Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

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Who or what are we following?

“In the beginning was the Word and the Word became words.”

This quotation from artist Jillian Stovell[1] identifies one of the shortcomings of many expressions of Christianity, that is, giving preference to the words of the Bible, above the actual person of Jesus Christ who is called the “Word” by John the Gospel writer. As followers of Jesus, our main focus should be on the person of Jesus.[2]

The Holy Scriptures are inspired, authoritative and tremendously important. The Four Gospels, in particular, tell us a lot about Jesus and his ministry. The Bible tells us about Jesus and how to follow him, but it does not replace Jesus as the person who we are invited to worship and invited to walk with in a close, enduring relationship.

Christianity is Spiritual

When we have entrusted our lives to Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes and lives within us. We simply cannot follow Jesus or receive his Salvation without the Holy Spirit’s supernatural guidance and intervention.[3] The Holy Spirit connects us spiritually to God the Father and to Jesus.[4] Christianity is intrinsically spiritual. [See footnote 5.]

While most Christians acknowledge that the Holy Spirit is given to us as a seal or pledge—a kind of “down-payment” guaranteeing our future and final stage of salvation,[6] many do not pursue a deep dependence and intimate relationship with this third person of the Trinity. Nor do they eagerly desire or seek the spiritual gifts (such as prophecy), despite Paul’s encouragement that we do so.[7]

The Holy Spirit as Jesus’ Replacement

After Jesus’ earthly ministry, including his redemptive death and resurrection from the dead, Jesus returned to heaven and is now seated at the Father’s right hand in glory. The Holy Spirit was sent to earth in Jesus’ place. At this present time, the Holy Spirit is effectively Jesus’ representative and agent on earth.[8] He is even referred to as the Spirit of Christ in the Bible.[9]

The Holy Spirit is a good gift from God—an essential gift.[10] We need to explore our relationship with the Spirit and become more aware of his presence in our hearts and lives. We should learn to sense his leading and teaching so that we can become more obedient to him. In this way, we effectively follow Jesus and become more like Jesus in the process. One of the Holy Spirit’s main roles is to help us become more and more like Jesus.

Fearing the Spirit’s Power

Perhaps one of the reasons why some evangelical Christians follow the words of the Bible more than the person of Jesus is because they mistrust the deeper workings of the Holy Spirit. But in so doing, they miss out on much of the vitality, power, and joy of the Christian life.

There is nothing to fear from the Holy Spirit. While the Holy Spirit can come like a mighty, rushing wind,[11] it seems that more often he acts as a gentle, quiet voice. Some people have been suspicious, and even alarmed, by some of the unusual and unwise practices of more extreme forms of Pentecostal ministry, but we should not let extremes deter us from fully appreciating the good gift from God.[12] We should embrace the Holy Spirit and welcome him into the deepest recesses of our being without any fear or apprehension. He is our loving and supportive comforter and counsellor.

As Christians, at times it can be difficult to distinguish between our own thoughts and desires, and those of the Holy Spirit. At times it can be difficult to distinguish between our own human emotions and genuine spiritual fervour. But we should not let these difficulties dissuade us from pursuing greater intimacy and greater knowledge of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit in the Church

God wants us to be strong and courageous Christians, and minister effectively as Jesus did. Jesus relied completely on the Holy Spirit’s supernatural power during his earthly ministry, and we should also.

The Holy Spirit has been wonderfully at work, in and among Christians, throughout the church’s almost 2000-year history. He has manifested himself powerfully at times. There is nothing new about Pentecostal power and we should not shy away from the more powerful demonstrations and manifestations of the Spirit’s supernatural ministry.

Jesus and the Holy Spirit

The words of the Bible are alive and inspired and authoritative, but Christians do not just follow words; we are in a vital relationship with the person of Jesus Christ. As people committed to following Jesus authentically, wanting to experience the fullness of the life that he offers, we must deliberately follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and pursue his spiritual gifts and empowerment. The Holy Spirit and Jesus are inextricably bound together, so following Jesus means following the Holy Spirit.


[1] Quoted in The Journey Ahead for the 21st Century Church and its Leadership, by Stephen W. Hinks (Carillion Graphic Communications, Australia, 2006)

[2] Hebrews 12:2a

[3] Titus 3:5-6

[4] Ephesians 2:18

[5] Christianity is essentially spiritual.  As children of God:

  • Our spirits are regenerated and reborn by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3-8; Rom 8:10; Titus 3:5-6; cf. 1 John 5:1).
  • Our spirit is united with Christ’s Spirit (1 Cor 6:17).
  • We are led and controlled by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:5-9 & 14).
  • We are temples of the Holy Spirit  (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; 2 Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21-22).
  • We can have the mind of Christ with spiritual understanding, through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:9-16).
  • Jesus lives in us through the Holy Spirit (John 14:20 & 23; Rom 8:9-10; 2 Cor 13:5; Gal 2:20; Eph 2:22; 3:16-17).
  • We are given spiritual gifts and abilities by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:1-11).
  • We are empowered by the Holy Spirit (Ac 2:8; Eph 3:16).
  • We have been given the Holy Spirit as a seal, or deposit, guaranteeing our eternal inheritance (Rom 8:15-17; 2 Cor 1:22, 5:5; Eph 1:13-14; 4:30).
  • We have access to God the Father in prayer, because of Jesus and in Jesus’ name, but the Holy Spirit provides the connection (Rom 8:26-27; Eph 2:18; 6:18).
  • We are ministers of the New Covenant, the Covenant of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:5-8).

[6] 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; Romans 8:23

[7] 1 Corinthians 14:1 and 39

[8] John 14:15-17,26; 15:26; 16:7-15

[9] Romans 8:9; 1 Peter 1:11.

[10] Luke 11:9-13, especially verse 13b.

[11] Acts 2:1-4.

[12] While some extreme forms of Pentecostal Christianity can seem downright silly, the supernatural working of the Holy Spirit is entirely biblical.

© Margaret Mowczko 2009
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4 thoughts on “Following Jesus, Led by the Holy Spirit

  1. Hello Marg,

    Would you be able to elaborate on what prophecy is, please?
    As far as I know, prophecy can refer to the divinely inspired speaking of a prophet, which in my opinion any of us could potentially be capable of (not just ordained clergy, great orators, etc).
    Prophecy can also refer to predicting the future, which I occasionally hear people from Pentecostal, Charismatic and Evangelical churches try to do. (Especially when an election is coming up, for whatever reason!)

    Does the original text suggest one or the other definition, or is it ambiguous?

    (I love your blog by the way, please keep up the great work! 🙂 )

    1. Hi Beth,

      The words “prophecy” and “prophesying” seem to be used in a broad sense in the New Testament. So in 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul speaks about the men and women who were praying and prophesying, I suggest “praying” is speaking to God and “prophesying” can be various kinds of speech inspired by God, not just foretelling.

      This paragraph is from my article on Philip’s daughters.

      Prophets played an important role in the early church. Being gifted by the Holy Spirit, they provided guidance, instruction, strengthening, encouragement, and comfort (Acts 13:3-4; 16:6; 1 Cor. 14:3, 31, etc). Paul considered prophecy to be the most desirable of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1), and he listed prophets and prophesying before teachers and teaching in his lists of ministry gifts in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:28, and Ephesians 4:11. So, as Ben Witherington has pointed out, “one cannot argue that prophesying—whether by women or by men—is less important, less enduring or less official than teaching or preaching.”

      I have more on women with prophetic gifts here: Many women leaders in the Bible had this one thing in common

      All my articles tagged with “Women Prophets” are here.

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