Wednesday, June 3, 2009

6/3- United by the Spirit

(picture of Calvin in his 30s)

Romans 8:22We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? 25But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. 26In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. 27And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will.

Calvin: We must now examine this question. How do we receive those benefits which the Father bestowed on his only-begotten Son — not for Christ’s own private use, but that he might enrich poor and needy men? First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us. Therefore, to share with us what he has received from the Father, he had to become ours and to dwell within us. For this reason, he is called “our Head” [Ephesians 4:15], and “the first-born among many brethren” [Romans 8:29]. We also, in turn, are said to be “engrafted into him” [Romans 11:17], and to “put on Christ” [Galatians 3:27]; for, as I have said, all that he possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with him. It is true that we obtain this by faith. Yet since we see that not all indiscriminately embrace that communion with Christ which is offered through the gospel, reason itself teaches us to climb higher and to examine into the secret energy of the Spirit, by which we come to enjoy Christ and all his benefits.
Earlier I discussed the eternal deity and essence of the Spirit. Now let us be content with this particular point: that Christ so “came by water and blood” in order that the Spirit may witness concerning him [1 John 5:6-7], lest the salvation imparted, through him escape us. For, as three witnesses in heaven are named — the Father, the Word, and the Spirit — so there are three on earth: the water, the blood, and the Spirit [1 John 5:7-8]. There is good reason for the repeated mention of the “testimony of the Spirit,” a testimony we feel engraved like a seal upon our hearts, with the result that it seals the cleansing and sacrifice of Christ.
For this reason, also, Peter says that believers have been “chosen in the sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Christ” [1 Peter 1:2 p.]. By these words he explains that, in order that the shedding of his sacred blood may not be nullified, our souls are cleansed by the secret watering of the Spirit. For the same reason, also, Paul, in speaking of cleansing and justification, says that we come to possess both, “in the name of…Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” [1 Corinthians 6:11]. To sum up, the Holy Spirit is the bond by which Christ effectually unites us to himself.(III.1.1)

It is important in Calvin’s theology to note that the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ. He mentions this many times (eg. Eph. 5:32 sermon; Gal. 2:20 commentary; sermon on Acts 2:1-14). Christ ascended to heaven, but we are not separated from his presence because of the Holy Spirit that links us to him. The Holy Spirit united heaven and earth when the Spirit joined God and man in the person of Christ. The Spirit links Christ in heaven with us on earth by his omnipresence. The Spirit lifts us up to Christ, and channels Christ’s benefits down to us. The model of Christ being united with the church is similar to a man being united with his wife (Eph. 5:31,32). It is not just a physical thing- but a spiritual union.
It is not far from this to think of the Spirit as adopting us to Christ. Adoption also was a key concept of Calvin. We are Christ’s. We are not our own. The Spirit unites us to Him. Christ lives in us by the Spirit, and we live in Christ by the Spirit. One time I did a study of the little phrase “in Christ.” It is found hundreds of times in the New Testament. The image is almost of air. We live in the air, and the air lives in us. We live in Christ and Christ lives in us. This is so by the Holy Spirit who fills us, dwells in us (we are his temple –I Cor. 3; Col. 3:16). At the same time in Him we live, move, and have our being (Acts 17:28). In a secular world, it is easy to think we are far away from God, or that God doesn't make any difference. But God is closer to us than anyone else if we believe. The Spirit is drawing us to Him while the world is pulling us away. The trick is to hold God in one hand and reach out in grace to the world with the other. The Spirit allows us to do that- uniting us to Christ and empowering us to live for Him in the world.

Prayer: Holy Spirit, thank you for uniting us to Christ. Help us to dwell in you today, relying on your power, not straying from your presence.

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