SOAKED IN THE SPIRIT
The humanity, the civilization of love, is the community which is soaked with the Holy Spirit. This was foretold by the Prophets and was actualized on the Pentecost.
Prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel had foretold of a new era when God would make a new covenant with His people. In the messianic days God will put His law within them and he will write it on their hearts. He will put within them a new Spirit and will take away from them the heart of stone. They shall be truly His people and He will be their true God (Jer 31:33-34; Ez. 36:26-27). In Pauline thought this era of the Holy Spirit is inaugurated by God by sending His Son Jesus Christ into the world who was born from a woman and lived under the law (Gal 4:4). Descended from David according the flesh is now the Son of God in the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:4). The moment of departure for the era of the Holy Spirit is the moment of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Thereby Jesus became “a life giving Spirit” (1Cor 15:45). That is to say, Jesus was empowered to be the dispenser of the Holy Spirit of which he was made alive by God. For, in Paul’s way of thinking, the Risen Lord is the source of the Holy Spirit for all those who believe in Him. Thus for Paul the Holy Spirit is also the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:9). The Spirit of God which was operative in the life of Jesus, especially in his resurrection from the dead is the abiding principle of the Christian life. In fact, Christian life in this sense is the continuation of the life of the Risen Lord. In his letters Paul reminds us again and again that the Christians have received the Holy Spirit into their hearts (Rom 8:23; 1Cor 2:12; Gal 3:2-3.14). Having in mind this gift of the Holy Spirit to in the hearts of the Christians, Paul speaks of the transforming effects of Spirit in their being and living. Let us bring to light the basic elements of this Pauline thought in the following pages.
Soaked in the Spirit of God. In the mind of Paul, all those who believe in Jesus Christ are anointed by the Holy Spirit. Their whole being is soaked in the Spirit of God. They are thereby transformed into new beings. It is a new Exodus, which the new people of God undertake in Christ Jesus under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The new Exodus brings them to a new state of being, to the Promised Land. Paul designates this state as the new creation, the divine sonship through adoption and being the God’s temple.
New Creation: Paul understands the Christian being as a new creation by the Holy Spirit. In his writings, we often meet with the concept of God’s creative activity in the Christians. We read the following statements in his letters in this spirit. In the letter to the Second Corinthians we are told categorically: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2Cor 5:17). In the same vein, he writes to Galatians: “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but anew creation” (Gal 6:15). But the statement about the new creation is more elaborate in Ephesians: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:8-10).
All these Pauline statements underline that Christian life is the state of new creation which God has brought about in men and women at the moment of their baptism. It is equally stressed by Paul that in this transformation, there was no human participation or collaboration at all. It is entirely a free gift of God to the believers in Jesus. On the other hand, there is also the affirmation that, as in the case of first creation of the Universe and that of man (Gen 1:2; 2:7), God intervened in this new creation through the power of the Holy Spirit. The one who was under the slavery of sin and death is now transformed into a new living being by the active participation of the Holy Spirit in time and space. In this context, let us recall Paul’s words in 1Cor 6:10-11. In the text Paul reminds the Corinthians of their past. They were sinners and recite a series of deadly, heinous and sinful titles to them: fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, revilers, robbers. “But now they are new beings because they were washed, sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God”.
From this Corinthian statement of Paul it is clear that in the mind of Paul and in reality, the sinful man has passed from his sinful state to that of a new life of holiness and righteousness. This is what is called justification, sanctification and transformation. The most interesting factor in this new state of being is the role of the Holy Spirit. God has done this entire miracle in the believer of Jesus Christ “in in name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit”. There was no other power than the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This conviction of Paul is well brought to light in the Epistle to Titus 3:4-6, which is the summary of Pauline Gospel: “He (God) saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” , which is poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our saviour”. Even here, the context is the passage of sinner to a life of holiness. For in the previous sentences he writes: “We ourselves were once foolish disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures”, but now “goodness and loving kindness of God our saviour has appeared” (Tit 3:3-4).
Both these texts assert that the passage from old to the new state of being took place at the moment of “washing” which was the Christian purification rite of baptism (Eph 5:26-27; 1Cor 6: 11). Baptism is the external manifestation of the interior transformation. It is the regeneration and renewal of the person in a radical way by the Holy Spirit. It is the moment of the outpouring of God’s love into the person through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). The concept of regeneration takes us immediately to the idea of divine sonshop which is actualized in the Christians by the same Holy Spirit.
Sonship by Adoption: Christians, a new creation in the image of Jesus Christ through the active involvement of the Holy Spirit are also sons of God. Paul calls them “sons/daughters of God (Rom 8: 14.19; 9:26; Gal 3:26; 4:5.6.7; 2Cor 6:18) and “children of God” (Rom 8:16.17.21; 9:8; Phil 2:15). The one who procreates and raises them to the dignity of the sons of God is “the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Cor 1:3; Eph 1:3). God the Father generates sons in Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God from all eternity: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God through faith” (Gal 3:26). However, God’s procreative activity in the Christians cannot be understood without the active collaboration of the Holy Spirit. For Paul speaks of the adoption as sons through the Spirit.
Thus in Gl. 4:4-5 Paul writes: “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons”. In Rom 8: 15, Paul states: “”For you did not receive the Spirit of slavery to fall back with fear, but you have received the Spirit of sonship”. The Spirit of sonship means the sonship as adoption realized through the Holy Spirit by God the Father in the Christians.
In both of these texts, Paul has used the Greek term “huiothesia” to speak of adoption as sons. Although the practice of adoption was very rare among the Jews, it was a common custom among the Greeks. The “huiothesia” is a legal and technical term for the practice of adoption among the Greeks. By adoption, a stranger was accepted legally into the family with all rights, privileges and duties. He bore henceforth the name of the adoptive father’s family and became the legal heir to all his possessions and that of the family. When Paul uses here this term he had in mind this legal bond between God the Father and the Christians. Even more insight Paul had before him with the use of this legal term, the real, existential, the deeper, the intimate and interior transformation of the Christian in his new state of life realized by the Spirit. It characterizes the new and unique bond that is established between God the Father and the Christians. It is to be observed that Paul did not intend it in a metaphorical sense, as if to describe the family ties and familiar relationship between members of the same family. The emotional ties such as love, loyalty and trust are surely present in this new relationship. But it goes beyond it and points to a reality. As a human father procreates his son according to his flesh in the natural order, God recreates a new being according to His Spirit in the supernatural order, so that the new being is really and truly His Son as His Eternal Son Jesus Christ. It is testified by the Spirit, when the Christians can call God testified by the Spirit, when the Christians can call God with familiarity and filial devotion ‘Abba, Father!’. Paul testifies to it: “When we cry ‘Abba! Father!’ it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our Spirit that we are Children of God” (Rom 8:15).
Christian is an adopted son. His sonship is different from that of Jesus’ divine sonship. Because it is from all eternity and is an eternal process from God the Head. But Christian adoption as son takes place in time and space, precisely from the moment of baptism in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit. It is not obtained by right, but by gift. It is a free gift of God’s merciful love, and in no way merited by human efforts.
With adoption as son comes the right to be heir and coheir with Christ. Just as adoption as son has the right to the possessions of the Father and that of the family, so also in the divine order the Christians are declared rightful heirs to God’s heritage. The heritage is the eternal life (Rom 8:17; Gal 4:7). Being inserted into the family of God, Christians are the members of God’s family and have for their elder brother Jesus Christ, “perfect image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation” (Col 1:15). The Spirit of God is given to them as a guarantee of the same heritage (2Cor 5:5).
The Temple of the Holy Spirit: Christian becomes the place where the Holy Spirit dwells. As a promise and guarantee of the future and final glorification, the Christians possess the Holy Spirit right now. Paul calls the gifts of the Holy Spirit as the first instalment of the future glory. Paul’s words are authoritative: “It is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us His Spirit in our hearts as a first instalment” (2Cor 1:22). By giving the Spirit as a first instalment, God has sealed the Christians as his own property. The sealing means that they are God’s possession; that they belong permanently to God. No one and no power can remove them from God.
This belongingness to God is brought to further light by his teaching on the indwelling presence of the Spirit in the life of the Christians. Christians possess the Holy Spirit and the Spirit takes possession of them. “But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Rom 8:9). Dwelling of the Spirit in them makes them qualified “locus” of God’s presence in the world. Thus we become the temples of God. Christian life is filled with the Holy Spirit in such a way that they are transformed and consecrated to be the temples of God’s presence. Each of their bodies is the abode of God (1Cor 3:16; 6:19). Spirit of God permeates the whole Christian life with His presence, power and energy (Eph 2:22). Holy Spirit is in their life a spiritual instinct which animates and guides their life. This gives to the Christians a new vitality, a new energy which was not present to them in their past un-baptized life, whether they were Jews or Gentiles.
Life Empowered by the Spirit: Since the Holy Spirit dwells in the Christians, the power of the Spirit is continuously at work in them. The Spirit of the Lord upholds and strengthens them on their way to final glorification at the Parousia of the Lord. They are equipped with necessary spiritual means, so that their life may correspond to their new being. Their capacity to call God “Abba”, Father, becomes the central tenet of their faith in Jesus Christ. The Spirit creates within the Christians the inner disposition to pray and discern God’s will in their day to day living. Both these are the results of the empowerment of the Spirit, which is operative in them.
Christian confession of faith is the result of the Spirit in their lives. To acknowledge above all that Jesus crucified is the Lord, Kyrios, is due to the energizing Spirit within them. Without the assistance of the Holy Spirit, the Christians are unable to believe with their hearts and confess with their lips that Jesus is the Lord (Rom 10:10). Therefore, writing about it Paul affirms in the Corinthians: “I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God can say, ‘Jesus is cursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1Cor 12:3). The indwelling of the God’s Spirit is the true force behind the sincere confession of Jesus’ Lordship.
Prayer empowered by the Spirit: Prayer is an activity of the Holy Spirit dwelling in the Christians. Prayer is communion with God on the one hand, and, on the other, it is a search for understanding the mind of God. That is to say, to discern God’s will. No human being can search the mind of God and understand God’s will by his/her own power. Only the Spirit of God goes into the depths of God’s heart and find out what are His desires and plans. The Spirit that is dwelling with the hearts of Christians does the same: “For what human being knows what is truly human except the human Spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God (1Cor 2:11). The human spirit can reach out by its capacity to its own depths, but not God’s depths. It can be realized by God’s Spirit. That is why the human spirit b its own power can never pray to God in the right manner and in the way God wants. Man has yearnings to reach unto God, but is unable by his lack of strength. It is in this helpless situation that the Spirit of the Lord dwelling in them enlightens and capacitates them to pray: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26). Communion with God in the life of Christians is not in words, but in real interior relationship. There is a fusion between God and the Christian Spirit. Thereby they are able to pray according to God’s will, His desires and His plans: “And God who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27).
The Spirit of God is present not only in the individual life of the Christians, but also in formation as well as in the growth of the community, which is the body of Christ. This point is well exposed in three chapters of the first Corinthians (1Cor 12.13.14). The members within the body live and grow in harmony through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. To each member the Spirit gives His gifts, which are suitable to its nature and role (1Cor. 12:11). They are all granted to the members for the common good of the community (1Cor 12:7). All partake of the gifts from one and same Spirit: “For in the one Spirit we are all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (1Cor 12:13). Drinking from the same font which is the Spirit, the members grow together and in unity. The binding force of the members is love (1Cor 12:31). Paul lauds the supreme gift of love and entreats everyone to desire for this greatest gift of the Spirit (1Cor 13). Apart from the gift of love flowing from the Spirit, there is no Christian life. There is no communion between the members and the head of the body, Jesus Christ. Moreover, the Spirit helps them to understand the gift of God granted to each of them and to interpret these gifts in their day to day life, so that they may grow mature in Christ Jesus for the day of the Lord.
The new life of the Christians carries with it hardships and persecutions. During these moments of pain and trial, the Spirit in them encourages and strengthens to endure them. They are enabled to encounter these hardships with inner courage accompanied with Christian inner joy (1Thess 1:6). They are also not men of fear and do not shrink from responsibilities, as cowards do. “For God did not give us a Spirit of cowardice, but rather a Spirit of power and of love and of self discipline” (2Tim 1:7).
Finally, as a result of the Spirit’s presence in their lives, they are free from the slavery of external law (Rom 7:6; 8:2). They are without any external law and are free as the children of God. However, this is not a licence for them to walk according to the desires of flesh, but to walk according to the dictates of the Spirit (Rom 8: 5-6). They are bound to follow, to be guided by the promptings of the Spirit that is dwelling within their hearts. Indeed they are Spirit soaked persons that are oriented towards good of others. Their inner aspirations are always directed by love for others. They walk in the spirit of love.
Walking according to the Spirit: The faithful have received the Holy Spirit as the “first fruits”, “the guarantee” of the glorious heredity promised to the sons of God (2Cor 1:21-22; 5:5; Eph 1:13-14). They are sealed by the Spirit, so that they belong to God in view of the final redemption (2Cor 1:21-22; Eph 1:13-14; 4:30). Christian is the possessor of a new vitality which is oriented towards their final redemption. In this light we must understand the exhortation of Paul to Ephesians: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of the Lord” (4:30). Since the Christians are sealed by the Spirit, they are in vital relationship with God. God has taken possession of them. He has acquired them in view of “the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30). This orientation toward the final redemption should allow the Christian to concentrate his life to the practical sphere of living, any action, every word that contradicts the vital exigencies already present in the Christian by the Spirit should be considered as “to wound” or “inflict” pain upon the Holy Spirit. To put it in a positive manner, this exhortation demands from the Christians to make the Spirit happy by corresponding to the divine impulses which arise in them. Therefore, the Christians in their concrete lives should walk by the Spirit and should not gratify the desires of the Spirit (Gal 5:10). There should radical commitment from the part of the faithful to fight and to overcome all the opposing works of the flesh which is still persistent within them (Gal 5:17). It is the crucifixion of our flesh with all its passions and desires (Gal 5:24). He has to eliminate from his life all the works of the flesh (Gal 5:19-21). Instead of it, allow the fruits of the Holy Spirit to prosper in his life (Gal 5:22). There must be coherence with what he is in his intimate being and with the life that he leads. Hence the Pauline exhortation: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25).
Consistent and Disciplined Life: It is to be observed here that the Greek term for “to walk” is not the usual peripatein, but stoichein, which is a military vocabulary. It literally means “to proceed in a path which is already traced”. The soldiers in their march for war have to follow a set routed already determined. Metaphorically it means therefore to follow a norm, to conform one’s action according to a norm already established or written down. Hence when Paul is exhorting in Gal 5:25, he sounds to say: “if you live by the Spirit, follow the right path already traced by the Spirit for you; do not deviate yourself from the set by the Spirit”. In fact, for Paul the Spirit is “interior norm or law” (Rom 8:2) and is the “law written in their hearts” (2Cor 3:3-6) in fulfilment of the prophesying at the beginning of this chapter (Jer. 31:31-34; Ez. 36:26-27). Spirit as the interior law exposes the vital power of God and is the principle and norm of life. This means t hat the Christian is moved by the Spirit to act according to God’s will. The inspirations of the Holy Spirit are a rule, an obligatory and an imperative way of behaviour. Hence Paul writes in Rom 8:12-13: “So then brothers we are debtors not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit, you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.
The term “debtors” denotes an obligation (Rom 1:14; 15:27). There is obligation for the Christians to lead a life according to the Spirit, because they are in possession of the same gift of the Holy Spirit in an intimate and existential manner. Hence they are debtors to the Spirit. It imposes on them the obligation to put to death the deeds of the flesh, which means all the evil and immoral acts, that are still at work in their own life situations and in those of others. This is the sum and substance of Christian moral and spiritual life: Live in coherence with the spiritual instinct that is already present in them and be more sensitive to these instincts.
Life in Collaboration with the Spirit of the Lord: In Pauline thought Christian being and living are rooted in one and the same Spirit. God has begun in the Christian life a new life by raising him from the dungeon of sinful sin to the new dignity of the adopted divine child and consecrated to be the temple of God. He is now endowed with the Holy Spirit which has taken possession of him. The Holy Spirit, which is a flame of fire, is enkindled in him. He can never quench its fire burning in his heart and never try to do it (1Thess 5:19). His life must positively ardent in the Spirit (Rom 12:11). He should seek that his life is ever more filled with this Spirit of love (Eph 5:18).
Christian life is collaboration with the work of the Holy Spirit until the end of one’s life. It was inaugurated in the Christian’s individual and personal life with baptism, which is only corroborated in confirmation. The new life of grace begun in him must be brought to perfection in and through the energizing involvement of the Spirit. Adoption as a child of God is already done, but is not in complete enjoyment of all the rights and privileges. It has yet to be brought to fullness and completion at the end of life. But the Christian is in a process towards it. This is what is called Christian spirituality.
Christian, seeking spiritual perfection of their adoption as the son/daughter of God, he should groan inwardly together with the whole creation for the final redemption of their bodies (Rom 8:23). Christian is not a finished good or product, but is on the process of becoming mature in Christ. His life is not static, but is a dynamic spiritual process led by the Spirit of God. This continuous dynamic force of the Christian existence is the life-giving Spirit. Until he/she is fully conformed to the image of the Son of God, the perfect image of God the Father, this process of becoming the son of God will continue in his/her life. The Christian is pilgrim on the way, being led by the Spirit of the Lord Jesus. The greater the collaboration with the Spirit, the greater is the advance that makes in his life of the Spirit.Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Pinterest