Completed by the Spirit, Part 2: A Resurrection Like His

May 25, 2011 — Leave a comment

This is the sec­ond part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

Empty tombIn the first arti­cle in this series, we looked at five propo­si­tions that Paul intro­duces in his epis­tles about our rela­tion­ship to the law and its rela­tion­ship to our sanctification:

First, law can­not cope with sin.

Sec­ond, it’s the love brought to the saint through the indwelling Holy Spirit that is ful­fills the law.

Third, it is the Spirit that pro­duces fruit in the believer, while the law in our remain­ing sin­ful flesh can only pro­duce sin.

Fourth, sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion – a growth in holi­ness — results from our union with Christ and Scripture’s exhor­ta­tions about what it means to be Christ-like.

Fifth, that the imper­a­tives Paul gives to us are not them­selves laws and are not given as laws or in the cat­e­gory of law, because they flow from the indica­tive of our reliance upon Christ and our posi­tion in Christ.

Before we address those five propo­si­tions indi­vid­u­ally in future arti­cles, we need to con­sider the escha­tol­ogy of our sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion. We will indeed be glo­ri­fied, Paul promises (Romans 8:30). What is impor­tant now about that final and com­plete sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion is what that state reveals about us – what that “not yet” tells us about our “already.”

Cer­tainly the apos­tle John gives us the most poignant view of what we will be: “We know that when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). But Paul also com­pre­hends and explains to us that we indeed shall be like our Sav­ior. In his bene­dic­tion at the end of 1 Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans, Paul writes, “[23] Now may the God of peace him­self sanc­tify you com­pletely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blame­less at the com­ing of our Lord Jesus Christ. [24] He who calls you is faith­ful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess 5:23–24).

We will be sanc­ti­fied completely.

Will we be sanc­ti­fied through our own effort or through performance-driven navel-gazing?

Will a reliance on the law do it?

No, Paul tells us, “the God of peace him­self” will do it.

Paul tells the Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans that the one who is sanc­ti­fy­ing them will com­plete that sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion when Christ returns: “Now may our God and Father him­self, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, [12] and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, [13] so that he may estab­lish your hearts blame­less in holi­ness before our God and Father, at the com­ing of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (1 Thes­sa­lo­ni­ans 3:11–13).

And Paul even exhorts him­self to remain faith­ful and focused on the goal he knows he will reach, when he writes to the Philippians:

[12] Not that I have already obtained this or am already per­fect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. [13] Broth­ers, I do not con­sider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: for­get­ting what lies behind and strain­ing for­ward to what lies ahead, [14] I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. [15] Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in any­thing you think oth­er­wise, God will reveal that also to you. [16] Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

[17] Broth­ers, join in imi­tat­ing me, and keep your eyes on those who walk accord­ing to the exam­ple you have in us. [18] For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as ene­mies of the cross of Christ. [19] Their end is destruc­tion, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. [20] But our cit­i­zen­ship is in heaven, and from it we await a Sav­ior, the Lord Jesus Christ, [21] who will trans­form our lowly body to be like his glo­ri­ous body, by the power that enables him even to sub­ject all things to him­self. (Philip­pi­ans 3:12–21)

Paul has his eyes fixed on what lies ahead, a time when he will be rid of what remains of his “body of death.”

He strives to live accord­ing to the Spirit as one whose mind is set on the things of the Spirit.

He knows he will be like Christ — not as some­one who fol­lows the let­ter of the law, but one whose trans­formed spirit gives him the per­fect, self­less love of Christ that intrin­si­cally and onto­log­i­cally ful­fills the law.

With this escha­to­log­i­cal real­ity in mind — a sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion begun at regen­er­a­tion, a sanc­ti­fi­ca­tion increased in the “now” and con­sum­mated in the “not yet” — we’ll con­tinue this series by look­ing at each of these five propo­si­tions. In each, we’ll con­sider how Paul uses the antithe­sis of law and Spirit to exhort believ­ers to be more and more in the here and now what they will one day become in full.

Next: Com­pleted by the Spirit Part 3: The Law Can­not Cope With Sin