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)

Friday, April 15, 2016

The apostle Paul on the Spirit in relation to the person of Christ and to the Christian experience, part 5 of 8

   "There are three aspects or applications of the Spirit, in Paul's exposition of the Christian experience, which may be selected to illustrate how his deeper mind broke through the restrictions of less vital theories upon the nature of faith as determined by the nature of its divine object.
   (a) The first occurs in the famous antithesis between the legal constitution of Israel and the new Christian order, as letter and Spirit respectively. His argument in 2 Corinthians iii: 6-iv: 6 is that the practical effect of the Law is to produce an unspiritual, deadening legalism. This would be hotly denied by his Jewish opponents, who would also charge him with confusing the moral and the ceremonial law. Paul's contention might be supported by the plea that there may be a morality which is as external as any ritual system. At any rate, generalizing from his own unhappy experience, he held that the influence of the Law was deadening and oppressive, whereas, instead of anxious perplexity about whether or not one has kept all the statutory regulations, a glad, free confidence, born of a new vitality, inspired the Christian. The letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. This is the superior and surpassing glory of the Spirit or of righteousness (for the two terms are correlative here). The Lord Jesus, who as Spirit dominates the new order of being, not only is the image of God, but has the power of transforming Christians into the same image or glory by the influence of his Spirit upon theirs. There is a characteristic play upon the double sense of glory as material brilliance and also as the substance of the radiant heavenly being shared by Christ and Christians; but the practical implication is that the entire Christian experience from first to last, with all its freshness and freedom, is determined by Christ's possession of the divine Spirit in its fulness and by his communication of it to believing men. This fundamental doctrine of Paulinism, the supersession of the Law by the Spirit, broke with the rabbinic doctrine that the Law was given by God as the remedy for the evil impulse or yezer. Preoccupation with the Torah, the rabbis taught, kept the pious from falling under the sway of the evil impulse, and a passage like Genesis iv: 7 was interpreted in the light of such a theory. Paul reversed this function of the Law. Instead of a remedy, he declared it had proved an aggravation to sin. When the commandment came, sin revived. Like the rabbis, Paul declined to connect the origin of the evil yezer with Satan, though he still viewed it as a power within man and also in a sense as foreign to him; but, unlike them, he made no attempt to connect it with God, or to explain its genesis in relation to providence. The animistic presuppositions of his belief at this point are not worked out. But the help which, according to rabbinic doctrine, God vouchsafed to man in his struggles against the evil instinct, was taken up by Paul into his remarkable conception of the Spirit striving inwardly against the lusts of the flesh in the realization of the new righteousness or spiritual personality. On the other hand, he never regarded the flesh as inherently evil. His language is often tinged with the practical dualism of earnest piety, but he did not share the Hellenistic tendency to view the flesh or material constitution of man as inherently and hopelessly corrupt. The flesh had become the seat and headquarters of sin, but the Christian could live the life of the Spirit in the flesh. He could and did. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in God's Son, who loved me and gave himself for me. When a man yielded his will to the contact of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, he got the upper hand of the flesh. The new vital principle dominated his being, physical as well as moral and mental; it transformed his nature into a spiritual personality, independent of external statutes and controlled or rather inspired by the very Spirit of the indwelling Christ. For, while the Spirit represents to Paul, as to the primitive church, the creative activity of God, the medium through which He achieves his purpose, the apostle mainly connects this power with the fulfilment of human nature and of the divine will in the sonship of Christian experience. He does not dwell much on the function of the Spirit in overthrowing the visible and invisible rulers of the darkness and in establishing God's kingdom. The power of the Spirit — and the Spirit is invariably a power — is manifested preeminently in the creation of the new life which the Spirit reveals and imparts to those who believe in the Son of God.     The significant feature of this conception is the collocation of the Christian experience with the Spirit from beginning to end. The experience of the Spirit was not a further boon bestowed at baptism upon those who by some earlier act of faith had been justified and thereby freed from legalism. The distinctive note or atmosphere of the new Christian order was sonship towards God. Because you are sons (no longer minors or slaves, under the Law), because the distant feeling of legalism has been now superseded by filial trust, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying Abba, Father. The filial standing of Christians is not only proved but realized, Paul argues, by the Spirit of Christ as a fact and force in their experience. Their consciousness of the Spirit is the basis and criterion of true sonship. The reason why such trust in the Father exists in any life is because God has elicited and encouraged it by the revelation of himself in Jesus Christ. Faith had its stages and degrees of confidence for Paul, but from the first it was a product of the Spirit; without the Spirit it could not have existed for any Christian.
   He knew this from his own experience. The knowledge of his messianic vocation and character had been a revelation even to Jesus, at his baptism. To Peter also, who knew the Lord in the flesh, it had come as a revelation: Flesh and blood have not revealed it to thee, but my Father in heaven. Paul was conscious of having received it in exactly the same way, not by argument, but by revelation; the knowledge of Christ as Lord and Spirit meant spiritual apprehension, and he never doubted that the same principle underlay the life of Christians in general. However their experience began, it could not be experience till it started with the faith which the Spirit alone could produce. For no man is able to say, Jesus is Lord, except in the Holy Spirit."

- James Moffat (Paul and Paulinism, pgs. 48-55)

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