« AnteriorContinuar »
Now this indwelling of Christ is asserted as true of all believers. To secure an entrance for Him into the inner life of men was the very object of the apostle's ministry. To the Galatians, hesitating between the flesh and the Spirit as the principle of their lives, he writes, in that strange mother-cry, “my little children with whom I travail in birth till Christ be formed within you.” 1 Nothing less would satisfy him than Christ's taking shape and form within them so as to be the all-controlling power of their lives. Believers were certified to be God's children by their willingly allowing themselves to be led by the Spirit within. By the Spirit they have power to crucify the flesh and its affections, to mortify the deeds of the body,4 to rise superior to the law of sin and death.5 Being “in the Spirit” constitutes believers arvevmatikoí; and apart from the possession of the Spirit, they have no claim to be ranked as Christians at all. As tvevmatikoi, they are distinguished from others who are mere “men.”?
This indwelling of Christ, and participation by His people of His Spirit as the principle of their lives, abolishes all separateness of life or function in them. If individuality can be said to remain, it is only as the sphere in which that One life, of which Christ is the source, is to be embodied in a distinctive form. “He that is joined to the Lord is one Spirit;"8 he loses that self hood or separateness of being in which self, as long as it is the principle of life, is intrenched; and his life is henceforth merged in a Higher than his own, in the life of love and goodness that animates all in whom Christ dwells. The place and function of the individual is to be a member of Christ, one by whom a portion of the common life is exercised and manifested. And the collective society of believers is constituted the
i Gal. iv. 19.
2 Gal. v. 18.
3 Gal. v. 24.
Body of Christ, the living organism united to Him as the body is to the soul; and as His natural body in the days of His flesh was the means by which He had intercourse with the world, the medium by which His Personal life expressed itself and accomplished its purposes, as well as the vehicle by which He conveyed His gifts of healing and blessing to men,
—so His Church, or the Society of believers, is His Mystical Body in which He reappears on earth. It is the instrument by which now He effects His purposes in the world, reveals Himself and transmits His saving energy. Its function is to interpret and represent Him, to be the “ Epistle” of Him, declaratory of His Mind and Will, to be the Mirror “reflecting" the glory of His Face, the “ Body” that through its various members does His Will,4 the “ Temple” or “Shrine” that is to be kept holy from all coarseness so as to let His Divine Presence shine through it. The language in which the Indwelling of Christ in His people is described excludes the idea of there being any save One principle of personal life in them. Each, indeed, is but a part of the one supreme Personality of Christ who lives in them all, absorbing into His own their individual lives; and they, on their part, reach their perfection in the measure in which their own separate lives are lost in the common One that flows from the all-inclusive personality of Christ,—"ye are all one man in Jesus Christ.” 1
1“ The Church," says Gore, “is the extension and perpetuation of the Incarnation in the world.” And again, “This visible human society exists to receive, to embody, and to communicate a spiritual life. And this life is none other than the life of the Incarnate. The Church exists to perpetuate in every age the life of Jesus, the union of Godhead with manhood” (Bampton Lecture, p. 219). This exalted conception of the Church is too much lost sight of. We are grateful to the school to which Canon Gore belongs for the prominence it receives in their teaching. But we must differ from them in the use they make of this conception to support the theory of sacramental grace. Surely it is to the influence of the sanctified personalities that make up the Body of Christ we must look for the conveyance of the blessing of the Spirit of God that resides in His Church, and not to the handling of material things. ? 2 Cor. iii. 3.
3 2 Cor. iii. 18. 4 1 Cor. xii, 12.
51 Cor. vi. 19.
This mystical Body is the New Humanity, which, in accordance with the eternal purpose of God, Christ came into the world to create. And it is in thus entering into the very springs of our being by the energy of the Spirit, in order to make us alive toward God and victorious over sin and death, and to mould us inwardly and outwardly into His own likeness, that He discharges His function as the Second Adam of the human race. The language in which the union between Christ and His people is described is not to be understood in a metaphysical sense, as if the supremacy of His life in us and our union with Him involved the literal absorption of all personalities into His own; it is the language of religious feeling and experience, and is not to be taken as psychological truth. It expresses the feeling that in the relation that subsists between Christ and His people there is no room for self as a principle of moral action, and that the Spirit of Christ, of love and of holiness, is the all-controlling principle of the personal life of each. It indicates, too, that this supernatural element made itself felt in the experience of the believer as an overmastering impulse, operating almost after the manner of a natural force of a lofty order, manifesting itself not so much in works which a man did as in dispositions and affections which he experienced. At the same time, the language that speaks in this wise of the Spirit alternates with language that is of a different sort, and that suggests that in the consciousness of the believer the Spirit was an
i Gal. iii. 28.
2 “This possession by the Spirit is a fact for the explanation of which we will seek in vain in the categories of our psychological systems, but it is none the less real on that account. We are led to it by the simple analysis of the Pauline consciousness, and there will come again a time when it will be better understood than it is to-day” (Paret).
3 Gal. v. 22.
exalted form of the nous or inner man himself, a new faculty or exercise of will due to the influence at the roots of our personality of the Personal Christ; for we are enjoined to “walk in the Spirit," and to “sow to the Spirit" and not “ to the flesh," as if this new force left us still masters of our own destiny and laid on us the duty of acting in accordance with its movements. It is plain that along with Christ's dwelling in us, and His possession, as it were, of the seat of our life, there may coexist independent action on our part, that proceeds from the old self-life and shows that our own personal being is not wholly one with the Higher Principle. Paul recognised this; he was not blind to the sins into which Christians fell. We can see that it was a perplexity to him how they who had Christ dwelling in them could sin; but he does not allow himself to deny, on that account, that they had Christ dwelling in them. “He bates no jot of his ideal Gospel.” 2 He rather impresses upon them more strongly than ever the fact with which their conduct was in such flagrant contradiction. “Know ye not,” he exclaims (recalling to them what they were as members of Christ)," that the Holy Spirit is in you, that ye are the temple of God ?”3 It was the remembrance of what they were “in Christ” and of His indwelling in them that alone could give the impulse to conduct that was in keeping with it. Whatever difficulty this great idealist might have in reconciling the actual facts of the Christian life with the operative presence of Christ living out His own Divine life in Christians, whatever account he might give to himself of the discrepancy in believers between the Ideal and the Real, he saw that the true remedy and the secret of the approximation of the latter to the former lay in their realising more constantly this Divine Presence. Thus only would they be enabled to act in a manner worthy of their real selves, and true to their deepest life.
i Gal. v. 16, vi. 8.
2 " It was beyond all doubt a wonderful faith that, in spite of appearances to the contrary, held fast to the reality of these gifts of God, and that could in patience wait till it manifested itself also to the senses, a faith that was supported by the near approach of the Parousia” (Wernle, Der Christ u. die Sünde bei Paulus, p. 60).
3 1 Cor. vi. 19.
This doctrine of the mystical Christ is an essential part of the Pauline conception. The power of Christ to dwell in His people and to communicate His own spiritual life to them was an aspect of His Glory that the apostle could not make enough of; it was everything to him. The presence of Christ within was the summum bonum of man, it was the very essence of the Christian Good; if he rejoiced in being a child of God, it was because he was one with the Exalted Christ who is the Son. It was the fountain of moral inspiration and strength, for he was one with the mighty Spirit of God. It was, moreover, the ground of his hope of immortality. We can see from the Epistles that Paul deeply desiderated for himself a well-grounded assurance that death would not be the end. And it was a welcome thought to him that, through fellowship with the Spiritual Christ, he was partaker of a principle of life that had in the Person of the Risen One already proved its imperishableness, and that could not fail to impart immortality to all who had it from that source. “If Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness; if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ Jesus from the dead shall also quicken your mörtal bodies through the Spirit that dwelleth in you.”
1 A recent writer (Teichmann, Die Paul. Vorstellungen von Auserstehung, p. 1) says, “The Pauline faith in Christ is at bottom a faith in the Power of the Christ to rescue man from the perishableness of time and to confer upon him the imperishableness of life eternal.” This is perhaps an exaggeration. But there can be no doubt about Paul's deep personal interest in a Christ who had overcome death and could fulfil the destiny of man as created for immortality.
2 Rom. viji. 1o, II.