Monday, December 5, 2011

St. Paul’s Doctrine Of The Holy Spirit 1

The apostolic testimony to the Holy Spirit is given by Paul, James, Peter, John, Jude and the author of Hebrews.  One thing must be stated at the outset regarding the apostolic theology of the Spirit.  They all, with full consent, take for granted the corruption of man’s nature.  Thus, they refer to the Spirit as the Originator and Source all the saving, sanctifying and comforting influences that Christians experience.[i]  They do not stop to inquire how the renewing of the Holy Spirit is to be harmonized with the freedom of the will – as if these questions were not part of their concern.  Nevertheless, the fact of men’s responsibility along with the proclamation of converting grace and the renewing of the Spirit is set forth with a gravity and exigency to which the solution of these questions could add no further weight – if it were possible to solve them.

We do not find in any of the apostles the sheer volume of allusions to the Holy Spirit’s work in saving and sanctifying as we find in the Epistles of St. Paul.  This is most accurately, besides other reasons, to be ascribed to the fact that Paul had not know Christ after the flesh[ii] but had received his revelations more through an inward communication of the Spirit than by direct discourse with the Lord.  Paul has this distinguishing feature, quite different from the other apostles.

Paul most emphatically affirms that Christ is never to be conceived of apart from the Spirit, and, conversely, that the Spirit is never to be conceived of apart from Christ.  The memorable passage where he says, “Now the Lord is that Spirit,”[iii] shows the close connection in which Paul places Christ and the Spirit and how fully he understands their joint mission.  We will look at several features of Paul’s theology of the Spirit, but the above point should be constantly borne in mind as the groundwork and underpinning for all of Paul’s understanding of the Holy Spirit.

The Apostle gives us quite an ample testimony to the dignity of the Spirit.  In Acts we find him saying that the Spirit spoke by the prophet Isaiah[iv] and that the Spirit testified from city to city that bonds and imprisonment awaited him.[v]  In his own Epistles, Paul declares that the Holy Spirit sustained him in his ministry.[vi]  Paul appeals to the Spirit and calls Him to witness.[vii]  But in demonstration of the aforementioned connection in Paul’s theology of the work of the Son and the Spirit, we advert to the fact that Paul uses the same expression, sent forth (e1cape2steilen), to describe the Spirit’s mission as he used to describe the Son’s mission[viii]

The titles Paul uses for the Holy Spirit are quite numerous, and revealing of his understanding as well.  For instance, he calls Him the Spirit of God,[ix] the Spirit of His Son,[x] the Spirit of Christ[xi] and the Spirit of Him that raised Christ from the dead.[xii]  If we look at the economy in which the Spirit is sent, He is said to be shed on us abundantly.[xiii]  If we examine the titles He is given by Paul in view of the blessings and benefits derived from Him, He is called the Spirit of grace,[xiv] the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus,[xv] the Spirit of adoption,[xvi] the Spirit of life,[xvii] the Spirit of meekness[xviii] and the Spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.[xix]

Paul invariably attributes to the Spirit the instigation of the Christian life.  Thus we find him saying, “No man can say that Jesus is Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”[xx] And in another place he says, “He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”[xxi]  Whether or not we interpret the phrase “washing (laver) of regeneration,” as referring to baptism, the last phrase (renewing of the Holy Ghost) must be construed as referring to the active operation of the Spirit at the commencement of the Christian life.  Since it is to this shedding or pouring out of the Spirit to which salvation is traced, this cannot be referred to mere doctrine.  The personal Spirit is mentioned as the producing cause.

[i] See Ephesians 3:16; Romans 15:13
[ii] 2 Corinthians 5:16
[iii] 2 Corinthians 3:17
[iv] Acts 28:25
[v] Acts 20:23
[vi] Romans 15:19
[vii] Romans 9:1
[viii] Galatians 4:4-6
[ix] Romans 8:9
[x] Galatians 4:6
[xi] Romans 8:9
[xii] Romans 8:11
[xiii] Titus 3:6
[xiv] Hebrews 10:29
[xv] Ephesians 1:17
[xvi] Romans 8:15
[xvii] Romans 8:2
[xviii] Galatians 6:1
[xix] 2 Timothy 1:7
[xx] 1 Corinthians 12:3
[xxi] Titus 3:5

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