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Jesu, Juva

Archive for the ‘Union with Christ’ Category

Keep in step with the Spirit

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Paul makes an interesting sustained argument throughout Galatians 5 and 6. He pits circumcision against Christ, law against faith, flesh against Spirit, and flesh against cross.

By abandoning the way of the Spirit, the Judaizers gave way to the works of the flesh (5:16ff). In fact, they boasted in the flesh (6:12–13), which is a subtle sin that is not so shocking as Paul’s earlier list. We see from this that even what is good or appears to be good can become a source of pride and destroy us. We are to repent not only of our sins but also of our merits, of every seemingly commendable way that we try to find life apart from Jesus. “Seemingly” is of course the operative word. Ironically, circumcision signified the cutting off of the flesh, a confession of its impotence; the Judaizers turned it into its opposite. There is no more need for circumcision because the Seed signified by circumcision has come. His once and for all circumcision at the cross (Col. 2:11–12) has inaugurated the new creation (Gal. 6:15). We enter into this circumcision, this new creation, through our baptism into Jesus (Col. 2:11–12).

The Judaizers were offended by the cross (Gal. 5:11) and ashamed of it (6:12). Paul boasted in the cross instead (6:14). Paul’s opposition of flesh to both Spirit (5:16ff) and cross (6:12ff) leads us to look for links between Spirit and cross. Paul himself directly links the fruit of the Spirit to the cross worked out in the life of the Christian: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (5:24 ESV). Part of our boasting in the cross should be to see and delight in how Jesus exhibits the fruit of the Spirit. Such love and kindness (John 15:13), joy (Heb. 12:2), peace and patience (1 Pet. 2:23), etc.! Beyond this, the cross is not only our great example, but also the very foundation of our own walking in the fruit of the Spirit.

Boasting in law–keeping is of course not the only possible kind of fleshly boasting. Just as circumcision was turned on its head, we can be tempted to turn the fruit of the Spirit to fleshly purposes. Consider how we do this by exaggerating the virtues of love, of winsomeness, and humility. It has become easy to wield these as fleshly weapons and thereby to mistake other virtues, such as godly confidence and courage, for fleshly boasting. Rene Girard has insight into how this humility competition is its own form of fleshly vaunting, and how it undermines the faith.

This is one reason why it is important to cultivate the fruits of the Spirit in totality rather than in isolation. We guard best against the flesh when we use all of our weapons; we need both a faithful love and a loving faithfulness; both a joyful self–control and a self–controlled joy.

Written by Scott Moonen

February 20, 2020 at 1:52 pm

Sacrifice

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This is the problem of Christianity, gentlemen. The whole honor of Christ is that He came when the times were fulfilled. And that is the new element of the Christian religion, compared to all other religions. That in Christianity, the criterion of righteousness is that by one man heeding the catastrophe in time, the catastrophe which is inevitable can be turned from a terrible thing into a blessing. The catastrophe, per se, gentlemen, is just terrible and inevitable. By human sacrifice, the catastrophe which is terrible and inevitable can be turned into a blessing. . . . The Christian problem is to recognize which catastrophe is indispensable, and then to go into it by voluntarily stripping yourself of the privileges of the old order, which make the break so much harder if the privileges still stand up.

Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, Comparative Religion, 1954

Written by Scott Moonen

January 15, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Resurrection

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Love is a refreshment and almost a kind of resurrection.

—Peter Leithart, commenting on imagery in the Song of Songs, including patterns of seven that hint at new creation, and kisses that evoke, among other things, the breath of life.

Written by Scott Moonen

February 22, 2019 at 9:29 am

Second Person

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“That Second Voice, you know: he had me sent here; he said you had asked to see me. I owe it to you.”

“No. You owe it to the Second Voice,” said Niggle. “We both do.”

(J. R. R. Tolkien, “Leaf by Niggle,” The Tolkien Reader, 116)

 

Written by Scott Moonen

February 18, 2019 at 12:04 pm

Baptism

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. . . of a different kind. Some friends and I have been discussing baptism in or with the Spirit: Pentecostalism vs. charismatic vs. third wave. My view is essentially third wave, as follows.

It’s an interesting academic and biblical theological question to ask what is meant by baptism in the Spirit. But the more crucial question is how we think of our relationship to the Spirit, and how we pray. Should I pray for (1) something that I don’t have; or (2) much, much more of what I do have? Depending on which prayer is “right”, the “wrong” prayer involves some kind of important confusion about either the Spirit’s absence or presence in our lives.

The doctrine of regeneration is an important part of this. It’s interesting to me how the meaning of the term has shifted from the time of the reformation to the present day. For some background and reflections, refer to the following posts:

We can say, then, that regeneration is the continual life-giving procession of the Spirit from Father and Son to us; this is part of our union with Jesus and of his promise to be with us always. From an individual perspective, baptism in the Spirit is therefore the one beginning of or entry into that stream (what we now call regeneration), and filling with the Spirit is an opening of the flood gates. The Spirit is not divided; there is no second stream of the Spirit other than this continual regeneration, no power and joy vs. sanctification (as Martyn Lloyd–Jones would have it). There may be varying sources of the stream, however: direct, through the word, through one another. So our prayer is: more, more!

The reason our experience is different from that of first–century believers is that we don’t set foot in the old covenants first. Contrary to Martyn Lloyd–Jones, there is much in Acts that is unique to the first century, including people’s receiving water baptism who had been saved for many years; going to the Jew first and then to the Gentile; and Nazirite vows.

There is also a corporate meaning of the baptism with the Spirit; the first–century formation of the church out of the ashes of Israel (a la Ezekiel’s bones; a corporate resurrection). This corporate sense points to why we no longer experience or expect tongues of flame today—that was the Spirit’s first setting fire to the altar when the new temple–body is first filled with God’s presence, as happens with every new covenant. As with all altar fires, the Spirit’s fire is now continually present in the temple of God’s church and people.

Written by Scott Moonen

February 3, 2019 at 4:33 pm

Loyalty

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John Barach, speaking on Judges 19-21 and God’s “church discipline” for Benjamin and Jabesh-Gilead:

When you side with apostates [or Canaanites], God treats you like an apostate [or Canaanite].

Written by Scott Moonen

October 26, 2018 at 8:56 am

Baptism exhortation

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2 Samuel 15 is one of the great baptism passages of the Bible. David crosses the brook Kidron on his escape—his exodus—from Absalom. Several people beg to bring themselves and their families with him. When David returns a few chapters later in 2 Samuel 19, the leaders of Judah must come across the Jordan river to bring David back over the Jordan to Jerusalem.

In John, Jesus crosses the Kidron on his way to the cross, his great exodus. Romans 6 says that we are united to Jesus in baptism, both in death and resurrection. Baptism marks the beginning of Jesus taking us with him from death all the way through to resurrection, just as David took his people with him in exile all the way to victory. Baptism is an exodus into life with Jesus.

My charge to you is all your life to remember by your baptism that Jesus is taking you with him. You are never alone: He is always close to you by his Holy Spirit. No matter hard or sad things are, or how wonderful things are, Jesus is with you, and you can always trust in him to love you and keep you.

Written by Scott Moonen

March 25, 2018 at 5:59 pm