“A Serious Neglect” - Part 1 - by Dr Ern Baxter.
Christ is risen! In the early days of communism in Russia, they sent out organisers and indoctrinators all over the nations and one of these clever chaps came to a large area where a huge crowd was mandated by order that they might listen to this indoctrinator and he very cleverly started to brainwash them and sow the Marxist philosophy into these humble folk. When he got all through he was so confident that he had accomplished his task and must have thoroughly convinced them of the rightness of his position that he said, “Now is there anyone who would like to ask a question?”. And as you know Russia is religiously Eastern Orthodox and a little old country lady with her babushka came slowly up to the front and turned around to the huge crowd and said, “Christ is risen!”. And the crowd echoed back, “He is risen indeed!”. That was their answer to the communists and it is still the answer.
Now let me tell you where I think I’m going. We talked last night about the kingdom, and this morning I want to talk about a serious neglect which is the Resurrection. Then later in this conference I want to speak about the Holy Spirit as a co-relative of Resurrection, then I want to speak about the King, the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit, then I want to speak about the King and the Holy Spirit and then the Kingdom of the Holy Spirit ideally and the Administration of the Holy Spirit and if we have time the Holy Spirit and ethics. But this morning I want to talk about the serious neglect in our theology.
Our overall title is the “King, the Kingdom and the Holy Spirit” and my bottom line desire is to try to define for you what I believe to be a definition of the Holy Spirit that somehow seems to have escaped us. In spite of the fact that this century has been marked by more charismatic/pneumatological activity that any century since the days of the apostles, we seem to resemble the man in the Book of Proverbs who went out and hunted the animals but was too lazy to skin it. And we have enjoyed the Holy Spirit for this century but have been too lazy to exploit and explore and develop and define. And it is just a fact that in the theological world among scholars, it is just a fact and not a guess, that the Holy Spirit has been seriously neglected in theology. That pneumatology (a branch of theology) has been under dealt with.
Now if that were just a purely intellectual problem it would be bad enough. But it is all tied up with the nature of knowledgeable experience. Because the first Person of the Trinity that confronts you on behalf of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. And it has been the nature of evangelicalism to jump over the Holy Spirit and come directly to Christ. You can’t come to Christ without coming through the Holy Spirit. That is the Trinitarian approach. If you are talking about God coming to man, it is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But one of the unique texts about the Holy Spirit written earlier this century is a bit entitled “Spirit, Son and Father”. Because if you are coming to God from down up, you come to the Spirit, Son and Father. The Spirit introduces you to the Son, the Son introduces you to the Father. If you are coming from God down, it is the Father, Son and Spirit. And his book was very challenging and it pointed up the problem. That we need to recognise that God has structured His Word in terms of the mystery of His Trinitarian being.
Now last night we talked about the ‘Kingdom Cosmic and Providential Limited and Redemptive’. We talked about Israel as the redemptive kingdom in the Old Covenant and the Kingdom/Church as the redemptive kingdom in the New Covenant and that God’s programme for this age is that the redemptive kingdom should by the preaching of the Gospel draw in all the subjects of the cosmic kingdom until the overall kingdom of God’s sovereign reign which includes the nations not yet subject to God (who think they have a kingdom), it includes that climatic moment when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ. This is our eschatological goal. This is where we are heading. That too has been tampered with in the last 150 years as a whole novel theology has been foisted on us which says that the world is a lost cause and our hope is to get out of here and let it go to hell because that’s what it deserves. This is almost a blasphemous disregard for the work of Christ’s redemption. For God so loved the world! God has not given up on the world, God will not give up on the world and God ultimately intends to have a new heaven and a new earth where indwelleth righteousness and I am with Him! (*applause*).
Now I don’t know how much news you listen to this morning. I am a bit of a newshound. But I was struck again this morning as I turned on CNN and NBC. There was one word that seemed to cover the whole business and that was “squalor”. Squalor. Man in his lost ness is a pitiful, blundering idiot. In the area of behaviour he is a total failure. He can’t handle money. He can’t handle relationships. He can’t handle sex. He just can’t handle anything. He sure can’t handle money! And he can’t handle sex. And it is a squalid mess out there – until you daily have to battle the temptation to ultimately be cynical. And your only hope to handle cynicism is to bathe your heart in the hope of the Gospel and know what the bottom line of the historical event is. “The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdom of our God and of His Christ”.
Now we have hurt ourselves in this area because of a neglect of emphasis. I am wrestling with how to approach this, but if you pray with me God will help us. In my library I have a lot of books and I have a section of books on Christology which includes all of the classic lives of Christ. I will not bore you with the titles but when you read a book on the life of Christ it reads very much like the life of anyone else. He was born – and He lived – and He died. Now a lot of those lives of Christ finish where the life of any man finishes in a biography – at death. Some of them manage to make some reference to the Resurrection but that’s about it. And this is a serious failure because there is One Man in the universe that is approximately 2000 years old. And I deliberately use the word “Man”. I am not neglecting His godhead but lets set that aside for a moment.
On the day of Pentecost when Peter was referring to the dramatic events that were taking place, he said, “These are not drunk as ye think but this is that which was spoken of by the prophet Joel”. Like any good preacher he anchors the existential event in the Scriptures and the only Scriptures they had were the Old Testament. And so he anchors this event in the Old Testament Scriptures and then he contemporises it. He said, “That’s where it came from, this is the present fact. Jesus of Nazareth – a Man”. He didn’t say, “Jesus of Nazareth, God of very God”. That is not pertinent for what he is doing. Let God say in the Scripture what God wants to say and don’t try to fix it up. Peter said, “Jesus of Nazareth a Man approved of God among us by signs and wonders which God did by Him, you did with wicked hands take and crucify. But God raised Him from the dead and set Him at His own right hand and He has shed forth this which ye know see and hear”. Jesus of Nazareth, a Man! Now I am not trying to abuse your orthodoxy, I just want you to think in the compartmentalisations that the Bible provides us. See God has got a communication problem. God holds all knowledge simultaneously. God never has to remember anything because He never forgets it. He never has to learn anything because He knows everything. So when God is thinking He never has to have a sequence of thoughts. He holds it all simultaneously. Everything is known to Him at one moment. And even our English language is inadequate. We use time/space language for a transcendental situation.
Now He wants to get that knowledge to His creature and His creature is not omniscient. So Hebrews says, “God who at sundry times and in diverse manners in time past spake unto our fathers by the prophets, spake in these last days by His Son”. There is a whole sequence. 1500 years of prophetic utterance – little pieces of His mind coming down and then a great gush of His mind in the Incarnate Word and then more of His mind through the apostles and a continuing unfolding of His mind by the Holy Spirit to us this morning. God is trying to get it to us this morning and it is hard for us to get it simultaneously like He has it. We have to put it together in pieces. And so He is very accommodating and when we are talking about Christology we have got to talk about the sheer humanity of Jesus of Nazareth and don’t play games with it. The creed protects us – He is “Man of very Man”. Jesus of Nazareth. Why did they call Him ‘Jesus of Nazareth’? Well there was a Jesus of Bethany and a couple of Jesus’ lived in Jerusalem and a few Jesus’ lived over here in Caperneum. A lot of Jesus in Cuba! The absolute humanity of the Son of God – Jesus of Nazareth, Mary’s boy.
God the Word was of no value to us until God the Word became incarnate and laid hold upon the seed of Abraham and became Man of very Man. Now when we are talking about the history of Jesus and we are going to write His biography, you don’t stop at His death. This is one unique biography! You don’t stop at His death, you don’t stop at His resurrection, you don’t stop at His ascension, you don’t stop at the effusion of the Holy Spirit, you don’t stop at AD 100-200-300 – you talk about Jesus of Nazareth. He alone who has immortality and is 2, 000 years old and if we could see Him this morning, is living in a glorified 33 and a half year old body. Won’t that be great? My bald-headed friends? (*laughter*). That when we are glorified we will all revert to 33. I hope that is more than a guess. (*laughter*).
Tomorrow: Ern Baxter moves into the crux of his material and concerns. He calls on Reformed theologian Richard B Gaffin. Ern Baxter said; "My material will show that we have by a faulty emphasis deprived ourselves of the dynamic of Christianity".