Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Christ and the New Creation within Us

For those of us who have ever held a newborn child in our hands, we know the miracle of birth. There is joy and wonder in a new life. And a newborn is, in some sense, an emblem of innocence. A newborn does not know hatred or resentment, sullenness or apathy. I will not stop here to discuss the topic of original sin -- whether the child is born in a state of sin. For here, it is enough to focus on these words of Christ:
Flesh gives birth to flesh; spirit gives birth to spirit. Do not be astonished when I say you must be born again.
God's Spirit within us, then, is our new birth. The Spirit showed itself explicitly during Christ's ministry both at the beginning and the end. Christ's public ministry began with his baptism, when the Spirit of God descended over the waters. And after Christ's resurrection, he breathed on his disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit.

But both of these -- the spirit over the water, and the breathing into someone -- are things we have seen before. Before Jesus' baptism, the last time we saw the Spirit of God over the waters was at the beginning of the world: "the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters" (Genesis 1:2). And again at the beginning of the world, when God created the man from the dust, he breathed on the man to give him life (Genesis 2:7). So in Christ's ministry we see the Spirit showing Christ to be the beginning of the new creation. We also see that Christ is the way that the new creation comes to us. Jesus breathed on his disciples to give them God's breath, just as in the beginning God breathed on man.

Because the Holy Spirit and the new creation are so closely linked with baptism, these comments will be continued in the next post on baptism.

Index for systematic theology series

8 comments:

codepoke said...

Just wanted to pop in and affirm that I am still reading and enjoying!

Since this is systematic, I will ask one small question:
The Spirit showed itself explicitly during Christ's ministry both at the beginning and the end.

Itself, or Himself?

And after Christ's resurrection, he breathed on his disciples and told them to receive the Holy Spirit.

Wow, yeah. Very cool. I think I had heard that before, but it's been way too long. Thanks!

Weekend Fisher said...

Erm, I don't think the Holy Spirit has a body or a gender. Some people might say "himself" would be more appropriate because it implies personality or is more traditional. I have no objection to that of course.

codepoke said...

I don't think the Holy Spirit has a body or a gender.

Excellent.

because it implies personality

That would be why in my book. The whole "traditional" thing carries no water.

I understand that this is off-topic, but is it as valid to refer to the Spirit as "Herself" as "Himself"? Does the Father have gender?

Weekend Fisher said...

There was a time when, in English, "himself" was a generic 3rd person which was nearly gender-neutral. In these days of gender-based antagonism, those days of *anything* being gender-neutral -- much less the masculine form -- are in some places going and in other places gone.

To do justice to your question I'd need a full-length post but I'll give the opening salvo here: if each side of the gender war insists very firmly that the LORD should be seen in terms of that side's human sexual identity, then haven't we dropped all pretenses that our discussion is about God? How often is this discussion instead about us, projecting our image onto God instead of receiving God's image onto us? And how many steps is each side from using God as a pawn in the gender war? If we have to choose allegiances, man's dignity, or woman's dignity, or God's dignity, let me start with God's. 9 out of 10 of the "God and gender" discussions I've seen have left me nauseated. Before a productive conversation could take place, there would have to be a lot of ground-clearing done.

codepoke said...

Beautiful answer.

If we have to choose allegiances, man's dignity, or woman's dignity, or God's dignity, let me start with God's.

Amen.

Now, let me get back out of your way. I am looking forward to your post on the Spirit's work.

Weekend Fisher said...

Pokey! You're not "in the way". Posting was light last week because Mom finally had her open heart surgery. It went reasonably well. She is still in the hospital, but she's out of ICU now and is expected to go home later this week. I've been overdoing it -- not sure I had a whole lot of choice in a week like that -- even without blogging.

Thanks for being there.

codepoke said...

Nice to hear. :-) The news about your mother is better, though. Hopefully the scary stuff is past now.

codepoke said...

I hear you are seeing a finish line to this series. (All good things...) As such, is this a good time to re-ask some of the questions that initially piqued my interest on this series?

Will you be providing an ordered list a la the Theologica discussion?

Election happens in Christ, but when? On what condition?

When and how does regeneration happen? (Which would probably cover how it is resistible along the way.)

It may be that you have answered these questions to one degree or another, but I am not seeing the answers yet. For example,
Again, this has implications for our evangelism. For the message of Christ itself has the power to create faith. We proclaim God's faithfulness in Christ. Those who understand God's faithfulness now have faith in him, since that is what faith is. "So then faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17)

Faith in God through Christ is also the beginning of a transformation within us. It is the death of our trust in our own efforts, the death of our ideas of ourselves as our own gods. It is the rebirth of hope, of love. It is the beginning of the new creation inside us, as it is said, Christ in us is the hope of glory.
(from Christ: The Author of Faith)

The message has the power to create faith. But, it is those who understand God's faithfulness who have faith. And a hearty amen to how faith transforms us.

So, from whence understanding? What is the deciding difference between one who understands, and one who does not? How is understanding resistible?

I hope you don't mind that I keep going back to these questions.