Thursday, April 13, 2017

Affirming the Apostle's Creed by J. I. Packer #5

packerWe are continuing to work through J. I. Packer's short book, Affirming the Apostle's Creed. In this post, and the next, we finish the book with a section about God the Spirit and the benefits of Christ that He energizes for and within us. Here Packer discusses the Spirit Himself and the church. I am posting from my reading in New Testament theologies and devotionals on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book.

The creed now turns to the 3rd person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. "I believe in the Holy Spirit." The Spirit is the "Spirit of Christ," drawing attention to the ultimate revelation of God through Christ and applying the benefits of Christ to the believer. The Spirit glorifies Christ by reproducing His image in the believer.

The Spirit now acts as Jesus’ agent—“another Helper” (John 14:16; helper, supporter, advocate, encourager). He shows Jesus to us through the gospel, unites us to him by faith, and indwells us to change us “into [his] image” by causing “the fruit of the Spirit” to grow in us (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 5:22ff.). 115

The Spirit is witness and teacher...What the Spirit’s witnessing effects is not private revelation of something hitherto undisclosed but personal reception of God’s public testimony that was there all along in the Scriptures but went unheeded. Packer, 116

What then are the signs that Christ’s self-effacing Spirit is at work?...The only sure signs are that the Christ of the Bible is acknowledged, trusted, loved for his grace, and served for his glory and that believers actually turn from sin to the life of holiness that is Christ’s image in his people. Packer, 117

The next phrase deals with the "holy catholic church." The idea here is that it is a universal fellowship of believers, empowered and gathered by the Holy Spirit, to do the work of Christ in the world. The church should be an outpost of the kingdom bringing heaven's values and presence "on earth as it is in heaven." Christ lives within the church and ministers through the church.

In Scripture the church is the one worldwide fellowship of believing people whose Head is Christ. It is holy because it is consecrated to God (though it is capable nonetheless of grievous sin); it is catholic because it embraces all Christians everywhere; and it is apostolic because it seeks to maintain the apostles’ doctrine unmixed. 122

The church appears in Trinitarian relationships as the family of God the Father, the body of Christ the Son, and the temple (dwelling-place) of the Holy Spirit, and so long as the dominical sacraments are administered and ministerial oversight is exercised, no organizational norms are insisted on at all. The church is the supernatural society of God’s redeemed and baptized people, looking back to Christ’s first coming with gratitude and on to his second coming with hope. 123–124

Each congregation is a visible outcrop of the one church universal, called to serve God and men in humility and, perhaps, humiliation while living in prospect of glory. Spirit-filled for worship and witness, active in love and care for insiders and outsiders alike, self-supporting and self-propagating, each congregation is to be a spearhead of divine counterattack for the recapture of a rebel world. 125

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