The Universal Christ

"The resurrection gives us a Christ who is spiritually present; the Holy Spirit gives us a Christ who is universally present. By the coming of the Holy Spirit the risen Christ is made omnipresent, and the whole process of revelation here and now completed. Nothing higher can be looked for until the veil is dropped on the other side. Momentous consequences follow the acceptance of this truth. If the age of the Spirit under which we are now living marks the final outgoing of God to man; if the God who is manifested in Christ is every-where present in the Spirit; if through the medium-ship of the Spirit he dwells in the inner sanctuary of the soul; if he is not only with man, but in man; if through the Holy Spirit his presence within the soul is realized as the presence of Christ, then the time foretold by Jesus has come when temples and shrines are no longer indispensable, when every man has immediate access to God as the Father, and when every humble receptive soul may become "an habitation of God in the Spirit." "
- James Mann Campbell (The Presence, p. 89)

The New Covenant Gift of the Spirit

"Let us recall the three considerations that have been
mentioned. First, that our Lord Himself in His Divine-human nature was on earth, and is now in heaven, possessed of the fulness of the Spirit, and this in such a manner that the Spirit entered into all He was in the one sphere, and enters into all He is in the other. Secondly, that the Spirit given us by our Lord in His glorified condition is His own Spirit in the most definite and particular meaning of the words. Thirdly, that when the Spirit is bestowed upon us He must be made inwardly and experimentally ours, entering into all that we are in a manner similar to that in which He entered into all that Jesus was and is. Let us fix these three points distinctly in our minds, and it will follow that the Spirit promised as the chief gift of the New Covenant is pervaded by human as well as Divine elements. As the Spirit of the exalted and glorified Lord, He is not the Third Person of the Trinity in His absolute and metaphysical existence, but that Person as He is mediated through the Son, who is human as well as Divine. It is on this particular aspect of His being that He diffuses Himself through the members of Christ's body, and abides in them. Only as human, entering into and coalescing with what is human, can He be also our Spirit dwelling in a living and real way within us."
- William Milligan (The Ascension and Heavenly Priesthood of Our Lord, p. 189)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The apostle Paul on the Spirit in relation to the person of Christ and to the Christian experience, part 4 of 8

   "It was along this line that Paul commonly connected the Spirit with his eschatology. Such effects of the Spirit were to him the first-fruits and pledge of a final bliss which could not be enjoyed until the believer was delivered from the thwarting and corrupting influences of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Sometimes, as in I Thessalonians, the Spirit as the power of the Christian experience was not directly related to the ardent hope of the end; the doctrinal position here lies closer to the simple and popular piety of the churches; as a rule, however, the convinced hope of the end is allied to that faith mysticism of the Christian's union with Christ which is well known to all readers of the Epistles. One germ of the latter conception lay in the primitive view of baptism into the name of Jesus, which implied an identification of the recipient with the nature of the Lord; but Paul developed the idea in his own way, eschatologically and otherwise.
   The eschatological aspect of the Spirit can also be traced even within the conception of Christ's death in relation to the Law, on which Paul generally based his faith mysticism. Into the ramifications of this theory we cannot enter here, but the salient features of it are quite familiar and they will suffice for our present purpose. Obviously, the fact that Jesus had died under the Law compelled Paul to readjust his inherited ideas about the Law, Israel, and God. The significance of that death lay in the sinless nature of Jesus. The primitive church as a rule was content to view the crucifixion in the light of the mysterious prophecy of God's suffering servant in Isaiah liii, interpreted by the current Jewish belief in the expiatory value of the sufferings and death of the righteous. Paul assumed the latter as axiomatic, though he never worked much with the Isaianic prophecy. Jesus, he held, voluntarily took the place of sinful men as they lay under the curse and condemnation of a Law whose statutes they were unable to keep. To his sombre vision, as he looked behind and around him, Sin and Death, like allied powers, were crushing men with all the added momentum which they had acquired during the ages since Adam first disobeyed. But Jesus interposed. The innocent suffered for the guilty. He graciously bore in his own person the consequence of sin for men, and this vicarious endurance of sin's penalty availed before God to justify, or save from the divine wrath at the end, all who accepted him as the Christ of God.
   Such a forensic theory, which represents an attempt to interpret in terms of Pharisaic theology the relations between the death of Christ and the guilt rather than the power of sin, appears to ignore the Spirit and also to make faith little more than intellectual assent to a doctrine. But when we cease to isolate it or to regard it as the primary basis of his theology, it acquires a slightly different aspect. What is meant negatively by justification and positively by adoption into sonship is participation in the spiritual nature of Jesus Christ; it is not some formal preliminary to life in the Spirit. In one sense, even, it is prospective, since, although believers are now free from condemnation, this assures them of final acquittal and also introduces them to an experience of union with Christ which is not fully realized until the end. While the security of acquittal might be conceived in such a way as to reduce Christ to the level of a mere functionary or executive agent, — a tendency which beset several of the messianic categories,— Paul avoided this unethical abstraction by conceiving justification as an act of grace. The redeeming death of Jesus Christ, which assured Christians of their future and final standing before God, was to him far more than a messianic episode; he saw in it the supreme revelation of God's heart, the sacrifice of his beloved Son, and the free love of the Son himself. Christ had the unshared glory of having not only shared but borne the shame of sinful men. Furthermore, the character of this divine redemption which underlay the experience of the justified and forgiven man involved a similar conception of its aim. Since the sonship of Jesus was one of spirit rather than of vocation, his work for men meant their transformation into his own likeness, the restoration of the divine ideal at the creation. The eternal life, for which justification was the condition, was a life of sonship, such as Christ, the firstborn among many brothers, enjoyed with God the Father. To Paul, the term "Son of God," as applied to Jesus, had a richer content than that of "messiah"; it implied the Spirit, and the relation of the Spirit to human faith was deeper than any forensic or juridical categories. The spiritual personality, which was the end of the redeeming purpose, and for which Paul is fond of using the semi-technical term righteousness, cannot be supposed to originate with any formal verdict or promise of acquittal on God's part, or with any formal assent upon man's. The saving faith of Paul's theology had the three elements which constitute any genuine faith. The believing man had to believe certain facts about Jesus, on the witness of historical tradition. Otherwise his confession, "Jesus is the Lord or the Christ," would have been meaningless. His faith also was doctrinal or intellectual, in so far as it included an assent to some theoretical explanation of the meaning which attached to Christ's action. Furthermore and fundamentally, it denoted personal confidence. Of these three elements, that of personal appropriation or trust was the greatest for Paul, though we cannot always understand the scale of relative values which he assigned to them. Where faith seems almost identified with belief or assent, is in his theoretical and polemical exposition of that religious standing which, as a result of Christ's death and resurrection, he already experienced in the freedom and vitality of his personal faith. He seems to have viewed his faith-mysticism as homogeneous with his juridical view of the atonement, not as an alternative. In any case — and this is of cardinal importance — the former was not a supplement to the latter, which succeeded in getting faith under weigh for the course of the new life. The nexus between the forensic and the ethical aspects must lie somewhere in the faith which affirms the meaning of Christ's death and produces the new freedom."

- James Moffat (Paul and Paulinism, pgs. 41-48)

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