The Presence of God, part 10

We have seen from scripture the eschatological orientation of the Holy Spirit’s work and mission in the time between the absence and the parousia of Christ. He was imparted to the believing community in "the last days" to show Christ’s disciples "things to come" (Jn.16:13; 1 Cor.2:9-12). These things had been promised to the fathers of Israel, (Rom.15:8) and afterwards were foreshadowed in the Law of Moses (Heb.10:1,36f). They were labeled the things of Christ and of his glory (Jn.16:14,15), thus "the good things to come" that embodied Christ’s revelation or parousia (presence/arrival) in power and glory (Matt.24:30; 25:31; 26:64; 1 Pet.1:11-13). Accordingly, these "better" things comprised the new world order of Christ’s "more excellent ministry" (Heb.8:6-13) wherein and whereby the disciples of Christ were received or gathered unto himself (Jn.14:1-3; 2 Thess.2:1), and thus revealed or manifested with him in his glory (Col.3:4; Rom.8:16-19).

In this understanding of the Spirit’s Christ-centered work and its bearing on the restoration/fulfillment of all things spoken of God or written in scripture (Acts 3:19-26; Lk.21:22), there is much to commend the view that "the gift of the Spirit" and "the promise" mentioned by Peter in Acts 2:38,39 are broader in scope than the receiving of the Spirit himself. Unquestionably the Holy Spirit was promised and given of God (Joel 2; John 16; Acts 1:4-8). But restricting the "gift" and "promise" in Acts 2:38,39 to the Spirit himself (or to miraculous gifts of the Spirit) overshadows the Spirit’s Christ-centered work during the interim period of Christ’s absence. As vividly demonstrated in Acts 2, the Spirit was sent to glorify Christ, not himself. Those who appeal to Acts 2 for a Spirit-centered gospel fail to see that immediately after his coming was manifested and explained (vv.1-21), attention is turned wholly to Christ (vv.22-47), a pattern that holds true throughout the New Testament. The Spirit was sent to show, declare, or make known what is of Christ — "the things that have been freely given to us by God…which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Cor.2:9,12). The things "prepared" and "freely given" by God, which Paul said were being revealed by the Spirit, pertained to "the promise" that consistently is centered in Christ throughout scripture. We believe, therefore, that "the gift of the Spirit" and "the promise" in Acts 2 point in this direction.

Christ and The Promise Of The Spirit
In the context of resurrection Peter said of Christ, "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear" (Acts 2:33). What is meant by Christ’s having received from the Father "the promise of the Holy Spirit"? Is the reference to Christ’s baptism when the heavens parted and the Spirit descended upon him like a dove? (Mark 1:10). Will the context of Acts 2:33 support this? Apparently not, for it is evident that on both sides of verse 33 the subject is the "resurrection of Christ. Peter’s intent was to show that the resurrection of which David spoke (Psa.16:8-11; Acts 2:25-28) had reference to Christ, not to David himself (Acts 2:29-35). As seen in Psalm 16 and Acts 2 this resurrection was promised of God, the fulfillment of which is linked in scripture to the power of the Holy Spirit (John 6:62,63; Rom.1:1-4; 8:11; 1 Pet.3:18). Therefore Christ, not David, was the one who received from the Father this promise which is said to be "of the Spirit," i.e., by means of the Spirit.

Having received the promise of resurrection through the Spirit, Peter declares that Christ has poured out this same Spirit in the believing Community. This had powerful implications for Christ’s disciples. Christ was the first but not the last, the only one, to be raised from sin-death or from Hades (Acts 2:31; Col.1:18). The Spirit of Christ’s resurrection was poured out for the express purpose that others might be raised "in the likeness of his resurrection" (Rom.6:5-8). Christ was the "firstfruits" of them that slept (1 Cor.15:20-23). He was "the firstborn from the dead" (Col.1:18) — the first to "receive from the Father the promise of the Spirit" (Acts 2:33). Thus Paul advances his "resurrection" polemic in Romans 8:1-11 in terms of the gospel (the Spirit) rather than the Law (the flesh), concluding his train of thought with the words, "But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you" (v.11).

Since the promise, the Spirit, and resurrection were held intact throughout Peter’s sermon (vv.22-40), and in consideration of other texts yet to be examined, there is every reason to believe that life/resurrection lies at the heart of "the gift of the Spirit" and "the promise" in verses 38,39 — a gift and promise of life that is centered in Christ (John 11:25). He is the promised seed of Abraham who brings what the Law could not give — life and righteousness (Gal.3:16-22). It is Christ, not the Spirit himself, who stands for all that is contained in "the promise" in Acts 2:39, a promise that Peter said is "to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call." The role of the Holy Spirit with respect to "the promise" was indispensable, but his work would have been void and empty of all meaning had it not been anchored wholly and exclusively in Christ. From every aspect of his work he was "the Spirit of Christ."

In the next article, we will enlarge on "the promise of the Spirit" (e.g., Galatians 3:14) in connection with "life" and "righteousness" through the "faith of Christ." We will see in Galatian 3 and Philippians 3 how (from Paul’s standpoint) the futuristic dimensions of "life" (resurrection) and "righteousness" (see the "hope of righteousness" in Gal.5:5) harmoniously blend into the Christ-centered "gift" and "promise" of the Spirit in Acts 2. Furthermore, it is impressively clear that Paul, within the contextual setting of "the gospel" vs. "the Law", equates "righteousness through faith in Christ" with "resurrection from the dead" (Phil.3:8-16).