Saturday, April 9, 2016

Seeing Christ in the Spirit

I preached from Job on Resurrection Day. He makes a gutsy statement of faith while walking through the valley of the shadow of death: "Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; Whom I myself shall behold, and Whom my eyes will see and not another" (Job 19:26,27).

Moses' request is equally surprising: "I pray You, show me Your glory!" (Exodus 33:18).

Then there's Philip. The Greeks had come to him, requesting audience with Jesus: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus" (John 12:21) . Not long after this, he asks Jesus to see the Father (14:8). Jesus responds, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (14:9).

The Bible teaches that God (the Father) is invisible (Deuteronomy 4:15; John 1:18; Romans 1:20; Colossians 1:15; 1 Timothy 6:16; Hebrews 11:27; 1 John 4:12). He is Spirit, and has not a body like men (Catechism for Young Children, Q.9). But some of the greatest moments of faith displayed in the Bible have great saints proclaiming either a belief that they will see God or making request to see God. Seeing the invisible God. The Bible has no problem with tensions that drive us apart from each other in intramural battle.

Jesus is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). I suspect He is all we will ever see of God the Father. In the Revelation (a very descriptive book), the Father is only described as "the One sitting on the throne" (4:2,9,10; 5:1,7,13; 6:16; 7:10,15; 19:4; 20:11; 21:5). When we look at the Son, we see the Father.

But what about now? The Son has ascended to the right hand of the Father. We cannot see Him. This does not hinder our relationship with Him, of course. "Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory" (1 Peter 1:8).

In my meditation on 1 Peter this week, I've paid attention to how the apostle speaks of the Holy Spirit.

He is "the Spirit of Christ" (1:11). The Son and the Spirit are distinct Persons of the one true God. The angel tells Mary "the Holy Spirit will come upon" her, causing her to conceive "the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). The Holy Spirit did not become the Son in her womb, but was the power that caused the virgin to conceive. The "Holy Spirit descended upon [Jesus] in bodily form like a dove" (3:22) at His baptism. Jesus teaches His disciples to pray to the "heavenly Father" to ask for "the Holy Spirit" (11:13). The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God, but three distinct Persons. And yet, despite the distinction, there is such a unity in essence, an inter-penetration (the theological term is perichoresis - an eternal dance of the Three-in-One). The Son and Spirit are distinct Persons of one God, so we can speak of "the Spirit of Christ" without confusing the two Persons or separating them into heterodoxy. Paul proclaims of the risen Christ that "the last Adam became a life-giving Spirit" (1 Corinthians 15:45). The Son and Spirit are distinct, but they are One. In Romans 8:9, the Holy Spirit is "the Spirit of God" and "the Spirit of Christ" (a parallel underlining the fact that "God" and "Christ" are One). In Philippians 1:19, Paul tells the Church he is resting in "the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ." The Spirit in us "intercedes for the saints according to the will of God" (Romans 8:26,27) and the Son "Who is at the right hand of God...intercedes for us" (8:34). The Spirit Who is in us is One with the Son Who saves us.

He is "the Holy Spirit" (1:12), and the One Who makes us holy (1:2). Just as the heavenly praise of God focuses on His holiness (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8), Jesus is described throughout early Christian preaching as "the holy One" (Acts 2:27; 3:14; 4:27,30; 13:35). "By [the Father's] doing you are in Christ Jesus, Who became to us...sanctification" (1 Corinthians 1:30). How does the holiness of the Father mediated through the Son come to us? Through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

He is "the Spirit of glory and of God" (4:14). Likewise, the Son "is the radiance of [the Father's] glory" (Hebrews 1:3). When Jesus was present, the apostles (and all the other witnesses) "saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father" (John 1:14). It is the glory of Yahweh, the very glory Isaiah saw (John 12:41; see Isaiah 6:1-5). The divine Spirit Who glory Who fills believers brings the glorious Son, Who is the glory of the Father, to us by His presence. It is in the Person of the Holy Spirit that we are made to "see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4).

" also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (2:5). We need to remember: the adjective "spiritual" should have a capital "S." While you and I have countless friends, co-workers, family members, and neighbors who would describe themselves as "spiritual" with a lower-case "s," the Bible doesn't have this category. If you are truly spiritual, it is because of the presence and work of the Person of the Holy Spirit in your life. A "spiritual house" is a house for the Holy Spirit, not a vaguely spiritual attitude or awareness or leaning. It is Personal (capital "P"). "You are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:22). And, as I've pointed out before, we may need to have a more carefully nuanced reading of a passage typically used to teach the stewardship of our personal physical bodies: " you [plural] not know that your [plural] body [singular] is a temple [plural] of the Holy Spirit Who is in you [plural], Whom you [plural] have from God, and that you [plural] are not your [plural] own? For you [plural] have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your [plural] body [singular]" (1 Corinthians 6:19,20). Paul uses "bodies" (plural) in 6:15. I think he's transitioned into a bigger statement here. He is speaking of a different Body at this point, a Body elaborated on further later in the letter (10:16,17; 11:24,27,29; eighteen times in chapter 12!). A "spiritual house" (to bring us back to 1 Peter 2:5) is the collected group of believers fit together, cleansed, and sanctified to be the very place the Presence of God is manifested. It is built and dwelt in by the Holy Spirit, and that alone makes it "spiritual." Peter also speaks of "spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." This is a statement of Trinity. "Spiritual sacrifices" are "Holy Spirit-empowered and -originated sacrifices." They are "acceptable to God," Who is identified as "God the Father" in 1:2,3. They are offered through "Jesus Christ," the Son. These are not three separate acts, but a single Mind and Will operating simultaneously as three Persons for His eternal glory and our eternal joy.

The Father, the invisible One Who has given us the saving Son and relationship-sealing Spirit, receives for His glory.
The Son, Who is High Priest and Mediator between us and God (and is the visible image of the invisible God), is the One through Whom we offer ourselves completely.
The Holy Spirit, Who indwells us, holds us in relationship with God, and "fits us for heaven to live with Him there" (to paraphrase "Away in a Manger"), is the One Who works the Word He authored through us by His power and wisdom, so that our actions are "Spiritual sacrifices." He also reveals the Son, Who is the invisible image of the invisible God, to us through the Word He has authored. We see the Father by seeing the Son through the Word illuminated to us by the Holy Spirit.

These days 36 days before Pentecost (a day we should consider as importantly as Easter, if we want to value what the early Church valued in the N.T. - the work of Christ was unto the giving of the Spirit), let us take the time to think carefully through these biblically-revealed truths about the Holy Spirit!
Dust storm on NM-146. Jesus' comparison of the Spirit with wind (John 3:8) is apt. The wind is invisible, but its effects are undeniable.

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