- Is someone morally “free” who eagerly chooses to oppress, torture, rape and murder?
- Does someone who is not morally free make a *choice* to oppress, torture, rape and murder?
- Does someone *choose* to do good who is not morally “free” to “choose” that good?
- Is that good (thing) *good* if he had no moral freedom to do otherwise?
A word means what a writer or speaker means it to mean.
It’s really interesting how context reveals the “meaning” of a word or a phrase. The more finely-tuned, the richer our understanding of context, the better we will understand what a writer or speaker is immediately “after”.
We experience the truth of this every day but we do it so easily that we’re rarely aware that we’re doing it. Those with a full awareness of the context are aware of the grammatical/lexical possibilities of the words spoken but they’re also aware of things—truths, realities, events—that others are unaware of. Those not fully “in the know” while they are well aware of the grammatical or lexical possibilities of the words being used don’t “get” what’s going on in the speaker’s mind nor do they “get” what has been generated in the minds of those “in the know” who are part of those being addressed. (This is true even if the person who doesn’t have a full grasp of the context is more accomplished linguistically than those “in the know.”)
For example a teacher whose vocabulary is greater than any of the students may not know how a familiar word is being used intentionally by Peter to goad Rachel.
Again, if I’m angry with someone and he knows it, I may say something with barbs in it that only he can feel and pick up on. To others there’s nothing critical in the remark and this is true even though they hear the same words spoken and with the same tone.
Here’s “John;” he’s certain that “Joe” has slandered him and he speaks to him about it. “Joe” denies any such thing but John isn’t convinced and in a Bible class where the discussion is “the works of the flesh” in Galatians 5 John works in some blunt words about the very great wickedness of slander. Everyone in the room agrees with John’s words but the only one that gets John’s real point (intention) is Joe. It isn’t only John’s words that give the “meaning” (here I’m talking about intention)—Joe gets his purpose, his intention, “what he is really doing with his words.
It’s because intention is at the center of what a person is doing with words that God says Job’s friends did not speak the truth about Him. Well, at least that’s part of the truth. The friends very often say things that are true but they use them to promote an agenda God did not endorse or approve whereas Job said false things in support of known massive underlying truths about God and this particular situation (see Job 42:7).
Context is everything and because (as we experience every day of our lives, perhaps) we can’t get the entire picture out of which speech arises, we must settle for something much less than an exhaustive understanding of the Bible’s message. (That claim, though I believe it’s true needs carefully developed.)
Back to John and Joe. As soon as John utters the word slander it fills with sounds and images and personal feelings that don’t exist on this occasion for anyone other than Joe. Joe knows he is being “got at.” The word in this setting fills with images that are not part of the word itself. Interpretation involves more than the customary lexical and grammatical possibility of the words used.
If “Harold” had brought the matter up it in the class it wouldn’t have generated those additional images in Joe’s mind though it might have made him feel uneasy. It would have been another general and well-known observation about one aspect of moral behavior.
But if Harold is a good friend and confidant of John then his remarks on slandering will probably generate other images and feelings that only Joe experiences. If Harold is clearly not John’s friend what Joe feels may be no more than some uneasiness.
Context is everything though it isn’t everything, if you know what I mean.
(In light of the above we can identify some of a writer’s basic convictions—he fervently promotes X and fiercely opposes Y so unless he contradicts himself or changes his mind we can go to his other writings and use those convictions to help us understand him. What we won’t do is interpret him so as to contradict his stance on X and Y. )
This has massive ramifications for all communication; biblical and otherwise. Speech creates “worlds” in which various feelings, responses, convictions and directions are promoted and pursued and shaped. If John’s words don’t “create” Joe’s world they certainly shape it and shape it forever. (That point needs careful development.)
For NT believers there’s no doubt whatever that without Jesus, His person and work, Sin isn’t dealt with. Believers don’t need to prove again and again what no believer in 2,000 years has doubted or would dream of doubting.
Precisely how Christ “deals with” Sin is still disputed though it’s clear that the evangelical stream currently prefers the penal substitution view which I think is bad doctrine that requires either universalism or limited atonement as in Augustinian Calvinism. (I’ve worked with that some in The Dragon Slayer.) Setting aside atonement theory what’s indisputable for people like us is this: Christ dealt with Sin or it wasn’t dealt with. The Incarnation, life, death, resurrection and glorification of Jesus Christ is/are the objective realities the NT says are indispensable for reconciliation and so deal with Sin that it is not an indestructible enemy of sinners—Christ conquered it so that sinners can conquer it also [John 12:41;16.33; 1 John 5:4-5]. How He “conquered” it is complex and numerous theories are offered.
This focus on God in Christ is the “objective” side of reconciliation with God. Humanity didn’t provide that—God provided that independent of the human family. [That statement needs developed to be made clear since Jesus didn’t float down out of heaven but was born of a woman who was a child of Adam and Jesus is himself listed as a child of Adam in Luke 3.] All that is true, but it’s only on side of the “reconciliation” story. 2 Corinthians 5:18 insists that “all things” are of God (referencing the things just said) but 5.20 calls (using an aorist imperative) for humans to “be reconciled” to God. “Be you reconciled to God!” It’s clear that while human response isn’t what initiates or is the ground on which humans are reconciled to God, human response is required. The Godward side of the Story is that God does not reckon human sins against them (5.19), what should have kept humans and God alienated from one another is the human record of sinful conduct that rose out of sinful hearts. The man-ward side of the Story is what is rarely dealt with in evangelical teaching/preaching. There is still the fevered fear of “legalism” or “self-salvation”—a fear inherited from Augustine, systematized in Calvinism and Lutheranism.
All talk of earning a right relationship with God is nonsense. A saving relationship with God begins in grace, is sustained by grace and ends with grace! Paul knows that no one earns anything (Titus 3.5 is enough) but the same one who wrote Titus 3.5 wrote 2 Corinthians 5.20. The entire story of reconciliation (in any situation, human or divine) must include the attitude of both parties toward the other. There cannot be “reconciliation” while one chooses and lives out hostility toward the other. To do that is to remain alienated. There is no such thing as “being at one” when in fact one chooses not to be at one. This realignment of the heart with God is the subjective side of “reconciliation/atonement”.
God’s work of reconciliation/atonement is not done when Christ has done what He has done in His earthly ministry—He has yet to overcome the sinner’s chosen alienation. That’s where gospeling enters, that’s where the Father & Son, in and through the Spirit, brings the truth that woos and leads sinners to a transformed heart (2 Corinthian 5.19-20; John 6:63; 16:13-15; Romans 2:4; Phil 1.29; Acts 16:14; 18:27 and elsewhere).
With this work—God’s continued work of reconciling—the sinner now rejects his sin, his choice of alienation, he wants to be God’s friend and servant. He renounces his past sin and renounces the sinful bent that remains a part of him due to the years of alienation and he continues (by God’s help) to “put off” the various behaviors that were part of his “old man” status (the “old man” being his relationship to and inclusion in the first Adam—see Romans 5:12–6:6). In Jesus he is not now the same person he was before God brought him to a repentant faith. Now in faith he rejects all that the “old man” (first Adam) stands for and embraces all that the “last Adam” is and stands for (see 1 Corinthians 15:21-22; 45-49 with Romans 5.14, last phrase and 7:4-6). At no point is the sinner coerced, he is not forced to believe, his free-will capacity has not been obliterated but the truth of God so works that he is persuaded and shaped that his eyes and heart are opened by the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:21; Acts 2.37; 16:13-15; Romans 10:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14). God’s goodness leads the believer to renounce Sin in all its forms (attitude, thought and deed as well as the still existing weakness that leads to sins). This is the era, the dispensation of the Spirit in and by whom the glorified and exalted Lord Jesus makes Himself present to the world having completed in His earthly ministry, experience and glorification all that needed to be done then (John 14:16-18, 23; 16:12-15; Ephesians 3:14-21 and John 16:5-11).
This shouldn’t lead to an over–stress on “doing” or “the pursuit of moral excellence” (though we were created for good works—Ephesians 2.10; 2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 Peter 2:24; Titus 3:4-8). We must take into account the truth that God cannot have fellowship with people who choose to be “darkness” (Colossians 1:13, 21; 2 Corinthians 6:14) and who remain therefore in the kingdom of darkness. At the heart of the human response to God—which is generated by God’s saving truth—is faith. Saving faith is both receiving as true what God has revealed concerning Himself in Jesus Christ and committing oneself in trusting obedience to that faith. This is what overcomes the world. Faith says of Jesus Christ, “He is right—we are wrong; He is righteous—we are unrighteous; He is the truth—we are lies……” That believing/trusting response (which is the gift of God as well as a free human response) takes us into and is the way of life in the “new world” (new creation). In and through Him we died to the “old world” and enter that new world; we die to “the old man” and are resurrected in the “new man” (Colossian 2:12; Ephesians 2:5-6).
“Reconciliation” includes the reorientation of a heart with God’s. It includes having the mind of Christ. God’s work of reconciliation is not completed until the sinner (whatever his limitations) takes God’s purpose as his own and that begins in and continues in a denial of the self and the embracing Jesus Christ as our life and identity [(Romans 6:1-6; Colossians 2:12; 3:1-5).
So He knocks on the door where the emperor was staying during his visit to Caesarea. The door opens, the Roman overlord scowls and the visitor asks, “You Tiberius, the Roman emperor?”
“That is who I am,” the Roman says. “And who are you?”
“I’m Jesus of Nazareth.”
“And what is your business here?”
“I came to tell you that I have come to dismantle your empire—to bring it down in ruins.”
“Talk like that will have you hanging on a tree!” said the most powerful man n the planet.
Over his shoulder as he walked away the young Jesus said, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“You say that now,” the emperor barked after Him, “but when we hang you up on that tree that’ll be the end of you.”
Still over his shoulder the young Jewish prince shouted back, “Good luck with that! When I’m lifted up I will draw multiplied millions of people to me and into service in My kingdom while yours is in ruins.”
“Talkers like you, poor little man, we’ve heard hundreds of you. Here today, gone tomorrow. Before long they’ll have forgotten your very name.”
“You wish,” comes the reply, now from a distance and fading, “Millions will be singing, writing, speaking, praying and glorying in My name when you and your empire will be remembered only by its ruins and visited by tourists. I have seen empires like yours. Here today and gone tomorrow.”
(This piece I’ve borrowed from the upcoming The Irish Papers.)
Tiberius Tourists The Irish Papers
A Department of Water Resources representative stops at a Texas ranch and talks with an old rancher. He tells the rancher, “I need to inspect your ranch for your water allocation.” The old man was busy, looks up and says, “Okay, but stay out of that field over there.”
The rep isn’t used to being told what he can’t do, flashes his credentials and says, “Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me. See this card? This card means I am allowed to go wherever I wish on any agricultural land. No questions asked or answered. Have I made myself clear?”
The old rancher nodded, shrugged and goes about his chores. Before long he hears loud screams and spies the Water Rep running for his life and close behind is the rancher’s bull. The bull’s gaining with every step.
The Rep’s wide-eyed and terrified and he has reason to be, so the old man downs his tools, runs to the fence and yells at the top of his lungs…..”Your card! Show him your card!”
I suspect this is the kind of thing Paul would say to those church-troublers that marched into Corinth waving their letters of recommendation in the faces of the people everywhere they went (compare 2 Corinthians 3:1). When they came face to face with Jesus Paul might shout: “Your letters; show Him your letters of recommendation, your diplomas and your name on the honors list!”
Come to think of it, it won’t matter much what we wave in front of us when we come to meet God; not bank-balance, proof of popularity, size of our congregation, list of books written, conferences headlined, the famous names we can drop, the movies we starred in, the records we held—these aren’t the “Open Sesame” into the blessed presence of God. It won’t help a lot either to give a long list of venerable names who hold or held our views—that doesn’t make them wholesome or true. Well, not unless they’re venerable names like Paul.
But Paul is not as fashionable these days as he once was. It’s true, of course, he wasn’t fashionable with everyone back then but check who they were that said he was “wrong!” In 2 Corinthians 11:4-6 he says something like, “You dismiss me when I teach. But let someone else come along bringing a different gospel or a different spirit and you’ll pay attention to him. Well, I may not have the degrees or the flamboyance or charisma or learning of these academics but I know what I know and I know you should know that because I’ve been around you long enough for you to know it. These ‘newcomers’. I’m not one of these. They’ll be gone soon and millions will be reading and living by what God has given to me for endless years to come.”
We truly need to reflect thoughtfully on this entire section–2 Corinthians 11–13. Just read it through at one sitting. Listen to this man and note that he is responding to people who not only doubt his truthfulness but his teaching also. Read all of it and note 13:3-5 where they doubt him and his right to teaching and the truthfulness of what he tauight. “You seek proof of Christ speaking in me? Well, check yourself! If you are in Christ–how did you get there? You, novices that you are, in your wisdom, wisdom you learned from these newcomers, you doubt me and tell me I’m ‘wrong’? Remember how you came to know Him. But on the other hand, if you feel smart enough, certainly smart enough to tell me I’m ‘wrong’ about major doctrines, maybe you ought to doubt the gospel I taught you to bring you into the Lord Jesus.” (You can rest assured that when one of the university professors is being questioned for accuracy/believability by some student that he’ll quickly call on the Paul he trenchantly said was “wrong!”. But the student wouldn’t have Paul as the source of truth and authority—he would have his professor as source; a professor who doesn’t mind claiming he could have taught Paul a thing or two.)
On one occasion Paul strode into Jerusalem with an uncircumcised young Christian called Titus. He called out the leadership there that was saying if people wanted to be blessed in Jesus the Messiah that they would have to become Torah-observant and circumcised into the Judaic faith. That was heresy! (See Acts 15 and Galatians 2—3.) Paul said he wouldn’t give an inch to anybody, pillars of the Church or not! And when later, in Antioch, one of those pillars engaged in hypocrisy regarding the truth of the Gospel and Paul went after him (yes, and his close companion, Barnabas too). “I don’t care who they are,” he said, “if they undermine the truth of the Gospel I’m coming after them.” (Galatians 2:5-6, 11-14) This is the man who bent over backwards, becoming all things to all men that he might save some (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). “I don’t ask their names,” he would say. “I don’t ask where they were schooled or the position they hold or the company they keep. I listen to them teach and preach. If it’s Gospel and truth I’m happy. I don’t even care if they’re gospeling to glorify themselves or to outshine someone else—just so long as they’re gospeling!“ (See Philippians 1:14-18.) All this from “Mr Flexible!” But not when it came to what undermined the Word and Will of God and threatened the Gospel.
It won’t help, if we had and could recite the correct answers to all the theological questions if uncaringly we overwhelm with our new wisdom the people God gave into our care.
Recklessly, because we have become wise we pour out our newly–found wisdom and leave the the “unlearned” looking at one another—confused, wondering and wandering. Ezekiel 34:1-10 is a sobering section with a sobering truth that is as true today as it was when Babylon was hammering down the walls of Jerusalem all those centuries ago.
This is a rambling sort of a piece. There’s no cure for me. But maybe there’s enough in it that some will feel whatever truth there is in it and maybe that’s all I should expect from what’s here.
They’re older now. They’re tired now! It isn’t just their age! They’ve raised children, they’ve worked hard so many years, they’ve been bereaved, they care for their grandchildren to allow the parents to make their way in life and they turned up to worship God with a faithfulness and consistency in that matter that can only be admired.
Many of them hear constant calls from preachers to better moral response, for more effort to engage in “the work of the Lord” and particularly in relation to the unconverted. After all evangelism is the responsibility of the entire congregation and not just the “evangelist”—who characteristically is more of a “pastor” than an evangelist.
For various reasons we find the word “pastor” unacceptable for one who is an “evangelist”. But many (is “most” too sweeping a statement?) who call themselves or are called “evangelists” are more like “pastors”. We might object to the term but we engage in the practice and (it would appear) without thought or apology. It might also be the case that quite some time ago we substituted the word “minister” for “evangelist” because it gives more room for maneuvering. I mean, if you call someone (or he calls himself) an “evangelist” we still sense that his business is outreach toward “the lost” (is that not true?); it (at least) strongly suggests that he mainly engages in “outreach,” in preaching to “the unforgiven” and “outsiders”. It seems such a focused “title”—“evangelist,” I mean. Call him a “minister” and it sort of suggests, if it doesn’t now plainly mean he “serves” the congregation. That’s what the word “minister” means—is it not? When you put it that way, he’s not exactly an “evangelist”. Unless the word “evangelist” is only another word for “minister” or “teacher” or “pastor”. But, then again, I thought that all kinds of people were “ministers” (that is, servants, people who engaged, one way or another, in “service”. You know, like, say, “a deacon” or a “deaconess”—is that Romans 16:1, where we have the feminine form of “servant/deacon”?) I do see that there was a distinct group named “deacons” (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8-13) which in very early days were often viewed as men being mentored toward becoming shepherds/pastors.
Ah, then, that might ease things. The preacher is just another one of the “ministers”. Is that how we use the word “minister” when we speak of “the local preacher”? Is that what we mean to do when we put his name up on our billboard outside? Is that what we mean when we introduce him to some friend with, “This is our minister”? Do we mean he’s just another one of us that “ministers”?
So, is it wrong to use the term “minister” of the one who preaches to the assembly of believers week after month after year? I think not! After all he serves (ministers to) the assembly in teaching and exhorting. But I do object to our confusing that with the work of an “evangelist”. I don’t doubt that on occasions these salaried ministers speak to the unforgiven, don’t you know, but then I know numerous people who speak the gospel to the as-yet unforgiven and they’re not salaried “ministers” or “evangelists,” “teachers” or “pastors”.
I do understand that areas of service often overlap. Thank God! One who teaches is “ministering”. One who evangelizes is ministering and one who pastors is ministering. ( I know one preacher who repeatedly insisted that Ephesians 4:11 should be rendered ”shepherds” rather than “pastors,” obviously ignorant (even after he was informed) of the fact that the word “pastor” means “shepherd”. His problem wasn’t lexical—it was/is sectarian.)
Romans 12:3-8 makes for enlightening reading—note the distinctions drawn between areas of service, though none of them are in conflict since, putting the best face on it, they are all expressions of the one body expressing the grace of God. Is it significant that he doesn’t mention evangelizing? Probably not. But then again, he might have thought that “evangelists” while they’re certainly God’s gift to the Church and to humanity was more focused to “outsiders” while his intention was to speak to “the family”. Moving from that.
Ephesians 4:7-10 speaks of Christ’s exaltation and His giving gifts to “men” and some of his gifts to “men” are listed in 4:11. I wonder if “men” in 4:8 speaks only of “Church members” or of humans in general. If Christ gave these specialized gifts mentioned to “Church members” for the benefit not only of the Church but for humanity perhaps “men” has that in mind.
No matter on that point also. Still, we’re not to forget that the Church is Christ for the world! What He gifts the Church with is for service to humanity. The gifts Paul mentioned are differentiated as: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. (Assuming for the moment that the ‘Granville Sharp rule’ doesn’t hold here the shepherds and teachers are two groups and not one.)
We’re told that Christ gave “some” to be this, some to be that and others to be something else. We must permit the text to say what it says. Once more, there is no conflict here—all the gifts blend and sometimes overlap to bless the specific congregations and the entire Body of Christ with growth and maturity which, in this section, stresses its being grounded in God’s truth/doctrine that it might be filled with the fullness of God (maybe Ephesians 1:22-23 works well here). If “evangelist” is a particular form of ministry–what is an “evangelist“?
While it’s clear to me that the very existence of the Church of God is a proclamation of and by the exalted Lord who indwells the Church through and as the Holy Spirit, who is Christ’s Spirit, the Church is called to speak its truth (as the Lord Jesus did when He was engaged in His earthly phase of ministering). Again, that’s clear to me! Nevertheless, God gave “some” to evangelize. (You might Google Eusebius on the word “evangelist” and/or consult the wider literature on it and see what you think.) An “evangelist” doesn’t call himself. God gifts him and he is urged to be faithful to his calling (2 Timothy1:6; 4:5 and 1 Timothy 4:14). It’s probably important to say that the Timothy literature is more than the job description of an “evangelist” since Timothy functions as a special envoy of Paul at Ephesus (1 Timothy 1:3; 4:13 and perhaps Titus 1:5 is pertinent here).
My intention in this piece is to be accurate in presenting the biblical witness (write me if it needs corrected or balanced) but mainly I mean to be practical and speak to what I think is a common injustice about which little (that I know of) is being said.
I hear salaried preachers (many of them call themselves “evangelists”) repeatedly calling on the members of the congregations (“parts of Christ”—1 Corinthians 6:15) to engage in evangelism. That is, they are to carry the gospel to the non-Christians, the not-yet forgiven, the “outsiders” or the “unchurched”. My suspicion is that if the salaried “evangelists” spent their time evangelizing that more evangelism would be being done than currently is being done. At this point I’m isolating “evangelism” in the way that these ministers that I’m complaining about are doing. They want not only the young school and “professional” working people to engage in “outreach for the lost,” they want the older people to do the same (as if they weren’t already doing it). By “reaching out for the lost” (or some such phrase) they mean overt speaking the gospel to the unforgiven, or more likely, inviting them to the building so the unforgiven can hear the local minister (evangelist?) preach.
So what should we do? Should we say the congregation, “You can’t expect the minister to do your evangelizing for you.” Or, “You mustn’t sit like a bump on a log just listening.”
These “bumps on a log” are paying the speaker’s salary, they’re feeding him and his family, they’re paying for his education and the education of his children, they paying for the comfortable home for his wife and children, they’re paying for his health insurance and theirs, they’re characteristically setting his retirement fund aside. They do all this to allow this “evangelist” to do what?
Do they pray for him and his family? Do they pray for the church at large and speak to God about the sad, bad world that needs Him so? Did they raise children to God’s glory who are now in the Lord Jesus and thrilled about it? Do they work on their grandchildren in the same way? Do they care for grandchildren so that their own children have a chance to make their honorable way in the world? Do they live honorably and kindly, compassionately and generously with their neighbors and in their brief contact with strangers and so adorn the name of Christ? Do they let His light shine so that people see their good works and glorify God in heaven? In living that way do they make the preacher’s sermons have the ring of truth (presuming he gospels when he speaks)? Do they gospel “away from the building” and assuming that they bring guests does the minister gospel? Did they and do they by their constant trust in God and keeping a congregation alive give that young man who now stands as a local minister (evangelist?) in his place in the Lord’s Body? These “bumps on a log”—did they and do they do all that and more?
Is any part of that evangelism?
I wonder how many salaried ministers (evangelists?) speak regularly to the unconverted “about their soul”? I wonder how many “unchurched” persons they speak with in, say, six months. Do they go looking for them? Or do they just “work to make friends” with one for six months with nothing more than, “Come to see us at church sometime”? I’m not opposing “salaried” teachers or evangelists. I’m opposed to their being well salaried and forgetting who they’re talking to! God forgive them!
Let’s imagine that the average man or woman works and commutes 10 hours a day five days a week (leaving aside or now family relationships and work at home) and let’s suppose we were fools enough to say that has nothing to do with serving God. Let’s suppose we did that with the salaried minister (evangelist?)—his first 10 hours a day don’t register on the God’s service list so now he has only come up level with the members who are paying his salary. Imagine him then speaking to his congregation and telling them they need to become more involved in the work of the Lord. Especially in the matter of outreach so that the assembly can grow. What if we told these evangelists (?) your first 10 hours a day don’t count, nor do the other hours spent with family? Your doing the “work of the Lord” only counts after the first 10 hours a day. What if we said to the local preacher, “Let’s see you work 10 hours a day and then get involved in outreach after that.”? How would that go over?
So, should we encourage these non-preacher members to shrug off the truth about who we Christians are? Should we discourage their gospeling to the as-yet unforgiven? Heaven forbid! But are they not already engaged in it? Have they not been engaged in it over the years?
Maybe if our salaried teachers (evangelists?) would evangelize or if they’re salaried “teachers” and not evangelists teach us of the wonder of God and who we are in Him, maybe if we were constantly fed with sound doctrine about GOD, His nature, character, purpose and promises even older and tired people, maybe even younger people who spend a minimum of 40 hours a week + traveling to and fro to provide for their families as God has called them to do (1 Timothy 5:8), perhaps working mothers with children that require lots of attention might be able to shrug off or at least resist their weariness and have the energy and boldness to speak about their Blessed Lord & Savior to the as-yet unforgiven the way the salaried ministers (evangelists?) should be doing. Religious lecturing isn’t gospeling.
I think I understand that there’s more to my faithful service to God than paying a preacher a salary. Yes, I think I’ve got straight. But I confess I’m weary of hearing what I hear from so many pulpits. I’m weary too for our people and wonder how they stay alive on what’s dished out to them. The newest theological fashion, the endless explaining of what that verse means and why we must get it right and how others are getting it wrong and the steady—maybe incessant call, “We must do better, we must all work to make this congregation grow.” The Church of God can only continue to live because the Spirit of the Father & the Son dwell within it. Exactly how that works I don’t know but it’s got to be more than what I’m hearing.
Maybe our teachers/exhorters should look at these faith-filled and faithful people, thank God, thank them, speak comfort, peace and vibrant hope to the older ones as they approach the end of their race and then get on with making full proof of their own “outreach” ministry that without the constant support and prayers of the people they address would never have begun much less continue.
(Oh God! Sigh. We thank You for this assuring indisputable truth: that You are the foundation on which Your Church is built and that we don’t carry You but rather that You carry us. In the Lord Jesus and by His Spirit this prayer.)
Psalm 139:7 ”Where could I go from thy Spirit, where could I flee from thy face?”
Most of this is obvious. I’m just collecting all the texts, wishing to leave an impression. The Holy Spirit is in the Bible from start to finish and He now indwells the Body of Christ as the Spirit of God’s Son and by this He constitutes the Church as indeed the extension of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. And “as the body without the spirit is dead” (James 2) so it is with Church which is His Body. I FAILED TO INCLUDE A PARAGRAPH ABOUT THE MAKING OF THE TABERNACLE. I’ll include it in total when I get a chance. SEE NOTE AT THE END OF THIS PIECE.*
I purpose later to offer a very brief survey of texts specifically related to the Spirit’s work with and in the person of the Lord Jesus and His earthly ministry.
Some of what follows I’m still wrestling with and would be happy for response at firstname.lastname@example.org. I mean to return to it. God enabling.
1. The Holy Spirit has always been around, working to create, bless and redeem. His presence and work is not unique to the New Covenant Church or Scriptures. He indwelt, guided and blessed the Old Covenant church also.
2. Who brooded over the formless earth like a hen over her chickens, bringing order and harmony out of the chaotic and uninhabitable and continues to make the earth fruitful? The Holy Spirit! (1) Who strove with rebellious humans for years to turn them back to God and life? (2) The Holy Spirit did!
3. When Abraham trusted God to make his own over-the-hill body and his wife’s dead womb fruitful and bear a child they couldn’t have hoped for, who was involved in the whole process right from the start? (3) The Holy Spirit!
4. Biblical writers sometimes think of “the Exodus” as the actual departure of Israel from Egypt but often they see it as the whole movement of God bringing Israel out of Egypt, through the wilderness and settling them in the land of promise.
5. Who was there delivering Israel from Egyptian captivity and bringing them through the Red sea? The Holy Spirit! Who was there in the midst of them, providing, as they wandered through the wilderness in need of food and rest? And who put up with their rebellion and murmuring, continuing to guide them though they grieved him with their wickedness? The Holy Spirit! (4)
6. Having freed them from the external conditions of slavery, who was it that dwelled in and worked with them, shaping them with life-transforming truths that redeemed them from internal slavery to all forms of corruption, enabling them to walk with their heads held high? The Holy Spirit! (5) Who built the Tabernacle through those people He chose and gifted? The Holy Spirit. (6) And when God’s supreme prophet needed help to spiritually guide the nation of Israel, it was the Spirit of God–the same Spirit that worked with Moses–that began to work in a more marked way with the seventy men chosen as colleagues to Moses, providing national guidance. (7)
7. When Joshua and his peers died, Israel forgot what God had done for them the result was anarchy, civil war, renewed slavery and abuse from other nations. It was the Holy Spirit who came upon certain deliverers, galvanizing the tribes into unity that resulted in freedom and rest. (8)
8. The Holy Spirit was there when the monarchy arrived, working through Saul until he showed himself an enemy of God’s purposes. So the Spirit of God departed from him and came mightily upon David who called the nation to be one people under one God. When he sinned grievously against God, he pleaded that God not take His Holy Spirit from him. (9)
9. It was during the period of the monarchy that the prophets made their appearance in earnest. Prophets who, like Micah were filled “with the Spirit of the Lord” (10) and Azariah who proclaimed assurance to Judah and her king. (11) Both Nehemiah and Zechariah speak of the entire period before the exile as a time when God dealt with Israel through the Holy Spirit (12) and Peter speaks of “the Spirit of Christ” being “in” them when they foretold of the coming suffering and glorification of the Master and it was the Holy Spirit who moved men to write the Holy Scripture. (13)
10. Prophets saw a coming day of calamity because of Israel’s covenant-breaking behavior but they assured Israel that a time was coming when God would signal the renewal of covenant relationship with Israel by lavishly pouring out the Spirit on men, women, girls and boys, male and female servants, virgins and old men. It would be a day of new beginnings, a day marked out by renewed Spirit activity.(14)
11. It’s important that we remember that the work of the Spirit of God wasn’t confined to acts of dramatic redemption or merely “religious” activities. Psalm 104 combines the extraordinary with the steady, everyday blessing of the entire creation. This includes his providing the gift of “wisdom” which means “thinking like God” and learning to live in and enjoy the world under him. The whole of life is permeated with the activity of the Holy Spirit.(15)
12. Then came the deportation the prophets had foretold and Israel marched into the dark, but even in captivity the Holy Spirit was dwelling, speaking, enabling and promising. Ezekiel was among the captives when the heavens opened and the Spirit of God entered him. (16) Again and again he speaks conviction and consolation which comes to its peak in 37:1-14 where a nation dead in sin and exile is assured that the Spirit of God would raise them from their graves and give them life. (17) Compare that with Genesis 2 when God breathed the “breath” of life into the lifeless “Adam”.
13. When many returned to the land, chastened but not completely cured, they found life hard, their enemies eager, their situation precarious and unimpressive. But Haggai (18) gave them the assurance that the covenant promise God gave to Abraham was still intact so they were not to fear, for not only was God faithful to his past promises, the Spirit of the Lord was “standing” in their midst. Zechariah encouraged Zerubbabel, the governor, to believe that the daunting task of establishing Israel again would be accomplished by the Spirit of the Lord. (19)
14. The literature of the Intertestamental period is littered with references to the Holy Spirit and his work in the lives of believers and elsewhere.(20) Before the birth of John the Baptist and the Lord Christ himself, an angel assured the aged Zechariah that he would have a son who would be filled with the Spirit of God even from the womb. (21) Luke 2 says the angel told Mary that in conceiving the Lord the Holy Spirit would come on her, “and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (an allusion to the Old Covenant Shekinah–the “glory” that stood over and in the Tabernacle). And there was the aged Simeon who was told by the Spirit that he would live to see the Lord’s Messiah and being “in the Spirit” he came into the temple, saw the Christ child and praised God for His faithfulness. (23)
15. If all this is true–that the Holy Spirit was always and everywhere present, what are we to make of John’s statement that even in the closing days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, “the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified”? (24)
16. The “giving” (25) and “receiving” of the Spirit in this passage hinges on the glorification of Christ and it has specific reference to believers in the Christ. It isn’t necessary to set it against all we’ve just surveyed. John knew very well that the Spirit had always been at work in the people of God and beyond, and that he had been with them throughout the public ministry of Christ, because he expressly said this. (26) He had never been absent so the “giving” of the Spirit speaks of some specialized sense of His presence.
17. The glorification of Christ involved His glorious life, His atoning death, His resurrection and His glorious ascension to God’s right hand. (27) Peter said “Exalted to the right hand of God he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.” (28) This is precisely what Jesus was talking about when He said: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever”– (29)
18. The significance of the giving and receiving of the Spirit in the John 7 passage is generated because it relates to the return of the exalted Christ who had ended the earthly phase of His ministry and had become life-giving Spirit. (30)
19. In Acts 2, what Peter told his listeners was this: they were witnessing a new beginning, a new and special presence of the Holy Spirit who was now—what He could never have been before—the presence of and the representative of the glorified Christ who with His Father had taken up residence in the Messianic believers who constituted the new temple.
(30a). The Spirit could not function in this role earlier, precisely because the Christ in his earthly ministry was operating in the realm of the flesh (that is, under ordinary human limitations and within creaturely limits) and was not a glorified, ascended and universal Christ. For the Spirit to operate in this new way it was necessary for Christ to return to the Father. (31)
21. In the unfolding purpose of God, the Christ could not stay with them unless He first went away from them (through the process of dying, rising, ascension and glorification) and returned to them in the person of the abiding Spirit. (32) So one of the differences between what went before God’s glorifying Christ and what happened after it, is more about the “new identity” of the Spirit than about degrees of intimacy or the kinds of things the Spirit did. The Spirit had become the presence of the glorified Christ who was no longer to be seen in “fleshly” terms (within mere human or even merely Jewish categories). (33)
22. In the Messianic age the Spirit “of God” while he continues to be the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, he is now identified as the Spirit “of Jesus” or the Spirit “of Christ” or the Spirit “of his Son”. (34) Once more, this he could not be prior to the exaltation of the Christ, but now the Spirit comes in his name. (35) So the John 7 passage really says more about Christology than about the Spirit.
23. Additionally, with the arrival of the Christ a new world order has appeared. (36) The Christ is no longer a merely earthly figure but a “life giving Spirit” (37) and his people are citizens of heaven, in the world but not of it. (38) This means not only do they not view Christ in merely human terms, they don’t view themselves or anyone else after the flesh. (39) Their perspective is now “spiritual,” “heavenly,” that is, arising from the Spirit. (40)
24. In Acts 2, the wind and fire, the gift of languages not known to the speakers, the prophetic proclamation and the profusion of miracles connected with Pentecost, is a moment of crisis and new beginning, tangible proofs that these were the days of the Spirit of which the prophets had spoken. (41)
25. So it was not the presence and work of the Spirit that was new that was known throughout Israel’s history and mankind’s experience as part of the created order. But this was profoundly more than “business as usual.” Some of what was new was the setting in which the Spirit was now at work, the relationship He now sustained to the glorified Christ as the new and renewed manifestation of the Living Lord Jesus and His presence now in the newly created People of God. The Spirit is forever doing this kind of work, God breathes into Adam [humanity] the “breath” of life and man becomes a living being, God sends the wind [breath, spirit] into dead Israel in the valley of dry bones and a nation is resurrected. What happens in and through Jesus Christ echoes and brings to fullness all that has gone before and is reflected in the texts alluded to.
26. Close to the end of his earthly ministry, Christ told his people that he would send them another Counselor —one they know—who was already “with” them but would be “in” them. (42) While it’s true that he later speaks of their whole new experience in terms of being “with” them (43) it’s still true that he makes a distinction between “with” and “in”. (44)
27. Jesus was speaking here of the time when the believers would become the new covenanted People and so would become the new temple in which the Christ and his Father would dwell through the Spirit. (45) The Spirit was with and in Israel prior to the covenant at Sinai, but with the Sinai events, Israel became something they had not been before. They became a covenant People or nation unto God who now dwelled in and among them as their (senior) covenant partner.
28. This work of Christ, in sending the Spirit [and coming in and as the Spirit] to anoint and indwell the Church, his Body, is what is meant by the phrase “baptized in the Spirit”. The phrase is from the Baptist (46) who wants the baptized penitents to know that their Christ is greater than he is. At the appropriate time, the Christ would give them the Spirit or, in the words of John, “he will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.”
29. Israel of old and many individuals within it had been anointed before the Christ arrived, but with his coming the purposes and results of the anointings were new, that is, peculiarly focused. They would all come under the heading of glorifying Christ and making him Lord of all and Lord in peoples’ lives. The reign of God would rise to its final manifestation in relation to humankind.
30. The anointing of Israel of old with the Spirit, is replaced by the new anointing of a new Israel, who, with Gentiles become the new temple in which God dwells through the Spirit. (47) Those who share the faith of Abraham (rather than a place within the Sinaitic covenant), having been baptized into Christ become Abraham’s heirs. (48)
31. This move replaces the Mosaic covenant (which created two families–Jew and Gentile) with a “new” covenant which, in the Christ, makes of the two, “one new man, so making peace”.49 Israel is not “dumped” but her covenantal relationship with God is restructured and all people of faith become one with them.
32. By sending the Spirit in Jesus’ name and making him available to all who in trusting repentance take on them the name of Christ in baptism, 50 God shows the restructuring work is his. This he does in fulfillment of the words of the prophets, the Baptist and Jesus himself.
33. The Spirit’s anointing of Christ’s people was all they needed for a complete life with God in the Christ. He provided all things necessary for life and godliness and they needed nothing more! This anointing included gifted men and women who functioned within the Body in various ways.51
34. This is what John had in mind when he spoke of the anointing of the Church with the Holy Spirit who guides the church into all truth. 52 No pretended knowledge (via Gnostics or other radicals) is needed to complete them, there are no essentials missing that only the elite have access to. John is not suggesting that each individual has an anointing from the Spirit that makes him/her both infallible and exhaustively taught.
35. It is the New Community that’s baptized in the Spirit rather than each independent individual. By virtue of being part of the Community we are indwelled by the Spirit. Salvation and the reception of the Spirit is always personal but they’re not available in isolation–only within the covenanted community.
36. Suppose each human has what survives biological death, something we call “spirit” and which is said to dwell in us–we wouldn’t dream of saying, “Our spirit dwells only in our brain, our liver or heart” as distinct from, say, our foot or hand. No, our spirit dwells in “us,” no particular part of us. Nor would we dream of saying, “Our spirit doesn’t dwell in our toes or ears.” In saying the spirit dwells in “us” we mean “us” as a corporate whole and not independently in each organ as though we were a collections of independent pieces.
37. There is no “individual” indwelling of the Spirit. There are no “individual” Christians, independent units. It’s all right to speak of individual Christians as long as we know they only exist as various parts of a Body. A finger is not the whole body, it is an “individual” part of the body 53 but is an individual “part of the body”. We can only speak of a finger or foot or eye in the context of a corporate body.
38. And the indwelling is not any literal tabernacling of the Holy Spirit in us. The “indwelling” is another way of expressing his willingness to identify with and have holy communion with the covenanted Community, the Church. The indwelling is his gracious willingness to be and move among the people as their God in a peculiar covenantal way. “Indwelling” is not to be construed in a spatial sense but in a relatonal sense. We are said to dwell in God as surely as God is said to dwell in us. (54)
39. Whether the indwelling is “literal” or “figurative” the scriptures teach he indwells us. The good news is he continues to dwell in us and bless us despite our ignorance about the details.
40. Let me summarize:
The Holy Spirit has always been at work, creating, blessing, redeeming, nurturing, guiding, supplying and enlightening.
41. The prophets told of a day when the reign of God would become manifest in the Messiah and that that day would be made clear by the presence and work of the Holy Spirit. That time would be the period of covenant renewal.
42. God’s wondrous purposes became fully into view and imminent with the arrival of Jesus of Nazareth in whose life, death, resurrection and glorification the reign of God took on a greater glory than before.
43. The presence and work of the Spirit continued in some ways to be what it had always been, but it now took on a new significance. He became a witness to the glorification of Christ and to the identity of his covenanted people (the Church–made up of all nations). This meant he was working with a new phase of God’s purpose and it’s that new role that explains much of what is new in the New.
44. The Spirit, who is always the Spirit “of God” is made known as the Spirit “of Christ,” “of Jesus” and “of his Son”. This was not possible before the glorification of Jesus Christ.
45. The Spirit who had dwelt in the Old Covenant people—and visibly signaled that by the presence of the tabernacle and temple—now dwells in the New Covenant people which is made up of Jews and Gentiles who have received the Messiah. But the Son of God is not “one third” of God for GOD in one, indivisible GOD who is “tri-personal”. In the incarnation of the Word the fullness of GOD becomes incarnate. The differentiation is between “persons” in the One GOD. The Holy Spirit and Jesus are one (2 Corinthians 3:17-18) since they are “persons” with the Father and together constitute the ONE indivisible GOD. There is no confusions of “person” but the Father, Son & Spirit are one. (More later on this, perhaps. God enabling).
46. The Christ is said to “baptize in the Holy Spirit” when he sent the Spirit to the new covenanted people in whom he and his Father dwell through the Holy Spirit.
47. This new role of the Spirit might help explain the “sin against the Holy Spirit” of which Christ spoke.(55) For the Jews to reject the earthly Christ was sin but it could later be rectified. To reject the exalted Christ, who is now only and finally experienced through the Holy Spirit, is to sin a sin against Jesus as the Holy Spirit for which there can be no cure. There was/is no other Christ and there is no other way in which Christ as Lord is brought to the world. To despise the Spirit’s witness is to close the door to possible salvation because it is to despise the final manifestation of Jesus the Savior.
48. I know of no reason to say, with the majority of writers, that the difference between the Old Covenant and the New is that Old Covenant saints couldn’t keep the covenant because they didn’t have the Spirit to enable them. The Spirit, then, is supposed to have been sent to enable new covenant saints to keep the new covenant. I think this is a misunderstanding of the nature of both covenants.
49. The notion that the Old Covenant was “Spiritless” is a blunder and the view that ancient saints lagged behind New Covenant saints in faithfulness, that their love for and devotion to God was inferior and shallow is another blunder. Just by itself, the Hebrew writer’s “hall of fame” should put that claim permanently to rest.
50. It’s true that new truths were revealed and a new phase of God’s purposes arrived with the arrival of the New Covenant manifestation of the kingdom (reign) of God. The work and presence of the Spirit took on a special significance but all his enabling of people in Old Covenant times was just as real as any New Covenant enabling. With the arrival of the “fullness of time” that enabling work had a new thrust and development. It was “eschatological” and related to God’s new “end time” people and purposes which were centered in “the last Adam,” Jesus Christ.(56) All that is true, I think, but it has nothing to do with the depth and genuineness of the faith and devotion of ancient saints created and nurtured by the Spirit. At the ethical level, the glory of their lives was as rich as any in the present. Choose out examples from the New and they can be matched, at least, in the Old.
51. It’s not difficult to show formalism, apostasy and immorality in the ancients, but no one in the New Covenant writings condemns these as savagely as prophets in the old. Mere externalism was trashed by the prophets who called on people to have hearts that were circumcised and to give God themselves. Christ himself told us that the whole Old covenant canon could be summed up in the love commands. Paul followed his lead in that. (57)
52. I’m saying that much of the ignorance we attribute to Israelites under the Mosaic covenant is not theirs–it’s ours. I’m saying the Spirit made their lives lovely and sacrificial and God-fearing. I’m saying what is “new” about the work of the Spirit in the new covenantal arrangement has nothing to do with these matters and everything to do with God’s self-revelation in it’s most profound, full and unending climax in Jesus of Nazareth, now exalted and seen in and as the Holy Spirit..
1. Genesis 1:2; Psalm 104:29-30
2. Genesis 6:3-5
3. Genesis 17:17; 18:11; Romans 4:19 & Galatians 4:29
4. Isaiah 63:10-14
5. See Nehemiah 9:20; Leviticus 26:12-13; Exodus 29:43-46
6. See Exodus 35:10-11, 30-31
7. Numbers 11:10-30
8. See Judges 3:10; 6:34 and other places
9. 1 Samuel 16:13-14; Psalm 51:11
10. Micah 3:8
11. 2 Chronicles 15:1-8
12. Nehemiah 9:30; Zechariah 7:12
13. 1 Peter 1:11; 2 Peter 1.21
14. See Joel 2:28-29; Jeremiah 31:31-34; 33:19-26; Ezekiel 36:26-28; 37:1-14,24,26-27
15. See Psalm 104, especially verse 30
16. Ezekiel 2:2; 3:4
17. See the piece, Wind of the Spirit
18. Haggai 2:5
19. Zechariah 4:6-10
20. See the works of Max Turner, Millar Burrows and others.
21. Luke 1:13-15
22. Luke 2:25-27
23. Luke 1:35
24. John 7:38-39
25. There is no “given” in the Greek text though the translations are no doubt correct in supplying it. See Acts 19:2 for something similar.
26. John 14:17
27. The cross is seen as an aspect of Christ’s glorification. See, for example, John 12:27-28 but Philippians 2:5-11 and 1 Timothy 3:16 would show more can be involved than the atoning death.
28. Acts 2:33
29. John 14:16,26
30. John 14:18,23; 16:7; 1 Corinthians 15:45. Christ retains his humanity, of course–1Timothy 2:5–but it’s a glorified humanity. See 1 Corinthians 15:42-50.
30a. John 14:23; Ephesians 2:19-22
31. John 16:5-7; 17:4-5, and see 1 Cor 15:45; 2 Corinthians 13:4; 1 Peter 3:18 (?)
32. John 14:16, 18,23,26; 16:5-7,16
33. 2 Corinthians 5:16
34. 1 Peter 1:11; Romans 8:9; Acts 16:7; Galatians 4:6
35. John 14:26
36. 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15
37. 1 Corinthians 15:45
38. John 17:14, 16; Philippians 3:30 and Revelation 12:12; 13:6 contrasting “earth dwellers” and “heaven dwellers”
39. 2 Corinthians 5:16
40. This is not to suggest that there was no “spirituality” before the Messianic age, far from it. I’m only saying that within the stages of development of God’s purposes, the Mosaic age, was categorised as the time “of the flesh” where the Messianic age is “of the Spirit”. Prior to the Christian era both Isaac and Ishmael were born in the usual way but it’s said that, “the son born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit”. See Galatians 4:28-29. The terms “flesh” and “spirit” are used in numerous different ways depending on the writer’s intention. And sometimes they are contrasting “realms”. Jesus says God “is spirit” (John 4). He isn’t saying God is “made of” “spirit” (as we are made of “flesh”. He appears to be saying God exists in a “mode of being” that is not earthly, physical but rather (perhaps) “heavenly”. He isn’t “locating” God or defining His essence (what He’s “made of”).
41. Acts 2:16-18; Joel 2:28-29; Isaiah 44:3; 1 Peter 1:11
42. John 14:17
43. John 14:23
44. While I believe the distinction is intentional here, the point isn’t made just by comparing the prepositions. The Spirit was already “in” them as he was “in” Old Covenant prophets–see 1 Peter 1:11 but I think the passage here speaks of them as the new and indwelt temple soon to be constructed. We don’t learn all this simply by comparing the prepositions.
45. Ephesians 2:21-22
46. Mark 1:7-8
47. Ephesians 2:11-20
48. Galatians 3:26-29
49. Ephesians 2:15-16
50. Acts 2:16-39; John 14:26; Galatians 3:9,14
51. 2 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 4:8,11-16; 1 Corinthians 12
52. 1 John 2:20,27; John 16:13
53. See 1 Corinthians 12:17; Romans 12:4
54. John 14:20
55. Matthew 12:31-32 and parallels
56. This simply means that the Messianic age is the “final” age, the “end time,” the period to which all earlier dispensations led. When scholars speak of the “eschatological” Spirit they don’t mean, of course, it’s a different Spirit, only that the renewed and special sense of his presence now relates to the dispensation known as “the end time”.
57. Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; Galatians 5:14
* The Holy Spirit chose and gifted various leaders in the building of the Tabernacle. See Exodus 35:30-31 with 36:2. Then read the entire section beginning with 25:1-9 and skipping down to 35:4 to the end and then 36 where Moses has to tell the people to offer no more offerings. See the Spirit of God working in the men and women and stirring their hearts to the work.