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)

Monday, April 18, 2016

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

   "It is by thinking out such conceptions of the Spirit and of eschatology, by thinking them together, and by focussing everything in their light, that we arrive at a historical estimate of Paulinism. In both, in his ideas of the Spirit and of the last things, Paul is at once most himself and most a Christian of his own age. Their interaction is the clue to his distinctive beliefs. A modern finds it, perhaps, hardest to think himself back into the eschatological world of the apostle, and yet this effort of the imagination is essential, for it is there that Paul reveals himself, not as Greek, nor as Hebrew, nor even as Roman, but as a Christian of the first generation.
   A single instance will serve to make this clear. From his father he inherited the privilege of Roman citizenship. Occasionally he appealed to this in an emergency, and it must undoubtedly have been one factor in developing his large vision of mankind; but his real pride was to be, in Dante's phrase, "a citizen of that Rome where Christ is Roman." In his last letter, written from Rome, he protests: Our commonwealth lies in heaven, whence we look eagerly for the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour. His breadth of mind enabled him to seize strategic points throughout the empire for the propaganda of the gospel, but we must be strictly on our guard against supposing that it ever occurred to him to regard Christianity as a new religion for the empire. His eschatology ruled any notion of that kind out of his horizon. The churches scattered over the world were conceived by him rather as settled in an evil and transient age, like so many outposts and colonies of the heavenly commonwealth which was ere long to be established by the return of Jesus. Their duty was to wait and be loyal till they were relieved. The revival hymn with its refrain,—

"Hold the fort, for I am coming," 
    Jesus signals still; 
 Wave the answer back to heaven, 
   "By Thy grace we will!"

may be a crude representation of Paul's eschatology, but it lies leagues nearer to what he and his contemporaries believed than any attempt to read back into his thought the anachronism of a purified empire as the ideal and aim of the evangel.
   His perspective was not imperialist. Still, it was singularly free from any narrowness or nationalism. In one passage, indeed (Romans ix-xi), the keen Jewish feeling which had led him to rehabilitate the Law (perhaps, in a recoil from antinomianism), even after he had apparently discredited it, forced him into a similar antinomy; he set himself to think out a special future of honour for the Jewish nation within the course of God's redeeming purpose. The religious philosophy of history which breathes through the passage throbs with strong personal emotion. It has been said that if Paul had not spent himself in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ, he would undoubtedly have shed his blood with other natives of Tarsus on the walls of Jerusalem in 70 A. D., and not in 64 A. D. upon the sand of the Roman arena. Certainly his religious patriotism flickered up within his Christianity. It survived the treatment he received from Jews and Judaists alike, and his thoughts acquire additional interest when we find them, as here, crossed by a generous devotion to his old nation. He struggled hard to prove that its exclusion was only temporary; all Israel must eventually be saved! But this divergence into a nationalistic outlook was an aside from his mature belief that all such distinctions of race were abolished by the gospel. There is no place for Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, freeman; no, Christ is all and in all. He dreamed of no other imperialism than this. To be a member of such a divine realm was to possess the Spirit or life of Christ; no less was implied in the universal and inward character of faith as trust in the royal Father of all. As he puts it, in one of those profound definitions which seem to drop almost casually from him, we (not the Jews) are the circumcision (i. e., in modern phrase, the true church), who worship by the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. To him, the Spirit, the gospel, and Jesus were correlative terms; the one involved the others. Wherever he has occasion to define any elements of his gospel, the Spirit is either on his lips or implied in what he says. It vibrates through his ideas upon the inspiration of the Old Testament, on the knowledge of God, on the preexistent Christ, on the church, and on prophecy, as well as on the special topics which we have just been discussing. The one subject with which he, like the primitive church, never associates it expressly is nature. But with this exception, his idea of the Spirit rays out on practically all the aspects of life which he had occasion to correlate with his Christianity; even into his theory of the Law in relation to the death of Christ, where his Pharisaic prepossessions did not furnish any suggestion or support for a doctrine of the Spirit, he contrives, as we have seen, to introduce it. No other conception, it may be argued, will enable us to grasp so effectively either the points of contact between Paul and the primitive church or the equally striking points of departure."

- James Moffat (Paul and Paulinism, pgs 63-69)

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