The Essence and Core of the Spiritual Life. Part 3 Fellowship with the Holy Spirit ‘Act and Being’ Part 3

 

I took this picture recently and the cloud formation reminds me of the Holy Spirit

 

I want to begin by two verses and thinking about them:

14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14

 

And

4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. 2 Peter 1:4

When we talk about the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, it has a context.  From the second quotation there is a very explicit statement that we will become sharers in ‘The Divine Nature’.  We will always stay human and created but we are brought into fellowship with ‘God’.  Bavinck contextualizes this for us:

“First there is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit convicting of sin, righteousness, and judgment; then that of Christ adopting us and granting us his benefits; thereafter that of the Father adopting us as his children in and because of Christ.” (Reformed Ethics)

What can we say then?

We can say that the Holy Spirit is the one who made it possible for us to come into relationship with Christ and hence being accepted by the father on account of the Son.

Bavinck continues:

“The spiritual life always moves among these three persons and is therefore a genuinely rich life, rich in diversity, without monotony. The believer experiences the life of God himself: from the Father through the Son in the Spirit and, conversely, in the Spirit through the Son to the Father. The spiritual life is therefore a life of God (Eph.4:18), a life that originates from God, is granted by grace, unites us with God, is worked in us immediately through the Holy Spirit, and has the spiritual life of God himself as model and example. The spiritual life of believers is a shadow, an impression49 of the most perfect life of God himself, so that it is said that they share in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4).50”

In this beautiful explanation of our relationship to God and vice versa we are not alone.  As Christians we are part of the Church of Christ.  The Holy Spirit is forever in us and guides us as teacher and comforter as we conform to be more like Christ. This road is not a one-way road from the infinite side God the Father showers us with his gifts of grace through the Son in the Holy Spirit.  Then our prayers and hopes in the opposite direction in the Holy Spirit through the son to the Father. 

Herman Bavinck was certainly one of the foremost theologians of his generation and if his works were translated at the same time as Barth’s, he certainly would have been one of the main theologians studied in universities.  Alas it did not happen that way!

Bavinck has a lot to teach us about culture and how the follower of Christ influences the world he lives in.  The above scenario I quoted is how I believe Colin Gunton was moving in his theology.  There is a lot of fertile ground here for a PHD, comparing and contrasting Gunton’s ideas of modern culture with Bavinck’s rich understanding of modernity from the end of the 19th century early 20th century.   Obviously, Karl Barth would come up in the discussion too.

What do I mean by all this? I found a summary about the Trinity in Act and Being by Colin Gunton:

“… that the moments of truth of the doctrine of divine unknowability should not be denied. The finite mind, and certainly the sinful mind, may not of its own powers know the essence of God. That becomes possible only on God’s terms: by the atoning death of Christ and the appropriation of reconciliation with God by the act of the Spirit. But that very reality implies that God is knowable, because he makes himself known. Again and again the Gospels — and especially John’s Gospel — and the Epistles offer us knowledge, and, indeed, recommend its necessity: knowledge of ‘the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name’ (Eph. 3.15). But that knowledge is in God’s gift, not a natural human capacity of the kind that thinks it can achieve a mystical knowledge of God apart from Christ by means of negative theological projection. For at its heart is the fact that God is knowable through the strait and narrow gate that is the humanity of Christ, as narrated in scripture and proclaimed in the church. He really is a human being, and can be recognized to be also and at the same time the eternal Son of God only through the Spirit. (‘Flesh and blood has nor revealed this to you, Peter, but my Father in heaven’, Matt. 16.17.)

The man Jesus of Nazareth, crucified, risen and seated at the right hand of God still clothed in his humanity, is, to use an expression of Karl Barth’s, albeit in rather a different way, the knowability of God on our side.  Instead, therefore, of speaking of God’s unknowability — a pagan form of unbelief— we should speak rather of his incognito. The Son of God comes as one who ‘had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering’ (Isa. 53.2—3). We cannot evade that narrow road along which we must pass if we are to know the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And yet we must gloss Isaiah’s poem, for this man who had nothing ‘in his appearance’ that we should desire him, is in fact that beauty and majesty of God in action. In that incognito we truly find the attributes of our God, for there is God in action, in the richness of his utter simplicity.” (From Act and Being; Colin E Gunton; pages 157 -158; SCM press)

This is amazing stuff for the Christian.  God makes himself known to us by the Holy Spirit.  God breaks into our space and time and there is a relationship in the relationality of the Trinity and of us.  To be brought into this relationship it is all of grace.  God in Christ reaches out to us and calls us home. 

Reflection

We are truly blessed! I can see why prayer and the reading of Scripture is so important. When two people fall in love and they get married; What are the main ingredients?

·        Love

·        Communication

Marriage is an earthly example, but it drives an important truth home.  Love means that you want to spend time with that person and get to know them.  How much more important is it for the Christian to spend time in God’s presence through prayer, reading the Scriptures and living in the body of Christ, the Church. 

The Holy Spirit has come into the world, and He is our Comforter and Teacher, and He is always with us until Christ returns for His Church.  Herman Bavinck reminds us that communication is a two-way road.  Looking at 20thcentury theologians too such as Karl Barth and Colin Gunton, we learn that Bavinck is very modern even though he lived in the 19th century into the 20th century!

In theology terms such as ‘Being in Becoming’ and ‘Act and Being’ sounds really cool but Bavinck was doing that 150 years ago!  The bottom line is that we are in a Divine love story.  God loved us so much that in the work and person of Christ he became a human being, died on a cross, was resurrected and also, by faith in Him can live forever too. 

Thinking Activity

Who is the Holy Spirit and why is he important in our lives?

Bibliography

Act and Being; Colin E Gunton; pages 157 -158; SCM press

Reformed Ethics; Herman Bavinck; edited by John Bolt; Book 2, chapter 7, page 248

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