The Fundamentals of New Covenant Theology
Part 16: NCT Characteristics (I)
“1. The discernment of the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential for accurately handling the Word of God because there is no authentic leading of the Holy Spirit that is not contextually wedded to the words of the Bible (I Cor. 2:13-14; II Tim. 2:15; 3:16). (NCT is not affiliated with present-day “New Calvinism” and “Charismatic Calvinism.”).” (Long, New Covenant Theology, NCT Characteristics)
The Holy Spirit will never contradict the Scriptures – the divine revelation which He Himself inspired. Therefore, if anyone is convinced of any doctrine, idea, attitude, application or action which contradicts Scripture, such cannot in any sense be ascribed to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, since fallen man cannot truly understand, let alone receive, biblical truth in and of himself, the Spirit must empower him to understand, discern, and apply God’s Word. It is necessary to note that the Holy Spirit, generally speaking, only grants such understanding to believers. For it is written, “Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; interpreting spiritual things to those who possess the Spirit [author’s translation]. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:13-14, KJV). Augustine of Hippo similarly declared, “Fides praecedit intellectum” (Latin: “Faith precedes knowledge”), while Anselm taught, “Credo ut intellegam” (Latin: “I believe in order that I may understand.”).
It is the responsibility of every believer to devote himself to the intense study of Scripture. For the Apostle Paul declares in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Accurate handling of the Word of God is ultimately dependent, not upon man’s efforts, but upon divine illumination, which the Spirit sovereignly bestows or withholds according to His own will. If the Spirit withholds illumination, it does not matter how much time or effort a man expends – he will never achieve an accurate understanding of God’s Word.
So, which Scriptures are authoritative for a New Covenant believer? 2 Timothy 3:16 provides the answer: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” A New Covenant believer is not free to divest himself of any particular section of Scripture, whether in terms of understanding, belief, or practice. This is yet another reason why the discernment of the Holy Spirit (i.e. the illumination of the Holy Spirit) is absolutely essential. Although a New Covenant believer is under the authority of all Scripture (i.e. the Old and New Testament Scriptures), a New Covenant believer, as a member of the New Covenant, is not under the authority of the Old Covenant. Only the Holy Spirit can illuminate the continuity-discontinuity distinctions between not only the biblical covenants but also the Old and New Testament Scriptures.