Gordon Fee lecturing on: The Spirit: The Restored Presence of God
[This lecture consists of] three interwoven urgencies which bring this material together:
1. Lack of scholarship/need for trinitarian re-emphasis. While preparing this material for publication. at the time, NT scholarship treated the Spirit as a minimal reality, lip service but not serious study. Ridderbos's Paul only gives five pages to the Spirit. Ziesler only gives one page to the Spirit. While gathering the material together for the entry in the Dictionary of Charismatic Movements (Zondervan) on the Spirit in Paul, Fee realized there was no work on this. He was also writing a commentary on 1 Corinthians. The Spirit is a central view of Paul. Paul isn't christocentric, as has been said, but, rather, is theocentric; in other words, Paul is a trinitarian. It was Paul's experience of God that led to the doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity wasn't dreamed up by the church two hundred years later, but was there in the experience of the early church. Most christians today are binitarian in practice even though they confess the Trinity. For most, the Holy Spirit is a grey oblong blurr. Let us become trinitarians in life and living.
2. The Personal/Existential Dimension of the Trinity. There is not just trinitarianism as doctrine, but the personal dimension of the trinity that should be experienced.
3. Deep concern for the church, arguing for a more Pauline view. We cannot restore the full New Testament church. There is just too much between ourselves and the first century. We can, however, reclaim the heart of the early church. In a postmodern world, how can we live the life of the future in the present so that the world dislikes us for the right reasons, not the wrong ones? We can't do this without the work of the Spirit.
Personal nature of the Spirit; the Trinity and what it means to understand the Spirit as the renewed presence of God.
We must break the habit of talking about the Spirit in abstract and removed terms. All Christian traditions seem to speak abstractly of the Spirit--even Charismatics emphasize the language of experience rathern than personal encounter. You hear such phrases in Charismatic circles as "baptized in the Spirit", baptize is always a verb. You can't say, "receiving the baptism" because baptism is a verb not a noun. When we start using language like that, we over emphasize experience and talk about "it" rather than "he." The Spirit isn't an impersonal force. In other evangelical circles, the emphasis is on the still small voice not the power and presence of the living God. We become practicing binitarians. Part of the reason for this is the language about the Spirit we read in the Scriptures. All our images about the Spirit (dove, wind, water, fire, oil) are impersonal and move us away from seeing him personally as we see the Father or the Son.
I Corinthians 2:6-16. The Corinthians are transforming the gospel into sophia/wisdom and measuring such wisdom in human terms. Paul tries to shatter this (1:18ff) by pointing to the evidence that the gospel is not wisdom humanly understood. No human wisdom could have come up with the gospel--would human wisdom have chosen you. ("such as were some of you") The only way you can know divine wisdom is if the Spirit reveals it; the gospel is foolish without the Spirit revealing it as true. Spirit must touch spirit and change the heart. Romans 8:16, the Spirit touches the spirit. That allows us to cry in the language of Jesus [Aramaic] "Abba!" 8:26 Likewise the Spirit cries for us when we do not know how. The mind does not understand. [He's making a veiled reference to tongues assuming we all agree and understand a larger amount of unspoken doctrine] You can't talk about an impersonal Spirit when the Spirit prays and convinces. The Spirit isn't an "it" but has true personhood [hypostasis/person]. What people pray & sing is what people really believe [Pastor Bob adds to my notes, "and how you serve."] In the Old Testament, the Spirit is called the Spirit of YHWH. Kurios in the LXX becomes "Spirit of the LORD," which is what Paul picks up on and changes to the "Spirit of God," because Lord refers to Christ in Paul. Yet, several times Paul says "Spirit of Christ" (pneuma tou Xristou) so that the Incarnation not only put a human face on the father but on the Spirit as well. We can see the face of the Spirit in the face of Christ.
Galatians 3:3-7 adopted sons/heirs, receive the Spirit of the Son by which the death and ressurection of Christ is appropriated to us. The Spirit is our link with what happened two thousand years ago. Because we have the Spirit of the Son we speak "Abba" the language of the Son. Paul, in almost every instance, speaks of salvation in a trinitarian way. God's love initiates. "The love of God shed abroad" by the Spirit through the work of the Son on the cross. Our salvation is a trinitarian event. Jesus saves, yes, but Paul says more exactly: the Triune God saves! Fellowship (koinonia) is fellowhship in and through the Spirit (koinonia en pneumatos). Without the Spirit there is no salvation. The final word in our theology must always be doxology. Eph. 1:1-14. It is an overloaded, stream-of-conciousness passage because it is worship. The work of the Son carries through to verse 12. In verse 11 the passion of God begins to emerge, God has created one people. The experience of the Holy Spirit indwelling is what seperates pagan and believer.
[Short Break in the Lecture]
Renewed Presence . . . is central to some other truths about the Spirit & the Church.
Narrative. You can't tell the Biblical story without telling the story. Abstract theology can't lose the story from which it originates. If you don't start with creation, then redemption doesn't make much sense. Paul was always in the Biblical story. "four score and seven years" is a stock phrase that is innately a part of the story of what it means to be an American. Such are the OT allusions in the New. Such allusions triggered the whole story of Israel in the minds of the hearer--but we only hear "87" years, the same way a foreigner hears that American phrase. We are little engaged in the symbolic universe of the NT writers. Don't think NT--think Bible as a whole. John Stott tells a story of when he was at Regent College doing his seminar "Pastor as Storyteller" and his grandson came to him and said, "Grandpa, gell me a story and put me in it!" This is exactly what our task is, to tell God's story and put people in it.
Paul believes that this is a continuation of the story.
II. The Spirit, the Present and the Future
The new covenant promise finds it first clear articulation in Jeremiah 31. The new covenant has to do with the failure of people to keep the old. Ezek. ties this new covenant specifically to the Spirit. Ezek. 36:26 picking up the language of Jeremiah "new heart/new spirit/remove heart of stone/give heart of flesh". The valley of dry bones was written during exile. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live.
Paul picks up on this in 2 Corinthains 3: "The letter [Torah] kills but the Spirit gives life. New vs. old covenants. Dr. Fee then says that when he finished this section of his commentary, he sat down for an hour or so and just thought about that text.
The second symbol is the presence. The OT people were marked out from the surrounding nations because they were a people of the presence. The law, the land, circumcision, all were just out-workings of this central tenet, the presence. God left Sinai, his dwelling, and the tabernacle is built so that his people are now known as the people with whom the Lord dwells. The tragedy of the exile is the destruction of the temple, they are no longer a people of the presence. Ezekiel is trying to say that the destruction of the temple is not necessarily a bad thing. The crucial text for this is Is. 63 His presence saved them. (10) yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. Paul quotes this when he says, "Do not grieve the Holy Spirit" in Eph. In Isa. already the presence is being identified as the Spirit. The boldness of I Cor. is that the temple is still standing in Jerusalem while Paul is calling the church the temple. What distinguishes the church, then, is that they are a people of the presence. Romans 6 Paul uses temple language to refer to the individual believer. We live in the presence of God. Christ lives in us by his Spirit, not an "it" but "he" "Christ" "GOD!!!!" and because God is there, then we are empowered. Gentiles, who had no place in the symbolic universe of Israel, now do.
I Corinthians 5 is difficult to understand because our symbolic universe is so different than Paul's. You should go into mourning because this man has died. I being absent in body but present in spirit, not as though present in body but in Spirit. They don't carry sentence out alone. (4) but when you & my spirit are assembled together in the power of the Lord Jesus. Paul understands his letter as a prophetic word, his letter is his presence in their midst. [True knowledge is evidenced in love] "with the power of the Lord Jesus" They couldn't understand that the Spirit could be present without power and without manifestation! Our problem is that people "go to church." People go to church, you see, on a consumer basis. You give them a good product, says the contemporary wisdom, and they'll come. This is demonic. Nobody "went to church" in the 1st century. TSOUNERKOUMAI we assemble as the church, you can't go to church: you are it! Going to church is like hoping without really expecting. The way to correct abuse is not disuse, but correct use. [in this section, he is alluding to the gifts of the Spirit. At least that is my belief from listening to him--he kind of slipped around a bit. It seems that what he was saying was that where the Spirit is, we should expect power because the Spirit is the living God. Not only so, but we should stop not expecting because of this going to church attitude, but instead should expect something. As for how to expect something, simply disusing something because of past abuses isn't mature, rather instead learning to use --and I'm assuming he means the gifts here -- the gifts correctly is the mature option.]
III. The Spirit, the Present and the Future
Ecclesiology. Fee is not against denominations, the question is how can we recapture a more biblical sense of the church. /kirk/ has no reference to EKKLESIA. Today the word "church" carries too much baggage to be useful. Rather, Fee uses the language of the "people of God."
"Trust me," he says, "these separate concepts will eventually come together." The people of God are an eschatological people. We always deal with the end, the story has an end as well as a beginning. The story must be told in total. The people of God live in the realities of the future. Elizabeth à John; Hannah to Samuel. there is a parallel there. Movement from Judges to Kings with Hannah N Samuel, and later from Kings to the Davidic Kingship.
Psalm 89. Resurrection and the gift of Spirit are two eschatalogical expectations contained in the prophets. The ressurection of the body and the gift of the Spirit are the signs of the end times. Jesus is tested by Satan at the points where Israel failed in their wilderness journey. Jesus' resurrection is the certain evidence that the crucial eschatalogical event has taken place. Examine the church calendary. you abound in hope only by the power of the Spirit. The Spirit becomes for Paul the crucial eschatalogical symbol of the certainty of what is coming. Our present existence is already/not yet. We live in certainty of the future. What makes Paul so certain is the gift of the Spirit. The Spirit is the the deposit (arabone) guaranteeing all the rest. In the New Testament, joy is a verb not a noun. The Spirit is the seal, not baptism. (Sorry all you Presbyterians.) The Spirit is the authenticating reality in our lives. The Spirit is the evidence of salvation. God is already creating his eschatalogical people.
The ecclesiological dimension with the Spirit. The difference between Old and New covenant is how people enter into the Kingdom of God. The continuity between old and new is that God is always about saving people for his name. This is why the cross is central. The New Testament always puts the saved life in terms of "with others." The Trinity informs and underlies christian anthropology and the imago dei saying that humanity is at it heart social. We are only human beings in community with others. How can you love God and not your neighbour? We leave out the message about community. Conversion is a giant umbrella term. It includes all that ends with a new body and a new earth. How do we know if we love when we only are with people who look like us? Paul does not believe in homogenous churches, because how then do we know if we love? We live in the most intensely selfish and self-centered culture on the planet.
Romans. Luther and Calvin got almost all of it correct, but missed a few percent. What drives Romans is the question "Who are the People of God?" Circumcision/food laws/observance of days. Circumcision is dealt with earlier in Romans. Later (Romans 13:1-15:13) the other two are dealt with. Paul says the only thing is faith expressing itself through love. Peace has to do with Shalom. By Paul's day, Jew and Gentile are seperated by intense ethnic hatred. Only the Spirit can overcome race, class, and gender separation.
IV. Life in the Spirit
The Spirit is person, the renewed presence of God.
The eschatalogical people of God living the life of the future in the present age.
The people of God are called saints, every believer is called this. The Scriptures do this because God says he's going to make a holy people for himself. The holy ones of the most high stand in the presence of the most high. Every bit of New Testament theological language finds its roots in the Old Testament. Ekklesia is not the Greek city state, the polis, where landed men gathered to debate and vote. No, Paul was using this out of the LXX, referring to the people gathered in Israel. Paul recognized that all the promises which include Gentiles eschatalogically drive the understanding that there is one people of God. Most of the New Testament doctrines are written in multicultural cities with tons of divisions. The New Testament knows nothing of homogeneous churches. Philemon tells me the gospel works, because Jew (Paul) Gentile and Slave (Philemon) come together in unity. Unity is not because we all wear the same clothes. Rather, we live as one people abiding in a foreign land. We live this heavenly citizenship worthy of the gospel. Humility means to place the needs of others ahead of your own. At the end of Philippians 3 Paul says our citizenship is in heaven, and from there we await our Savior and Lord, Jesus. The people of God are counter-cultural because their citizenship is in heaven. We are a colony of heaven; you want to know what heaven will be like, look at a colony of it. What chance do people have of hearing the gospel if they don't see the gospel in its citizens? Christians are always countercultural. Fruit of the Spirit: fruit in Galatians is Chapter 5, which is a natural part of Paul's whole argument in the epistle. The argument doesn't work without the fruit. Gal 5:13. don't let freedom become an opportunity for the flesh, rather use your freedom to perform the duties of a slave. Walk in the Spirit and you won't obey the lusts of the flesh. Now flesh is often interpreted as an inner tendency toward physical lust and sins of lust, yet Paul's list has 8 of these works of flesh pertaining to sins of discord, conflict and the desire to win. If you are led by the Spirit, you aren't under law, but you have the fruit of the Spirit now. The fruit is almost totally involved with relationships in the community. The fruit isn't individual peace but communal shalom. Whether we want it or not, we are thrown into a community of other forgiven sinners to live a counter cultural life of the Spirit before the eyes of the world. we are bound together absolutely so that even though we aren't geographically together we are one body in community. We are at war. Some are torn to pieces in the conflict. Others fight on and some come fresh to the front, yet we do not fight alone. If we aren't living in community then what hope does the world have for hearing the gospel?
Q: What is the relationship of the charismata/gifts to all this?
A: In Paul they exist only for the building up of the body. Our American individualism has destroyed the whole thing. The church didn't care what gift you had, just that you are open to be used by the Spirit in whatever gift he gives you in the moment for the good of the body. We don't believe this stuff anymore. However, our churches in latin america and Africa do--they came from animism and tribal gods who manifested themselves commonly and demonically. If those false gods had power, then they assume quite naturally that the real living God will be a force indeed. Remember, though, such gifts are for the community.
Q: How do we "test all things"?
A: That is a good question. 2 Thess. 2 where Paul is not sure of the source of what that church is saying. Did they it from reading a letter or from a prophetic utterance? In 2:15 hold to the traditions of word & epistle. So the way the Spirit is tested is the apostolic tradition (ie. Scripture). Another thing is that all who have the Spirit ought to have a sense of the what the Spirit is saying? Does the blood run cold, so to speak. And there should be a mechanism for judging/testing and discipline/reconciliation, too. also 1 Cor 14:3: edification, exhortation, encouragement. You should ask, "Does this message do these things?" "Most of us don't have the courage to take our hand off the control button…I think we ought to have the courage to make mistakes. Remember, too, that the 1st Century church met in houses in small groups. They couldn't have imagined the 200- or 1500-member churches of today."
Notes taken during a lecture given by Dr. Gordon Fee at the Gordon-Conwell Chapel on November 1st, 1998.
Gordon Fee; biblical theology; the Trinity; Paul; Galatians; Romans; ecclesiology; 1 Corinthians; pneumatology