Here are some more thoughts about God’s Spirit.
God’s Spirit (ruach in the Hebrew and pneuma in the Greek) is the “breath” of God. As God breathes out, he breathes his very “essence.” Since God is love, his Spirit – his breath, his essence – is personified love.
Stanley Grenz states in Theology for the Community of God, “God is love within himself: The Father loves the Son; the Son reciprocates that love, and this love between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit.”
The Spirit is also the creative Spirit. He hovers over the waters in the opening verses of creation. And in each moment of divine declaration, “God said,” is the implied reality that God’s word is accompanied by God’s breath. So creation is not only formed by the Word of God, but given life and movement by the Breath of God, who is love. The personal, dynamic love between the Father and Son, who is the Spirit, is the personal power behind the entire act of creation and the means by which all things exist. In other words, creation is a living expression of God’s love and goodness. That’s why at each phase of creation, God can proclaim, “It is good.”
But the Spirit is also the consummating Spirit. The cosmos was created good, but not complete. It is dynamic, created with a divine design to go somewhere. The Spirit’s task is to bring about the Father’s designs for creation, moving and drawing it toward its finale as the new creation.
What does the new creation look like? It will be the complete renewal of the cosmos into the fullness of true community, with the divine community of the Trinity at is center. Creation will become community in its complete and truest form, participating and reflecting the Trinitarian community.
Stanley Grenz offers three characteristic about the renewed creation. First, the renewed creation will be a place where God is fully present. Second, it will be a place of complete fellowship in peace, harmony, love and righteousness – not only between humans, but every living being in the cosmos. Third, it will be a place of glory. God will fully reign and his glory unleashed upon the earth. And all aspects of life will in turn, glorify God.
So the Spirit, who is God’s love personified, forms creation, fills creation and moves creation toward its finale. In the midst of this sweeping ministry, the Spirit establishes a beachhead of the future new creation/fullness of community through God’s people, as embodied in the life of Jesus.
Jesus is the climax and model of humanity living fully in God’s kingdom according to the Spirit. To borrow language from Colossians, he is the “firstborn” or the prototype of God’s renewed creation, the fullness of community.
We must remember Jesus’ place in God’s Story. He wasn’t just empowered to live his individual life in God’s future kingdom. That’s a contradiction in terms since life in God’s future kingdom is the fullness of community. Jesus lived in God’s coming age while embedded in the present age to inaugurate the renewed creation in the present. God’s future fullness of community climaxed in Jesus in the present age. Therefore, his entire life was transformative to everything it touched. Healings, confrontations, teaching, friendships, compassion, etc. were the establishing of God’s coming age in the present – the formation of God’s full and future community in the here and now.
Jesus sends the same Spirit to his followers so they may continue in what he established. In Matthew 18:20, Jesus is present when two or more gather in his name or nature. In other words, Jesus is continually incarnated in the communal life of his people when they gather to live in the order of God’s future renewed creation now.
Much more can be said, but I want to emphasize one crucial point regarding the Spirit. We are blessed with the Spirit not just to have a guarantee of our own ticket to heaven. That’s the same heresy we’ve possessed about salvation in Christ. Salvation in Christ and the presence of the Spirit are more about life on earth than admittance to heaven. Both are parts of a larger plan – the journey of the entire creation toward God’s renewed creation.
Nor are we blessed with the Spirit just to have great church meetings, either in a sanctuary or in a home. Nor are we blessed with the Spirit just to have power to live our individual “Christian lives.” Nor are we blessed with the Spirit just to assist in evangelism or other “functions” of the church. The bigger Story is that the Spirit enables the people of God to be the eschatological people of God — people who live in the order of God’s future renewed creation now, and by doing so, lead the rest of creation in the same direction.
Like Abraham and the nation of Israel, we are blessed to be a blessing. We are blessed with the Spirit so that the very nature of God, who is love, can transform us personally and corporately into the likeness of Jesus so we in turn can lead the entire creation into the same reality. That’s the message of Romans 8.
But the Spirit’s task of leading creation toward renewed creation focuses on the followers of Christ. That’s because Christlikeness is God’s future age, the new creation, in human form. Since humans were created to govern creation, as we mature toward Christlikeness we can increasing govern creation properly. This will naturally be in synchronization and cooperation with the Spirit, who is leading humanity and creation toward the new creation.
When you look at Jesus, you see the truest human expression of the future age, the fullness of community in a human life. He is God, who is love, incarnate. He is life in the kingdom of God in human form. He is the human expression of the renewed creation. He is the prototype for humanity’s existence in that renewed creation, which is full community.
Jesus is all of this through the Spirit in order that we too may live according to the Spirit and participate with him in his life. Jesus, in the Spirit, transforms alienated human life into redeemed communal life. Every conversion is by the consummating Spirit, bringing one more alienated human into redeemed community. Every healing is by the consummating Spirit, transforming brokenness into true community, whether it is physically, emotionally, socially, structurally, etc. Every step in spiritual formation is by the consummating Spirit, transforming the human person into one who can adequately and properly live in God’s renewed creation and community. To be in Christ is to live according to the Spirit, who is love. And every aspect of life according to the Spirit in God’s people is the further re-creation of that specific aspect of the cosmos toward the new heavens and the new earth, the fullness of community.