the dry bones in the deep valley in Ezekiel 37 and restored them to life.
If the breath of God is the source of life and that breath inspired the writing of Scripture, then it follows that the Scriptures contain life. To have life is to be alive and active and this implies hope both for the present and future. The church needs hope in both its existential and eschatological situations. What will inspire the renewal that restores hope to the life of the church is the Spirit of God who must be active within the Church in the same way that he restored life to dry bones in a valley. In Ezekiel 37, the author uses terms and expressions like ‘the bones were very dry’. As a situation that referred to the physical and spiritual condition of Israel then, we encounter the nation lamenting: ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost; we are cut off completely’ (vs. 12). Subsequently, the prophet is mandated by God ‘to prophesy’ life into those dry bones that had lost hope so that life would return to them. It is revealing that to ‘prophesy’ amounted to uttering words but these were not the words of the prophet. Rather, they were words granted on the authority of God, the author of lie because it was only he who could bring life into bones that were under curse.
Thus on the basis of the prophesy, God makes the following promise: ‘I will lay sinews on you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you will know that I am the LORD’ (vs. 6). God’s people did indeed return to life and it is important for us to know that in coming to life they also came to ‘know’ that the Lord was the Lord. It is a process in coming to a new understanding of the place of the Lord in the life of Israel and that new understanding inspired by the Spirit always leads to worship and submission to God’s will and purpose.
This is a process of renewal that begins with God speaking into the lives of people just as he spoke life into the lifeless model of man at creation. Renewal then comes when the word of God is kept alive in the hearts of his people by the Spirit. If the living power behind the word of God is anything to go by, then the one thing that is most needed for the renewal of the church is the restoration of the word of God, that is, Scripture to the heart of church life and ministry.