MILL VALLEY, Calif. (BP)–“Is a Spirit-filled seminary possible?” Jeff Iorg, president of Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, asked during the spring academic convocation at the seminary’s Mill Valley, Calif., campus.
“Golden Gate Seminary is an academic institution, and the primary emphasis of our instructional strategy for shaping leaders is shaping their intellects,” Iorg said. He acknowledged, however: “While we consider the intellect as a tool — a gift from God to be honed and used for his glory and advancement of His Kingdom — this focus on intellectual development can result in fleshly pride in our intellectual capabilities.”
Iorg continued, “While a sharp mind is a tool God may use to accomplish His purposes, spiritual results — particularly supernatural results — are God’s purview.” He then noted a dilemma faced by faculty, staff and students in his March 10 address: “How do we love God with our minds — ever-sharpening our intellectual capabilities — without becoming overly enamored with the supposed power of facts, information, reasoning and data? How do we present ourselves a ‘living sacrifice’ yielding all we are to God for His use while at the same time trusting God’s spirit to work though us to accomplish His purposes?”
Iorg suggested that an answer might be discovered in the scriptural admonition about being Spirit-filled in Ephesians 5:18: “And don’t get drunk with wine, which leads to reckless actions, but be filled by the Spirit.” Iorg pointed out that while the phrase “be filled by the Spirit” is not used frequently, its significance is established when considered with other references to the work of the Holy Spirit throughout the New Testament.
“Two conclusions inform this presentation,” Iorg stated. “First, the filling by the Spirit is an important concept. And second, while it is important to be filled, it is also important to understand the concept as one descriptor of life in the Spirit, not as a special experience that stands apart from other scriptural descriptions of experiencing the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.”
Drawing from lexical studies of the word translated “be filled,” Iorg observed, “First, the filling by the Spirit is a present possibility for every believer. Second, Christians are obliged to receive the Spirit’s filling. Third, when filled, believers will express it in community with corporate benefits rather than private titillation. Finally, the verb form should be understood as magnifying the mystery of what it means to be filled with the Spirit.”
Referencing various popular outlooks on being Spirit-filled, Iorg said, “While there are commonalities between these various lists, there is also a marked absence of consensus on supposed conditions for being Spirit-filled. Despite the best efforts of noted spiritual heavyweights, there is no definitive, unified answer.
“Instead of being frustrating,” Iorg continued, “the absence of information about how to be Spirit-filled is, in and of itself, instructive. The absence of a biblical formula implies that being Spirit-filled is a supernatural experience, and we are more dependent on God’s sovereign blessing than our step-by-step effort. It is an intentional omission.”
Iorg noted that a variety of results are connected to the concept in Scripture. “When believers are Spirit-filled,” he said, “the following will be evident: Christians will enthusiastically participate in worship — both to glorify God and encourage others by their presence and devotion. Significant relationships will be marked by Christian grace and healthy interpersonal interaction. Believers will participate willingly and frequently in sacrificial acts of Christian service — including witnessing, preaching, leading, healing, confronting detractors and joyfully experiencing hardship. These actions will be marked with boldness and joy — as well as a confident expectation of God’s sovereign, supernatural intervention.”
Answering the title of his address — “Is a Spirit-filled seminary possible?” — Iorg said, “In a word, yes. It is possible because we are a community of believers teaching, studying and working to accomplish the shared mission of shaping leaders who expand God’s kingdom around the world.”
The question, “Are we a Spirit-filled seminary?” can also be answered yes, Iorg said. “There is ample, clear evidence of the Spirit’s empowering, leading, direction and filling people identified with Golden Gate,” he said. “We see it in ministry results achieved, Christian relationships enjoyed, and occasional, jaw-dropping supernatural results that can only be attributed to God’s work through us.”
And the question, “Can we be more intentional in seeking the Spirit’s filling?” also can be answered in the affirmative, Iorg said. “We must more openly acknowledge our desire for the Spirit’s empowering by meeting to pray together, sharing corporate worship experiences, and humbling ourselves by admitting our weaknesses rather than hiding behind the masks of self-deluded self-sufficiency.”
Iorg concluded by stating, “While we have already established there are no steps, personally or corporately, to being Spirit-filled, my hope is we can agree we have a responsibility to open ourselves to deeper dependence on the Spirit’s power. My hope is we will seek, however feebly and inadequately, the Spirit’s filling the best way we can. May we risk seeking the Spirit’s filling and discover the serendipitous surprises God has in store along the way. Toward that end, may God do more than shape our minds with this presentation — but also touch our hearts with a fresh longing for His power in and through the people called Golden Gate Seminary.”
Phyllis Evans is director of communications at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif. An audio recording of the spring academic convocation may be accessed through the seminary website http://cdm15008.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm4/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/p15008coll21&CISOPTR=73. Click on “login” at right, then type “ggblibrary” in both spaces in lower case. Click “access this item” and an mp3 will download.