Posted by: Dan | July 19, 2006

Becoming the Father: Part VII

2. God's Story: The Missio Dei (cont.)

Movement 4. Overlap: the Mission of the Spirit (sent by the Father and the Son)

The resurrection of Jesus is inevitably followed by the event of Pentecost. Because the resurrection is the eschatological events it necessarily follows that the eschatological Spirit, spoken of in the prophets (cf. esp. Joel 2), should be poured out. Therefore, on Pentecost, the Spirit of the new age is poured out in Jerusalem and, over the course of the Acts narrative, overflows into Samaria, Asia, as it moves from Jerusalem to Rome and inexorably on to the ends of the earth. Of course, the Spirit is only the first fruits of the new age, the Spirit comes only as a down-payment. It continues the process of transformation and new creation begun by Jesus within the present age. Therefore, this fourth movement is defined as a time of overlapping ages.

Within this overlap, the Spirit constantly proclaims to all other powers that their time is now up, that the one creational and covenantal God, revealed in the Lord Jesus, has now come and claimed the entire world as his own. As Karl Barth says, “[t]he game is won, even though the player can still make a few further moves. Actually he is already mated.” The Spirit continues the movement of opposition and subversion that we have now come to recognize as one of the fundamental elements of the missio Dei.

Particularly evident in the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost is the way in which the exile of the nations that occurred at Babel has been overcome. Where before God gave humanity new tongues in order to fracture humanity, God now gives his people new tongues in order to reconcile humanity and unite humanity in Christ. Where before God scattered humanity in exile over the earth, now he commissions his people and sends them out to the ends of the earth proclaiming the end of exile. Just as Jesus brought an end to the exile of Israel and of humanity, now the Spirit calls the Church to bring an end to the exile of the nations that were scattered over the earth. This is the movement in which we now live, it spans from the resurrection of Jesus to the present and on until the return of Jesus in glory.

From a missional perspective it can be said that the Spirit is poured out in order to bring life, light, and comfort. As the Spirit of life, the Spirit brings resurrection life. It transforms God’s people into more than simply “sinners” saved by grace – the Spirit transforms believers into God’s new creation, God’s new humanity incorporated into the crucified and now resurrected and transformed body of Christ. Therefore, the Spirit crafts a kingly people, a people capable of reigning over creation in the way that the Father and the Son reign. The Spirit of life also sets people free from bondage to sin, and allows them to live as forgiven and forgiving people. In this way the Spirit crafts a priestly people. As the Spirit of light, the Spirit reveals truth and provides guidance. The Spirit helps people to discern the times in which they live, and allows people to speak truthfully in a world full of deceit, lies, and manipulation. Therefore, the Spirit crafts a prophetic people. As the Spirit of comfort, the Spirit journeys intimately with all those who suffer and, in this way, the Spirit crafts a loving people. This is a people defined by unity. They are united with both the body of Christ that exists within the Church and the body of Christ that exists among those who are crucified today. The Spirit of comfort crafts a resurrection-people who possess, for the first time, the power to follow Jesus’ road to the cross and Jesus’ descent into hell. In sum, the missional task of the Spirit is to transform people of the old age into people of the new age, and to lead that people in the ongoing process of transformation – both of themselves and of the world around them.

The outpouring of the eschatological Spirit into the people of God introduces a further novum into the missio Dei that points to a consummation of creation that is greater than Edenic existence. At this point of the story, God has become so intimately with his people that he is actually dwells within his people, and causes his people to dwell within himself. Stated in trinitarian terms the Spirit indwells believers as they are incorporated into the body of Christ and therefore confirmed to the image of the Father. Whereas, in the beginning, humanity receives the breath of life and reflects the image of God, now, within the overlap of the ages, humanity is actually being incorporated into the inner trinitarian fellowship of the Father, Son and Spirit.

At this point we have completed our sketch of the major movements of the biblical narrative up until the present time. However, there is one final movement –- that of consummation and the new creation of all things, but we shall leave reflections upon that movement until the conclusion of this paper. Therefore, before continuing to discuss how Christians today are to live within this story and embody these movements it is necessary to reflect critically upon this model and then summarize the conclusions we have drawn from the biblical narrative about the missio Dei.
__________
Sources:
Karl Barth, Dogmatics in Outline.
Richard Hays, The Moral Vision of the New Testament.

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