Criswell Theological Review 3.2 (1989) 327-339.
Copyright © 1989 by The
AN OUTLINE OF PAUL'S VIEW
OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE:
FOUNDATION FOR AN
DAVID S. DOCKERY
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
Contemporary Christianity is characterized simultaneously by a
longing for a deeper relationship with God's Spirit and also a seeming
neglect of authentic and developing sanctification. When we look
about us, we see many seeking spiritual renewal,1 some by contem-
plation,2 some through community involvement and fellowship groups,3
and others through signs and wonders.4 The confusion is compounded
1 Cf. R. Quebedeaux, The New Charismatics (New York: Doubleday, 1976);
H. Hobbs, The Holy Spirit: Believer's Guide (Nashville: Broadman, 1967); A. A.
Hoekema, Holy Spirit Baptism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972); J. MacArthur, The
Charismatics: A Doctrinal Perspective (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978); M. Green,
I Believe in the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975); J. R. W. Stott, The
Baptism and Fullness of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1971); J. R.
Williams, Renewal Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988).
2 Cf. E. Glenn Hinson, "Contemplative Spirituality" Christian Spirituality: Five
Views of Sanctification (ed. D. L. Alexander;
C. Stanley, Listening to God (Nashville: Nelson, 1985). Especially see the article in this
issue of CTR by Bruce Demarest and Charles Raup.
3 H. A. Snyder, The Community of the King (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1977);
idem, The Problem of Wineskins (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1975); K. Miller, The
Taste of New Wine (Waco: Word, 1966); R. F. Webber and R. Clapp, People of the
Truth: The Power of the
Worshipping Community in the Modern World (
Harper & Row, 1988).
4 J. Wimber
and K. Springer, Power Evangelism (
1986); idem, Power Healing (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987); J. White, When the
Spirit Comes with Power
and Wonders Among God's People (
328 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
by the discussion at the popular level about "prayer in the Spirit,"
"walking in the Spirit," "life in the Spirit," "baptism in the Spirit," and
even "being slain in the Spirit." The terminology is very often used
carelessly and without definition. Our purpose is not to address each
of these issues, but only to acknowledge the ubiquity of interest in
While all of this is true, there yet exists an emptiness in con-
temporary Christian spirituality evidenced among church members
and church leaders by superficiality and busyness. This has resulted in
lives characterized by discouragement, frustration, and even problems
Some of these problems can be traced to a faulty view of conver-
sion.5 Others can be linked to our individualistic concept of Chris-
tianity.6 Perhaps underlying all of these matters is the obvious lack of
a spiritual theology in Evangelicalism, even in Protestantism at-large.
For too long, spiritual theology has been considered the domain of
Roman Catholic theology.7 Recently, however, there have been help-
ful attempts to fill this void.8 While our primary focus is not the
correction or reshaping of the popular confusion, our theological
concerns are always intended to serve the Church.9 Even without
emphasis upon theological and ethical matters, it is hoped that the
present investigation will yield fruit for laypeople, as well as the
pastoral aspects of the Christian community. This essay will outline
Paul's view of the spiritual life which can serve as a foundation for a
contemporary evangelical spirituality.
5 See the ongoing discussion in such works as J. MacArthur, The Gospel According
to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988); J. Boice, Christ's Call to Discipleship
Moody, 1986); Z. Hodges, The Eclipse of Grace (
1985); C. C. Ryrie, Balancing the Christian Life (Chicago: Moody, 1969) 170-78; J. I.
Packer, Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1961)
89-95; J. R. W. Stott, Our Guilty Silence (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967) 48-50.
6 One of the finest treatments of the Christian life viewed from a corporate
perspective can be found in N. H. Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology (tr.
Timothy George which discusses the "priesthood of all believers" from a corporate
7 R. P. McBrien, Catholicism (Minneapolis Winston, 1981) 903-1099; L. Bouyer,
Introduction to Spirituality (New York: Desclee, 1961); idem, Orthodox Spirituality and
Protestant and Anglican Spirituality (London: Burns and Oates, 1969); K. Rahner, The
Dynamic Element in the Church (London: Burns and Oates, 1964) 84-170.
8 R. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1979);
J. I. Packer, Keep in Step with the Spirit (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell, 1984). This is
reinforced by noting that the 1987 meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society was
devoted to concepts and issues involved with evangelical views of spirituality.
9 R. Saucy, "Doing Theology for the Church" The Necessity of Systematic Theo-
Dockery: PAUL'S VIEW OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 329
The Pauline view of the spiritual life can best be summarized by
the statement in 2 Cor 3:17b, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is
liberty." The key concepts in the thought of Paul regarding the Chris-
tian life are here expressed: the Spirit, lordship and liberty. The
Spirit's activities so widely permeated the apostle's thought that there
is hardly any aspect of Christian experience outside of the sphere of
the Spirit. We shall examine the main facets of the Spirit's activities by
concentrating on both the individual and the community's corporate
perspectives of the Christian life. Also matters of freedom will be
surveyed, particularly ideas of freedom from sin and from law. We
could not do justice to Paul's thought without a brief look at the idea
of the spiritual life in tension, including the nature of suffering in
relation to life in the Spirit.
I. The Work of the Spirit in the New Life of the Believer
1. Initiation. Paul was convinced that it was the responsibility
of the Spirit to draw attention to the glories of the risen Christ in the
preaching ministry (1 Thess 1:5; 1 Cor 2:1-4). Equally true was the
Spirit's task in enabling persons to respond to the message of the
glorified Christ. Indeed, it is a fundamental assumption of Paul's
theology that all believers are possessors of the Spirit. In other words,
"no one can respond to the claims of Christ without being activated
and indwelt by the Holy Spirit."10
Paul tells the Thessalonians that God has given them the Holy
Spirit (1 Thess 4:8). In his first letter to the Corinthians he states that
no one can confess Jesus as Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor
12:13). It can be assumed that all believers have the Spirit since
"anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to
him" (Rom 8:9). The Spirit has transformed persons from unrighteous-
ness (1 Cor 6:9, 10) to those who are washed, sanctified and justified
(1 Cor 6:11). The strong adversative in the passage serves to heighten
the contrast between the former life and the Spirit and thus focuses
attention on the change the Spirit's ministry performs. The point,
then, is that a person is regenerated only through the work of the
The regenerating work of the Spirit brings about new life in
Christ. The new life in Christ is summarized in Paul's classic state-
ment, "If anyone is in Christ, a new creation!, the old has passed
away, behold the new has come" (2 Cor 5:17). The verse is usually
10 D. Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1981) 551.
11 Ibid., 553; cf. J. N. D. Kelly, The Pastoral Epistles (London: Black, 1963) 253.
330 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
interpreted on the popular level in terms of one's subjective experi-
ence, meaning the desires and attitudes of the unregenerate have
passed away and have been replaced by a new set of desires and
attitudes. The idea of newness, however, in the context of Pauline
thought is distinctly eschatological.12 The new age which has dawned
brings a new creation, the creation of a new person.13 The passing of
the old does not mean the end of the old age; it continues until the
parousia. But the old age does not remain intact; the new age has
broken in.14 Without discussing the full ramifications of the new age,
we can conclude with G. Ladd's appropriate remark, "The underlying
idea is that while believers live in the old age, because they are in
Christ, they belong to the new age with its new creation (indicative);
thus they are to live a life that is expressive of the new existence
(imperative)"15 [emphasis mine]. Having seen that the Spirit is the
giver of new life to believers, we now turn our attention to the
ministry of the Spirit in the life of the believer.
2. Adoption and Sanctification. There are two primary pas-
sages which show that the believer's filial consciousness is directly
induced by the Holy Spirit (Rom 8:14-17; Gal 4:6). It is the Spirit who
leads the children of God to cry out "Abba! Father!"16 Adoption
describes the new relationship into which believers have entered.17
D. Guthrie uses the term "sanctification" comprehensively of the
overall process by which the new believer moves toward a life of
holiness.18 The standard of sanctification is a holiness acceptable to
God, that is, a holiness in line with the Spirit's own character
(Rom 15:16; 1 Cor 6:11).
3. Illumination and Guidance. The Spirit of God is not only
active in revealing the gospel, but is likewise involved in bringing the
believer to further understanding (1 Cor 2:13). Paul goes into con-
siderable detail in I Cor 2:10-16 in order to establish the distinction
between human wisdom and the understanding provided by the
Spirit. Paul affirms that without the enablement of the Spirit, a salvific
knowledge of God is unattainable. After receiving the gift of the
12 G. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974)
13 J. Behm, "kaino<j," TDNT 3 (1965) 449.
14 F. F. Bruce, "New," IDB 3 (1962) 542-43.
15 Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 480.
16 J. Jeremias,
The Central Message of the New Testament (
17 E. Schweizer, "ui[oqesi<a," TDNT 8 (1972) 399.
18 Guthrie, New Testament Theology, 554.
Dockery: PAUL'S VIEW OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 331
Spirit, there is a capacity for understanding what was previously
denied. The Spirit penetrates to the deepest understanding of God in
The Spirit guides the believer into a new way of thinking and
gives her or him a new set of values. Concerning Rom 8:5, "Those
who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the
Spirit;" J. Murray comments that, "the mind of the Spirit is the
dispositional complex, including the exercise of reason, feeling and
will, patterned after and controlled by the Holy Spirit."20 The renewal
of the mind (Rom 12:2) which was formerly hostile to God (Rom 8:7)
can only be achieved by/through the Spirit. The believer's new values
come through the leading of the Spirit (Rom 8:14) and cause him or
her to walk in the Spirit in opposition to carrying out the desires of
the sinful flesh (Gal 5:16; Rom 8:4). The concept of total dependence
on the empowering of the Spirit "shows how utterly indispensable the
Spirit is for Christian living, and it demonstrates the impossibility of
any Christian not possessing the Spirit."21
4. Progress and Development. Paul speaks in Gal 5:22-23 of
the "fruit of the Spirit" as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, good-
ness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." These virtues must be
compared with the list in Phil 4:8 (cf.
prompted virtues go beyond the natural bounds of virtue so that, for
example, the believer demonstrates love by loving one's enemies. The
outworking of these virtues is a demonstration of the Sprit at work in
the believer, but there is not necessarily a one-to-one correspondence
between these lists and progress in the Christian life. According
to V. Furnish, the virtues are not even desired to portray the pattern of
the good person of the Christian ideal toward which all are to strive,
but are rather different ways Paul addresses himself to the concrete
historical situations to explain how the new life in Christ is to express
itself .22 Yet, it seems to us that they can be seen as evidence of the
work of the Spirit in the development of the believer in contrast to
"works of the flesh" (Gal. 5:19-21). We can say that at least to some
extent, they are marks of the Spirit.23
19 L. Morris, Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (Tyndale:
Eerdmans, 1958) 57.
20 J. Murray, Epistle to the Romans (2 vols.; NIC;
21 R. Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (ed. K. Grobel; 2 vols.; New
22 V. Furnish, Theology and Ethics in Paul (Nashville: Abingdon, 1958) 87.
23 See my discussion of development in Pauline theology related to Galatians 5 in
"Pauline Pictures of the Spiritual Life: Developmenta1 or Contextua1" in, The Living
332 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW :
5. Liberation. One of the key themes which will be discussed
later under a separate heading is the theme of freedom. Paul had
known the futility of seeking salvation through works and had come
to know that liberation comes through the Spirit (2 Cor 3:7-18).24 An
important function of the Spirit is to break shackles which have been
carried over from pre-conversion days.
outworkings of the Spirit in the new age.
II. The Work of the Spirit in the New Life of the Community
1. Unity. Paul viewed the Holy Spirit as the basis for true
unity in the body of Christ. Fellowship in the Johannine epistles
seems to be with "the Father and the Son" (1 John 1:3), but Paul
stresses "fellowship in the Spirit" (Phil 2:1-4; 2 Cor 13:14). The pas-
sage in the letter to the Philippians enlarges on the theme of unity and
suggests a mutual participation of believers through the common
bond of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit who binds Christians together
and enables them to be of the same mind, which is the "mind of
Christ" (Phil 2:5). The community of faith is to maintain the unity of
the Spirit as stated in 1 Corinthians 12 (cf. Eph 4:1-6). The passage
emphasizes the unity of the Spirit and diversity of functions and gifts
given by the Spirit to the Body. The basis of unity is identified by
Paul as the baptism in the Spirit (1 Cor 12:13).
2. Baptism in the Spirit. 1 Cor 12:13 is the key passage refer-
ring to corporate initiation into new life. While it is much debated in
recent times whether the Spirit's baptism is an experience identical
with conversion or subsequent to the conversion experience, we find
it difficult to support the second stage experience anywhere in the
Pauline materials.25 Guthrie suggests that baptism in the spirit is "no
more than another way of expressing the Spirit-dominated character
of the (corporate) Christian life." 26 Paul's teaching that "all were
made to drink of one Spirit" shows the basic solidarity of all Chris-
Word: Essays in Honor of J. H. Greenlee (forthcoming).. Also see R. N. Longenecker,
"On the Concept of Development in Pauline Thought" Perspectives in Evangelical
Theology (ed. S. Gundry and K. Kantzer;
24 Cf. R. N. Longenecker, Paul, Apostle of
25 For an informative explanation of these differences, see F. D. Brunner, A Theo-
logy of the Holy Spirit (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970) and J. D. G. Dunn, Baptism in
the Holy Spirit (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970); also E. Schweizer, "pneu?ma," TDNT
6 (1968) 233-455.
26 Guthrie, New Testament Theology, 563.
Dockery: PAUL'S VIEW OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 333
tians in the Spirit.27 It is transformation for all believers by which they
are placed into the body of Christ. This is made possible by the Spirit.
Although Dunn and Ladd opt for the meaning of baptism as
"Spirit baptism" and not water baptism, many scholars believe that
baptism refers to water baptism as the means by which the Spirit is
imparted to believers.28 We do not believe that there has to be an
either/or answer to the question, "Does Paul mean to say that water
baptism is the means of incorporation into the Christian community or
that an act of the Holy Spirit is the means of incorporation?" We
believe, rather, a both/and answer is more satisfactory. It is the work
of the Spirit to form the body of Christ, while water baptism is the
outward sphere where this takes place. When men and women believe
and are baptized, they become members of the body of Christ. The
Spirit has been given by the exalted Christ to form a new people, to
join believers together in the baptism of the Spirit constituting the
body of Christ.
III. The Spiritual Life as a Life of Freedom
The theme of freedom is seen constantly throughout the Pauline
writings. In this section we shall see that Paul is concerned with
freedom from sin, freedom from law, and freedom and responsi-
bility, which he discusses from the perspective of the stronger Chris-
tian's relationship with the weaker Christian.
1. Freedom from Sin. Paul uses the idiom of dying and rising
with Christ to express the truth of the believer's union with Christ
(Romans 6). Baptism into Christ (Rom 6:4) means union with him in
his death, burial with him, which in turn means death to sin, the
crucifixion of the "old man," the nullifying of the "body of sin" (Rom
6:6). The positive side means freedom from sin and life to God. In the
Romans 6 passage, resurrection with Christ is future and eschatologi-
cal (vv 5-7; cf. Eph 2:5-6 which speaks of a present resurrection with
The baptism into Christ's death is drawing attention to the cor-
porate aspect of Christ's death. As that death was an historical event,
so also the incorporation of believers in that death is historical. In
other words when Christ died on the cross, all who were to be
27 Hoekema, The Holy Spirit Baptism, 21.
28 G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism in the New Testament (
mans, 1962) 167; also cr. Stott, Baptism and Fullness, 48.
29 Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 485.
334 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
incorporated in him also died.30 This implies that when a person puts
faith in Christ, he or she is at once identified with a death that has
already happened. The identification with death is necessary before
there can be a participation in the risen life of Christ, which is life in
the Spirit. Ladd comments:
ultimately this is an eschatological fact that every believer should know
(Rom 6:2, 6), and on whose basis he is to consider himself alive to God.
It means a change in dominion. In the old aeon, the dominion of sin has
change of dominions, and for this reason they are to change their alliance
from sin to God (vv 17, 18, 22). It is because this change has occurred in
Christ that believers are exhorted to yield themselves to righteousness
The sixth chapter of Romans highlights Paul's indicative/impera-
tive tension. The command is to become what we are. This is
accomplished through yielding to the Spirit. The practical paradox is
that freedom from sin comes through slavery to Christ. Even Paul's
most affirmative statements about freedom are linked with lordship.
Gal 5:1 and 5:13 respectively exhort the Galatians not to return to
slavery either of law or licentiousness, but to remain in the Spirit as
those who belong to Christ (Gal 5:24). 1 Cor 3:21-23 speaks only of
the freedom of those who belong to Christ, who "are Christ's." And
2 Cor 4:12-18 speaks only of the freedom which is "through Christ,"
"from the Lord" and "of the Spirit." Thus Paul argues that there are
only two alternatives: (1) to have sin for one's master or (2) to have
God for one's master. For God to be one's master means a life of
freedom from sin. True freedom, therefore, comes only through
2. Freedom from Law. Paul views the believer in the age of
the Spirit as living under grace and not under Law (Rom 6:14). Paul
believed and taught that the Law had been in some sense abrogated
by Christ for he is the "end of the Law" (Rom 10:4). The Law is not
evil, rather it is "holy, just and good" (Rom 7:12). But what the Law
could not do because of the powerlessness of human nature, God did
by bringing freedom from Law for all who believe (Rom 8:1-4). Paul,
however, disassociates himself from the idea that freedom is power to
do for oneself and with one's life as seems pleasing. Freedom can be
misused as a pretext for evil, which is libertinism or antinomianism.
30 C. E. B. Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the
Romans (2 vols.;
31 Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 486.
Dockery: PAUL'S VIEW OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 335
True freedom involves obeying the "Law of Christ" (Gal 6:2) which is
service to God (1 Thess 1:9) and for humankind (1 Cor 9:19).
The "Law of Christ" seems to mean not only the teaching of
Jesus as the embodiment and true interpretation of the will of God
(Rom 12-14; 1 Cor 7:10-11), but also the person of the historical
Jesus. The life of Jesus served as a tangible portrayal and example of
the new divine standard as suggested by the phrase "according to
(Rom 15:5; cf. Eph 4:20-24;
appeals to the character of Jesus (Rom 15:3, 7, 8; Phil 2:5-11; 1 Thess
1:6).32 The difference between the law of Christ, which can be identi-
fied with the new covenant written upon hearts instead of stone, and
the old covenant law is knowing the law as inward principle. F. F.
Bruce's comments are extremely helpful in this regard:
So for Paul there was no substantial difference in content between the
"just requirements of the law" which cannot be kept by those who live
according "to the Spirit." The difference lay in the fact that new inward
power was now imparted, enabling the believer to fulfill what he could
not fulfill before. The will of God has not changed, but whereas formerly
it was recorded on tablets of stone, it was now engraved on human
hearts, an impulsion accomplished what an external compulsion could
This is not a new legalism, but a new "nomism." W. D. Davies has
suggested that this is a "new torah."34 There is some difference be-
tween nomos (the Greek word for "law") and tora (the Hebrew term
for "law"). Tora has the idea of a binding instruction, whereas nomos
designates a principle. It is also possible for nomos to be the equiva-
lent of tora in some instances, especially when nomos is used with an
adjective or article.35 Only in the atmosphere of spiritual liberty can
God's will be properly obeyed and God's nomos upheld.36
3. Freedom and Responsibility. Having been liberated by
Christ from the penalty of sin, the believer is challenged to employ
this liberty properly in Christian living.
excuse to satisfy unchristian sinful desires, but to serve others by
32 R. Longenecker, "Pauline Theology," ZPEB 4 (1975) 663. See the provocative
view of law and grace in D. Fuller, Gospel and Law: Contrast or Continuum? (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980).
33 F. F. Bruce, Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977) 200.
34 W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (4th ed.;
suggests the idea of the spiritual life as a "new torah," while the concept of "nomism" is
advanced by Longenecker, Paul, Apostle of Liberty.
35 H. H. Esser, "Law," NIDNTT 2 (1976) 443; Cranfield, Romans, 1.362.
36 J. Blunk, "Freedom," NIDNTT 1 (1975) 717-18.
336 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
love.37 This responsible freedom might be referred to as a law of love.
Guidance for the church in questionable areas, so far as Paul is
concerned, is provided by the law of love and not by the law of
commandments (cf. Eph 2:15).
This topic receives its fullest treatment in Romans 14-15 and
1 Corinthians 8-10. Food sacrificed to idols, for instance, is ethically
and religiously indifferent.38 For Paul, what is important is responsible
living so that the effect of one's conduct is an example and not a
stumbling block to others.
The law of love becomes, in Paul's thought, the most important
motivation for Christian freedom. Love fulfills all the demands of the
Law. Therefore, love becomes the solution to the problems raised
about food and drink. Love requires that when persons living in
freedom find themselves in a situation where the proper exercise of
that freedom would truly offend a brother or sister, then freedom is to
be set aside. Abstinence is the recommendation, but only when the
weaker believer would actually be caused to sin; otherwise the whole
standard of conduct in such matters would be decreed by the rigorism
of the weak.39 The basic principle is that personal freedom must be
tempered, by love for the community. It is clear that "such love is not
an emotion, but Christian concern in action."40
Responsible freedom, for Paul, also includes a negative, as well
as a positive, aspect. The negative teachings are often overstressed in
more legalistic environments and understressed in more libertine set-
tings. The Pauline balance must be the goal for believers living in the
Spirit. Paul teaches a rigorous self-discipine, self-control and non-
conformity (1 Cor 9:27; Rom 12:1-2). Everything is to be done for the
glory of God (1 Cor 10:31), and deeds that bring glory to the flesh are
to be put to death (Rom 8:13). Paul's nonconformity is not ascetic
worldly, because it appeals to human pride and attainment rather
than trust in Christ and reliance on the Spirit. The true Pauline view is,
"the earth is the Lord's and everything in it" (1 Cor 10:26). In sexual
37 W. H. Mare, "
The Shape of Christian Life and a Method of Moral Reasoning," Annual of the Society
of Christian Ethics (1981) 29-56.
38 See the careful
exegesis of these chapters in W. Willis, Idol
The Pauline Argument in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 (SBLDS 68; Chico: Scholars, 1985).
39 J. C. Beker, Paul the Apostle: The Triumph of God in Life and Thought
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980) 310-13.
40 Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 524.
Dockery: PAUL'S VIEW OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 337
matters, the believer is again not to conform to worldly practices.
Paul personally goes beyond this as he was an ascetic in sexual
matters (I Corinthians 7), but only for missionary purposes. Paul
recognizes his asceticism as a gift to promote the gospel, not to
achieve greater spirituality.41
It is beyond the scope of this article to deal with all the lists of
vices and virtues which Paul encourages believers to avoid and follow.
While his lists are similar to Hellenistic and Jewish lists of virtues and
vices, they are not to be overgeneralized to the point that they lose
their spiritual significance. We do not believe that Paul considered
these lists in any sense as options for life in the Spirit. Rather, they
help shape and form what is otherwise a somewhat nonobjective
concept. They are part and parcel of normal life in the Spirit. These
lists include character qualities to be emulated, and sins to be
shunned, which are inconsistent with the spiritual life.42
IV. Tension in the Spiritual Life
Life in the Spirit is to be lived out between the polarities of what
has been accomplished by the historical achievement of Jesus and
what is yet to be fully realized in the consummation of God's re-
demptive program.43 The believer lives in this temporal tension. This
is characterized by the already/not yet, and indicative/imperative
tensions,44 Christians live in this age, but their life pattern, their
standard of conduct, their aims and goals are not those of this age,
which are essentially human-centered and prideful, but of the age to
41 E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977) 450;
cf. Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 526. It might also be possible to include
with the discussion of nonconformity the idea of separation. Paul urges that believers
should not be "mismated with unbelievers" (in a disputed passage in 2 Cor 6:14-7:1).
This is not to be construed as a breaking of all ties and relationships that believers may
have with unbelievers, rather it is directed against close ties that link Christians with
unbelievers in pagan ways of thought and action. Separation, properly understood is a
rejection of idolatry and sinful conduct of the old age by one who is a citizen of the age
42 L. Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament (tr. J. E. Alsup; 2 vols.; Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) 2.143-45; also Guthrie, New Testament Theology, 920-25;
E. Schweizer, "Traditional Ethical Patterns in the Pauline and Post-Pauline Letters and
Their Development Lists of Vices and Housetable" Text and Interpretation (ed. E. Best
and R. McL.
43 This idea has received its fullest articulation in the work of O. Cullmann,
Salvation in History (tr. F. Filson;
"Already/Not Yet Christian Living in Tension" Reformed Journal 29 (1979) 18-20.
44 This has been ably described by Furnish, Theology and Ethics in Paul.
338 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
come. Yet the struggle with indwelling sin continues (Rom 1:14-25).45
The flesh continues to war against the Spirit (Gal 5:16-21). The
believer's union with Christ must be lived out (Romans 6; 12:1-2).
While living in the Spirit as a citizen of the new age (Phil 3:21), it
should be remembered that believers will suffer in this age (Phil 1:29-
30). Christians are conscious of life "in Adam" (Rom 5:12-21) and "in
Christ" (Rom 6:1-11). This life is characterized as a tension between
freedom and responsible love (Romans 14). Life in the Spirit awakens
believers to the prospects of present and ultimate victories. The basis
for life in the Spirit must never be forgotten. It is through the death
and resurrection of Jesus Christ that the Spirit applies justification,
regeneration, sanctification and ultimate glorification to the lives of
believers. Life in the Spirit is living out, by the Spirit's empowerment,
what believers are because of Christ.46
V. Toward Maturity in the Spiritual Life
It is the fact that for Paul Christianity is essentially "pneumatic"
(that is, he interprets Christianity through the category of Spirit) that
makes it inevitable that he should also give a greater significance to
the ethical aspect of the pneumatic life.47 Paul's view of life in the
Spirit develops shape by the enablement which the Spirit provides for
obedience in the midst of struggling and suffering. The most genuine
utterance of the Spirit in the assembly of believers is not ecstatic
speech, but prophecy, since the intention and criterion of the worship
service was that God should become manifest for people (1 Cor
14:23-25). The individual believer experiences the Spirit primarily in
prayer when he or she can call upon God in the words of the Lord's
prayer, "Abba! Father!" (Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15). The Spirit provides
divine enablement for the believer struggling in prayer (Rom 8:26-
27). The immediacy of devotion to God does not come forth from
innate human capacity, but from the Spirit. The Spirit brings to light
an awareness that one has been accepted through the love of God,
from which prayer springs forth.48 When the Spirit reaches to God's
children, the love of God reaches out (Rom 5:5). The Spirit ultimately
is made known as the consciousness-generating power that creates
45 J. D. G. Dunn, "Romans 7:14-25 in the Theology of Paul" TZ 31 (1975) 270-81;
also D. Dockery, "Romans 7:14-25: Pauline Tension in the Christian Life" GTJ 2 (1982)
46 An extended discussion can be found in Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life.
47 Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism, 220.
48 Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament 2.121; G. MacRae, "Romans 8:26-27"
Int 34 (1980) 288-97.
Dockery: PAUL'S VIEW OF THE SPIRITUAL LIFE 339
openness for God, enablement in struggle and openness in prayer.49
The Spirit is the downpayment of future glory which will be inherited
by believers in the eschaton. Until then, the community experiences
life in the Spirit in such a way that can be characterized as liberty.
Paradoxically, liberty comes about through obedience just as glory
comes through suffering.
In this essay we have seen that there is hardly any aspect of the
Christian experience that is not influenced by the Spirit's activities.
We briefly surveyed the Spirit's work in the life of the individual
believer and in the believing community. We observed that the ethical
teaching concerning life in the Spirit is shaped by the list of vices and
virtues, by the indicative/imperative statements carried out in time of
the already/not yet tension. Life in the Spirit brings freedom to the
believers in the community.
As the contemporary Church seeks to develop a spiritual theology,
it must be primarily grounded in scripture, not just human experience.
Paul's view of the Spirit suggests parameters and injunctions by which
the confusion in the contemporary Church can be checked. The
tendency toward busyness must be balanced by a Spirit-led contem-
plation. The overstressed themes of triumphalism, so common in the
extreme victorious life teachings, as well as the health, wealth and
prosperity theologies must be countered by a balanced view of strug-
gle and suffering. False teaching that advocates legalism and asceti-
cism must be replaced by Paul's view of freedom, which is freedom
not only from law, but freedom from sin toward obedience, exercised
in responsible love. An evangelical spirituality must develop its shape
from the Pauline guidelines so that the pneumatic experience is neither
totally individualistic, nor is it an out-of-control experience lacking
norms or parameters. Instead, an evangelical spirituality must focus
upon the corporate experience among believers that stresses worship,
mutual commitment and dependency, transparency and authenticity,
responsible freedom and loving obedience.
49 Goppelt, Theology of the New Testament, 2.121-22; A. J. Wedderburn, "Ro-
mans 8:26- Towards a Theology of Glossalalia" SJT 28 (1975) 369-77; also cf. S. Grenz,
Prayer: The Cry for the Kingdom (Peabody, MA; Hendrickson, 1988).
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