29.9.09

there but for the grace of God...

So here I am in the reading room at college and I have 'The Spirit of Jesus' with me, ooh, in more ways than just one. So today, I crack on with James Dunn on 'The spirit of Jesus'. I guess I have some presuppositions in that I am wanting to understand charismatic revival in the sense that it has its roots in a very Pauline theology.

Yesterday I looked at the resurrection appearance on the Damascus road and Paul's status as an apostle. Today I want to look at 'The charismatic spirit and the consciousness of grace'. So get reading, Rach.

So Dunn explains that the two words that Paul uses more than any others to explain the experiences of Christians are Spirit and grace. So this is experiential. I think I want to redeem the experiential dimension of Christian life because I feel as though this is really drummed out of people in some conservative evangelical churches. They are so aware of a contemporary culture which highly values adrenalin rushes and the whole - 'if it feels good, then do it' mentality, that we are suffering some hang-ups with Anglicanism about these experiences of the manifestations of the holy Spirit and we are almost embarrassed about them.

Dunn asks that we consider:

God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.(Rom 5:5)

And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.(Rom 8:9)

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.(Rom 8:14)

...eagerly desire spiritual gifts (1 Cor 14:1)

...you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor 6:11)

...we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Cor 12:13)

Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by your observing the law, or by your believing what you heard? (Gal 3:5)

Because you are his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts. He is the Holy Spirit. By his power we call God "[Abba.]" Abba means Father. (Galatians 4:6)

Our good news didn't come to you only in words. It came with power. It came with the Holy Spirit's help. (I Thess 1:5)

Dunn describes how for Paul, the Spirit's power is part of our daily life. The Spirit consecrates and cleanses. He liberates us. We come to make ethical decisions because we have a sense of 'inward conviction and spontaneous love, of walking by the Spirit, rather than of unquestioning obedience to the law...'

Dunn also explains how for Paul, the Spirit's power can 'not be concealed'. ...Hence Paul can remind his Galatian readers of their reception of the Spirit as an event well remembered by them all (Gal 3:2). So too it is the (manifest) presence of the Spirit which defines and determines the sphere of being 'in Christ' (Rom 8:9). (p.202)

Dunn also explores how for Paul, grace is not simply something believed in, it is also something experienced. 'For Paul grace means power, an otherly power at work in and through the believer's life, the experience of God's Spirit,' (p.203).

'No one can read such praises as 'all grace abounding to you', 'the surpassing grace of God upon you', 'the richness of God's grace lavished upon us' (II Cor 9:8, 14; Eph 1.7f) without realising that we are dealing with an experiential concept of great moment. Dunn is persuasive that it is with this in mind that we must engage with the Pauline greetings and benedictions. He is wanting the members of the churches to whom he is writing seek this experiential reality of life with God by His Spirit. Grace is a 'dynamic concept' according to Dunn (p.204) because it overlaps with 'Spirit' and 'power'. The grace of conversion is not different to the continual reception of grace. In other words the grace which transformed us is not different to the grace working in us. Often the experience of it is felt like a kind of inward compulsion to some activity or service.

Dunn explains how 'Unlike his near contemporary Philo, Paul never uses Charis in the plural, always singular. All grace, including its particular manifestations, is the one grace of God.' I think that this is helpful to meditate upon and I wonder if it is always what we are communicating today. Are we sometimes paying less attention to the grace that is experienced? Are we teaching it more as a concept, a doctrinal concept?

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