James Hastings.

Dictionary of the apostolic church (Volume 1) online

. (page 186 of 234)
Online LibraryJames HastingsDictionary of the apostolic church (Volume 1) → online text (page 186 of 234)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

prophets, or any lack of confidence in the leading
of the Spirit. On the contrary, the procedure of
the apostles and the communities in instituting
these offices simply gave expression to the feeling
that special provision must be made for the activi-
ties which are indispensable to spiritual fellowship.
With that procedure was conjoined gratitude for
the prophetic gift which on special occasions helped
the community to form decisions without misgiving.
The Apostle Paul assisted his communities alike
in securing prophetic instruction and in instituting
offices (Ro 16 1 , Ph I 1 ).

Correlative with the word which came from God
and was audible in the community was the worship
ottered by the community ; and here, again, besides
the thanksgiving that united all before God, there
was a special form of prayer, which flowed from a
particular operation of the Spirit and was given
only to some. This was that form of religious
worship for which the community framed the ex-
pression ' speaking with a tongue.' It took its rise
in Palestine (Ac 2* 10 46 ), and manifested itself also
in the Gentile communities, as in Corinth and
Ephesus (1 Co 14, Ac 19 6 ). This kind of prayer
was specially valued because it directed the
speaker's mind towards God with powerful emo-
tion ( 1 Co 14 2 - w ), and because its singular mode of
utterance broke through the ordinary forms of
speech. As on high the angels praise God with angelic
tongues, so the earthly Church worships Him not
only with human tongues, but with new tongues
the tongues of angels (1 Co 13 1 ). With this was
associated the further idea that the utterance
given by the Spirit united mankind in the worship
of God, those who were meanwhile kept apart by
the diversity of tongues being made one in faith
and prayer (Ac 2).

As belief in the Spirit involves the idea that it
manifests the power of God, a place beside the
prophet and the ' speaker with a tongue ' was as-
signed also to the worker of miracles. The special
manifestations of the Spirit include that singular
intensification of trust in God which brings help to
those in special distress, and, in particular, to the
sick and those possessed with demons (1 Co 12 9f -).
The belief of the community regarding this aspect
of the Spirit's work was moulded by its memories
of the life of Jesus, and in part also by its ideas
regarding the OT prophets. The ' sign ' was an
essential element in the equipment of the prophet.
This appears from the fact that in the miraculous
narratives of the NT miracles are not represented
as every-day events that may occur in the experi-
ence of all believers, but are valued as a peculiar
provision for the work of those who bear a special
commission. The Gospels, the Book of Acts, and
the utterances of St. Paul regarding his 'signs'
(2 Co 12 12 ), all show distinctly that miracles were
intimately related to the apostolic function.

Further, the irvev/juiTiKot as a special class bring
out the difference between the religious life of the
Christian Church and that of the Synagogue.
The prophet was then unknown in the latter, and
the Divine word came to it exclusively through
the Scriptures. Now, however, the prophetic
VOL. i. 37

word taken over from Israel was supplemented in
the Church by an operative utterance of God. And
just as the Rabbis did not arrogate to themselves
the inspiration of prophecy, so they disclaimed the
power of working miracles. They did, however,
always recognize a supernatural factor in the order-
ing of human affairs, and in prayer, in dreams, in
times of distress, the thoughts of the devout often
dwelt upon the Divine omnipotence. On the other
hand, the need of ascertaining the Divine will from
signs, of interpreting dreams, of listening for Divine
utterances, of inferring from one's feelings in prayer
that the prayer was heard, of deducing the eternal
destiny of the dying from their last words of all
this the NT knows nothing, and that not in spite
of, but precisely in virtue of, its doctrine of the
Holy Spirit. Inasmuch as the Spirit brings men
into conscious union with God, there is no further
need for signs such need having a place in religion
only so long as men bow before an unknown God
and an inscrutable will. The certitude of the NT
worker of miracles who felt that he had a right to
invoke the aid of Omnipotence forms the counter-
part to the certitude of the prophet who was con-
vinced that he spoke under a Divine compulsion,
and it sprang from a conviction that held good for
all, viz. that God had revealed Himself in Christ
in such a way that the personal life of the believer
was rooted in His perfect grace.

The considerations by which St. Paul was led
towards his new and distinctive theology prompted
him also to frame a doctrine of the Spirit.

(a) The Spirit and the Law. For St. Paul the
religious problem had assumed the form : Either
the Law or Christ ; and he effected his union with
Jesus by a resolute turning away from the Law.
A religious life based upon the Law forms a clear
antithesis to life in the Spirit, for a law externally
enjoined upon man the transgression of which was
guilt, and obedience to which was desert-^excludes
the idea that God Himself acts upon man inwardly.
The Law, in short, sets man at a distance from
God, making him the creator of his own volition
and the originator of his own sin and righteousness.
In this fact the Apostle, as a Christian, saw the
plight of the Jews, and of mankind in general ; for
righteousness can be won, not by any performance
of the Law, but only by a manifestation of the
righteousness of God. Thus from man's own
spiritual state arises the problem of how he is
to be brought into that relationship with God
which is grounded in God's own work and the gift
of His grace. The gift of His grace cannot consist
merely in a change of man's external condition, as
if he had only to look forward to a transformation
of nature and a re-organization of the world. To
seek for help in that direction would be to deny the
Law, the holiness of which consists precisely in this,
that it makes obedience to God the condition of
His fellowship with man. Hence the grace of God
must move man from within, and must so act upon
him as to make him obedient to God. That opera-
tion of God in man in virtue of which man sur-
renders himself to God the Apostle finds in the
work of the Holy Spirit (Ro 8 1 - 4 , Gal 5 221 -). Subjec-
tion to the Law is thus superseded by subjection
to the Spirit (Ro 7 8 ), and legal worship gives place
to worship offered through the Spirit ( Ph 3 3 ). Chris-
tians are thus absolved from the Law in such a way
that the Law is really fulfilled.

(b) The Spirit and the Scriptures. The obedience
rendered by the Jews was based upon their belief
that the Divine will had been revealed to them in
the Scriptures. The knowledge of God was there-
fore to be obtained by study of the holy writings
delivered to them. The Law produced the scribe,




the theological investigator (1 Co I 20 ). As a Chris-
tian, St. Paul, however, rejected this method of
seeking the knowledge of God as decisively as he
rejected the meritorious character of Pharisaic
works. How is man to become possessed of the
knowledge of God ? He knows God only when he
is known by Him. But how is he to acquire a
knowledge of God that does not come to him
through Scripture or tradition, but is given by the
Divine leading of his inner life ? The knowledge
of God is shed forth in man by the Spirit (1 Co 2 11 ,
2 Co 2 14 ; cf. 3 3 ). Here we have the root of that
vital contrast between the letter and the spirit
which forms one of the distinctive features of the
Pauline theology (Ro 7", 2 Co 3 6 ).

(c) The Spirit and the flesh. St. Paul uses theterm
' flesh ' to denote man's incapacity to bring his de-
sires into conformity with the Divine Law. The
Apostle thereby gives expression to the idea that
the inner life of man is dependent upon bodily
processes. In deriving the evil state of man from
that dependence he was not simply thinking of
the impulses which are directly subservient to the
needs of the body, but he also recognized in the
dimness of man's consciousness of God and the
rneagreness of his religious experience that des-
potism of the flesh to which our whole inner life
lies in subjection. From ancient times ' flesh ' had
been used as the correlative of ' spirit.' How is
man to rise above himself, and be delivered from
the thraldom of sensuous impressions and bodily
appetites? The power that sets men free from
selfish desire natural though such desire may be
and turns him towards the Divine purposes, is
the Spirit (Rp S 6 ' 8 ).

(d) The Spirit and the work of Christ. St. Paul
recognized in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus
the factor which determined the relation of all
men to Jesus Himself. That the Messiah had
been crucified and raised again from the dead was,
in the Apostle's view, the good tidings of God.
What St. Paul saw here was not Law, which
dooms man to death, but Love, which dies for
man ; nor was it the separation of the guilty from
God, but rather the proffer of such fellowship with
Him as takes sin away by forgiveness ; it was not
the preservation of the flesh, but the complete sur-
render of it the judgment of the Divine Law
upon the flesh, and the beginning of a new life, a
life no longer subject to natural conditions, but
one that makes manifest the glory of God. By
what means, then, can Christ carry on in man the
experience which He had consummated in His own
person, and so effect the due issue of His Death
and Resurrection ? For St. Paul the only answer
that could be given to that question was that
Christ reveals Himself through the Spirit. Love
asks for the fellowship that rests upon an inward
foundation, and draws men to Christ not by force
but through their own volition. Thus love rises
supreme above the interests of the flesh, and is
directed to an end that wholly transcends nature.
Man now becomes a mirror of Christ's glory (2 Co
3 18 ), and his end is to know Christ as the power
which raises him from the dead (Ph 3 10 '-)-

(e) The Spirit and faith. Once St. Paul had come
to recognize a revelation of God in the Death and
Resurrection of Jesus, it was for him a fact beyond
dispute that man's participation in the Divine
grace rests upon faith. Man's need of the Divine
forgiveness, as well as his actual experience of it,
finds its consummation in the fact that he gives
his trust to God, and possesses righteousness in
faith alone. This attitude implies, however, that
he is now delivered from self-centred desire, and
has renounced all the cravings of the flesh. But
the act of thus committing oneself wholly to the
Divine grace is the work of the Spirit. Only in

virtue of that work can our faith become our
righteousness. The very fact that faith has a
source lying above human nature makes it possible
for faith to influence our thoughts and desires, so
that we can now act by faith, as those who no
longer commit sin, but do the will of God.

(/) The Spirit and the Church. St. Paul, in re-
garding the Church as the fellowship of faith,
thereby made the Church free the sanctuary of
the perfect sincerity which safeguards each from
nndue accommodation to others, and the home of
that perfect love which actuates each to labour
with all his capacity on behalf of the common
fellowship. St. Paul's conlident belief that the
communities maintain their unity, even though
that community is not protected by external force
or strengthened by an outward bond, could have its
source only in his conviction that the unity of the
Church was rooted in the Spirit. Because he
believed in the one Spirit he believed in the one

Thus all the lines which exhibit the character-
istic tendencies of the Apostle's thought converge
in his doctrine of the Spirit. As St. Paul aspired
to a righteousness apart from the Law, and to a
knowledge of God apart from the wisdom of the
world ; as he sought to secure the victory over evil
by emancipation from the flesh ; as he drew from
the Cross the conviction that Jesus binds men to
Himself in a perfect union, and as he thus came
to have faith, and found fellowship with all through
faith, he could not make his gospel complete with-
out the doctrine that the Spirit of God dwells in
man. Apart from that principle, his doctrine of
sin becomes a torment, his opposition to the Law
would be antinomianism, his union with the Cruci-
fied an illusion, his idea of the righteousness of
faith a danger to morality, and his doctrine of the
Church a fanaticism. For the vindication of his
gospel it was therefore necessary that his Churches
should exhibit the workings of the Spirit ; only
in that way could they become the Epistles of
Christ and set their seal upon the Apostle's com-
mission (2 Co 3 s II 4 , Gal 3 2 ).

The structure of St. Paul's theology renders
it unlikely that his doctrine of the Spirit was
materially affected by his intercourse with philo-
sophically-minded Greeks. Nowhere in St. Paul
do we find concrete parallels either to the Platonic
repudiation of sense in favour of reason, or to the
Cynic protest against culture, or to the mystical
teachings which implied that the soul is an alien
sojourner in the body. It is certainly possible,
perhaps even probable, that the forceful way in
which he made use of the antithesis between flesh
and spirit as a means of evoking faith and repent-
ance was in some manner related to the dualistic
ideas which prevailed in Greek metaphysics and
ethics. But his conscious and successful rejection
of all the Hellenistic forms of doctrine in that field
is clearly seen in the remarkable fact that there is
not a single passage in his letters which would go
to prove that the antithesis between the materi-
ality of nature and the immateriality of God, be-
tween the concrete image of sense and the pure
idea, had any meaning for him at all.

2. The primitive type of the doctrine and its
relation to the Pauline type. It would be alto-
gether erroneous to think that the conviction of
the Spirit's indwelling in believers was first intro-
duced into the Church by St. Paul. Every single
document of primitive Christianity implies that
the possession of the Spirit is the distinctive feature
of the Christian society. When Christians spoke
of themselves as 'saints,' and thus indicated the
difference between them and the Jews, they had
in mind not the measure of their moral achieve-
ments, but the fact that they were united to God




through their knowledge of Christ. Their union
with God, however, was rendered effective and
manifest precisely in virtue of the Spirit's work
in their lives. But while St. Paul relates every
phase of the Christian life to the Spirit, so that
believers may learn to think of their entire Chris-
tian experience as life in the Spirit, and so that
the Church may recognize the working of the
Spirit in all that it does, the leaders of the Church
in Jerusalem keep the thought of the Spirit apart
from their own self-consciousness. It is certainly
the case that here the Church's relation to God is
conceived as determined by the new covenant
which the coming of the Spirit has brought to
all. The individual believer, however, was not
encouraged to find the basis of that belief in the
work of the Spirit which he could trace in his own
experience ; on the contrary, each found the ade-
quate ground of his conviction in that manifesta-
tion of the Spirit which is apparent to all. In the
eyes of the Church the apostles are those who
teach in the Spirit, perform miracles in the Spirit,
and administer judgment in the Spirit, and beside
them stand prophets who make manifest to all
the reality of the new Divine covenant. The
conception of the Spirit, however, was not thereby
rendered particularistic, nor was its action re-
garded as restricted to the special class of the
irvev/j,a.TiKot. It was, in fact, impossible for those
who confessed Christ, the Perfecter of the com-
munity, to divide the community into two groups
those who know God and those who know Him
not, or those who obey Him and those who resist
Him. Only in the indwelling of the Spirit as
shared by all was it made certain that the mem-
bers of the Church were members of the Kingdom
of God. When all is said, however, the conscious-
ness of believers in which they know that they are
under the influence of Divine grace is much more
vigorously developed in the Epistles of St. Paul
than in the documents bearing the Palestinian
stamp, viz. the writings of James, Matthew, Peter,
and John.

(a) The Epistle of James. St. James assures
those who draw near to God with sincere repent-
ance that God will draw near to them (4 8 ). But
he does not describe how the presence of God
becomes an experience in the penitent. The wis-
dom that produces pride he reproves as sensual
(^vx_iK-ij [3 1S J) ; the true wisdom, on the contrary,
is spiritual ; but he is content to say of it simply
that it comes from above. To one who is in
perplexity as to his course, St. James gives the
promise that he shall receive wisdom in answer
to prayer (I 5 ). Here too, therefore, a work of God
is said to take place in the inner life a Divine
operation regulating the thoughts and desires of
man. That directing power of God acting from
within is just what St. Paul calls Spirit, but this
term is not used here. Again, man is born of
God, through the word of truth (I 18 ), and the doer
of the Law is brought into the state of liberty (I 26 ).
Both of these assertions approximate to what is
expressed elsewhere in Scripture by statements
referring to the Spirit. We thus see that the ex-
hortations of the Epistle are nowhere based upon
the legalistic point of view. The injunction of
Scripture or the precept of the teacher is never
regarded as taking the place of one's own ethical
knowledge. Casuistry is set aside, as is also the

;idea of merit. The individual is called upon to
submit to God in his own knowledge and love.
But the writer does not deal with the manner in
which this autonomous turning of the will towards
God is brought about.

(b) Matthew. An obvious parallel to this ap-
pears in St. Matthew. Here baptism into the
Spirit implies that, besides the work of the Father

and the Son, that of the Spirit likewise avails for
all who are called to follow Jesus (Mt 28 19 ). Ex-
cept in this connexion, however, the Spirit is only
once referred to, viz. as a special support to those
who have to proclaim the message of Jesus before
the secular powers ( 10 20 ). * Nevertheless, the voca-
tion of the disciples, in all its grandeur and its
solemn obligation, is realized with extraordinaiy
vividness and most impressively depicted in the
First Gospel. The disciples are the light of the
world, the stewards of the treasure committed to
them by Jesus, the loyal husbandmen through
whose labours the vineyard yields fruit for God,
the fishers of men who must cast out the net, the
sowers to whose exertions the harvest is due. But
the Gospel does not show how Christians are to
acquire the inward provision for their task. In
the conviction that they are the guardians of the
commission of Jesus lies also their glad confidence
that they are able to discharge it.

(c) First Epistle of Peter. As Matthew con-
cludes with a distinct reference to the Trinity, so
the First Epistle of Peter opens with one (P). The
sequence of the Persons here God the Father, the
Spirit, Jesus Christ which finds a parallel in the
salutation at the beginning of Revelation (I 4 ), is
probably to be explained by the fact that Jesus is
quite unmistakably represented as man, even when
He is associated with the Father and the Spirit.
The same fact appears also in the statement that
His blood and His obedience are the means by
which the sanctification imparted by the Spirit
is won, in accordance with the foreknowledge of
God. The mention of Jesus, accordingly, follows
that of the Spirit through whom the humanity of
Jesus was endowed with Divine power and grace,
just as believers are enabled to participate in what
the Cross of Christ secures for them in virtue of
the sanctification bestowed upon them by the
Spirit. In 1 Pet. the Spirit is spoken of also as
constituting the endowment of those who had
carried the gospel to Asia Minor (I 12 ), and as thus
setting them beside the prophets in whom the
Spirit of Christ spoke (I 11 ). Since the new birth is
effected by the Word (I 23 ), it is not surprising that
the community should be called the Temple. The
sacrifices which it offers bear the impress of the
Spirit (2 s ). Those who are brought before secular
tribunals for Christ's sake are assured that the
Spirit of God rests upon them (4 14 ), and here the
promise which Jesus gave to His disciples is ex-
tended to the Church at large. Those who after
death obtain the gift of life receive it through the
Spirit (4 6 ), just as Jesus Himself, after being put
to death, was quickened by the Spirit (3 18 ). We
thus see that this hortatory Epistle proceeds upon
the idea that it is the Spirit of God that secures
for the Church its portion in the Divine grace.
But the Epistle furnishes nothing that can com-
pare with the great utterances of St. Paul regard-
ing the operations of the Spirit, as e.g. in Ro 8,
Gal 5, 1 Co 2. 12, 2 Co 3. Its exhortations appeal
to the ethical knowledge and the power of volition
which reside in believers themselves.

(d) The Johannine writings. (1) Revelation. A
similar representation is given in the Revelation
of St. John. That Jesus governs the Christian
society through the Spirit is attested here by its
having received the gift of prophecy. What the
Apocalypse speaks of figuratively as a writing of
Jesus to the angels of the Churches it also desig-

* It is true that in 128lt Christ and the Spirit are conjoined
as the revealers of Divine grace, and in such a way as to imply
that the offer of Divine grace is consummated through the
Spirit, so that the guilt of those who speak against it is irre-
versible. Yet it is not distinctly said here that the Spirit will
become manifest also after the earthly mission of Jesus. The
primary reference of the passage is to the revelation of God
which is effected by the works of Jesus.




nates literally as a speaking of the Spirit to the
Churches (2 7 , etc. ; cf. 19 10 ). When consolation is
given to those who are dying in the Lord, or when
the Church prays for the Coming of Jesus, it is the
Spirit that speaks (14 13 22 17 ). As every prophet
receives the Spirit in such wise as to possess Him
individually, the Spirit is also referred to as
plural : God is the Lord of the spirits of the
prophets (22 s ; cf. 1 Co 14 82 ). The relation of the
Spirit to Christ is set forth in the assertion that
the Lamb has seven eyes, which are the seven
spirits of God (5 6 ) : the Spirit gives Jesus the

Eower of vision by which He surveys the world
rom the throne of God. The Spirit's relation to
God is expressed in the figurative statement that
the seven spirits burn as lamps before the throne
(4 5 ; cf. I 4 ) : the Spirit is the light of heaven.
These figures do not imply, however, that St. John
regarded the Spirit as broken up into seven inde-
pendent and co-ordinate beings. That no such
idea was in his mind is evident from the fact that
he ascribes these seven Spirits to God and Christ,
in whom the unity of personal life is inviolable.
Whether the metaphor was in some way suggested
by astronomical conceptions, as e.g. the seven
heavens, or the seven planets, it is impossible to
determine, as other metaphors of the Apocalypse
speak only of a single heaven, and never refer to
the planets at all. On the other hand, it is clear
that the form of the metaphor was in some way

influenced by the Messianic interpretation of Zee

The Spirit, however, is not nearly so prominent
in St. John's prophetic visions as are the angels.
While the Spirit is the source of knowledge of
the omniscience of Jesus and God, and of the
certitude of the Christian which surveys the Last
Things yet, when the catastrophic interventions
of Divine power in the world's history are to be
portrayed, it is the angels who appear as the
agents of the Divine purposes. Still St. John
summons Christ's people to that heroic conflict and
that service of perfect love in which they are

Online LibraryJames HastingsDictionary of the apostolic church (Volume 1) → online text (page 186 of 234)