06 November 2009

little messiahs

"After the resurrection, God's kingdom, which had begun to manifest itself in Jesus himself, would continue to transform the world through the community of empowered disciples. The church is an extension not so much of the incarnation as of the anointing of Jesus. Jesus is the prototype of the church, which now receives its own baptism in the Spirit. Spirit, who maintained Jesus' relationship with the Father and empowered him for mission, now calls the church into that relationship, giving it the power to carry on the mission. There had to be, after Jesus' departure, a colony of heaven, living the life and power and experiencing the freedom of the kingdom. Spirit indwells the church as a perpetual Pentecost and communicates gifts to its members. Spirit ecclesiology focuses not on the quality of the members but on the power of God at work in and through them."

Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove: IVP, 1996), 114.

A couple of important clauses in this perspective of the Spirit. First, however, is the notion that we are not so much the continuing incarnation of Jesus as we are the continuing anointing of Jesus. This means that we are brought into his anointing - his Messiaship - as those who participate in his life, death and resurrection (think Romans 5, et al; but also consider places such as the risen Christ's promise of sharing his reign given in Revelation 2:26-27). The implication here is that (once again) the focus of the Christian faith is not personal salvation but the renewal of creation - the work does not cease when we have experienced the resurrection part of the story . . . it goes on to share in the experience of his messianic anointing.

And there is an interesting connection to baptism on this: for Jesus was baptized primarily as vindication and anointing of his messianic vocation (his was not a baptism of repentance), just as our experience of baptism should inspire us to bring the kingdom of heaven into earth more than solidifying our security as those who are 'saved.' But does this also help nuance our perception of Peter's famous words: 'Repent and be baptized' (Acts 2:38)? Is this a moral decision followed by a public announcement? Or is this a moral decision with a directed purpose for the outworking of a newly adopted lifestyle?

Once the passion and purpose of the action repent and be baptized have been actualized, then we can see the emergence of the church as a 'colony of heaven' which lives within 'a perpetual Pentecost' of anointing for mission. The church seems very quick to share in the resurrection of Jesus (though not so much participate in his suffering and death). If we are going to rush for the co-heirs motif then we must realize that the path is through the work of the kingdom which he initiated and gave to those who would willingly bear his name.

Perhaps it is less appropriate to think of believers as embodying the presence of Christ to the world and more appropriate that we believe our work to be the continuing of his Messianic office.

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