A Wee Sketch of the Holy Spirit

A Wee Sketch of the Holy Spirit November 26, 2011

I swiped this from my friend in Ireland, Patrick Mitchel … it was just too much for our Weekly Meanderings.

Last night in our wee church we had our monthly ‘Forum’ on an issue related to the Christian faith. It was my turn to lead and I proposed 6 things and we had a really good discussion which continued over a pint afterwards. He’s a skeleton summary for what it’s worth.

CONTENTION 1; The blessing of the Spirit is the eschatological fulfillment of God’s promises and includes both Jews and Gentiles

CONTENTION 2: The Christian life begins and continues in and through the Spirit

1.   It is the Spirit who reveals the gospel

2.   The Spirit brings the believer into an objectively new position before God

3.   The Spirit brings the believer into an ongoing relational experience of God

CONTENTION 3 :The church is essentially a fellowship of the Spirit

CONTENTION 4. Christians belong to the new age of the Spirit as opposed to the old age of the flesh (which is not some sort of inner existential struggle between two natures within the believer)

CONTENTION 5: sanctification has  past, present and future aspects

i. A Finished Reality (‘This is who you are’)

ii. Ongoing spiritual and ethical transformation by the Spirit (‘Be who you are’)

iii. Future Glory (‘This is who you will be’)

CONTENTION 6: Perhaps the biggest differences among Christians is how much spiritual progress Christians should make through the empowering presence of the Spirit

And I have to bring in Gordon Fee here [note his wee dig at Luther’s ‘justified sinner’ ( simil iustus et peccator)]

‘Paul expected people to exhibit changed behaviour … because the Spirit empowers this new life, Paul has little patience for the point of view that allows for people to be “justified sinners” without appropriate changes in attitudes and conduct … Nor would Paul understand an appeal to helplessness on the part of those who live in and walk by the Spirit … in which the “flesh” continually proves to be the greater power.’ Fee,Empowering Presence, 879-80

But the last word to Paul

‘And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God.’ (Colossians 1:10)

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  • RJS

    Nice. I’d like to participate in such a discussion.

  • Well RJS if you are ever in Ireland we could arrange something 😉

  • RJS

    I’ve not had the opportunity to visit Ireland yet … But some day I hope.

  • Mick Porter

    Likewise, sounds like a great discussion! The Fee quote is gold, as is the Colossians snippet in this context (btw, Fee’s treatment of Spirit in Colossians in GEP is seriously useful too…) but the most attractive thing in all this is the level of dialogue.

  • And here I was looking for a drawing of some sort…

  • JGS

    Paul also said that he continues to struggle doing the things that he knows he should not do. The Holy Spirit changes us dramatically, but we remain human.

  • John W Frye

    CONTENTION 3 :The church is essentially a fellowship of the Spirit. USAmerican evangelicalism is numb to this contention. To us the church is “doctrinally correct” or “missional” or “simple” or “attractional” or “organic” or “emergent” or “expositional.” The Holy Spirit is simply the forgotten member of the Trinity.

  • RJS


    You left out “Invitational”.

  • nathan

    Two questions:
    1. How would you unpack Contention 4 for the average church person who does understand this as inner existential struggle?

    2. John Frye, how would you describe what the fellowship of the Spirit looks like/functions as (practically speaking…how is it expressed?) over and against the “markers” those other words seek to express?

  • RJS


    I’m not John needless to say, and he may have other opinions.

    But aren’t all those other markers things that we do or boundaries that we set, forms or purposes that we try to place on the gathering?

    The church is a fellowship of the Spirit, a gathering of Christians in the Spirit. The church has a mission, and should be constantly inviting people to join … but the something to join is this fellowship of the Spirit.

  • Percival

    Love it! So concise but suggestive of so much more.

  • Mark

    I’m with Nathan. Let’s “flesh out” (haha) Contention 4.

  • nathan

    i guess I’m asking what does “gathering in the spirit” look like if it stands juxtaposed to the other words.

    I don’t see those other words as “boundaries” or purposes “placed on” the gathering. All those words, to me, are attempts by various groups/people to understand and express what the Church is doing or the manner in which they do it. None of those things fully capture the Church…

    For example, “doctrinally correct” is a description of the character of the Fellowship.

    “Missional/Invitational” could describe the stance and posture of the Fellowship in the world.

    “Simple” describes an organizational approach to the Fellowship.

    “Attractional” describes another posture…

    And so on and so forth, I don’t know if the deployment of these words means pneumatology is more neglected than it generally already is in the N.A. non-charismatic/pentecostal Christian world.

    So my question is “what is the fellowship of the Spirit”?

    How is that phrase being defined if the need is to assert it as a “contention”?

    What is being contended in that statement?

    What does that actually mean/look like in its expression if those other words are only a constellation of descriptors that express a variety of modes the fellowship is found in?

    I have my ideas, but I’d be interested in how people would unpack what ‘fellowship of the Spirit’ looks like, or how else can we know if we are actually participating in it?

    Especially if we are, again, asserting that those other words don’t describe it, but only give definition to it’s energies and not its essence….

    looking forward to hearing!

  • Nathan, I’ll jump in, but please be patient. I don’t know that I have a good answer. In my opinion “fellowship of the Spirit” is similar to the “unity of the Spirit” (Ephesians 4) in that it is something we do not create. If I belong to the Spirit and the Spirit indwells me then I am in fellowship with everyone else who is indwelled and owned by the Spirit. I think as a baby-boomer American I tend to want to make everything something that can be practically applied, labeled, and neatly categorized. But this is not one of those things that can be done. I am not the source of the fellowship–it isn’t a matter of what style of assembly I attend or whether or not I am charismatic. The Spirit owns the fellowship (fellowship of the Spirit is possessive, isn’t it?). As with the unity of the Spirit, I have do do everything I can to maintain it, but I don’t create it or use technique to bring it about.

    Don’t know if that even approaches the question or not. But it’s a stab.

  • RJS


    I’d be interested to hear what Patrick has to contribute here. I may be taking it in a very different way than he intended – especially if Darryl is close.

  • Douglas McCall

    Darryl #14 This is exactly what I have been trying to explain to people what the church is, to the people in my circle. It is of the same mind,spirit,and soul that brings the church, not of a doing, or bringing anything to the table for a meeting. It is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit with us as one. I believe that we have this need to have togetherness of bodies, when in fact it is the togetherness of the spirit is what we are missing. The fullness of Christ will bring us to fullness of the Spirit. Thanks,Darryl

  • nathan

    but what does being of the same mind, spirit and soul actually look like?
    We are embodied beings. How do we know we have that “sameness”, “unity”, “fellowship” beyond merely claiming it?

    What is the substantive content of these words within an embodied context?

    What is the togetherness of the Spirit beyond some amorphous sensibility or feeling or undefined “contention”?

    I don’t think the Church’s essence is captured in the words John Frye mentions, but then what is it? AND why would we problematize the various expressions of it for various contexts?