In the immediate wake of the Reformation, some radical reformers (the Anabaptists) began to divorce the Spirit from the Word. For example, some Anabaptists said the Bible was a ‘dead letter’ (referring to Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 3). In 1531, Sebastian Franck even lamented that his friend Campanus was “so addicted to the letter of Scripture” that he withdrew his heart “from the teaching of the Spirit.” Sinclair Ferguson explains Calvin’s excellent response to the Anabaptist division of Word and Spirit.
“In response we find Calvin frequently emphasizing – as a refrain in his teaching – that we can never separate the Spirit from the Word, precisely because the Spirit is the author of the Word, and executes the will of God in covenantal consistency with the Word. Thus, for example, he writes that those who forsake the Word for the Spirit are guilty of ‘fatal fantasies in which fanatics entangle themselves when they abandon the Word and invent some sort of vague and erratic spirit.’ A recurring theme in Calvin’s thought, therefore, is that Christ, the Spirit, and the Word are not to be separated. For the Scriptures are the scepter by which Christ rules the church as its Lord.”
“Thus what presents itself as a recovery of the ministry of the Spirit in effect leads to a rejection of the distance between God and man, a rejection of the authority of Scripture, and a rending apart of justification and sanctification.”