victor christensen's blog

The Meaning of Pentecost (Part One)

Posted in Uncategorized by victorchristensen on July 24, 2009

According to Scripture on the day Jesus ascended into heaven it was His intention to return within days in a new mode of existence as the Spirit of Christ. Jesus said the Spirit He was about to send would not merely be His representative but in the coming Spirit He Himself would come to us. “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” (John 14:18) And so it was when the Spirit descended on the Day of Pentecost Jesus came back.

Paul and Peter both refer to the Spirit as “the Spirit of Christ” and Paul speaks of the Spirit as “the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (Romans 8:9, 1 Peter 1:11, Philippians 1:19) In a way inaccessible to human logic Jesus and the Spirit are two separate “persons” in one manifestation of divine plurality who manifest a unified presence of God.

Jesus is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not Jesus but Jesus and the Spirit exists as one Eternal Spirit.

Even on the cross the Spirit and Jesus represented an ontological solidarity as one presence of God in an earthly manifestation. “Christ, through the Eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God.” (Hebrews 9:14)  In this scenario the Spirit acted as a component of Jesus’ inner self and led Him voluntarily to the place of sacrifice.

The Lord, the Spirit

Paul identifies Jesus with the Spirit in two ways, first he says “the Lord is the Spirit” and refers to Him as “the Lord, the Spirit.” “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. We all … are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.”  (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

If it is true “the Lord [Jesus] is the Spirit” then Jesus is now to be received as “the Lord, the Spirit.” There is no confusion of personalities in Paul’s thinking; he means simply when the Spirit is present Jesus is also present.

When He accepted the limits of our humanity Jesus said; “I cast out devils by the Spirit of God” who dwelt in Him. (Matthew 12:28) Now it is the reverse, whereas Jesus was once the bearer of the Spirit now the Spirit has become the bearer of Jesus and a host for the presence of Jesus. We receive Jesus by receiving the Spirit.

The significance of Pentecost was that historical Jesus who was with His disciples returned as the Spirit of Christ to live in His disciples. Paul wrote; “If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” “Do you not realize this about yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?” (Romans 8:9, 2 Corinthians 13:5)

The teaching that in order to receive Jesus we must receive Him as the “Spirit of Christ” as an indwelling presence of deity is not understood by many but it is what the Bible teaches. There are no other options.

James Dunn speaks biblically of the unity between Christ and the Spirit as one presence of divinity when he says; “so far as the religious experience of Christians is concerned Jesus and the Spirit are no different. The risen Christ may not be experienced independently of the Spirit.” (James Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, SCM 1975, p.323)

Triadic Unity in One Spirit

The ontological unity or oneness in being that exists between Jesus and the Spirit does not destroy the distinctions of personalities but reflects an inner unity not possible in any creaturely form of existence. Whereas for us existence is individualized within divinity existence is a pluralistic unity in one Eternal Spirit.

The Spirit is one person, God is a distinct person and Jesus has a separate existence also. Jesus and the Father have a visible and local and manifestation of their selfhood but also have omnipresence in the Spirit.

Scripture teaches divinity is “one Spirit” (Ephesians 4:4) but within that one divine Spirit there exists a triadic unity of three “persons” and in the Bible there are at least twenty uses of a triadic formula that cannot be explained in any way except to say that the one “Eternal Spirit” exists as a plurality of three distinct individuals.

“Father … Son … Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) “Helper (Spirit) … I (Jesus) … Father.” (John 15:26) “Jesus Christ … Holy Spirit. … God.” (Acts 2:38-39) “God … Holy Spirit … Christ.” (Romans 5:5-6) “Christ Jesus … Spirit … God.” (Romans 8:2-3) “Lord Jesus Christ … Spirit … God.” (Romans 15:30)  “God … Lord Jesus … Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:10-11) “Spirit … Lord [Jesus] … God” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6) “Lord Jesus Christ … God … Holy Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 13:14) “God … Son … Spirit.” (Galatians 4:6) “Him [Jesus]… Father … Spirit.”  (Ephesians 2:18)“God … Spirit … Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14) “Lord … God … the Holy Spirit.” (Hebrews 2:3-4) “Holy Spirit … God … the Son of God” (Hebrews 6:4-6) “Christ … Spirit … God.”  (Hebrews 9:14) “Son of God … the Spirit … the living God.” (Hebrews 10:29-31) “God … Spirit … Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:2) “Christ … the Spirit … God.” (1 Peter 4:13-14 “God … Jesus … the Spirit.”  (1 John 5:4-8) “Holy Spirit … God … Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:20-21)

It is said there cannot be plurality in one Godhead if so somebody forgot to explain the matter to Paul.

In Paul’s teaching one Spirit is both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. “You are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you, if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9) Jesus is not merely with the Father but in the Father and the Father is not merely with Jesus but in Jesus. Jesus said, “Believe Me when I say I am in the Father and the Father is in Me.” (John 14:11)

Jesus living “in” the Father and the Father living “in” Jesus allows for an ontological unity and shared existence.

“God is Spirit” (John 4:24) and since Jesus is “in” Father He also is as much a Spirit Being as God is. In biblical teaching God and Jesus represent a plurality of “persons” in one Eternal Spirit. So let it be settled, since in His divinity Jesus exists as “Spirit” the only means of receiving Jesus is to receive Him as the “Spirit of Christ.”

The Cross

Jesus’ death on the cross is the ultimate moral premise of Christianity. But besides the cross it took the resurrection and the outpouring of the Spirit of the day of Pentecost to create the Christian religion.

When the Spirit was poured out on the disciples on the day of Pentecost Jesus descended in union with the Spirit as the “Spirit of Christ” to make effective in His people what His death on the cross made possible for them.

The cross was never intended to be viewed as an isolated event. Paul wrote; “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:14) Christianity finds its center not in the cross but in the risen Jesus who has a universal and continuous presence in and through the presence of the Spirit.

By dying on the cross Jesus paid the penalty for sin but in order to be saved and we must accept Christ Himself.

We are not to worship a dead Jesus on the cross but a Jesus who has risen from the dead. Receiving the Spirit of Christ is the ordained means for receiving the risen Jesus who comes to us as the Spirit of Christ so that we are “saved by His life” (Romans 5:10) and reconciled inwardly to God in a new existence of obedience to His will.

When Paul speaks of receiving Christ he employs the language of inner assimilation, “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” “The one who joins himself to the Lord is one Spirit with Him.” (Romans 13:14, 1Corinthians 6:17)

Salvation is possible only by receiving Jesus as an indwelling Spirit, mere belief in the Jesus of history is not enough. “I in them” (John 17:23, 26) “if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.” (Romans 8:9) “Christ is in you” (Romans 8:10) “the Lord is the Spiritthe Lord, the Spirit.”  (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18) “Jesus Christ is in you” (2 Corinthians 13:15) “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20) “For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:18) “Christ in you.”(Colossians 1:27) “You were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

The error of salvation by “imputation only” needs to be abandoned; only union with Christ in the Spirit saves.

When Jesus returned to be with His disciples as the Spirit of Christ on the Day of Pentecost He transcended all the limitations imposed upon Him by taking our humanity and became accessible to everyone in all places. You need not search for Him in far-off places for whoever you are and where ever you are He will come to you.

The meaning of Pentecost is that Jesus came back in the Spirit in order to be closer to His people than if He had never left them. At Pentecost the word was gloriously fulfilled, “I will come to you.” (John 14:18)

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