Criswell Theological Review 3.2 (1989) 327-339.

Copyright 1989 by The Criswell CollegeCited with permission.











Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,

Louisville, KY 40280



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; Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988);

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 (San Francisco:

Harper & Row, 1988).

4 J. Wimber and K. Springer, Power Evangelism (San Francisco: Harper & Row,

1986); idem, Power Healing (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987); J. White, When the

Spirit Comes with Power and Wonders Among God's People (Downers Grove: Inter-

Varsity, 1988).




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

spiritual renewal.

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

of immorality.

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

(Chicago: Moody, 1986); Z. Hodges, The Eclipse of Grace (Dallas: Redencion Viva,

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.

J. R. DeWitt; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975). Also see the article in this issue by

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-

logy (ed. J. Davis; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979) 60-67.



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.




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 (Philadelphia: Fortress,

1981) 18.

17 E. Schweizer, "ui[oqesi<a," TDNT 8 (1972) 399.

18 Guthrie, New Testament Theology, 554.




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. Col 3:12-15). These Spirit-

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: Grand Rapids:

Eerdmans, 1958) 57.

20 J. Murray, Epistle to the Romans (2 vols.; NIC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959)


21 R. Bultmann, Theology of the New Testament (ed. K. Grobel; 2 vols.; New

York: Scribners, 1951-55) 1.153.

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




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. Liberty is one of the great

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; Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979) 195-207.

24 Cf. R. N. Longenecker, Paul, Apostle of Liberty (New York: Harper & Row,


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.




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 (Grand Rapids: Eerd-

mans, 1962) 167; also cr. Stott, Baptism and Fullness, 48.

29 Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 485.




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

(v 19).31

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

authentic obedience.

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.; 1CC;Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1975-1979) 1.295-96.

31 Ladd, Theology of the New Testament, 486.




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

Christ" (Rom 15:5; cf. Eph 4:20-24; Col 2:6-8) and the frequent

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. Liberty is not to be used as an

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.; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980)

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.




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

(Col 2:23). He views the ascetic approach to the Christian life as

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, "Liberty," ZPEB 3 (1975) 921; cf. W. Longsworth, "Ethics in Paul:

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 Meat in Corinth:

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.



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

to come.

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. Wilson; Cambridge: University Press, 1979) 195-209.

43 This idea has received its fullest articulation in the work of O. Cullmann,

Salvation in History (tr. F. Filson; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1951); also cf. A. A. Hoekema,

"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.



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.




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).



This material is cited with gracious permission from:

The Criswell College

4010 Gaston Ave.

Dallas, TX 75246

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