Posts Tagged Holy Spirit
In preparation for Sunday’s sermon, I encountered difficulty translating and interpreting the term πνεῦμα in John 4:23–24:
“ἀλλ᾿ ἔρχεται ὥρα καὶ νῦν ἐστιν, ὅτε οἱ ἀληθινοὶ προσκυνηταὶ προσκυνήσουσιν τῷ πατρὶ ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ· καὶ γὰρ ὁ πατὴρ τοιούτους ζητεῖ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτόν. πνεῦμα ὁ θεός, καὶ τοὺς προσκυνοῦντας αὐτὸν ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ δεῖ προσκυνεῖν” (John 4:23-24 GNT28-T). https://accordance.bible/link/read/GNT28-T#John_4:23
Regarding the first and the third usages, Leon Morris concludes that the term references the human spirit, that is, the inner being (The Gospel According to John, 270–71). Andreas Köstenberger seems confused in his attempt to interpret the term. He jostles back and forth between the Holy Spirit and the inner person (“the heart”). He understands the syntax of ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθείᾳ to function epexegetically, “in spirit, that is, in truth.” For this reason, he sees an allusion to the Spirit of truth revealed later in John’s Gospel, but Köstenberger feels that such a clear reference to the Holy Spirit may have been “too advanced” for the Samaritan woman (John in the BECNT, 156–57).
BDAG concurs with Morris, identifying πνεύματι as “the source and seat of insight, feeling, and will . . . the representative part of the inner life . . . The pure, inner worship of God that has nothing to do with holy times, places, appurtenances, or ceremonies.”
The human Spirit or the Holy Spirit? With these two contradictory interpretations in mind, I decided to investigate primary sources for interpretive insights. Specifically, I wanted to discover whether the early Christian use of nomina sacra may shed any light on what the early scribes thought about the term. Here are my findings thus far:
- πνι, πνα, πνι in P66, P75, 01, 032S, 13, 33, 1424
- πνι, Πνα, πνι in 02, 04
- No NS for πνεῦμα or πμεύματι in 03
- πνι, πνεῦμα, πνι in 05
In the first pattern, the scribes made ready use of the NS for πνεῦμα; however, I am not well enough read on the range of meaning for this particular NS to know if usage = Holy Spirit every time. The second pattern includes Codices Alexandrinus (02) and Ephraemi Rescriptus (04) and the distinct capital pi at the beginning of verse 24.
The scribe of Vaticanus (and therefore, the scribe of P75 too) may have provided some interpretative insight, as it is thought to share a heritage with P75 (see The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research: Essays on the Status Quaestionis, Second Edition, by Ehrman & Holmes, 19, n. 52). If it is true that these two mss are related, then why did one scribe continue or create the NS for πνεῦμα (i.e., P75) and the other scribe continued the absence of the NS or discontinued the NS for πνεῦμα? On the one hand, we may have a case of scribal interpretative decision, and on the other hand, we may have a scribe who abstained from such scribal interpretation.
I find the pattern of 05 most interesting! The NS is specifically (strategically?) used for the first and third, but not used for πνεῦμα ὅ θς in 4:24. Perhaps, it is possible to say that the scribe understood the Holy Spirit to be the referent of each use of πνι, but not at the beginning of 4:24.
In conclusion, if the use of NS for the term πνεῦμα always implies the Holy Spirit, then the majority of mss, which I searched, conclude that we are to worship the Father in Spirit (not spirit) and truth. Codex Vaticanus alone is the aberration from the pattern. However, before this conclusion can be too firm, I need to understand the full range of use in these mss of the NS for the term πνεῦμα. For example, is the NS used when there is no doubt that the human spirit is the referent?
Until further research is completed . . . thanks for reading!
*UPDATED 06.25.2018: It appears I made an error in the initial posting of this article. I had the GA numbers of Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus mixed up! Forgive me! It is corrected above.
Marc ends his previous post on “finding better feelings in other communities” with these words:
When they leave home, they realize that they can be “spiritually fulfilled” and get the same subjective self-improvement principles (and warm-fuzzies) from the latest life-coach or from spending time with friends or volunteering at a shelter. And they can be truly authentic, and they jump at the chance because…
3. They got tired of pretending:
Then he explains what he means by the weariness of pretending:
In the “best life now”, “Every day a Friday” world of evangelicals, there’s little room for depression, or struggle, or doubt. Turn that frown upside down, or move along. Kids who are fed a stead[y] diet of sermons aimed at removing anything (or anyone) who doesn’t pragmatically serve “God’s great plan for your life” has forced them to smile and, as the old song encouraged them be “hap-hap-happy all the time”. Our kids are smart, often much smarter than we give them credit for. So they trumpet the message I hear a lot from these kids. “The church is full of hypocrites” [brackets mine].
The idea that the Christian life is somehow a pathway to successful and prosperous living and a life in which you will be finally and fully comfortable and happy could not be further from the truth. This is a lie. A person only needs to read the Gospels and consider the life of our Lord Jesus to find that the way of Christianity is the humble path of the cross-shaped life. Resurrection only follows death. The Christian life is one that will cost you everything. It is only in this life in which we spend our lives for God that we find that he has indeed given us all things. On the other hand, the world is always searching for and never finding. And so some so-called evangelicals in an attempt to woo the world toward Christ, have forsaken the true gospel for a luxurious, false gospel. Young people who have an ounce of discernment take a glance at the Scripture and immediately pick up on the contrast that they see in the life of the Lord Jesus and his apostles as compared to some of the evangelical churches of our day. At some point, they either search for something deeper within the Christian faith, concluding that there must be more to it than this, or they “stop pretending” as Marc concludes.
Again, there is a sense in which I agree with Marc here; however, I feel like he again is missing a deeper issue. I feel that his worry is misplaced, or at least that he doesn’t say enough about what we should do. The local evangelical church’s response to this has to be twofold I think: (1) Teach and understand the doctrine of salvation that begins with the new birth, and (2) teach your church about proper ecclesiology between the young and the old, especially in the context of being a covenant member of a local church. At the heart of what real evangelicalism is, we find the doctrine of the new birth or regeneration. The thought that I as a pastor have to somehow manufacture a congregation in which there is no hypocrisy so that none of our teens get upset and “stop pretending” to be Christians is far-fetched and beyond my human ability. The answer to hypocrisy in the church as well as the answer to what happens when I see hypocrisy in the church is the Holy Spirit’s work in salvation. If a teenager has truly experienced the new birth, then he or she WILL persevere in the faith. The new birth is from the Holy Spirit (John 3) and the New Testament presentation of salvation is that the Spirit’s aim is to complete it (Romans 8:26–30). In the teen that witnesses hypocrisy in the local church, the Holy Spirit is present teaching that teen about things like we find in Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1:9–11. Not only this, but also the Spirit humbles the born again teen to consider his or her own hypocrisy. To go further, there is a test here for the young person, especially if they sense that they observed hypocrisy in an older saint. I recall teachings in the Pastoral Epistles that should cause pause to the young person who is quick to judge an older saint. I am not saying that what the young person observes as hypocrisy is not hypocrisy, but rather I am rather suggesting caution and humility to be practiced. Certainly, the apostle Paul calls the local churches to judge those who are within their assembly (1 Corinthians 5–6); yet the spirit with which we proceed in such a case should be one of humility, not arrogance or some threat of separation because “I’m tired of pretending.” The body of Christ is a family of sinners redeemed by grace. We eat the Lord’s Supper at a table of grace. Let’s seek to redeem and restore with humility through proper discipline and grace. For the young person to threaten and then actually walk away because he or she is “tired of pretending” reveals more about their own faith and ecclesiology than perhaps it does about their local church.
Just imagine for a moment the “I stopped pretending” young person’s response to God should he ask him or her about his or her reasoning for leaving the local community . . . “they were hypocrites, and I was tired of pretending.” I don’t think that is going to hold up well. IMO, that response will burn like wood, hay, and the like. Our young people (and all of us mind you) need a developed understanding of church membership and commitment to a local body. I’m speaking from what I see written in the Scriptures, especially as I begin a study on 1 Corinthians. Imagine being a member there! Plenty of hypocrisy-accusations to go around. Yet, the idea that leaving the local community is a valid option for any real Christian is absurd. No, the apostle along with the Corinthians sought to grow in grace and in this thing called the Church. I’m also speaking from experience. It was not long ago that there was an “exodus” of people from my very own local church, many of them probably claiming some level of discontent and some making accusations of hypocrisy as they headed off to other local churches that will surely be void of such hypocrisy (cue laughter). What I am discovering is that those who left revealed more about their poor ecclesiology and understanding of local church membership than they did about some kind of impenetrable hypocrisy that they supposed was present and that God was too weak to do anything about. Let be said and done in the local church this way, “rejoice in hope, endure suffering, persist in prayer.” Let it be said to the young person who is “tired of pretending”: Stop pretending. Be a real Christian. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and glorify God in your local assembly. Keep going. Endure. Persevere. If you do, you’ll see God work, and you’ll witness hope spring up in your midst.
Today, after meeting with a dear friend from my days at Dallas Theological Seminary, I picked up a copy of More Light on the Path: Daily Scripture Readings in Hebrew and Greek by David W. Baker & Elaine A. Heath with Morven Baker. Obviously, I am only one page beyond the introduction, but I think I am going to enjoy this book! Each daily reading begins with a title, a prayer, and a short passage from both the Hebrew Scriptures (OT) and the Greek Scriptures (NT).
Today’s reading was from Genesis 1:1-2 and John 1:1-2. As I was stumbling over the Hebrew text, I saw something to which I have not given attention in the past. In Genesis 1:2, there seems to be a parallelism between these two statements:
And darkness [was] over the face of the deep,
And Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters [translation mine].
In the past, I have always heard and mostly assumed that the “darkness” was a sort of evil presence. Now, I know that “the deep” and “the waters [of the sea]” can at times communicate the concept of an eerie evil lurking below beyond human vision. However, I am now not certain that “darkness” in Genesis 1:2 is a reference to evil. Rather, just the opposite, I think it may be a reference to the divine presence of the Spirit of God.
There are other places in Scripture where this particular Hebrew term for “darkness” is found to surround the presence of God. For example, HALOT references Deuteronomy 5:23 and 2 Samuel 22:12. The Deuteronomy passage reads,
And as soon as you heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you came near to me, all the heads of your tribes, and your elders [ESV].
2 Samuel 22:12 reads,
He made darkness around him his canopy, thick clouds, a gathering of water [ESV].
Now, HALOT specifically places the Genesis 1:2 in the category of “cosmic darkness” along with the use of the term in places like Genesis 1:4, 18; Psalm 104:20; and 139:11. However, if there is indeed a parallel connection between “the deep” and “the waters,” may there also be a connection between “darkness” and “Holy Spirit”?
The term was employed in Deuteronomy when Moses reviews the contents and giving of the Decalogue. Israel is called to remember the glorious and great presence of God that consumed the mountain. Out of the darkness (5:23), the voice of God came and delivered the law. In 2 Samuel, the term is again employed, but this time in a song of David “on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul” (2 Samuel 22:1). In verses 2-4, David proclaims the strength of the deliverance of God. Then, he goes on to describe the terrible calamity in which he found himself (vv. 5-6). It was as if he drowning in the sea because death was tugging him under. Death seemed inevitable. But then, David cries out to the Lord out of his distress, and the LORD hears David from his temple (v. 7)! Now, verses 8-16 paint a majestic, jaw-dropping, glory-shot of the descent of the LORD to deliver David from death. It is in the midst of this description of the LORD that the term for “darkness” is used in 22:12. The sight, the sound, the feel, the internal stripping away to bareness that the Lord’s presence causes upon the whole of creation is overwhelming. He will deliver David, and David’s enemies will cower in the presence of his God. It is an amazing scene.
Thus, let’s return to Genesis 1:2, and consider afresh “the darkness [that was] over the face of the deep.” Could it be that we have here a reference to great and glorious presence of God who will subdue the deep by the power of his word and the majesty of his presence? The idea of the “dark” presence of the Lord should create within us a reverence for his transcendence, a proper fear for his immense power, and an embrace of the power of his word.
May God be blessed today.
6. You Gave Them Hand-Me Downs
Today’s response to Marc5Solas on the “Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave the Church” allows me to – once again and more fully – use one of my favorite last names belonging to a past theologian . . . Schleiermacher. SCCCHHHHLLLEEEIIEEERRRRRMMMAAAACCCCHHHHHEEEERRRR! If you’ve been in the SSM for any amount of time, then you know how much I like to say Schleiermacher. Unfortunately, I loathe Schleiermacher’s theology. In Church History as the Enlightenment and Reason began to take the lead in people’s thinking and as the Church suffered from the mortar blasts of Modernism, Friedrich Schleiermacher stepped up in attempt to rescue the Church and Christianity. As Michael Patton and Tim Kimberly of The Credo House have said, when anyone claims to “save the Church” or “rescue Christianity,” turn and run the other way. Jesus is just fine as the Head of the Church, thank you very much. In his response to Modernism, Schleiermacher single-handedly moved the Church away from its historic, corporate creeds and doctrines of the apostles on to an embrace of an immeasurable, personal and internal feeling of dependence upon God. The Credo House gentlemen in their Church History Boot Camp DVD Series suggests an illustrative comparison between Schleiermacher’s claim that we need not get rid of Christianity to the same reason we need not get rid of Christmas Celebrations – don’t you like all of the festivities around Christmas? All the family? All the meals? All the presents? All the decorating? All of the get-togethers? All the children’s choirs? We can’t get rid of Christmas! Christmas makes us feel good. We need Christmas. We need the stories about Jesus; they make Christmas special. You need not believe those doctrines about the virgin birth, God becoming a man, etc. Those are just fables designed to create in us a feeling of dependence upon God. They are not real; they are not historical.
As the Church embraced Schleiermachian theology (and it largely does still today), it headed down the slippery slope of making the feelings within the self the final authority concerning truth. Marc5Solas claims that we have given our kids “hand-me downs” of a particular kind. Namely, we – the adults and the teachers – have followed Schleiermacher’s liberal theology of turning the Christian faith into a purely subjective, independently personal, self-fulfilling, good-feeling seeking religion. Some other comments by The Credo House fellows are helpful here:
You must know Schleiermacher in order to get your neighbors.
With one swift move . . . he disconnected the head from the heart.
Schleiermacher himself said,
You reject the dogmas and propositions of religion. . . . Religion does not need them; it is only human reflection on the content of our religious feelings or affections. . . . Do you say that you cannot accept miracles, revelation, inspiration? You are right; we are children no longer; the time for fairy-tales is past.
Thus, Marc is right when he claims that the Church at large has been attempting to pass on a “feeling” about God to the next generation, hoping that they will “feel” it too. But we are asking ourselves, to what extent have we at Scofield in the Student Ministry (even in the Children’s Ministry) passed on hand-me downs to our kids? Parents? I’m not sure about you. How are you discipling your kids to experience (i.e., to know, to feel, and to submit to) God? Do you immediately jump into a description that is primarily “feeling” oriented? Then, you are a child of Schleiermacher trying to create another child of Schleiermacher :-). Stop it. Feelings are fine in our faith, but only so long as they flow and trickle down from biblical truth. When our children want to know God, we must point them to four sources and trust that their feelings will be shaped appropriately as the Holy Spirit works. I’m not saying ignore or neglect emotions – we are human beings – but emotions must be controlled, just as the thinking and the will must be controlled by the Holy Spirit. So, here are four sources for helping a kid to believe and experience God rightly:
- The Holy Scriptures – help them to learn the Scriptures. Help them to discover God in his word. Look to the God-breathed writings of the apostles and the prophets. “Sanctify them in truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).
- The gospel of Jesus Christ – of course the gospel is in the Scriptures, but what I mean specifically here is that you can help your kid grow by teaching them the good news about Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension, his current ministry as our high priest, and his second coming. Is your kid suffering through something, show them what the apostles taught/wrote about the Lord Jesus’ suffering and how God brought good and later highly exulted Jesus.
- The Holy Spirit – now by turning your kid to the Holy Spirit, I am not suggesting the warm fuzzies that you sometimes feel on the inside. Don’t reduce the Holy Spirit to the warm fuzzies. He’s a bit more . . . like He is God for heaven’s sake. As I mentioned before, we must practice belief in the ministry of the Holy Spirit as we are told by the apostles in the Holy Scriptures. What does the New Testament teach us about the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Church and its members? A lot is the answer. Mainly, the Holy Spirit takes what belongs to Jesus and glorifies him to us and teaches us about him and about life in him. The Holy Spirit has an aim to make you into the image of Christ (Romans 8:26-29). He seeks to gift you for service and God’s glory. He seeks to produce certain fruit in the Christian. There is no such thing as a Holy Spirit-less Christian.
- The leadership of your local church (a.k.a. Elders/Pastors) – don’t forget that the Lord Jesus blesses the local church with pastors and teachers and more. Need help discipling your kid in the real Christian faith? Get them to church. Encourage your student’s participation in as many discipleship activities as possible in the local church.
Which brings me to my last question, how is our teaching at Scofield with regard to passing on a substantial, biblical, historical Christian faith to our kids? Well, I may need you to tell me :-). My comments here would be much like my assessment in the previous response. Our content is solid, biblical, in continuity with the orthodox Christian faith of all times. Yet, I think we need to be less aimless in our plan. A little more focused on the beginning point, the finish line, and everything in between necessary to do our best in disciple making.
The next series of posts here at LevelPaths will consist of responses to Marc5Solas recent blog post entitled “Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church, which you can read here: http://marc5solas.com/2013/02/08/top-10-reasons-our-kids-leave-church/. A fellow youth worker directed me to Marc’s blog in March. I sat on it for a little while before I began responding to its introduction and its 10 points in our Scofield Student Ministry Facebook group page. I thought it would be helpful to myself, and potentially to other youth leaders and parents, if I responded on my blog too. Let me offer a few qualifications. I have not read all of the nearly 1,000 comments in response to Marc’s blog post, but kudos to him for getting us talking. Secondly, I am speaking largely out of my personal experience as a pastor engaged in youth ministry at Scofield Memorial Church. At times, I’ll speak outside of my context, but I am largely speaking out of my own context and then making applications on a broader scale to youth ministries in conservative, evangelical local churches.
With that said, here is my introduction to the topic. The next post will examine Marc’s intro to his article.
I would say that these 10 things have definitely been weaknesses in the evangelical church’s ministry to young people. The other accompanying (and perhaps more severe) problem is the appetite of young people (and old people) themselves. There is very little hunger for God within. TBH, and this will be painful, if you were to ask me how many of our youth group members hunger for God, the list would be fearfully short. Now, there are many coming to our youth group meetings regularly and many coming on trips or to events, but how many hunger for God?
So what do we do? Well, our job as church leaders has to be to pray and to do the things that create a hunger for God—no matter the ministry changes required. This is painful in the group because it effects the appetites that our students have been used to satisfying. In other words, we have to change the menu of their consumption in the student ministry. It must seek to nurture hunger for God.
Students need to fast and pray. They need to occasionally give up the things that typically satisfy their appetites (food, socializing, media, phones, video games, etc.) and pray for their slavery to these things to be broken and replaced by a hunger for God.
These are my initial thoughts. I write this with a heavy heart as I think of some of my own students, some of them “stars of the youth group,” who are no longer walking with God. I could provide you with a list, a list that makes me weep. Young person, is your hunger for God going to carry you into faithfulness and endurance after high school? Maybe you need to test yourself by such passages as 2 Corinthians 13:5; Hebrews 12:15-17; Deuteronomy 29:18-19. At Scofield, the whole church is being called to a commitment to fasting with the hope of a hunger for God to be ignited. O how we need to hunger for God.
I reflected a lot on this last night and this morning. As I look at our last four senior classes, most of them are still walking with God. If I go back five years, that class is struggling. While many of these former students and many of our current students are “striving” to walk with God, my question in the previous post is who among you has a hunger for God? This is a different question. Obviously this is true for a non-Christian, but even the Christian can find himself or herself in a period of dryness in which his/her inner appetites are being satisfied by things – and very good things mind you – other than God. I’ll post more in this later.
I am using strong language to you students because this article and my comments are mostly of the nature of a warning. A warning comes from an observation of things that could be symptomatic of a deep pattern that could eventually lead to devastating spiritual consequences. The book of Hebrews is filled with warnings to Christians. It is the job of a pastor to warn the sheep of the dangers ahead. This is what I am doing. I hope you catch the spirit of my warnings.
So with that said, how may one assess whether or not he or she has a hunger for God? Let me back up even further, from where does a hunger for God come? This hunger is not something humanly manufactured, but rather it is divinely imparted. The Spirit of God in us creates a hunger for God. Now, there are many things that may nurture a hunger for God – local church life, fellowship with Christians, Bible reading, prayer, etc. However, those things that may nurture a hunger for God are NOT the things that CREATE a hunger for God. The Spirit of God alone is able to CREATE a hunger for God. For example, yesterday, I got in my car, put on my sunglasses, put in a Lecrae CD, and drove to my youth ministry office at Scofield. Not too far along my way, the Spirit of God said to me, “Rex you are not a Christian because you listen to Lecrae.” Then, he said, “Rex you are not a Christian because you are a youth pastor at Scofield, or because you have a degree from DTS.” Finally, he said, “Rex you are a Christian because I have set apart Christ in your heart as your Lord and Savior. Rex, you are a Christian because I made you one in Christ.” I promptly turned my music off, and turned my heart to the Lord Jesus and worshiped for awhile.
It is the Spirit of God who regenerates us and awakens us to eternal life in Jesus Christ. Further, we may assess our hunger for God by testing our alignment with the aims of the Spirit of God. If he is the source of a hunger for God – and I believe the Bible points us to him – then we may compare his hungers/aims/appetites with our own hungers/aims/appetites, and at least gain some idea of the work of the Spirit in our lives, which is the mark of a true Christian. There is much that could be said here about the aims of the Spirit, but I’ll limit it to three under which I think we may fit everything else we might say. Here they are: (1) The Spirit aims to teach the Christian the truth about Jesus Christ, his faithful life, his death that brings pardon and liberty, and the power of his resurrection (John 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 12:3). (2) The Spirit of God aims to conform the Christian to the image of the Son of God (Romans 8:9-11, 26-29). (3) The Spirit aims to build the Body of Christ into a holy place where God dwells and where God is present and where God is worshiped (Eph. 2:11-22; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4:11-16).
So, how do we know if we are hungry for God? One way to test our hunger may be to test our alignment with the hungers/aims of the Spirit of God. Because if he is indeed in us, then we should expect to find his hungers in us. What if we don’t have an appetite for the aims of the Spirit? Well then, it would seem that one of two things are true: (1) Maybe you never had the Spirit of God, which means that you are not a Christian. There is no such thing as a Spirit-less Christian. It is the Spirit that awakens you to Christ. So maybe you have been a part of the life of the church for years, but you never received the Holy Spirit who truly leads us to Christ. What do you do? Seek God for the Spirit of God and for the Spirit to reveal Christ to you and to create the above hungers in you. Just ask. God is good. He isn’t stingy. He’s not somehow dangling a bait our in front of you that you cannot reach. Listen to the word of God here: “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13). Ask God for the Spirit and receive Jesus. (2) Maybe you have the Spirit of God, but at some point you turned away from the Lord, and you have replaced the Spirit’s aims with aims/hungers of your own. This is called grieving the Spirit (Eph. 4:30) or quenching the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19). The danger of this is what we read about in Deuteronomy 29:18-19. One who was once a worshiper with a hunger for God, turns from God, and becomes an idolater. When we go down this road, we grieve the Spirit who’s aims are so very different for us. We put out the fire for Jesus that he is seeking to ignite in us. You are numbered among the people of God; you are a Christian, but you have subjected the Spirit of God to your flesh instead of subjecting your flesh to the Spirit of God. This ends my warning to students. Next post will critically examine our student ministry in light of Marc5Solas’ article. Feel free to comment, converse, question, etc. Love you all dearly.
Introduction: Praying in Light of God’s Story
For me, it only seems fitting to consider prayer—the topic for this month’s Scocaster—in light of God’s story. I am thoroughly enjoying walking with my fellow Scofieldians through the drama of God’s redemption from The Creation to The Fall on to The Rescue and culminating in The Restoration. Not only does The Story serve to orient our unbelieving generation to the biblical meta-narrative and its message of redemption, but also I am discovering that The Story helps me—the Christian—to better understand the whole of God’s revelation to us in the Bible.
If it is true—that God’s story moves with purpose from Creation to Restoration—how then are we to interpret our Christian experience in light of this drama that God is unveiling? Specifically, how do we think about prayer in light of God’s story and our role in it? How do these certain elements of God’s story (i.e., the movement from Creation to Restoration with Jesus’ work at the center) affect our practice of prayer? How does it inform our adoration of God in prayer? How does it inform our confession and repentance before God in prayer? How may it inform our requests which we bring before the God of the biblical meta-narrative? It is my hope that this article may serve as a starting place for the Christian to begin to consider how God’s story shapes our prayer life.
The Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Romans 8:18–30
In one paragraph, the apostle Paul spans the whole of the redemptive drama of the Triune God. He like an artist presenting a masterpiece that causes you to clutch your chest because of the painful description of reality as we know it and at the very same time because of the grandeur of the unseen hope. The creation groans as if it is ready to give birth. It now exists in a state of great pain and agony. However, the lament of the creation will soon give way to glory and new life. We ourselves—the redeemed—groan too. We have in our possession the first fruits of the restoration—namely, the Holy Spirit. We can taste—even now—the goodness of God that is to come as he brings his story to culmination. Yet, the first fruits are not the fullness; a taste is not a full meal; when in labor, new life has still yet to completely break forth. So, how then are we to live as the people of God as we await the finale of God’s story? While many other texts of Scripture speak to this matter, this text in Romans instructs the Christian Church in two ways: (1) eagerly await the unseen hope—the restoration of all creation, and (2) find the aim of the Spirit in your prayer life. This article focuses primarily on the latter of these two imperatives.
Find the Aim of the Spirit in Your Prayer Life
As we wait, we are to be people of prayer. I don’t know about you, but it is a bit intimidating to me to enter into prayer before the God of the redemptive story on behalf of the world, the Church, my friends and family, and even myself. It is intimidating to me to come before him hoping that I have a proper mind and heart with regard to worshiping the great Trinity and with regard to confessing my personal sin in light of who God is and in light of all that God has done.
How can I possibly do justice to your greatness, O God, and your grand story when I bow before you in prayer?!
I think Romans 8:26–30 is an incredibly insightful and kind revelation to us from God when it comes to prayer. Here’s why:
- It affirms the weakness and inadequacy that we feel in prayer as we await the completion of God’s story (8:26a). There is no room for pride or arrogance in prayer. Don’t bring your degrees and your achievements. God knows. You don’t know how to pray as you ought to pray. He knows that you are weak. He knows that your comprehension of him and his great plan is inadequate—both as it relates to your personal life and as it relates to the cosmos. Find humility in your weakness. Find your strength in God, which leads to the next point.
- It affirms the adequacy and the good aim of the Spirit of God whose intercession we experience in prayer as we wait for the completion of God’s story (8:26b–30). The Spirit of God is present with the people of God when we pray. The Spirit of God understands the lament of the creation and the lament of the redeemed as we await the finale of God’s story. It is God who searches the heart in prayer, and if we were left to ourselves in light of such searching, this may be a terrifying thought. However, the Spirit of God intercedes for the saints, and God knows the mind of the Spirit. For the mind of the Triune God is the same—they share the desire to accomplish the will of God. This aim of the Spirit’s intercession, which is also the will of the Triune God, is disclosed in 8:28–30. We quote this passage frequently, oftentimes with the security of salvation in mind rather than the direct context of the intercession of the Spirit. In sum, God is completing his good salvation among his people until it is finished; they are glorified; and they are found fully conformed to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ! This is the aim of the intercession of the Spirit of God—the completion of our salvation.
Prayer As a Place Where God’s Story Is Sanctified in Our Hearts
In conclusion, I want to propose to you that prayer is a place for us to experience the work of sanctification. This sanctification looks like this: (1) When we come to adore the Triune God in prayer, the Spirit is interceding so that we may properly worship him as God the Creator, as God the Redeemer, and as God the Restorer. Only the God of the Bible possesses such grand titles. Further, the persons of the Trinity are praised because of their distinct participation in the redemptive story as they share the common will of God to make all things new. (2) When we come to confess our sins before the Triune God, the Spirit is there, interceding for us so that we see our sin in light of the story of God and the centrality of God to his story. We confess our idolatrous tendencies to the Creator; we confess the corrupt reasoning that led Adam and Eve to take and eat—namely, that we know what’s best; we confess our ungratefulness toward the Redeemer; we confess our resistance to the Spirit of God who is seeking to complete redemption in us personally, in the Church, and in the world. (3) When we come to make our requests known to the triune God, the Spirit intercedes for us. This is perhaps the main thrust of the text for the term used in 8:26 that is translated “to pray” conveys the idea of petition toward God. Let me ask you, “For what are you petitioning God?” Are your requests in line with the aim of the Spirit; that is, do you make your requests in light of the completion of redemption? In light of the movement of God’s story from Creation to Restoration?
The God to whom we pray has a will, an aim. He aims to make all things new. His Spirit is with the Christian in prayer to intercede and assist him or her with this aim in mind. What is at the center of your prayer life? Is it you? Is it your convenience? Is it a grocery list of things that you think will make your life better and more convenient? Or is the story of God at the center of your prayer life? I assure you that this is indeed the aim of the Spirit.