Trinitarian Reformational

An integrated vision

Biblical Reflection 3: The Holy Spirit

The biblical understanding of mystery is that which is in the plan of God and which is unfolded in the course of time. It is the working out of the economy of God. It is not the positing of an unknowable realm. We cannot know God fully, and God is not in any place – but the world is created, directed and transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit . The work of the Spirit is not to underplay the created order, but to intensify it and bring it to it to resolution. The outcome of all things is in God’s hands – that is what the nature of the mystery is all about. We cannot manipulate God to be an object of our plans. God will always be one step ahead of us: the Father calling us, the Son going before as the pioneer and first fruits, and the Holy Spirit opening up new opportunities. As Abraham Kuyper states:

“The Father brings forth, the Son disposes and arranges, the Holy Spirit perfects.”[1]

There is a close link between the redemption of the universe and the resurrection of Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit.[2] In the pre-incarnate Son, the universe is made through the power of the Holy Spirit, so also though the resurrection of Jesus by the same Holy Spirit; the universe is restored and brought to its future potential through the adoption of the redeemed ones as the children of God. Romans 8 is a prime source for this:

RO 8:22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as childreren, the redemption of our bodies.

The Resurrection above all represented an irreversible development in the history of the world: from that point it could not but proceed to the end. The End has been brought into history through the resurrection of Jesus, the culmination of his proclamation of the Kingdom and his death in fulfilment of the judgment brought upon fallen humanity. This is not to say that that it was not part of the unfolding economy of God from the beginning. But from the point of the Resurrection, what was previously promised was now made actual.

The vision of global peace, when the earth shall be full of the glory of God as the waters cover the sea [Isa 11:9 Hab 2:14] is a result of this manifold work of God in the world through the diversity of human relations. This vision is based on the nations coming to know God, and the end of all things as they are consummated in the return of Christ.

The new heavens and the new earth are the result of the transformation, not the destruction, of the present order (2 Peter 3:10 which refers to the heavens and earth being burned up, refers not to their destruction but to their being refined[3]). What is anticipated in Scripture is a transformation of heaven and earth, of our own bodies – the whole of our being and the our known environment will be made anew (not a new universe but the present one changed not beyond all recognition, but transcending the pains and sorrows of the present giving them a previously only dimly longed for and only imperfectly at best foreseen, weight and significance. This is beautifully brought out by C.S. Lewis in his book The Great Divorce, where the water is so solid that it can be walked upon.

Through the Spirit new possibilities are opened up, not in a random way (although it may seem so at the time), but in a way that creates new possibilities for the future as the Holy Spirit moves all things forward to the Sabbath of all things; the goal of all creation.

Jeremy Ive

New International Version (NIV)

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society


[1] Vol I. Chapter 2 The Work of the Holy Spirit VI. The Host of Heaven and of Earth.

[2] See Rom. 1:4.

[3] N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (SPCK, 2003), p. 462. See also Al Wolters, “Worldview and Textual Criticism in 2 Peter 3:10”, Westminster Theological Journal, 49:405-13.

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February 9, 2009 - Posted by | Christian Worldview

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