Sunday, March 05, 2006

"Paul, The Spirit and the People of God" by Gordon Fee.

I have been challenged and then hugely challenged following the sermons broadcast from Church of Christ the King, Brighton. It's a weekly Sunday afternoon treat for me! It's been even more interesting that the elders have been encouraging a re-read of Gordon Fee's great book; "Paul, the Spirit and the People of God". What a book! It is so eminently quotable, and furthermore it ties together two vital passions - the Church and the Spirit as these two are indeed inseparable.

This issue was raised in a previous blog by a reader who read a book entitled "Stop Dating the Church". The book includes a list of ten factors that are vital for choosing a church but, the reader noticed that the Presence of the Spirit wasn't included. This is concerning - and it is something that Gordon Fee would know nothing about. It is not surprising I guess that the Holy Spirit and His Presence is so high on Newfrontiers agenda, if they are encouraging such an outstanding book as this. Here are some of the most noteworthy quotes:

The Church and the Spirit.

"This personal, powerful experience of the eschatologial Spirit not only transformed them individually but made them effective in their being the people of the good news in pagan Greco-Roman culture. And this is why I think they had the better of it, and why we would do well to recapture something of that reality" (pix).

"Despite the affirmations in our creeds and hymns and the lip service paid to the Spirit in our occasional conversations, the Spirit has been largely marginalized both in the halls of learning and in the life of the church as a community of faith" (pxiv).

"This fresh reading of Paul will make clear that for him the Presence of the Spirit as an experienced and living reality, was the crucial matter from beginning to end" (pxv).

"The gathered church is the place of God's own Personal Presence by the Spirit" (p19).

"As with Moses but now by the Spirit we are unveiled as we enter the sanctuary to behold the glory of the Lord" (p21).

"By the Spirit's Presence one is now behind the veil in the very Presence of God, not only beholding God's glory in Christ but also being transformed into God's likeness from one degree of glory to another" (p21).

"It is for God's people of a later time like ours once more to grasp these realities by experiencing them if we are truly to capture Paul's understanding. Perhaps a beginning point for us would be to downplay the impersonal images (wind, fire etc) as rich as they are in terms of aspects of the Spirit's ministry and to retool our thinking in Paul's own terms, where we understand and experience the Spirit as the Personal Presence of the eternal God" (p22).

"God is not simply saving diverse individuals and preparing them for heaven, rather He is creating a people for His Name among whom God can dwell and who in their life together will reproduce God's life and character in all its unity and diversity" (p72).

The Spirit and His Gifts.

"Because the Spirit was present with His people, for Paul - His giftings were as normal as breathing and were intended for the building of the people in the present as they await the consumation" (p162).

"The prophet spoke to God's people under the inspiration of the Spirit. In Paul, such speech consists of spontaneous, understandable messages, orally delivered in the gathered assembly, intended for the edification or encouragement of the people" (p169).

"The evidence is considerable that a visible, charismatic dimension of life in the Spirit was the normal experience of Paul's churches" (p173).

"The reason for the gifts in the assembly is to build us up as we live out the live of the future in the present age. The Holy Spirit as the renewed Presence of God is with us in our gatherings for this very purpose" (p176).

Article Reference List of this website available here.


thebluefish said...

Granted there is the issue of the experience of the Spirit's presence... if there are Christians in the church - and it's not a church if it hasn't got that... then the presence of the Spirit is there.... and the presence of the Spirit being "in" believers... surely means that the Spirit is there if you have the Spirit and you join it.... and what if the majority of people present aren't Christians.... (i.e because they're big on evangelism)

I see your point, but I'm not sure *how* that would work as a test for joining a church.... and given things like teaching, humility, integrity and fellowship are in Josh Harris' list then those things are certainly *part* of how the Spirit is present...

jul said...

I think we are always tempted to think if we can't measure God's presence in some concrete mathmatical way, then we shouldn't evaluate at all. We are as believers all given the Holy Spirit. It is that very reality which makes us completely able to discern in a church whether His presence is desired and experienced in a significant life-changing way. It is possible for a church to be grieving the Spirit, and in a place like that, a discerning believer will sense overwhelming sadness or even worse, nothing at all. Unfortunately, people are meeting together in the name of Christ for all kinds of reasons, and many times it is not to meet God and surrender to his agenda. We should pray and ask God to reveal to us the heart of the church we are considering. While there are many objective things to consider when choosing a church, the deciding 'vote' should come from the Holy Spirit.

thebluefish said...

I think my point would be, that pretty much everything in Harris' list are the things that the Spirit produces it a godly church and godly leaders.... i.e. If a church isn't marked by the Spirit's presence it can't have those things.

And in fairness to Harris the things he lists are thones you can observe, whereas the tangible (?) presence is rather more subjective (not less real though) and not so easy to measure.

Whether or not you notice the presence of the Spirit in a church probably has something to do with where you're standing with God, as much as with the church itself.

And the stuff that you can see is what happens in relationships and teaching etc - i.e. what Harris lists..


jul said...

I agree with you in part at least. I just think it is possible to have all those things and still not be totally open to the work of the Spirit in a church or even in your individual life. It's not that the Spirit is not there and He's not doing work, it's that he's being hindered or grieved. There are plenty of 'successful' and growing churches that are saying all the right things and doing all the right things but are like the church of Galatia--not living according to the Spirit, but according to the law (or flesh). It really does take discernment to know the difference.

thebluefish said...

True, though it'd be pretty difficult to exercise such discernment without actually committing to being part of a local church in the first place...

Baxter's Boy said...

That's a fair and valid point, although at my home church much was made of the fact that we wouldn't alter our worship, or the flow of spiritual gifts or the preaching to be "seeker friendly". And indeed many were saved and touched powerfully by the Presence of the Spirit in the worship! My pastor Dr J told of an account where a non-Christian was saved through his sermon on headcovering!!