Q. I think you are exactly right that Paul is saying in Gal. 3.1ff. that the Spirit is involved in the believer’s life from the outset. It is not somehow received as a ‘2nd blessing’ or some kind of baptism of the Spirit that comes subsequent to conversion. At least in some Protestant contexts somehow the Spirit has been turned into an it or a force (may the force be with you) rather than a person, and this in turn has led to discussions about getting more of the Spirit or getting Spirit-filled etc. In short, the impersonal language used of the Spirit by many has led to wrong conclusions. If the Spirit is a person, you can no more have a little bit of the Spirit in your life than a woman can be a little bit pregnant. You don’t get the Spirit on the installment plan— some now, more later. Of course, the Spirit can progressively get hold of more aspects of one’s personality over time— one’s mind, one’s emotions, one’s will etc. But that is a different matter. It ought to have been clear from 1 Cor. 12 that when Paul says ‘by one Spirit we were all baptized into the one body’ he is talking about first things, what happens at the beginning of the Christian life, not something subsequent to believing or trusting God. I wonder how you deal with the de-personalizing of the Spirit in various Protestant contexts and its bad fruit?
A. You and I are on the same page. One way of putting it is to say that many evangelicals have treated Romans 1-4 as ‘how you get justified’ – and since the Spirit is hardly mentioned there they assume this happens without the Spirit – and then there is of course a gap, which needs to be plugged, and so people suddenly discover a ‘second blessing’ and all that. SO many confusions both historical and cultural that I can’t possibly untangle them all here. Paul says it quite briskly in Romans 8: if someone doesn’t have the Messiah’s spirit, that person doesn’t belong to him. Of course there are, in the NT too, moments of special ‘filling’ etc (Acts 13 etc) but the various rather rigid ways that language has been interpreted in the C20 simply tells us that the traditions were not expecting the new outpourings which have occurred and didn’t have a good language for them when they did . . .