Posts Tagged ‘Holy Spirit

11
Aug
10

flesh and spirit in romans, and beyond (8)

The Christian life is life in the Spirit.  For Paul this is absolutely paramount.  To be a Christian is to have ‘the law of the Spirit of life set us free from ‘the law of sin and death’ (Roms 8:2).  The requirement of the law impossible in the flesh is fulfilled in us through the Spirit (8:4).  It is through the Spirit we find ‘life and peace’ (8:6).  Indeed it is those led by the Spirit of God who are sons of God (8:14).

Paul has much more to say in Romans 8 about life in the Spirit to which I hope to return.  In the meantime I want to stress again that Paul understands Christians as people in whom God’s future Kingdom has already arrived.  The OT spoke often about the day of God’s salvation.  The nations (and Israel) were unrighteous and unable to bring about righteousness.  The prophets however spoke of a day when God would establish righteousness.  He would save those who seemed unable to save themselves.  This day of salvation and righteousness would be brought about by the Spirit of God.  God would accomplish salvation through his Messiah and this Messiah would be Spirit-anointed.

Isa 11:1-2 (ESV)
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.  ​​​​​​​​And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

He would be God’s Spirit-filled servant who would bring salvation.

Isa 42:1-4 (ESV)
Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.  ​​​​​​​​He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street;  ​​​​​​​​a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.  ​​​​​​​​He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

Isa 61:1-3 (ESV)
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;  ​​​​​​​​to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;  ​​​​​​​​to grant to those who mourn in Zion- to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

And He would create a Spirit-filled people.

Isa 59:20-21 (ESV)
“And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the Lord.  “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.”

Isa 44:1-5 (ESV)
“But now hear, O Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen!  ​​​​​​​​Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you from the womb and will help you: Fear not, O Jacob my servant, Jeshurun whom I have chosen.  ​​​​​​​​For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.  ​​​​​​​​They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.  ​​​​​​​​This one will say, ‘I am the Lord’s,’ another will call on the name of Jacob, and another will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and name himself by the name of Israel.”

Joel 2:28-32 (ESV)
“And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.  ​​​​​​​​Even on the male and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit.  “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Lord has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Lord calls.

He would do so through a new covenant.  The Old Covenant of law failed because it demanded righteousness but could not supply it, however, the new covenant would succeed because it promised God’s Spirit as an indwelling presence creating righteousness in the hearts of the covenant people and indeed giving them life.

Ezek 36:24-30 (ESV)
I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations.

Ezek 37:1-14 (ESV)
The hand of the Lord was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the middle of the valley; it was full of bones. And he led me around among them, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the valley, and behold, they were very dry. And he said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” Then he said to me, “Prophesy over these bones, and say to them, O dry bones, hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon 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 shall know that I am the Lord.”  So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I prophesied, there was a sound, and behold, a rattling, and the bones came together, bone to its bone. And I looked, and behold, there were sinews on them, and flesh had come upon them, and skin had covered them. But there was no breath in them. Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord God: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live.” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army.  Then he said to me, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. Behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope is lost; we are indeed cut off.’ Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord.”

All this is part and parcel with a Spirit renewed creation.

Isa 32:14-17 (ESV)
For the palace is forsaken, the populous city deserted; the hill and the watchtower will become dens forever, a joy of wild donkeys, a pasture of flocks;  ​​​​​​​​until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest.  ​​​​​​​​Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field.  ​​​​​​​​And the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.  My people will abide in a peaceful habitation, in secure dwellings, and in quiet resting places.

For the writers of the NT this End-Time salvation arrived in Jesus.  He was the Spirit-annointed Messiah and servant.  The eschatological age arrived in him.  To be sure it has still to be completed and this awaits his Coming again, yet in him the Age of salvation arrived and by faith all who are united to him share in this Age of salvation.  We who are Christ’s do not belong to the old age of the flesh but to the new world of the Spirit.  We find all our resources in Christ through the Spirit.  Thus for Paul, it is proper and normal to think of all aspects of the Christian life as lived in and generated by the Spirit of God.

While there is no doubt excess and much attributed to the Spirit that is not of the Spirit yet as believers we must not allow this to rob us of the glory and privilege of realising life in the Spirit.  Life in the Spirit is the great blessing of the church.  May we live as people of the Spirit.

07
Aug
10

flesh and spirit in romans,and beyond (7)

Rom 7:1-6 (ESV)
Or do you not know, brothers-for I am speaking to those who know the law-that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.  Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.

Rom 8:9 (ESV)
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.

For Paul, Christian living is, purely and simply, life in the Spirit.

In previous blogs on this topic we noted that while, for Paul, ‘flesh’ is an anthropological term (describing humanity in its creaturely weakness) it is also and primarily an eschatological term (describing humanity not only as a created and weak but belonging to a creation that is fallen and passing). For Paul, ‘flesh’ describes humanity and life in the old world while ‘Spirit’ describes life in the new.  Christians are eschatological people.  That is, they are people of the future.  They  do not belong to the world that is present, polluted and passing but to the world that is prospective, perfect, and permanent.  They are the people of the World to Come.

If we fail to grasp this eschatological perspective in Paul we miss the heart of what it is to be a Christian. A Christian is not merely someone who has a faith in the true God.  He is not simply someone who follows Jesus rather than Buddha.  He (she) is not even simply someone who knows Jesus died to bear his sins and finds forgiveness in trusting him.   A Christian is an alien from another world.  He is a visitor from the future – a future world beyond this world created by the Spirit of God from the death of the old.

The age or world to come will be physical but it will bring physicality to a new reality that can be truly described as ‘spiritual’ for God’s presence will be present in power and glory by his Spirit it as never before.  Thus God’s people live in this old and passing world of flesh-people as people of the new and coming world, Spirit-people.  This eschatological perspective shapes and informs profoundly what it means to be a Christian, or better what it means to belong to the church, God’s community of the Spirit.

Gordon Fee in his encyclopaedic study of the Holy Spirit in the writing of Paul, ‘God’s Empowering Presence’ expresses the above well when he writes,

Probably the one feature that distances the NT church the most from its contemporary counterparts is its thoroughly eschatological perspective of all of life.  In contrast to most of us, eschatology – a unique understanding of the time of the End – conditioned the early believers’ existence in every way.  The first clue to this outlook came from Jesus’ own proclamation of the kingdom – as a present reality in his ministry, although still a future event.  But it was the resurrection of Christ and the gift of the promised (eschatological) Spirit that completely altered the primitive church’s perspective, both about Jesus and about themselves.  In place of the totally future eschatology of their Jewish roots, with its hope of a coming Messiah and the resurrection of the dead, the early church recognized that the future had already been set in motion.  The resurrection of Christ marked the beginning of the End, the turning of the ages.  However, the End had only begun; they still awaited the final event, the (now second) coming of their Messiah Jesus at which time they too would experience the resurrection/transformation of the body.  They lived “between the times”: already the future had begun, not yet had it been consummated.  From the NT perspective the whole of Christian existence – and theology – has this eschatological “tension” as its basic framework…

This is the perspective of Romans and indeed Scripture.  The gospel is the good news that through faith we are rescued and delivered from the old age of flesh, sin and death (subject to law and under wrath) and translated by grace through the death and resurrection of Christ into the new age of the Spirit and so of  life and righteousness.

If we are to think and talk about what it means to be a Christian we must speak a great deal of ‘life in the Spirit’ for this is what the Christian life in fact is.

In future blogs I hope to explore this further.




the cavekeeper

The Cave promotes the Christian Gospel by interacting with Christian faith and practice from a conservative evangelical perspective.

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