The Risen Lord and the Spirit
Reading time: 6 min
Messiah Jesus died for our sins, what an awe-inspiring truth. And he was raised from the dead, as Paul says in Romans chapter one, "by the Spirit of Holiness." That apostolic phrase puts us on the trail of something significant, something in addition to the forgiveness of sins.
Now notice what he says in 1 Corinthians, "But in fact Messiah has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man [adam] came death, by a man [adam] has come the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die..." (1 Cor 15:20-22).
As we know, the wages, the just recompense for sin is death. Read on, "...so also in Messiah all shall be made alive. Each in his own order. Messiah the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Messiah..." (1 Cor 15:22-23).
Picking up in verse 45 we read, "Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being,' the last Adam became a life-giving spirit." This is an incredibly fertile text both theologically and spiritually. The first man was, what we would call, psyche man, "soulish man," God breathes and Adam becomes a living soul.
In the first Adam, we all become living souls, we come alive. But in the last Adam we become pneumatic man, "spiritual man," because Jesus has become the life-giving Spirit.
John declares, "The word became flesh." Paul continues this idea saying the word that became flesh, the man Jesus—in the resurrection—became the life-giving Spirit.
Turn with me to 2 Corinthians, chapter three. In verse eight He's speaking about the ministry of the Spirit, but I want to pick it up in verse 12. Paul writes, "Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not look intently at that which was fading away, but their minds were hardened..." (2 Cor 3:12-14)
We must pause and offer an important clarification here. Paul tells us in Romans 11, that it is God who sovereignly hardens or blinds the minds of Israel, with respect to Messiah, so that the good news can go to the Gentiles. But do not forget that he contextually continues by saying that in the fullness of salvation, all of Israel shall be saved.
Now back to our train of thought, "For unto this day at the very reading of the old covenant the same veil remains un-lifted because it is removed in Messiah. But to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their heart [with respect to Messiah] but whenever a man turns to the Lord the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit..." (2 Cor 3:14-17).
Did you see that scripture?
"The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord [in other words] the Spirit." (2 Cor 3:17-18)
What distinguishes the Christian reception or experience of the Spirit from other religions and other ecstatic religious experiences, is the Christ-centeredness. It is the Jesus connection that is unique about our reception of the Holy Spirit; it is always with reference to Jesus. He has become the life-giving Spirit which transforms and changes us.
It is the Spirit of the Messiah, the Holy Spirit within us that grants us the intimacy with God that Jesus, the man, experienced.
All the rest of Israel spoke of God in the plural, our Father [avenu]. Only Messiah could speak of Him in the first person singular, my Father [avi]. This was a level of intimacy given only to the Messiah, according to the sages of Israel. Nobody knows a father like a son, that is the point Paul is making. Because Jesus indwells us, the Spirit of Messiah in us cries out "Abba!"
I hope you're getting this. I know at one level we have to maintain the distinction, but we characteristically fail to see or operate on the level where there is identity. The experience of the Spirit is the experience of the risen Jesus. It is not Spirit in some abstract, anomalous, impersonal way. He is the Jesus-Spirit. The Holy Spirit of the Lord gives evidence of himself by crying out within us, "Abba!"
We find the Spirit typically spoken of in more impersonal categories in the Hebrew scriptures; for example, as the power of God. But in the fuller revelation of the New Testament, the apostolic writings, the Spirit becomes increasingly personal because he becomes increasingly identified with the man Jesus—risen, reigning, and ruling in the Spirit.
"But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you." (John 14:26-27)
In the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures, the Spirit is less defined and more diffused. But it becomes defined and localized with respect to Jesus of Nazareth. God formally spoke at various times and in many ways, he now speaks to us through his Son. Jesus has become the life-giving Spirit, indwelling his people so that we may walk in a such a way that bears witness to the truth that there is but one God and one Lord.
It was the actual experience of the Holy Spirit that distinguished the Jesus movement. The Spirit was not a dogma of creedal formulation, not a mental affirmation. It was an encounter with the person and the work of the risen Lord. They experienced the Spirit as the exalted Jesus, present among and within them.
This is why the resurrection was so important, it made a way for the risen Lord, who is the very image of God, to now become the life-giving Spirit of God indwelling us.
Let me summarize our discussion.
(1) In Paul's thinking, the Holy Spirit is inseparable from the man, Jesus of Nazareth. This is not just any spirit, it is not the spirituality that other religions speak of, it is uniquely connected with Jesus the Messiah, who is none other than the very word of God incarnate.
Ours is an incarnational reality. The Word became flesh and now the Word made flesh in Jesus, risen, has become the life-giving Spirit incarnate in you and me, and his community. This is our hope for the fullness of him who fills all-in-all.
Today we do not know him, relate to him, have that face-to-face contact with Jesus in the flesh. Not that his historical incarnation is unimportant, it's extraordinarily important, but today we know him after the Spirit. He is here with his people.
(2) Jesus became the last Adam at the resurrection. By God's power at creation, the first Adam came into existence. By God's power at the resurrection, the last Adam became the first fruits of a new creation.
This is why the resurrection was of paramount importance to the kerygma of the apostolic witness, to the essence of the proclamation of the gospel. Because in the incarnation he takes on representation of the first Adam, in the resurrection he becomes the last Adam. The first a living soul, the last a life-giving Spirit.
Jesus is creating pneumatic humanity, no longer just psyche humanity; no longer just living but life-giving humanity. The first Adam is the father of humanity, the last Adam is the father of a new humanity in which the Spirit of the Living God indwells us, empowers us, quickens our mortal bodies to be conformed to the image of Jesus to the praise of the Father's glory!
(3) The historical Jesus is now present to us and experienced by us as the Spirit. The Holy Spirit must not be divested or removed in any way from its historical connection and content, Jesus of Nazareth.
We must resist the temptations to get New Agey, loosey-goosey, twilight zonish in our Holy Spirit theology and practice. To be biblical we must be particular. There is and must be a continuing, inseparable connection between the Holy Spirit and the risen Lord and Savior Jesus. Once you grasp this, you will see it clearly in the apostolic witness.
You have heard that Jesus is the baptizer in the Spirit. That is another aspect of this magnificent truth. What you do not hear much about is this inseparable identification between the risen Lord and the Spirit.
When the early church encountered the presence and power of God's Spirit, it was the experience of Jesus in their midst. He was raised up so that he could come down. I must go up, Jesus told us, so I can come down and so you can be to others what I have been to you.
"And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."