Shared Life

[Jesus] receives that Spirit from the Father for us vicariously in His humanity that out of His fullness He might baptise the Church by the Spirit at Pentecost into a life of shared communion, mission and service.

—James F. Torrance, “The Doctrine of the Trinity in Our Contemporary Situation,” in The Forgotten Trinity, 11

The Life of the Church

After the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit in the conception, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we find the ‘other Paraclete’ (John 14:16) given to the apostles (John 20:22-3), the ‘Promise of the Father’ (Luke 24:29; Acts 1:4-5) made good at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-21; see also 33).  Henceforward the Holy Spirit will be the Life of the church, itself the ‘first fruits’ of God’s new creation (James 1:18) and an instrument in God’s hands for the achievement of God’s purposes among humankind.  The Holy Spirit works from the very beginning to constitute and compose the church and its members, coming to them and abiding in them corporately and individually, starting to transform them in the direction of God’s kingdom and enabling them to bear witness to the gospel for the sake of its extension.

—Geoffrey Wainwright, “The Holy Spirit,” in ed. Colin E. Gunton, The Cambridge Companion to Christian Doctrine (Cambridge Companions to Religion), 284

The Spirit in Us

Believers call upon God in prayer as ‘Abba! Father!’ because the Spirit of God’s Son has been sent into their hearts (Gal. 4:6).  Believers bear ‘fruit’ because the eschatological age has dawned and the Spirit has been poured out upon them (Isa. 32:15; Gal. 5:22-23).  Even the suffering of believers at the hand of the world signifies that ‘the Spirit of glory and of God rests’ upon them (1 Pet. 4:14).

—Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel, 148

Glorifying the Son

Who, then, is the Spirit according to John? He is the one who descends from the Father upon the Son that he might flow through the Son to all who believe, bringing forgiveness and renewal, life and light. His coming signals the replacement of God’s former dwelling in tabernacle and temple with the triune indwelling of the children of God. His role is to confirm believers’ interest in the Son, and thus in the Father as well, and to continue the mission given by the Father to the Son through the church in the world. The Spirit effects all these things ‘that the Father may be glorified in the Son’ (14: 13 NASB).

—Andreas J. Köstenberger and Scott R. Swain, Father, Son and Spirit: The Trinity and John’s Gospel, 148

“He will glorify Me” (John 16:14) (4)

[Acts 2] Notice how Peter’s sermon effectively moves from the signs that the crowd has witnessed, back to Jesus, who is Himself the center of it all. The marvels of that Pentecost gathering are seen merely as pointers to the One who is the center.

—Edith Humphrey, Grand Entrance: Worship on Earth as in Heaven, 52

 

“He will glorify Me” (John 16:14) (3)

Babel is inverted Pentecost and Pentecost is Babel turned right side up. It is so because God takes the initiative and does His building from His throne, at whose right hand the risen and ascended Christ is seated. I think it safe to say that at Pentecost stylistic singularity went out the window and a thousand tongues turned out not to suffice.

—Harold Best, Unceasing Worship: Biblical Perspectives on Worship and the Arts, 170

“He will glorify Me” (John 16:14)

Think of it this way. It is as if the Spirit stands behind us, throwing light over our shoulder, on Jesus, who stands facing us. The Spirit’s message is never, “Look at Me; listen to Me; come to Me; get to know Me,” but always, “Look at Him, and see His glory; listen to Him, and hear His word; go to Him, and have life; get to know Him, and taste His gift of joy and peace.”

—J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, 66

Pentecost and the Church (6)

At the heart of all worship lies the doctrine of the Third Person of the Trinity—that our Ascended Lord, by His Spirit poured out upon His Church at Pentecost, lifts us up into His life of praise and communion with the Father—so that we know we are “lifted out of ourselves” into an objective world of worship and praise and prayer in communion with all saints.

—James B. Torrance, “Covenant or Contract? A Study in the Theological Background of Worship in Seventeenth-Century Scotland,” Scottish Journal of Theology 23 (1970):75

Pentecost and the Church (5)

“For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?” (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

We aren’t the fragrance of Christ to God in ourselves. In ourselves, we carry the smell of death. But God has turned us into aromatic sacrifices through His Son and Spirit. The Spirit’s descent at Pentecost made each of the disciples a burning altar. Salted with the fire of the Spirit, we become sacrifices pleasing to God.

—Peter Leithart

Pentecost and the Church (4)

The distinctive, constant, basic ministry of the Holy Spirit under the new covenant is so to mediate Christ’s presence to believers—that is, to give them the knowledge of his presence with them as their Sayiour, Lord, and God—that three things keep happening.

First, personal fellowship with Jesus . . . becomes a reality of experience, even though Jesus is now not here on earth in bodily form, but is enthroned in heaven’s glory.

Second, personal transformation of character into Jesus’ likeness starts to take place as, looking to Jesus, their model, for strength, believers worship and adore him and learn to lay out and, indeed, lay down their lives for him and for others.

Third, the Spirit-given certainty of being loved, redeemed, and adopted through Christ into the Father’s family, so as to be “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17), makes gratitude, delight, hope, and confidence—in a word, assurance—blossom in believers’ hearts.

By these phenomena of experience, Spirit-given knowledge of Christ’s presence . . . shows itself.

—J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, 49

Pentecost and the Church (3)

The Spirit makes known the personal presence in and with the Christian and the church of the risen, reigning Saviour, the Jesus of history, who is the Christ of faith. Scripture shows . . . that since the Pentecost of Acts 2 this, essentially, is what the Spirit is doing all the time as He empowers, enables, purges, and leads generation after generation of sinners to face the reality of God. And He does it in order that Christ may be known, loved, trusted, honored and praised, which is the Spirit’s aim and purpose throughout as it is the aim and purpose of God the Father, too. This is what, in the last analysis, the Spirit’s new covenant ministry is all about.

—J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit, 47

Pentecost and the Church (2)

Just as Jesus’ baptism and anointing with the Spirit in Luke 3 is to be understood as standing behind and explaining everything else, from His “Messianic” proclamation in Luke 4 to His messianic death and resurrection, so the coming of the Spirit in Acts 2 is to be understood as standing behind and explaining everything else that the church then does, particularly its worship, its mission and its bold stand in obeying God rather than human authorities. Thus, when Luke later tells us that the Christians gathered together were all filled with the Spirit and spoke God’s word with boldness, this should be understood not as a fresh and momentary filling, repeating Pentecost as it were on a strictly temporary basis, but as a fresh manifestation of what had been the case all along since Pentecost itself. The church from Acts 2 onwards is the Spirit-led church, with worship as an integral part of its proper life.

—N.T. Wright, “Worship and the Spirit in the New Testament”, 4

Pentecost and the Church

The need for a theology about the Day of Pentecost is seen by reflecting on how readily Christians misunderstand the nature of the church. For many people the church is a voluntary organization of individuals. . . .

The church is a community called together by the Spirit of the Risen One. It is not something we choose to do (and equally well could choose not to do), but something to which we are summoned. The Greek word for church (ekklēsia from which we derive “ecclesiastical”) means “those who have been called forth or summoned,” much as one is summoned to appear in a court of law. And we are called as a body of interdependent parts, not as separable individuals. The free-spirited individualism of our age is a manifestation of Babel, not Pentecost, as should be evident from the intransigent divisions and intractable conflicts such individualism fosters. The Risen One, who is present at all times and in all places, seeks to bind together by the action of the Spirit all things that have been wrongly separated. Participation therefore is not something we do on the basis of personal choice or need; participation in the Body of Christ is inherent in being Christian. The church, not the individual, is the irreducible unit of Christianity. Further, the church is to be a sign of the future: No matter how haltingly and imperfectly, the church seeks to enact in the present world the justice and grace that characterize the eternal reign of God. Therefore Christians participate in the church not so much for what they can get as for what they can give, for what they can offer as an alternative to the dominant ways of the world.

—Laurence Hill Stookey, Calendar: Christ’s Time for the Church, 76-77

Another Comforter 4

The Holy Spirit cannot be divided from the Father and Son in worship. If you remain outside the Spirit, you cannot worship, and if you are in Him you cannot separate Him from God. Light cannot be separated from what it makes visible, and it is impossible for you to recognize Christ, the Image of the invisible God, unless the Spirit enlightens you. Once you see the Image, you cannot ignore the light; you see the Light and Image simultaneously. It is fitting that when we see Christ, the Brightness of God’s glory, it is always through the illumination of the Spirit.

—Dennis Ngien, Gifted Response: The Triune God as the Causative Agency of our Responsive Worship, 30

HAPPY PENTECOST!

Another Comforter 3

Although worship is our response to love, it is actually better thought of as the Spirit’s gift to us of a response to God or, in Matt Redman’s words, ‘a gifted response’.  We can only respond to God in praise because the Holy Spirit causes love for God to arise in our hearts (Rom. 5:5), enabling us to cry ‘Abba, Father!’ (Gal. 4:6).  Without the Spirit we could not even sincerely say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ (I Cor. 12:3).  And, as we have seen, even that is not the full story, because the response the Spirit enables us to make to the Father is actually simply a sharing in Christ’s own response to the Father.  The Spirit, in other words, is the one who baptizes us into Christ (I Cor. 12:13) and enables us to share with Christ in His worship of the Father.

—Robin Parry, Worshiping Trinity, 97