A big point he makes repeatedly in this chapter is that “God” for the early Christians is not an abstract idea to be contemplated but someone to be experienced.
And that experience comes in and through an encounter with the Spirit of God.
In their lives and worship, the almighty and transcendent God was immediately present.
The experienced reality of God, through the Spirit, is an eschatological foretaste of a future reality. There is a tangible and vibrant sense of expectation and excitement in the NT that the visible sign of the Spirit’s presence is ushering in this new age to come.
“The rich bestowal of the Spirit is both consequence and signal of the inauguration of eschatological redemption” (82)
[A laudable desire to ‘rediscover’ this visible experience has, to a large degree, lain behind the rise of the Pentecostal and charismatic movements in the 20thCentury.]
This frequent reference to the Spirit in the NT has a number of distinctive aspects:
– Far greater frequency of use than in the OT
– Reflecting an intense experience of the Spirit in the NT church
– The Spirit is the “power” of God given to believers
– The Spirit is “holy” – distinct from human or any other beings
– The Spirit is regularly and normally experienced by believers;
o Received; poured out; filled; the Spirit ‘falls upon’ believers; is sent forth by God; mediates God’s immense love to believers (Rom 5:5); and is the medium in which believers are ‘baptised’
o The Spirit empowers believers to live a transformed moral life
o The Spirit is an agency of revelation
o The Spirit is a source of gifts such as prophecy etc
An Open Question
In the NT “there is a tangible and vibrant sense of expectation and excitement that the visible sign of the Spirit’s presence is ushering in this new age to come”
If a church (or individual) is at a place where they long for or desire to experience more of God’s Spirit, both inwardly and outwardly, how do they ‘go forward’? What needs to happen? Or is even asking such questions betraying an assumption that the Spirit can be controlled?